Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Action: Call to support worker's rights

**This message was sent to us by an organizer**

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the janitors’ picket at Park Meadows on Saturday!!

We had a very successful event and the workers who attended were overwhelmed and energized by all of the support they felt from the community. The janitors have reported experiencing threats and intimidation in response to their efforts to organize for better working conditions and yet they have continued to courageously stand up to their employer to ask for change. We thank you for coming out and recognizing that courage and supporting them in their ongoing effort to improve the quality of their lives.

After the action, two workers entered the mall with a union organizer all wearing their justice for janitors t-shirts. They were approached by Security who required them to change their shirts in order to be in the mall. They all complied and returned to the mall so that the workers could pick up their paychecks. While the workers were in the office getting their checks the union organizer was surrounded by 6-8 security guards who ultimately banned him from the mall for a year. He was told that union activity is not allowed on Park Meadows property. This was all done in view of workers and has obviously further frightened and intimidated workers. Both the janitors’ employer, The Millard Group and the owner of the mall, General Growth Properties are already being investigated for violations of federal labor law and now additional charges are being prepared.



CALL Pamela Schenck the General Manager of Park Meadows Mall at 303-792-2999 or Pamela.schenck@generalgrowth.com.

TELL HER to STOP Abusing the Civil Rights of Workers!!


Monday, August 27, 2007

CFIR Commercial at the Garden Party!

Piper, Seth Donovan, Chandra Russo and Lynne Sprague present a compelling case for Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, a project of the American Friends Service Committe. First deputed at the CIRC Popular Education Retreat in Loveland, CO this commercial made a second fabulous appearance at the CFIR Garden Party, this time caught on video!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Garden Party Pictures!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Events for August 25th through September 1st

August 25th Support
SEIU Janitors!
Time: 4:00pm
Action: Support Janitors in their right to organize by picketing with them against the Millard Group
Place: Park Meadows Mall
Directions: Map
Contact: Veronica Vera 303-698-7963 extension 134 or at wera@seiu105.org

AUGUST 31st Support
Citizenship Rights

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Denver Post covers Elvira's Vigil

Manny Gonzales (mgonzales@denverpost.com) wrote an excellent article covering the vigil for Elvira last night at the Iliff School of theology. It might be nice to drop Manny a nice email thanking him for a thoughtful and compelling story. Here is a quote:

"There are still a lot of people here who haven't heard of Elvira Arellano or her plight, but they know how this country's immigration policy has created a climate of fear for families in Colorado," said one of the vigil's organizers, Danielle Short, human rights program director for American Friends Service Committee.

If you click on the above link you'll see some comments on the Denver Post webpage, some that are supportive and others that are not. Free free to add your thoughts on this site as well.

Here are a few extra pictures from last night. Thanks to everyone who was able to come!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Support Elvira Arellano and Continue

Prayer Vigil to Denounce Elvira Arellano’s Deportation and Celebrate Her Courage
She Inspires Us to Continue!

WHEN: Tonight Wednesday, August 22
TIME: 6:00pm
WHERE: Iliff School of Theology

Parking in the Iliff lot on Iliff just West of University Blvd.
(use the intercom to say you’re there for this event to be let in)

We invite you to come to show your solidarity with Elvira Arellano and all of the other families in risk of separation because of our inhumane immigration system!

We will come together to offer prayers and gather strength for the road ahead.

Co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, HS Power and Light, and Iliff School of Theology among others.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Citizenship in exchange for Spying?

If you are a Muslim applying for citizenship, you might be asked to agree to spy first. If you decline, then you may find yourself in the situation of Mr. Zuhair Mahd and hundreds of other Muslims applying for citizenship.

Mr Mahd had been interviewed and passed his tests and was only waiting on his FBI background check to come back before being approved for citizenship. The government has 120 days to reply to a request for citizenship. Mr. Mahd waited two years.

He finally filed suit in Federal court to move his application forward. He represented himself. And won.

His FBI check came back clean. The government then asked him to supply additional documents and be interviewed again, deviating from the normal process. Mr. Mahd refused and so they have denied his application for citizenship and say he must appeal the decision through the immigration appeals system, which thanks to recent changes is completely separate from the court system in the United States. The appeal process can take years.

Mr. Mahd is again filing suit in federal court to fight this action. Please come out to the hearing and show your support for him.

What: Hearing to determine whether Mr. Mahd can receive his citizenship without delay.
When: Friday, August 31st, 2007
Hour: 11:00am
Where: 901 19th Street Denver, CO
Rm A902

Link to details in this case: http://www.accesstojobs.com/media.html
Link to news coverage: http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_6624187

Monday, August 20, 2007

Activist Elvira Arellano Arrested and Deported

Immigration Control and Enforcement arrested Sra. Arellano as she was leaving a speaking event. She had been taking sanctuary in a church since last August with her son. Sra. Arellano decided it was time for her to leave that sanctuary in order to build momentum for a vigil in D.C. which will happen on September 12th.

Her arrest in front of her son and subsequent separation from him make me angry and sad. Elvira Arellano is a truly inspiring leader for human rights. She has risked her family and her livelihood to tell the truth about what it is like to be an immigrant in the United States.

While the anti-immigrant movement celebrates what they believe to be a defeat, I know that this vigil will gain momentum and power because of her sacrifice. I hope that she inspires all of us who are allies to realize how little we risk in the pursuit of justice and to do more.

There is a poll about her case and the plight of undocumented immigrants here. Please consider taking the poll. Write letters to the editor. And stay tuned for details on upcoming actions.

Please call the local Field Office to protest her arrest and deportation
Field Office Director, Denver
4730 Paris Street
Denver, CO 80239
Phone: 303-371-1067 or 5606
Area of Responsibility: Colorado, Wyoming

Friday, August 17, 2007

Events: August 20th-26th

I'm going to cheat and add this event for tonight:

TONIGHT 8/17 Padres and Jovenes Unidos fundraiser
What: BBQ and picnic
Time: 5:00pm
Where: Columbus Park 38th and Osage (map)
TO bring: Donations for the food

AUGUST 21st Coloradans For Immigrant Rights Garden Party
What: Raffle, food, fun
Time: 6:00pm
Where: AFSC offices 901 W. 14th Ave. in the large apartment building. Come in through the door closest to 14th Ave.

El Centro celebrates its Grand Reopening with the legendary Dolores Huerta!

The event is free and open to the public. However, donations are much appreciated to help El Centro start up in the newly renovated space.
RSVP to tomandannette@comcast.com

August 25th Support SEIU Janitors!
Time: 4:00pm
Place: Park Meadows Mall
Directions: Map
Action: Support Janitors in their right to organize by picketing with them against the Millard Group
Contact: Veronica Vera 303-698-7963 extension 134 or at wera@seiu105.org

Friday, August 10, 2007

DHS: Dismantling Human rights and Security

The Department of Homeland Security released new "rules" today. Included within are:

  • Expanded ("Delegated") search and seizure
  • 31,500 new detention beds
  • Biometrics at airports
  • Sharing of all Motor Vehicle records with the federal government, especially photos (Wave to them on your next driver's license)
  • The expansion of electronic verification of identification and access to more databases of personal information (REAL ID resuscitated)
  • Narrowing of documentation which can be used for employment
  • Further "cooperation" with local and state police forces
  • 75 fifteen person teams to conduct raids
  • Expansion of criminal penalties for employers
  • Expansion of guest worker programs- both temporary and professional, but nothing for family VISAS
  • Decreased rights for asylees/refugees (Forced repatriation to countries unwilling to accept returning immigrants)
  • Elimination of due process in Voluntary Deportation proceedings
  • Data sharing between Social Security and Department of Homeland Security
  • Propaganda reports on a regular basis "State of the Border" addresses
And for integration they will be putting up a new web tool so immigrants can learn English online.

What do you think of these new rules?

Events for August 12th through the 19th

Come out out to Pablo's (map) 8/19 8:00am-noon for a pancake breakfast to benefit the African Community Center (map)

After going for a nice little stroll to work off the pancakes come to see an awesome cultural event and support the Somali Bantu Community Development Council at the Botanic Gardens (map). The cost is$10.00 and you need to register online or call 720-865-3610.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Immigration and Health Care

Many of my friends are afraid to go to the doctor. They spend months afterwards paying the bills to the emergency room because they are denied access to preventative care. One almost died from bronchitis which turned into a nasty pneumonia. I also have uninsured family. My brother went to a friend who is a nurse when he accidentally cut himself. He used superglue to close the cut. He couldn't afford to wait for worker's comp to kick in and wouldn't have been able to pay the bills.

Immigrants do have a small impact on rising health care costs; alongside the 46 million Americans who have no insurance(like my brother), many of whom are working and don't meet the eligibility requirements for Medicare.

This article from the New England Journal of Medicine briefly captures the complexities of both the immigration and health care systems. The article cites several other excellent studies.

"Whether or not they have health insurance, immigrants overall have much lower per capita health care expenditures than native-born Americans,1 and recent analyses indicate that they contribute more to the economy in taxes than they receive in public benefits. In a study from the RAND Corporation, researchers estimated that undocumented adult immigrants, who make up about 3.2% of the population, account for only about 1.5% of U.S. medical costs.2 Many immigrants do not seek medical treatment unless they are injured or acutely ill; at our clinic, patients with type 2 diabetes often have florid symptoms and even incipient renal damage by the time their disease is diagnosed."

Health care is a basic right and ensuring equal access is the best way to keep our community healthy. For more info on health justice in Colorado click here and check out CPC.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Why Does NAFTA Matter: Reflections on a Journey to the Border

Molly Prince

Why Does NAFTA Matter?

Here's a paper you might find interesting

Antonia was 18, had long dark hair and dark skin and had spent the last four days walking in the desert, trying to cross the border to the United States. She slowly drank water out of a Styrofoam cup provided by the aid station in Nogales, Mexico. She was here because border patrol had returned her here, to the Mexican side of the border. I recognized something about her, a kind of shocked trauma that I felt a few weeks earlier, sitting in the emergency room with broken teeth after a fall. I recognized the similarity but also the difference. My broken teeth, where I was surrounded by my family, with health insurance and countless resources, was not in the same realm as having spent four days in the desert, still being hundreds of miles away from home (Guerrero), and probably having very little money. Antonia and I talked and- briefly- our lives intersected.

I met Antonia because I was on a trip with a group of teachers traveling in the U.S.- Mexico border area to learn more about immigration. We talked with many people including immigrants, priests, volunteers, professors and border patrol agents. We heard powerful stories from individuals and then tried to wrap our minds around the quantity of people living variations of these stories. (An estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants cross the border every year.) We talked a lot about trying to understand the root causes of immigration. NAFTA kept coming up. The priest in Altar talked about it. The professor in Chihuahua talked about it. Ruben, who has worked with immigrants in El Paso for 30 years, talked about NAFTA. (Ruben has also adopted three children he helped to helicopter out of El Salvador after their parents were assassinated because they were organizing unions.) It seemed that people who worked with and cared about immigrants and had had a chance to study the situation had a lot to say about NAFTA.

After returning to Denver, I found myself discussing NAFTA with everyone: my friends, my neighbors, my dad, my grandpa. . . it seemed important. I decided to use this assignment to do some additional research on NAFTA and to try to clearly articulate some important points.

The Basics

NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement. Its members are Mexico, the United States and Canada. NAFTA is an international treaty which contains a long list of rules about trade including laws about tariffs, agriculture, industry, intellectual property and investment. These rules have legal standing. NAFTA was initiated by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Mexican President Carlos Salina de Gortari. It was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries and went into effect in 1994. In the U.S., it passed the House by a vote of (234-200) and the senate by a vote of (61-38).


One reason NAFTA has been confusing to many of us is because of academic, economic jargon and vocabulary which often implies that it is positive. Many sources talk about cooperation between countries and increasing “free trade”. I associate “free” with freedom, which in turn, I associate with the American Revolution, democracy and equality. In fact, free trade and NAFTA are often at odds with democracy and equality. NAFTA might be easier to understand if it was called NAACMIP: North American Agreement that Corporations are More Important than People.

Two Points of Focus

NAFTA is a very long document which I cannot fully describe in five pages (nor understand in a summer) so I have narrowed my focus to two main ideas:
1. Jobs and agriculture
(I chose this focus because of the connection to immigration.)
2. The Investment Provisions (NAFTA court)
(I chose this focus because of how upsetting it is to me.)

Jobs and Agriculture

We met Samuel while staying at a shelter which the Catholic Church provides for migrants in Altar (a small town in Mexico a few hours by car from the U.S. border). Most of the migrants there seemed preoccupied with their own troubles but Samuel thanked us eloquently for giving our attention to the migrant plight and talked with us at length. He was planning to attempt an undocumented crossing the next day and told us that the reason he was crossing was to make money to support his son and daughter. His eyes lit up when he spoke of his daughter and he talked at length about his philosophy of parenting. One of my traveling companions pointed out the sad irony of a situation where loving your children translates to leaving them. Migrant after migrant who we spoke to said that their reason for crossing the border illegally was for work and money. (For poor Mexicans without special connections, it is next to impossible to obtain a legal visa.)

Mexican unemployment is not new with the coming of NAFTA, but NAFTA has made it worse. Advocates of NAFTA say that it has brought jobs to Mexico. This is true. NAFTA is directly linked to the creation of thousands of poorly paying, low level jobs such as those in the maquiladora industry (Salas). However, as Cruz and Rinderman point out: it is important to consider the balance of employment generation –not just how many jobs were created, but also how many were lost.

Many small and medium sized farmers have lost their ability to make a living because of NAFTA. NAFTA’s effect on farmers has been so big that more than 100,000 farmers joined a protest march in Mexico City in 2003. The problem is that NAFTA forbids Mexico from using tariffs on imports. In the past, Mexico used tariffs on imported corn and other foods (such as wheat, soy and beans) in order to protect Mexican farmers. According to Victor Quintana, the professor we spoke with in Chihuahua, compared to farmers in the U.S. Midwest, Mexican farmers have fewer tractors (In 1990 there were 1.6 tractors for every U.S. farmer and 2 tractors for every 100 Mexican farmers), 30 times fewer government subsidies and a more difficult climate for farming. They can’t compete with U.S. corporate industrial farms that continue to receive subsidies and indirect forms of protection. With the tariffs removed, imported U.S. corn has brought down the price of corn so that Mexican farmers cannot make a profit. Multinational companies like Monsanto are profiting from this situation. Most Mexican people are not. According to Victor Quintana, rural migration has skyrocketed since NAFTA and he half-joked that Mexico trades two undocumented immigrants for every ton of U.S. corn.

NAFTA Court and Law

In preparation for NAFTA, Mexico changed their constitution to state that mining has priority over any other land use including agricultural and housing uses (Dhillon). This means that poor Mexican families can be forced off their land in order to make way for foreign-owned mining companies and the mining companies have the full support of the law. Mexico is not the only country where NAFTA is affecting law and democracy. Riding on the bus, one of my traveling companions said to me, “Did you know that NAFTA has its own court? If a company thinks some policy or law might threaten their profits they can take it to court and corporate profit trumps public health and national and state law. In California they passed a state law banning a gasoline additive. The company took the case to NAFTA court and California was not allowed to have that law.” This sounded too crazy to be true but further research confirmed it. The gasoline additive California tried to ban is called MTBE. MTBE can cause cancer and was leaching into local ground water. The Canadian Methanex Corporation won its case in court.

The official language that sets up the NAFTA court is: “the investor-state clause”. Kuhn, Anderson & Foster explain:
The “investor-state” clause gives foreign investors the right to sue governments for compensation over public-interest laws that might undermine their profits. It presents a serious threat to local, regional and national governments’ ability to establish rules to serve the public good. . . Corporations seeking damages under the investor-state clause take their claims to special NAFTA tribunals assembled under the auspices of the United Nations Commission for International Trade and Law or the International Center for Settlement of Disputes at the World Bank. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the hearings are held entirely in secret, with no obligation to release a written record, to allow any type of participation of private citizens, NGO’s, or state or local government officials, or even to reveal details of the rulings. (69)


NAFTA connects to many important issues: human rights, the environment, law, economics, immigration are only a few. NAFTA does not work in isolation. These issues are complicated and many factors are involved. However, NAFTA is a powerful structure that supports corporate power over the public good. There are alternatives to NAFTA. The European Union is one example of a different approach. Supporters of NAFTA believe in free trade but if I may end with a quotation from the Hemispheric Social Alliance: “In no country in the world has the market alone achieved sustainability and social justice”.

Cruz, M. & Rindermann, R. (2003) NAFTA’s Impact on Mexican Agriculture: An Overview. In Lessons from NAFTA: the High Cost of “Free” Trade. (pp 69-74). Hemispheric Social Alliance. www.rmalc.org.mx/libros.htm. (under “Lecciones de TLCN: El alto costo del “libre” comercio” click on “English)
Dhillon, M. (2007) Canadian Mining in Mexico: Made in Canada Violence. www.ciepac.org/boletines/chiapas_en.php?id=535 .
Hansen-Kuhn, K., Anderson, S.,& Foster, J. (2003) Investment Provisions Threaten Democracy in All Three Countries. In Lessons from NAFTA: the High Cost of “Free” Trade. (pp 69-74). Hemispheric Social Alliance. www.rmalc.org.mx/libros.htm. (under “Lecciones de TLCN: El alto costo del “libre” comercio” click on “English)
Massey, D.S. (2005) Backfire at the Border: Why Enforcement without Legalization Cannot Stop Illegal Immigration. CATO institute, No. 29, 1-13.
Salas, C. (2002) Mexico’s Haves and Have-Nots: NAFTA Sharpens the Divide. NACLA Report on the Americas. 35 (4), 32-35.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iris' Story

Tito Meza, my friend & comrade, is the Executive Director of Proyecto Hondureno, and housing & tenants’ rights activist for the Somerville CDC. He wants me to share this letter with you.

-Gabriel Camacho

Open Letter, 8-1-2007

Dear sisters, brothers, and friends of the immigrant community, I place this letter before you with the purpose of informing you regarding the arrest of my niece Iris Yaneth Meza and the resulting separation from her 3 year old daughter Arlette Meza.

As I had already written some of you, Iris was detained while walking on the street in the town of Burke- New York on Saturday July 28th 2007. Iris was looking for allergy medicine at the pharmacy when she was detained. I imagine that in a town of very few immigrants- her indigenous features gave her away.

After being taken into custody, she was asked where she lived, and taken to her apartment. Her apartment was searched and she was arrested along with her three year old daughter. Her daughter was immediately handed over to a DSS social worker and was quickly transferred to a foster mother- unknown to the child or the mother. The social worker notified our family and we were able to quickly mobilize to go to New York.

I am happy to say that Arlette is no longer in DSS custody- as of yesterday, July 31st, she is in our family’s home. Her mother however, continues in detention- awaiting a court date and presumably deportation.

At three years of age, Arlette does not understand what has happened with her mother. She repeats a phrase probably taught to her by her temporary guardians, “Mi mami is gone.” She repeats it frequently. Even though she is very healthy and in the loving care of our family, nobody can substitute the love and care given her by her mother day and night from the moment she was born in to this world. We are unsure of the effect this separation will have on Arlette.

The truth of the matter is that there is a continuation to this flagrant violation of children’s human rights. I can not help but ask myself: How may Arlettes are living trauma of forced separation from their parents? What do we do in the face of this generalized repression against our families? What do we do in the face of this state of terror that our families are being exposed to?

In the process of gaining custody of Arlette we went to visit the jail where her mother was detained. I spoke with my niece in the few minutes they allowed me and she said, “Uncle, please don’t let them take my daughter from me. If they deport me, I want to take her with me- if they let me, I want her to be with me. She has always been with me. She eats everything. She likes tortillas and frijoles. She only has one problem- she is allergic to mosquito bites.”

As the jail rules do not allow for physical contact I was not even able to give her a consoling hug as she cried saying, “Uncle, take care of my baby.”

Despite the fact that we were taking Arlette out of state and that her mother will face deportation, we were denied the request for mother and child to visit. There was an angry exchange between the guards and social workers- who advocated the need for Arelette to see her mother before leaving the state – to no avail. Arlette realized that something was going on and loudly stated, “Mi mami is gone!”

After as if she realized that this is where ICE had her mother detained and that she was near- she threw a huge tantrum- unable to express in words her protest to all the trauma she was being subjected to at her young age of 3 years.

She was taken from her normal world and placed in a world where everything was unfamiliar. She did not know the social workers, she did not know the foster parents who were caring for her, and she did not know us- her uncle and aunt who would assume her custody.

As we started our 5 hour journey from New York to Massachusetts, the pain of leaving my niece Iris Yaneth behind, in a prison, when she had not comitted any crime other than to have indigenous features and the abscence of a green card, was unbearable. We as adults forced back tears and anguish- and can only imagine- how Arlette felt- watching the distance grow as she sat in the car with people she did not know- knowing she was leaving her mother behind in a building with guards.

Brothers and Sisters, my reasons for sharing this letter with you goes beyond the situation affecting my niece. The reality is that like Arlette and Yaneth, there are thousands of our bothers and sisters subjected to this state of terror in the name of a law that is affecting the present, and future of our children and our families.

The United States is part of international treaties for children and human rights. The Unites Nations has passed many resolutions to protect children and human rights. Despite this, the former are the primary violators of children and human rights and the latter have become spectators of the abuses that are committed daily by immigration officials in this country.

It is time to do more! We must make our voices heard. If we continue to be quiet today, tomorrow we will be before the gas chambers, as happened in Germany.

-Tito Meza

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Come out to the Vigil Tonight

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is calling us to come out for a vigil tonight. The papers are saying 48 people were arrested in State Patrol round ups today, including a baby. Let's show support for the families who were driving today and those who've been left behind. It's time to decry the erosion of our civil liberties and the boundaries between federal and local police forces.

This is an opportunity to lift our ally voices and use them to speak in solidarity with those detained.

Come out and participate!
When: TONIGHT, August 1, 2007, 8PM
Where: Denver Inner City Parish

CIRC Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Contacts: Chandra Russo, 720-273-2022 Jordan Garcia 303-919-8798

ICE-Deputized State Patrol Terrorizes Immigrant Families
Colorado Advocates Demand Real Solutions,
Not Police-State Tactics
Prayer Vigil in Denver Tonight to Support Affected Families

(Denver, CO) On Tuesday, Colorado State Patrol officers arrested 48 immigrants on I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel in a concentrated round-up of immigrant families. The 48 included an infant identified as a U.S. citizen. The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), a statewide alliance of over 80 organizations working to defend and advance the rights of immigrants, demands an end to law enforcement tactics which terrorize communities and violate civil liberties.

"It just seems as if we have become a police state," says Sister Nancy Crafton of Centro de los Pobres in Avondale, CO. "Our families are terrified. . .terrified. . .to go anywhere, even down the street. We are seeing a complete erosion of due process in this country."

"This round-up by State Patrol raises serious questions about who is being targeted for immigration questioning," adds Danielle Short of the American Friends Service Committee. "Regardless of who has traffic violations, certain races and ethnicities are clearly more vulnerable here."

"It is a sad day to see the state of Colorado using the very limited resources it has to enforce federal immigration laws,"says Eddie Soto of Compañeros in Durango. "Our law-makers in Washington do not have the guts to tackle this issue and use our precious tax-dollars which should be spent on education and health care."

mexico threatens lawsuit...

Check out this great BBC article-explores interesting
connections between immigration,
wildlife advocacy and globalization.


Reuters Blog: Walk to America

This is a great blog by Reuters reporters called Walking to America. It gives a good perspective of the physical hardships as well as the myths propagated on the Mexican side of the border about how short the walk is. The first installment was here.

This really compliments the things on Bri's blog working with No More Deaths.