Category Archives: Violence Against Latinos

One DREAM Turns to Nightmare

By now, you’ve heard of Joaquin Luna, an 18 year-old DREAMer who committed suicide because he feared his immigration status would continue to be a barrier to a better life–for himself and for his family.

To call Joaquin’s suicide tragic just is not enough. One might say that he was indeed a victim of bullying. Beyond a dormant Congress and a President who has not used any significant political capital to push for comprehensive immigration reform, instead stepping up enforcement efforts to the tune of over 1 million deportations, the series of Republican presidential debates has made a mockery of immigrants and immigration reform.

Some candidates have resorted to bullying, like Herman Cain who joked about electrifying the border fence. Rick Perry has exhibited a lack of a backbone by supporting the Texas DREAM Act without pushing for some sort of legalization, and now turning toward a more punitive approach on the issue–even consorting with Joe Arpaio. Mitt Romney has flipped himself about on the issue in order to appease the right-wing. The rest of the list has basically made themselves out to be members of their neighborhood militia on the issue.

If this rhetoric scares multi-generation American Latinos who fear merely being profiled without much consequence, can you imagine what it does to an innocent undocumented kid who is already living in fear?

I guess we don’t have to imagine it anymore.

From the beginnings of this effort for comprehensive immigration reform, there has been a debate among activists regarding the type of lobbying approach to take to convince politicians and people to side with “us”. Arguing from an economic standpoint, one can point out many positives. And from a human standpoint, one can argue about inhumane treatment of people on so many levels. But when something like this happens, one isn’t left with much to argue.

Obviously, this is not the time to give up; if anything, it is a time to re-commit to and re-engage on the issue.

Recently, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted to place a referendum on the 2012 Texas Democratic Primary ballot in support of the DREAM Act. This is an opportunity to send a message throughout the country that the DREAM Act would be good for Texas and America. And it is an opportunity to engage and re-engage Democratic Texans on the issue. And it is an opportunity to get involved in the Democratic Party to ensure the Party and its elected officials are held accountable on the issue.

Making a political statement based on such a tragic circumstance is a risk for me. But the reason for Joaquin’s demise is a very political circumstance fraught with policy and rhetoric based on political expediency and fear mongering. So, a statement must be made through the political process at every opportunity. In Texas, the Primary referendum on DREAM is the next opportunity.

To Joaquin’s family, my most sincere condolences, as well as my most sincere thanks for being as public as they have been about their tragedy and the reasons behind it.

How About We Call them Humans?

The Texas Tribune, bless their hearts, provided us a debate today on whether a group of human beings who are simply looking for economic opportunity should be called “unauthorized” or “illegal.”

Right-wing Rep. Jose Aliseda of Beeville, seems to be trying his best to separate himself from Latinos, though he does take the “legal” route.

Referring to persons, things and matters in their proper legal terms and common definitions is very important for a lawyer and should be important for a layperson and society as a whole. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, after all.

In that case, I’ll refer to him in a more human terms:  insensitive, selfish, egotistical, and self-loathing.

On the “unauthorized” side is Dan Kowalski, who gives a better argument in terms most lawyers, unlike Aliseda, would understand.

To the question, what part of “illegal” don’t you understand? I answer: every bit of it, including the distinction between jaywalking and murder, between littering and grand theft; in short, between malum prohibitum and malum in se — that is, the things we’ve decided to regulate versus the things we all agree are evil.

Of course, there are also the things that people like Aliseda turn away from, like the blatant disregard of the Voting Rights Act as if the undocumented are going around committing voter fraud. Aliseda and his sort will create “voter fraud” and violate the very laws that protect voters. But no, let’s blame an easier, defenseless target.

Although I can see where Kowalski is headed with his argument for “unauthorized,” in that it is a status that can be changed, it seems society generally fails to point to the positive aspects of the immigrant community; especially in the overall debate. Instead we get into debates like these, and Republican La-TEA-Nos like Aliseda can promote hate-filled legislation and force positive legislation to die in the name of politics–a vote.

I appreciate Kowalski’s end that we should be pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. But whether it is right-wing hate-speech or the indifference of a Democratic administration that chooses to waste political capital on other things, CIR is not happening, thus giving the Trib the ability to debate words, rather than help push the effort for CIR.

I wonder what Aliseda would call my 4th generation American mom, or my 2nd-generation American dad who would gather old clothes for, and provide food and drink to, “los mojaditos” who would be trekking along train tracks close to our house. I know I’d call them humanitarians.

Theatrical Trailer: The Harvest/La Cosecha

The Harvest is a film about the children who work in agricultural fields here in America. With Texan Eva Longoria as executive producer, this film is sure to be heart-wrenching for those of us who experienced migrant farm work growing up, and a reality-check for those who have avoided the reality of knowing from where exactly the food on their table comes.

Every year there are more than 400,000 American children who are torn away from their friends, schools and homes to pick the food we all eat.  Zulema, Perla and Victor labor as migrant farm workers, sacrificing their own childhoods to help their families survive.  THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA profiles these three as they journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow the harvest.

From the Producers of the Academy-Award® Nominated film, WAR/DANCE and Executive Producer Eva Longoria, this award-winning documentary provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of these children who struggle to dream while working 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed America.

Learn more about this award-winning film at Here’s a two-minute trailer.

Anti-Latino Sentiment at Universities

The last place one would expect hate language to be spread would be at colleges and universities. Even when there is disagreement regarding policies and politics, one would expect fruitful and productive discussion; yet, it seems Teabaggers are alive and well on college campuses. One example is what recently occurred at Indiana University in Bloomingdale.

Known as a home away from home, the IU “La Casa” Latino Cultural Center has a special role at IU:

The Latino Cultural Center, La Casa, was established at Indiana University in November of 1973. Its purpose is to achieve a greater historical, political and cultural awareness regarding Latina/os through educational and social programs. As an advocacy office, we work closely with other units on campus to assist in the recruitment and retention of Latina/o students.

Who would be against this, right? As the fastest growing demographic in the United States, there’s no doubt that these “homes” are needed as a means of increasing recruitment and retention and graduation rates. Or in business terms, a better return on our education investment. But it is hard to address “stupid,” sometimes when people refuse to discuss like humans, and, instead, act like they did at IU this week.

A newly posted sign outside the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center known as La Casa reads ‘Welcome to our home away from home’, but someone recently targeted that home with what IU police have dubbed hateful messages directed at Latinos.

Late last week, La Casa staff found two notes. One left on a kitchen table that read “criminals deport”. Across the room on a refrigerator the phrase “you need to leave” was spelled out in magnets.

And why should we be so shocked? We certainly have experienced right-wing hate on college campuses here in Texas. I mean, who can forget the Young Conservatives of Texas and their affirmative action bake sales or their mock immigrant round-ups?

Unfortunately, this will be a hazard of going to college until Latinos “get it” and decide that they need to vote and drive policy by staying active in the process.

I especially want to drive this point home to college students who are eligible to vote and get involved. And while in college, get involved beyond the Latino organizations. Although you can find a “home” at “La Casa” type of programs, there’s nothing like being a part of some major university committee that directs events, and that directs student service dollars and university policy. Get to know your University leaders–your President, VPs, etc. Because when right-wingers deal you this type of card, there’s nothing like having the University leadership back you up.

Good luck to all college and university students this year!

Racism: A Cost Savings Method?

That’s right. Anti-Latino Texas State Rep. Leo Berman introduced an English-only bill which he calls a cost-saving method for the state budget.

Stating that the state would save millions of dollars if state documents were only printed in English, Berman seems to have found a way to file bigoted legislation without looking bigoted.

But that doesn’t matter. We know some of the things Berman is known to say. His intentions are strictly anti-Latino. As are some of the other bills discussed yesterday in Austin.

Remember Debbie Riddle’s exempt-the-wealthy bill?

A bill by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, raised questions because it initially exempted people who hired illegal immigrants as domestic help. However, Riddle removed that clause from her bill, leaving only those who attempt to verify the citizenship status of their employees as exempt from the state felony charges.

Hardly an improvement. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not wholesale round-ups and warehousing of families. Immigrant labor continues to be an economic engine for Texas and it is obvious the federal government has shirked its responsibility by increasing enforcement and other family separation measures. It’s bad for the Texas economy, period.

Another bill discussed yesterday was to force employers to use the very flawed E-Verify system to check applicants’ citizenship status.

Supporters say Texas employers should be required to use the program, but opponents say the error rate is too high and the program doesn’t actually detect a large percentage of unauthorized workers. They say E-Verify is limited in its nature and can’t detect stolen identities.

And, again, you cannot institute this program without some sort of comprehensive immigration reform that first brings people out of the shadows and weeds out others. Now, that would be a cost-savings method.

So, let’s say that the cost of translating and printing documents in Texas was to save the state money, costs would still be driven up because of extra use of employees who would need to do live-translation of documents if any state business is going to get done. And all of these other enforcement measures drive up costs for the state. Whether it is through court costs, human warehousing (jails), or the use of other criminal and civil sanctions, the state cannot afford to hate Latinos and immigrants at this time.

Thousands Rally in Austin Against Anti-Latino Bills

Leave it to alternative media to cover the big march in Austin in which 3,000 protested Debbie Riddle and the Republican Party’s anti-Latino bills which have been submitted during the legislative session.

The Texas Tribune caught a quote from one of our local State Reps:

State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, told protestors on Tuesday that he was once asked by a reporter why the immigration rallies didn’t draw crowds the sizes of other movements. “It’s because they are all out there working,” he told the crowd, which took up its “Si Se Puede” chant in response to the lawmaker’s comments. “They are out in the fields, in the restaurants.”

Added state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth: “You are here to say ‘no’ to the most racist session of the Texas Legislature in a quarter of a century.”

So true. Reminds me of voting trends in South Texas back in the 70s. The Democratic Primary would be held in late spring, so migrant farm workers who were heading up north to work the fields didn’t get to vote. Yes, always working. We had an excuse for not voting back then, huh?

The Texas Observer covered the march, too.

“There are some very unlikely allies here,” said Adriana Cadena, coordinator for The Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, “but we’re all here because we’re saying Texas can do better when it comes to immigration. The legislation being considered today is bad for our families, bad for our economy and bad for our overall security.”

Cadena, who was largely responsible for organizing the rally, recognized that protests like these may not change the minds of lawmakers. “But this is just one day,” she said. “Our role is to facilitate a process that people can participate in for the long term. I promise there is more to come.”

Nice job, Adriana!

The march got a mention in the Statesman’s Virtual Capitol.

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, was among the lawmakers who spoke to the crowd. Switching between English and Spanish, he said the state’s leaders have misguided priorities.

Texas officials should focus on more important matters than the emergency item that Gov. Rick Perry has fast-tracked to eliminate “sanctuary city” policies that prevent police from asking about immigration status, Rodríguez said.

The senator also criticized a bill that would have school officials ask about immigration status and one that would deny benefits to children of people in the country illegally.

“We won’t stand for this type of legislation,” he told the cheering crowd.

Local activist, Cesar Espinosa of FIEL, tweeted: “Only the beginning!”

I see an opportunity for coalitions of interest here. I see a march for one thing, another march for another thing. I sure hope something can get organized that brings everyone together.

We’re all on the defensive, aren’t we?

Riddle Can’t Back Up Her Lies

So, there was a debate on Anderson Cooper last night between State Rep. Rafael Anchia and conspiracy-theorist Debbie Riddle.

Riddle seems to be falling apart as she describes the anti-immigrant lies she spouts and I have to hand it to Anderson–he nailed her by demanding facts that she just couldn’t provide. Republicans rely on concocted data–mostly from “think tanks” tied to white supremacy organizations–and attempt to spread fear.

Although she may have earned a few votes from her “Border Watch” friends in Spring, her demeanor and mean-spirited commentary surely woke up Latinos and independents who finally realized what the Republican Party is all about–hate.

Arguments Begin in USA vs AZ; GOP Loses Bid to Block Lawsuit

As arguments begin today before Judge Shelton in Arizona against the racial profiling law, a last effort by Senate Republicans to block the lawsuit failed, thanks to the Democratic majority and a couple of Republicans.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday turned back a move by Republicans to block the Justice Department from pursuing its lawsuit seeking to overturn Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

The bid by South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint to nix the lawsuit came out on the losing end of a 55-43 vote. Five Democrats voted to block the lawsuit while two Republicans voted against the measure.

Unfortunately, five Democrats were part of the mix wanting to block the lawsuit–the five that could get us to the Magic Number of 60 to pass CIR–or at least the DREAM Act.  I call them the problem children.  Still, given that the DREAM Act could have some bi-partisan appeal, we could lose those five, but not many more.

And just because we like to name names.

Democrats voting to block the lawsuit were: Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana; Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Republicans Mike Johann of Nebraska and George Voinovich of Ohio broke with their party in voting against the amendment.

And while we fight in court, Janet Brewer’s legal mouthpiece had this to say to the judge.

“In Arizona we have a tremendous Hispanic heritage. To think that everybody that’s Hispanic is going to be stopped and questioned … defies reality,” Bouma said. “All this hypothetical that we’re going to go out and arrest everybody that’s Hispanic, look around. That’s impossible.”

Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Stop SB1070! – No SB1070 in Texas!

Have You Been Brown-Listed?

This is just scary and brings reminders of  the red hunts and black lists during the McCarthy days. There’s no doubt that groups like the Minutemen and other anti-immigrant groups are utilizing the same message in their tactics, but in this case, it’s the Brown scare. So, that a list of “suspected” migrants without documentation has been disseminated to law enforcement agencies is not surprising; however, it should have federal agencies investigating all of these groups–but it doesn’t.

The letter was originally sent to “Customs and Immigration” on April 4, 2010. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a part of the US Department of Homeland Security, confirmed receipt of the list “a couple months back” but would not say if ICE had taken any action on it. Other law enforcement sources tell ABC 4 News that at most, ICE agents would check the list against existing “wants and warrants” and follow up only if they found a match.

In fact, they seem to actually be checking the lists without really investigating how it was obtained.

The list was sent anonymously to politicians, law enforcement and the news media. It not only contains names, but also birthdays, addresses, phone numbers and in a few cases, social security numbers.

The list includes both adults and children and even notes that a handful of women are pregnant. The letter that accompanied the list comments, “some of the women on the list are pregnant at this time and steps should be taken for immediate deportation.”

Other than possible privacy violations, identify theft issues, wrongfully obtaining private information without permission, there are even scarier possibilities of stalking and possible hate crimes given that they seem to be pushing the same lines as hate groups.

Texas Dems’ Immigration Plank

The Texas Democratic Party’s duly elected delegates to the state convention approved a comprehensive platform for the party.  The plank I was most interested in was the one on immigration.  Would the TDP be the opposite of the Republicans, or would they avoid–as had been done during some, if not most, of the speeches from candidates and leaders. Here’s the result:

The Texas Democratic Party recognizes that we are a nation of immigrants. Here in Texas, we honor those immigrants, their children and their grandchildren, who fought and died to protect our freedom and earn the blessings of liberty for themselves and all Americans.

Today, immigrants come to our country from all areas of the world. Some come legally and many come without documentation, but almost all are driven by economic necessity. Texas Democrats recognize that a workable immigration policy requires a no-nonsense solution instead of proposals that serve only as political props and wedge issues designed to incite fear for partisan gain. For years, the politics of division has prevailed and the federal government has failed to do its job. A clear and uniformly enforced federal immigration policy is long overdue. The fundamental tenets of a comprehensive immigration policy require an aggressive yet practical approach, including measures that would:

  • secure all our borders, including the allocation and use of sufficient resources to equip and maintain a well-trained Border Patrol with the manpower needed to effectively police our borders;
  • enforce existing immigration laws;
  • eliminate bureaucratic logjams that delay and frustrate those who attempt to follow the rules to become citizens;
  • emphasize economic security and development on both sides of the border;
  • continue the United States’ constitutional provision making all persons born in this country citizens of this country;
  • provide for strict enforcement, appropriate punishment and economic sanctions against those who profit by hiring undocumented workers; and
  • establish a path to citizenship for those who meet qualifications and seek to become part of our national community.

Texas Democrats also realize that politicians who pander politically with foolish, shortsighted and wasteful proposals are not offering solutions. Texas will not become Arizona, and we strongly oppose:

  • any law that would, through its enforcement, result in discrimination; intimidation or victimization of citizens based on their race, ethnicity or appearance;
  • any law that would force law enforcement agencies to divert limited resources and manpower from their primary duty to protect citizens and prevent crime in order to enforce immigration policy that is the responsibility of the federal government;
  • any law that would prohibit ethnic studies classes;
  • any law that could make it more difficult for a qualified citizen to exercise the right to vote;
  • any effort to expand the existing border fence without regard to the border economy, environmental impact or property rights;
  • wasteful efforts like Governor Perry’s “virtual wall” of border cameras that resulted in only a handful of apprehensions at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per arrest; and
  • measures that attempt to improperly limit the constitutional requirement to provide for the health, education, and safety needs of individuals and communities.

Ultimately, the best interest of the United States requires us to help our neighboring countries develop their economies and create better paying jobs for workers in those countries to make the lure of a better paying job in the U.S. less attractive. We believe it is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans who consistently support outsourcing jobs to cheap labor markets overseas to claim they are “protecting American jobs” with extreme immigration proposals.

First, let’s start with “securing the border.” It has become obvious that the Obama Administration has been doing more on the enforcement side than the Bush Administration ever talked about; in fact, it has continued a policy of family separation, deportation and detention of people who may one day qualify for the path to legalization, and other innocent people (DREAM Act future beneficiaries).

A commitment to supporting ridding ICE and CIS of the “logjams” that place families at the back of line that does not move is a welcome pronouncement. And the vast majority of the plank is positive and supportive of policies that would make for an effective comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Although the Higher Education plank includes a supportive statement for the “Texas DREAM Act,” the in-state tuition for undocumented students law which then State-Rep. Rick Noriega put in place, a supportive statement of the DREAM Act from the national scale, which provides for a path to status for children of immigrants brought here by their parents, is missing. The DREAM Act movement is one that is not stalled at the moment, and deserves a push.

One other statement that I believe should have been included was one which favors the Uniting American Families Act. Not only does this Act further emphasize that comprehensive immigration reform is more about family unity and valuing famlies, it also shows a growing unity with other constituencies; in this case, the LGBT community.

Ultimately, this is definitely the strongest statement put forth by the Democratic Party in a long time. Instead of running away from Arizona and the Berman/Riddle threats to the Latino community, they took them on in this document.

The important thing is that our candidates (from the state house to the court house) follow it and promote it when asked about it and are out campaigning.