Tuesday, May 27, 2008

one deportation: Armando's story

A few weeks back, I ran across the story at RaceWire of Armando, a Honduran who had lived all but 9 months of his 26 years in the U.S. Armando wrote to RaceWire's Raha Jorjani from immigration detention about his thoughts and experiences:

I have been “detained” by the Department of Homeland Security for over ten months now, as I had been fighting my deportation case and hoping for a second chance. I really don’t like the word detained because I feel it is a word used by “them” in an attempt to lessen the truth; that I am their prisoner.

It seems all I have been doing in my life is adapting to major changes, one after the other. From the loss of my father at seventeen, to adapting to military life, to getting used to a 6x9 cell. I have had to make some major adjustments and I have come to learn that change is inevitable.

However, I never would have guessed that I would now be getting ready to be deported to a country I know nothing about. I never thought I would be preparing to be banished from the only country I have known, the country I volunteered to fight for, and not to mention the country that my family lives in.
[Continued at Citizen Orange and the Sanctuary.]

Monday, May 26, 2008

no more cowbell!

It's Memorial Day, so the asshat with the cowbell is back. God help us.

Bush administration takes unprecedented punitive action against Postville workers

Julia Preston at the New York Times reported Saturday on an alarming development in the Postville debacle:

In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.

[Continued at Citizen Orange or the Sanctuary.]

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Uploaded by KayM4ster

Modeselektor with TTC.

I don't know what they're saying, but I like it. Happy Birthday! is a great album overall.

And I thought this was entertaining, though again I'd probably have more to say about it if I understood French:

Friday, May 23, 2008

FLDS children going home

The FLDS children in Texas will likely be going back to their homes soon after a higher state court ruling:

HOUSTON — A Texas appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state had illegally seized up to 468 children from their homes at a polygamist ranch in West Texas. The decision abruptly threw the largest custody case in recent American history into turmoil.

Although the court did not order the children’s immediate release, it raised the prospect that many of them would be reunited with their families, possibly within 10 days. The children have been in foster homes scattered across Texas since early April, making their parents travel hundreds of miles to visit them.

I had doubts from the start that sweeping up all the children in a community, separating them from their siblings, and throwing them into foster care was in the best interests of the children in every case. There has been evidence of abuses, and young teenagers shouldn’t be permitted to be married off to old men by their parents, but there are better ways to police the situation than raiding the community and taking away all the kids.

The case began on April 3, when Texas investigators, saying they were responding to a girl’s call for help, raided the 1,691-acre Yearning for Zion ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eldorado, about 45 miles south of San Angelo.

The caller was never found, and investigators now suspect that the call was a hoax.

. . .

The appeals judges who ruled, Chief Justice W. Kenneth Law and Justices Robert. H. Pemberton and Alan Waldrop, all Republicans, said removing children from their homes was “an extreme measure” justifiable only in the event of urgent or immediate danger.

Instead, the court said, the state argued that the “belief system” at the ranch condoned under-age marriage and pregnancy and that the whole ranch functioned as a “household” in which sexual abuse anywhere threatened children in the entire community.

But in reality, the judges said, there was no evidence of widespread abuse, and they faulted the district judge, Barbara Walther, for approving the children’s removal based on insufficient grounds.

. . .

Jim Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, said it was highly unusual for an appeals court to intervene in a continuing case, especially one involving child protection.

“It showed the proof was really weak, not a close call at all,” Professor Cohen said.

Tim Edwards, a lawyer in San Angelo who represents four mothers, said: “This is a wonderful day. It confirms not only my feeling, but the feeling of many, many attorneys involved in the case, that Child Protective Services failed to meet their burden of proof to justify a court order to remove more than 400 children from their homes for the last six or seven weeks.”

Mr. Edwards said even if the children went home soon, the effects were likely to linger.

“You’re talking about a situation that is traumatic to many people,” he said, “and the recovery from that trauma may be slow in coming.”

. . .

Laura Nugent, a lawyer in Austin who represents four of the children, said she was thrilled. “I feel this is the correct way to rule on the evidence,” Ms. Nugent said. “I felt all along that the department did not bear their burden of proof.”

Ms. Nugent, whose clients are 6, 10, 11 and 12, said she was unsure whether the ruling applied to all the children she represented and was awaiting details.

“They all want to go home,” she said. “They are emphatic that they want to go home and be reunited with their parents and their siblings.”

Which raises a question: everybody seems to “know” what is best for children of this age, but did anyone think to ask the children themselves? Presumably they should at least have their opinions about where and with whom they want to grow up heard.

It was not the first time a raid on polygamists may have backfired. In 1953 Arizona authorities under Gov. Howard Pyle raided the fundamentalist community of Short Creek, which is now Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, taking about 160 children into state custody.

But the custody ruling was overturned on appeal in 1955 after lawyers for the children argued that they were denied adequate legal representation. Most of the women and children then returned to Short Creek to join their husbands, who had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy to commit unlawful cohabitation and were sentenced to one year on probation. Governor Pyle lost the 1954 election.

Mohave County Judge J.W. Faulkner later said he made a legal “blunder” during the custody hearings, writing after his retirement in 1955 that the reversal “will inevitably give new life to the cause of polygamy, and prolonging the fight for another 50 years."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

nativism: a global problem

I posted last week about an Italian man who was locked up by Customs and Border Patrol for 10 days without cause and then sent back to Italy. (We had one commenter with what appeared to be inside knowledge of CBP procedures come to defend CBP’s actions and cast aspersions on the NY Times reporter who broke the story, the detained man, and his girlfriend’s father.) This story was just one more bit of evidence of our deeply warped immigration policy. The problematic Postville raid and the disclosure of scores of deaths in immigration detention over the past few years are two more.

But for anyone who thought that nativism and government overreach were strictly American phenomena, the last week has shown otherwise.

[Continued at Citizen Orange; cross-posted at the Sanctuary.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the Sanctuary

Duke from Migra Matters announces the launch of the Sanctuary, a website designed to give a voice to migrants and migrant advocates. It's an open forum in the Daily Kos model--anyone can join and post diaries, and there are built-in anti-troll measures based on community ratings. Some long-standing immigration bloggers have signed on as founding editors, and I'll be cross-posting there as well. Check it out, leave a comment, even put up a diary. Make yourself heard!

After months of planning and work, I'm proud to announce the opening of a new on-line community for all those interested in humane and practical immigration reform, migrant-rights, human-rights, and the greater struggle of all who those have left friends and family behind to start new lives in new lands.

The Sanctuary is a grassroots effort of a group of pro-migrant, human-rights, and civil-rights bloggers and on-line activists dedicated to the enactment of meaningful immigration reform that is practical, rational, fair and most of all humane.

Started to help offset the growing influence of right-wing, anti-immigrant, voices that have thus far dominated the debate, it's mission is to create a broad community of on-line pro-migrant activists, and translate digital activism into real-world, practical action.

The Sanctuary is intended to be a "cyber-sanctuary", free from the din of right-wing noise, where those working towards meaningful reform can come together in the hope of magnifying their individual efforts through community action and cooperation, and build bridges with like-minded activists from a wide cross-section of the political spectrum.

By working in cooperation with mainstream organizations and advocacy groups involved in the struggle for immigrant and human rights, we hope to build an issue-focused on-line community that facilitates direct communications and coordination between on-line activists, the new media, and those working daily in Washington, and on the ground to effect change.

After years of having the debate over immigration reform controlled by forces of intolerance and hate, while pro-migrant voices played defense in hopes of swaying public discourse, we are about to go on the offense against ignorance, bigotry, and hate – and The Sanctuary is just the first step in that offensive.

More on The Sanctuary from some of the other founding editors

Announcing the Launch of The Sanctuary by ManEegee from Latino Politico

Path to the Oasis by Nexua from The Unapologetic Mexican

The Sanctuary — A New Nexus by Kai from Zuky

"The Sanctuary" launch! by KetyE from Cross Left

Monday, May 19, 2008

why Clinton is losing

Jodi Kantor in the NY Times ponders the impact of gender discrimination on Clinton’s impending loss. She raises a few good points:

But as others watched a campaign that starred two possibly transformative figures, they felt a growing conviction that the contest was unfair. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters point to a nagging series of slights: the fixation on her clothes, even her cleavage; chronic criticism that her voice is shrill; calls for her to exit the race; and most of all, the male commentators in the news media who, they argue, were consistently tougher on her than on Mr. Obama.

But, Matt Yglesias wonders, how can you talk about Clinton’s likely loss in the primary and not talk about her famous 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq?

Lots of interesting material in Michelle Cottle's notebook dump on what various Clintonistas think the campaign did wrong.

. . .

[I]t's fascinating to me that nobody mentioned the war. Clinton supported the war. In retrospect, the war was a terrible idea. Her support for it was a mistake. What's more, it's inconceivable to me that Obama's campaign could have gotten off the ground had Clinton spent 2002 and 2003 as a lonely liberal voice speaking out against the war, then spent 2005 and 2006 being completely vindicated in her judgment. It's not just that Obama wouldn't have beaten her, he wouldn't have run at all -- it would have been preposterous. She would have faced a from-the-right challenge in the primary that would have gotten some attention but never posed any real threat.

But Clinton's error on the war opened up serious doubts about her substantive and political judgment about one of the highest-profile issues of the moment. In many ways it's a testament to how brilliant her campaign was all throughout 2007 and 2008 that they never allowed the war issue to bury her, considering that an overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters think she made a mistake.

I’ll take this opportunity to be super-annoying and post excerpts from a couple of letters I emailed Senator Clinton over the past few years. A resident of New York since 2001, from time to time I exercised my prerogative to give my Senators an earful (until I realized they just weren’t listening).

I first wrote her and Senator Schumer in October 2002, asking them not to support the war authorization, but I didn’t make a copy of whatever I sent them.

Then I sent Senator Clinton this letter in December 2004:

I write to encourage you to reconsider your stance regarding Iraq and the war on terror given a the recent DOD strategic communications report from the Defence Science Board. The Dec. 5 Sunday Herald states that "[o]n 'the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds', the report says, 'American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended'.

'American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.'" The report goes on to say that "Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing support, for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states."

It seems evident that the hard-nosed approach to the war on terror being pursued by the current administration is having massive unintended consequences, in the form of increased support for Al-qaeda in the Muslim world and decreased US legitimacy. That is largely because stated US goals and objectives (promoting democracy in the Middle East, protecting the US from imminent threats) have not aligned with real ones (stabilizing the energy supply, projecting US power into the heart of a hostile region). It may be easy enough to justify US actions in Iraq to a domestic audience, but the flimsy arguments that have been put forward will not convince the Muslims who need to be convinced for the war on terror to succeed.

In October 2002, I urged you and Senator Schumer to vote against giving the president the authority to go to war in Iraq. I knew then that the president was not going to Iraq for the right reasons, and that starting a war against a country that had not attacked us, and was in no position to do so, right in the heart of the middle east, would be hugely counterproductive. (This is the "naked self interest" argument against the war. There are other persuasive arguments against the war, foremost among them the fact that we now have the blood of thousands of innocent civilians on our hands.) You ignored my advice and continue to position yourself as a hawk in the war on terror. As pleasing as the short-term domestic political results of this approach may be, it will backfire in the long run, both politically and for the people of the US and the middle east.

As someone who supports 90% of your policies, I strongly encourage you to rethink your position on Iraq. This isn't just about poor execution of a good idea, as many have cast it, including Senator Kerry in the recent presidential race. Launching a preventive war in Iraq was deeply flawed conceptually, and will have dire consequences for Americans abroad and at home for years to come. This is still a minority view at home, but as we reap the benefits of our actions in Iraq, it will gain traction with your constituents. I urge you to be at the forefront of that sea change, not reluctantly dragged along by it.

I can no longer say I support 90% of Clinton’s policies. That’s probably more a reflection of changes in my views than in hers, though.

Noting that the good senator opted not to take any of my advice or that of the legions of other constituents upset about the war, I wrote again in July 2006:

I applaud you for your recent statement expressing your support for the winner of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut later this summer. Senator Lieberman has done more to damage the prospects for a national Democratic resurgence than almost anyone else in the party. His unquestioning support for the war in Iraq and for President Bush is unconscionable, and also extremely foolish politically given that these are the issues that Democratic voters are most concerned about at the moment.

I urge you to revisit your own position on the war in Iraq. The administration's policy has demonstrably failed. The administration has made clear that it is incapable of resolving the situation in an effective, competent manner. The country looks to Congress for alternatives to the current policy of failure, particularly to the Democrats. You are uniquely positioned to give voice to the discontent of the majority of voters who are dissatisfied with the administration's policies on the war in Iraq and the war on terror. We cannot afford "more of the same" for another three years and possibly beyond. Also, from a political point of view, I encourage you to view Senator Lieberman's current situation as a test case for the 2008 presidential primary. You will not make it through the 2008 primary unless your current position on Iraq changes. It doesn't matter what the polls say now, the political situation is dynamic and the momentum is with Lamont and other leaders like him who are giving voice to the massive frustration of voters on the left. So I ask you, as your constituent, to lead rather than follow. I believe that your recent statement expressing your commitment to the winner of the Connecticut primary is a step in the right direction.

Realizing how little attention powerful senators like Clinton and Schumer pay to emailed letters, I decided to stop wasting my time. But the point of this post is that any examination of Clinton’s failure in 2008 should start and end with the war in Iraq. If she’d made the right choice in 2002, she would have been in a position to destroy any opposition in 2007-2008.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

slumber will come soon

The word of the day is "slumber."

So, you're feeling unimportant,
'Cuz you've got nothing to say.
And your live is just a ramble
No one understands you anyway

Well, I've got a piece of news son,
That might make you change your mind
Your life is historically meaningful
And spans a significant time

Slumber will come soon
And you are helping to put it to sleep
Side by side we do our share
Faithfully assuring that
Slumber will come soon.

Well, now do you feel a little better
Lift up your head and walk away
Knowing we're all in this togeter
For such a short time anyway

There is just no time to parade around sulking
I would rather laugh than cry
The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak
We share this place together
And we pitch into help it die

I'm not too good at giving morals
And I don't fear the consequence
If life makes you scared and bitter
At least it's not for very long

Slumber will come soon.

--Greg Graffin

Slumber. Embrace it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

wrong again

One of the vanishingly few political positions the LDS church has staked out a firm position on since the 19th Century was its opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, opposition which helped lead to the amendment's defeat. First proposed in 1923, the amendment is quite simple:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The proposed amendment hardly even seems controversial anymore. Maybe it wouldn't be except for its potential ramifications for the gay marriage debate. Which brings us to one of the only other political positions the LDS church committed itself to: opposition to same-sex marriage. In particular, the church helped bankroll Proposition 22, which added to the California Civil Code the provision that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

One all-too-common result of the church's institutionalized homophobia is depression and suicide among LGBT Mormons. From a Salt Lake Tribune article published just before the initiative passed:
Just last week, a 32-year-old gay Mormon man put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger on the steps of a Mormon chapel in Northern California. He was profoundly opposed to Proposition 22, though his family insists the suicide was not politically motivated.
Once again, the church finds itself on the wrong side of history, as Prop 22 was invalidated by the state's high court yesterday.

The California Supreme Court struck a historic but possibly short-lived blow for gay rights Thursday, overturning a state law that allowed only opposite-sex couples to marry.

In a 4-3 ruling that elicited passionate responses on both sides of the debate and touched off celebrations at San Francisco City Hall - the scene of nearly 4,000 same-sex weddings four years ago that were invalidated months later - the court said the right to marry in California extends equally to all, gay and straight alike.

The state Constitution's guarantees of personal privacy and autonomy protect "the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one's choice," said Chief Justice Ronald George, who wrote the 121-page majority opinion. He said the Constitution "properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples."

. . .

The high court - with a 6-1 majority of Republican appointees, including George - is the second in the nation after Massachusetts' to declare a right of same-sex couples to marry. It is the first high court to rule that the state's Constitution forbids all discrimination based on sexual orientation with the same strict type of prohibition that applies to bias based on race, sex or religion.
The judges drew explicit parallels to the black civil rights struggle of the last century.

Not long into the oral argument before the California Supreme Court in March over whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, Chief Justice Ronald M. George showed his hand.

Three times he quoted from the court’s 1948 decision in Perez v. Sharp that struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, a high point in the history of a prestigious and influential court.

“The essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” Chief Justice George said, quoting Perez.

That was when Shannon P. Minter, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, knew things were looking good for his side. The chief justice seemed to be accepting arguments for same-sex marriage that were consciously rooted in the struggle for equal rights for blacks.

And this in a court with a solid majority of GOP appointees! Back to the SF Gate:

[T]he court majority rejected an array of legal justifications for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage, including religious conservatives' argument that same-sex matrimony would alter the definition of marriage and weaken the institution.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry "will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage," George said.

Addressing the same groups' related argument that marriage should be reserved for couples who can procreate, George said the right to marry "has never been limited to those who plan or desire to have children."

. . .

Marriage, George said, is not just a bundle of rights, but is a relationship uniquely honored by the state and society. Confining same-sex couples to a different category marks them with "second-class citizenship," the chief justice said.

As for the argument that marriage has historically been reserved for a man and a woman, George said that even the most widely accepted traditions "often mask an unfairness and inequality" that only the victims understand.

One justice positioned herself in the mushy middle:

Justice Carol Corrigan, Schwarzenegger's sole appointee to the court, said in a separate dissent that she personally believes "Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages." But she said public opinion is to the contrary, at least for now, and should be allowed to run its course.

"When ideas are imposed," Corrigan said, "opposition hardens and progress may be hampered."

That is--how can I put this politely--bullshit. Call it what you want, call it upholding God's word, call it fighting the work of the devil, but don't call standing in the way of marriage equality "progress."

The church's current leaders leave the task of explaining the church's stark opposition to basic equal rights to the next generation, burdening them with all the logical and moral contortions this will produce. Some will consequently choose, as I did, to simply abandon the whole project.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NYC May Day Pro-Migrant Rally Recap - We are shaken, but not defeated

Here are my belated scattered observations from the May Day rally at Union Square in New York City last week.

This was the first May Day march I had participated in. It was a lot of fun, and emotionally and (in a strictly secular way :-) ) spiritually uplifting, but I kind of felt like I had missed the party. I heard about crowds exponentially larger in 2006 and substantially larger last year. But apparently, frustration in the pro-migrant community with the lack of progress toward comprehensive reform and fear instilled by widescale raids over the past year-and-a-half had combined to ratchet down participation in this year’s march. (With my own eyeballs, I estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 marchers—not something you see every day parading down Broadway, but certainly not the numbers seen in recent years.) It’s a shame, because things are about as bad now as they’ve ever been for migrants in the U.S. It’s a shame, because the “Operation Return to Sender” raids that have terrorized migrant communities across the country were a direct response to the restrictionist backlash resulting from the remarkable pro-migrant rallies of early 2006. DHS Secretary Chertoff has explained that the raids are a tool to push businesses and migrant groups towards a comprehensive solution. It’s also part of the “enforcement by attrition” policy promoted by restrictionists and adopted in recent years by the Bush administration. If Bush is a pro-migrant president, he sure has a funny way of showing it.

The low numbers, then, are a clear indication that the restrictionists—backed squarely by the U.S. government—currently have the upper hand in the public square. But that's not the whole story by any means . . .

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

Dobbs can’t handle the truth

Immigration attorney Greg Siskind drew the ire of Lou Dobbs, who recently featured on his show an item Siskind had posted on his blog a while back. Dobbs didn’t like Siskind’s research showing that Dobbs’ repeated claim that he supports legal immigration—a common misleading tactic of restrictionists—is false.

DOBBS: The pro-amnesty lobby at it again, telling all-out lies about my position on illegal immigration and our border security crisis. The latest example of the pro-illegal aliens' movements' lies coming in a letter to the "Wall Street Journal" today. Douglas Rivlin, director of communication for the National Immigration Forum, says quote, "research by attorney Greg Siskind suggests that 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about legal immigration on his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92 times he painted legal immigration in a negative light."

Well, Mr. Rivlin, here's a little research you might add to your own. The vast majority of Greg Siskind's analysis is based on my justified criticism of abuses in the system for temporary work visas, specifically H1B visas in nearly every case, not legal immigration.
[See why Dobbs is trying to pull another fast one over on the public at Citizen Orange]