Monday, December 15, 2008

Download the new resouce from Smart Meme

You won't regret it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An Activist reflects on the border region...

A major circle completed itself for me as I sat in Panchita's Salvadoran Food in San Francisco the other week. I took the tattered Modelo Especial label from my wallet and set it on the glassed-over tablecloth, trying to remember all that happened during the time it spent squished up against my right buttock. Three years ago, Joe the Mormon and I enjoyed some late night pupusas and beer at Panchita's. He had just graduated from Teach For America, and I had just started my first summer of No More Deaths on the border. My bottle of Modelo had an extra label dangling from it, and I stuck it in my wallet to keep the good memory with me. Joe went back to work with his students, and my label came back with me to the border. Three years later, with guidance from Joe's iPhone, I found myself back in the same spot on a spontaneous escape from a 3-hour airport layover. An older, silver-toothed waiter came to take my order, and grabbed the piece of trash off the table. I stopped him, introduced myself, and with some hesitancy began to try to tell what was so Especial about that label. The waiter told me his name, which I was pretty sure he shared with an old Chilean dictator. I was also pretty sure he would think my sob story was a cheap attempt at talking some free food out of him, but I told it anyway. He knew of the work of groups like No More Deaths, and thought it was neat that the label had wandered the border with me ever since I'd wandered into his restaurant three years ago and wandered back in again today. He had heard about the tragedy of little Josseline – they were both from El Salvador. I was happy to see him smile, saying he would keep the label for me there at the restaurant, and that he would tell the story to the woman making pupusas. And I was relieved when he charged me for my food and for my Modelo Especial.

I may not have been so relieved were I not finally gainfully employed again. After a lengthy interview process and lots of finger-crossing and name-dropping, the Sierra Club hired me as their Borderlands Campaign Organizer! I work from an office in downtown Tucson, helping put together a grassroots campaign against environmentally harmful border policies and infrastructure, especially the border wall. The opportunity to engage the nation's largest, oldest, most influential conservation organization, and its 1.2 million members, in this struggle is amazing and humbling. I am the only Sierra Club employee in Tucson, and, as far as I know, the only convicted litterer in the entire organization! Seriously though, right now is a time of unity, of solidarity between humanitarian and environmental causes working together against a destructive and absurd border policy. The future holds hope, and tons of work! If you'd like to help out or learn more, check us out at www.arizona.sierraclub.org/border or look up Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign on facebook.

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm writing this from the back of my truck, parked at the makeout point above Flagstaff, AZ. I have spent a lot of time here on recent visits to my hometown, sadly always alone. For whatever reason, it's my preferred place to practice crappy Garth Brooks renditions on my borrowed guitar, or maybe now to type up messages on the Sierra Club's laptop computer. Wow – there's even wireless signal! From here, the flash and whine of sirens stand out most, and the trains sever the city in half every few minutes, like a twisting steel wall rumbling over anything in its path. These things, and helicopters, often drag me back to memories and stories of our border emergency.

I have three border stories to tell you: one about a friend, another about a friend's friend, and the third about a stranger. Only my friend is still alive.

About a month before and not far from where I was ticketed for leaving water for migrants, Samaritans volunteer Kathryn Ferguson was parked along the highway. She was doing a routine trail check, looking for lost, injured or sick people in need of help. An unmarked truck pulled up behind her, and three burly plainclothes men confronted her, refusing to identify themselves. An experienced border volunteer, Kathryn smartly began writing everything down. They responded by shoving her against the truck, handcuffing her, and holding her for an hour and a half before our lawyers were finally able to convince them to let her go. She was charged with creating a nuisance, and a trial date was set. The day before she was to go to court, the charges were mysteriously dropped. Here is an article on the whole ordeal: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Currents/Content?oid=116779

Francisco Dominguez Rivera was not so lucky. This month, for the second time, a jury failed to convict the Border Patrol agent who shot him under his left arm at point blank range in 2007. The bullet pierced his heart and lodged in his abdomen. When he died, Francisco was 22 years old and weighed 145 pounds. The 240-pound agent who claims to have shot him in a scuffle is still on the job. Eyewitnesses and official reports say there was no scuffle.

Just as tragic is the story of my friend's friend Luis. Early this year he was pulled over for a routine racial profiling – uh – I mean traffic stop by Phoenix police. Having no driver's license, Luis was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE is the same agency that has been in the news for rounding up and scapegoating brown people in Iowa, Florida and beyond, as well as conducting lesser-known raids like the one this month here in Flagstaff). Luis refused to sign voluntary deportation papers. His wife and three children are here in the U.S., where he had lived and worked for ten years. He sat in jail for six months before being deported in August. On September 15, Luis was found dead in our Arizona border desert. Trying to get back to his wife, his seven year old, his four year old, and the three month old baby daughter he had never met, he died of dehydration and exposure.

There are 182 more stories like this one; stories that end in lifeless bodies lying on our border. One of those is Josseline's story. She and Luis are just two of the 183 whose remains were found along the Arizona border this year. This does not include those found in the three other U.S.-Mexico border states, or the thousands found in the years since the invention of NAFTA and the walls. And only God knows how many thousands more are never found.

I cry every time I write one of these messages. I'm hoping the next time they'll be tears of joy, a happy report about winning the appeal we filed of my littering conviction. But most probably there won't be a next message. I'm stepping back from the "front-lines" work of No More Deaths, learning to plug into my new "command center" post with the Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign. If you would like to continue getting monthly updates from this new vantage point, please send an email to dan.millis@sierraclub.org and I'll sign you up. I enjoyed sharing my experiences with you, not because the memories are fond, but because they are important. That 2,000-mile imaginary line between rich and poor, English and Spanish, ketchup and Tapatío, is like an endless scroll whose writings contain the saddest stories, the most absurd ironies, and the essential lessons. I implore all of us to continue to share what we witness, what we live. As always, you can share my memories with a click on www.borderstoked.com. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to push for real change in the way our government and society operates. Together we might close some of the mangled and bloody circles plaguing not just our borders but our very beings.

Thank you, so very much, for standing beside the migrants, the volunteers, and me, in the desert, in federal court, and in our common human heart.

Dan

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"ACCESS TO RELIGIOUS MINISTRY ACT" PASSES

Dear Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants,

I am delighted to share with you the wonderful news that the "Access to
Religious Ministry" bill unanimously passed the House and Senate
yesterday (see below.) There indeed is still a long way to go on this
Journey of Hope for immigrants, but as Advent approaches, passage of
this act is a hope-filled, concrete sign that we are beginning to see
the results of very, very many prayers and efforts. And now we are
assured that immigrant detainees will get the spiritual care they need
while they await the next step in their journeys. We will need your help
in implementing and putting into action this new law. Please call your
Senator and Representative to thank them for supporting this bill.

Thanks for all of your support! Praise God!

Peace,
Elena Segura
CCIR Director, esegura@archchicago.org


"ACCESS TO RELIGIOUS MINISTRY ACT" PASSES UNANIMOUSLY THE ILLINOIS
HOUSE AND SENATE
Thank you for all your prayers, and letters/phone calls to
legislatures! This is a crucial victory for the basic human rights of
immigrant detainees in county jails in Illinois, as this bill assures
them the same access to priests, nuns, ministers, rabbis, imams, and
other clergy as the criminal populations in these jails. The Sisters and
Brothers of Immigrants (in particular the Sisters of Mercy) and the
Priests for Justice for Immigrants were instrumental in introducing the
bill earlier this year and building grassroots support until the bill
passed in Springfield as HB 4613 (originally HB 2747). Many lay leaders
of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform and the Catholic
Conference of Illinois also had important roles in this successful,
joint effort among many community-based and religious institutions

For background on the Lomas del Poleo situation check www.pasodelsur.com

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CFIR's letter to the Indian Worker Congress

Cass County Jail
Christopher Glory
450 34th Street
Fargo, ND 58103

Indian Worker Congress:

We at Coloradans For Immigrant Rights (CFIR), a project of AFSC, have followed your brave struggle which shows us not only the dangers of a “guest worker” program that treats people as commodities but also the power of workers united. It is truly inspiring to see how you have drawn upon the history of non-violent resistance from both your home country and the United States in defense of your freedom and human rights.

We are deeply troubled by the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement who would retaliate against those who seek justice, rather than hold accountable companies such as Signal that profit from the trafficking, servitude and exploitation of people. And we are saddened that some of you have been detained by ICE and are now facing federal criminal charges. The perpetrators, not the victims, of human trafficking should answer for their actions.

Our group, which represents hundreds of individuals across the state of Colorado, works to support the human rights of immigrant communities and to create a vision of a world where dignity and justice are afforded to everyone. Your actions contribute to such a world and we stand beside in your struggle. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Introduction to Who Is My Neighbor?: A Faith Conversation on Immigration



For a copy of the curriculum or more information, please contact Jennifer Piper at jpiper@afsc.org or 303-623-3464

Thursday, October 2, 2008

CFIR Thanks Governor Ritter

CFIR Thanks You

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the keys to living your life with integrity.”

Dear Governor Ritter:

We at Coloradans For Immigrant Rights (CFIR) recently heard about your support of the Colorado Interfaith Pledge on Immigration on September 25th, 2008. We were encouraged and pleased to see you take a stand for proactive and respectful dialogue about immigration policy. We appreciate you naming comprehensive, just and human immigration reform as a priority and a necessity for the next president’s administration and for our communities.

Our group, which represents over 800 individuals across the State, works to support the human rights of immigrant communities and to create a vision of a world where dignity and justice are afforded to everyone. Your actions contribute to such a world. Thank you.

We will be following up with a letter outlining our perspective on the currently policy debate around immigration.


If you would like more information about CFIR or if there is anything we can do to be supportive of your continued efforts, please contact me at 303-623-3464.


Sincerely,

Jordan T. Garcia
Immigrant Ally Organizing Director
Coloradans For Immigrant Rights (CFIR) a program of the AFSC


Organizing Citizens to Support Immigrant Rights!
901 W. 14th Ave, Suite # 7, Denver, CO 80204 ● Ph: 303.623.3464 ● Fax: 303.623.3492
jgarcia@afsc.orgwww.afsc.org/central/coloradowww.coloradansforimmigrantrights.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aurora Tragedy: Avoiding Misplaced Blame

Last Thursday in Aurora, two women and an infant child were killed in a horrendous and tragic car crash. When something so unimaginable occurs, our entire community is thrust into mourning.


However, in the aftermath of this terrible event, the discussion has turned fully from the tragedy itself into what Tom McGhee of The Denver Post is fairly calling "the car crash blame game." Rather than allowing a family and community to mourn the heartbreaking loss of three people's lives, the public discussion has turned to anti-immigrant hatred and bigotry.

This heartbreaking incident has ignited a painfully myopic and divisive discussion. One individual with a history of grave traffic violations is being used to leverage terror and rage at an entire community. It is fair to be outraged at the driver's recklessness. It is an illogical leap to tie this to his immigration status.

Study after study shows that immigrants in every ethnic group in the United States commit crimes at lower rates than do native born citizens. Yet one person's egregious behavior is being discussed as somehow derivative of the manner in which he entered this country. More offensively, criminality is projected onto the millions of hard-working folks who come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their children. 

The tragedy in Aurora should not be a platform for discussing our broken immigration system, but we can clearly agree that it is broken.

Had the federal government enacted policy reform to resolve the legal status of the millions of folks who are unable to regulate their immigration status under current law, the immigration status of those arrested for crimes would be a non-issue. In the absence of such reform, the current vitriol against immigrants as a whole unjustly divides us at a moment when we should be united to support the families of the victims.

In this moment of great sorrow, let's not lower ourselves to misguided assumptions. The intolerable and premature loss of three lives is a reason to pull together in mutual caring, not give into the politics of blame.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We Are America Immigrant Rights March Thursday

A Call to Action, Mobilization for Progressive, Humane and Just Immigration Reform!

Thursday, August 28, 2008
March Step-off at 9am
2855 W. Howard Place (Rude Park at 14th and Federal)

Rally to follow at La Alma/ Lincoln Park (W. 12th Ave. and Mariposa St.)

Immigrant Rights Reception Tonight

WE ARE AMERICA DNC will be hosting a reception, immigration forum and film screening of SWIFT JUSTICE tonight, Wednesday, August 27, from 6:30-9pm at El Centro San Juan Diego, 2830 Lawrence Street. Please visit www.weareamericadnc.org or call 303.292.4115 x102 with questions.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Aurora City Council considering criminalizing day laborers

City Council Hearing and Rally TONIGHT

WHAT: Rally and Testimonies at City Council Meeting to Oppose Anti-Day-Laborer Ordinance

WHERE: Steps of Aurora Municipal Building 15151 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012

RALLY: 6:30pm
HEARING: 7:30pm

SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS
_________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 7/15/2008

The City Council delayed their vote on this issue last night. Several City Council members were not present. The Council expressed a desire for "more community input". Several members of the council who are opposed to a change in the ordinance wanted to have the vote. Several members, including the sponsor, voted to postpone the vote. Stay posted for more details on the next hearing date. Thanks to all who gave up their Monday night for the rally and testimony!

_________________________________________________________________
7/10/2008
The Aurora City council will consider a new ordinance which would place El Centro, and other non-profit employment centers, under the same code as for-profit temporary employment centers. If passed, El Centro will not be able to purchase property close to where day laborers and employers currently meet.

Come out on Monday to the Rally and stay to give testimony.

WHAT: Rally and Testimonies at City Council Meeting to Oppose Anti-Day-Laborer Ordinance

WHERE: Steps of Aurora Municipal Building 15151 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012

WHEN: Monday, July 14, 2008 Rally at 6:30p.m. (7:30p.m. City Council Meeting)

BACKGROUND
For the last two years the City of Aurora has been escalating their constant harassment against the day laborers who congregate in the intersection of Dayton Street and Colfax Avenue.

Their actions include wrongfully ticketing of day laborers for trespassing; threatening to close down the business owned by a Hispanic woman who gave supported workers by allowing them to seek refuge on her property while waiting for work; and police calling building owners to intimidate them into not renting or selling their buildings to Centro Humanitario.

After the Peter Boyles Show, which hosted Mayor Ed Tauer and other city officials, the Colorado Minutemen Project has shown up to harass the day laborers at Dayton and Colfax.

Since our first call for help on June 16, 2008, the City of Aurora has amended their current laws regarding the control of temporary employment agencies to include non profits, specifically agencies that provide assistance to day laborers.

The City of Aurora is meticulously reviewing and amending their current laws to make sure the ordinance against day laborers is “perfectly enforceable.”

For more information, please call Centro Humanitario:

Photo Taken by Heather A. Longway-Burke

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Raids in Loveland

On July , 2008 ICE raided a concrete plant in Loveland Colorado and arrested 18 people. Those detained are being held in various different detention centers from Park County to Teller to Aurora.

It remains to be seen whether Immigration, Control and Enforcement will be pursuing criminal charges for "identity theft" or simply trying to bully people into signing their own deportation forms.

Some workers are being allowed to bond out. The families of those who could bond out have now spent all they have to bond the workers out. The workers cannot work while out on bond. Many of the families are without money to pay rent for August.

If you want to help, please send checks to:
Fuerza Latina Relief Fund
c/o First National BankP.O. Box 578
Fort Collins, CO 80522

These types of "enforcement" actions are meant to terrorize workers and their families. Why else would they have called in "air support" from the Border Patrol to arrest 18 people?

The raids do not change our broken system. Raids do not make people leave the United States.

Raids make it easier to exploit us all by making immigrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation and unsafe working conditions, lowering the bar of what is acceptable. Raids make people afraid to demand their labor rights, afraid to be a part of the community, afraid to speak with people they don't know. Raids divide us.

The question is Who do these raids benefit? Who gains from weakened worker's rights? Some of the answer is: consumers who want to buy more stuff for less money. Some of the answer is: those employers who are unscrupulous. A big part of the answer is: multi-national corporations who pit workers from all over the world against one another in a race to the bottom.

More info
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
News articles

Detention Centers Violate Human Rights

Undocumented immigrants have not broken a criminal law, but rahter a civil one. Civil law encompasses such offenses as parking tickets, speeding and jaywalking. Most immigrants come here, build their family and work. They become integral parts of their communities. It is our immigration laws and procedures which make them vulnerable to abuses.

Ask if the "crime" of working and building fits the punishments being inflicted?

A report released today details the human rights violations that occur once immigrants are in detention.

The Tacoma Center was built over neighborhood objections that a toxic-waste site was not an appropriate place for detention. Now the center has been found to violate many human rights.

"Conditions at the detention center violate obligations under international law, including customary international law and the refugee convention. The center’s holding of asylees in detention violates U.S.’s obligations under the Refugee condition and constitute Cruel, Inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Skinner also says the conditions at the center violate the 5th Amendment of the Constitution in that they amount to punishment... Other rights being violated include the right to counsel, the right to family unity, due process violations due to the forced signing of papers, right to medical treatment, especially emergency medical treatment and mental health treatment."

Many centers, including the GEO center in Aurora, have similar problems. There have been allegations of racism and harassment at the Aurora GEO Center. The waiting room at the facility is very small and visiting family members are forced to wait outside in the heat and cold if they want to visit their family. The facility also only allows two visitors at a time so families have to bring someone with them to watch their other children or not visit at all. Even prisons do not have such restrictions.

To read the executive summary click here
To read the full report click here

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Court Intrepreter Relates Injustices During Potsville Raids

Erik Camayd-Freixas, Ph.D. has 25 years experience as a court interpreter. He also teaches interpreting ethics. He felt that the injustices perpetrated on Guatemalan and Mexican immigrants during the Potsville immigration raid were so egregious, he had to report them.

Professor Camayd witnessed immigrants coming into court 10 by 10 to be arraigned. They were all, men and women alike, in shackles.

On Democracy Now Professor Camayd-Freixas reported

"here were many (immigrants) in that same predicament. They were basically begging to be deported. And, of course, what made this case unique was that, for the first time, at least in this scale, they were not being deported but actually criminally prosecuted and sent to jail for five months or more. And the fact that they did not have a right to bail and that if they wanted to plead “not guilty” they would have had to wait possibly longer, up to six or eight months in jail without bail waiting for a trial, made this situation very, very difficult to really say that there was justice done in many of these cases."
We have to ask ourselves
  • Is this what we mean by justice? Families hungry, workers jailed without proper proceedings
  • Has the government reflected our values: liberty, equality, justice, pursuit of happiness?
  • How much longer will we uphold unjust laws?
To read the full report of the Professor's experience click here

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life

The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life
May 26-June 1, 2008

A 75 mile walk from Sásabe, Sonora, MX to Tucson, AZ
The precarious reality of our borderlands calls us to walk. We walk together on a journey of peace to remember people, friends and family who have died, others who have crossed, and people who continue to come. We walk to bear witness to the tragedy of death and of the inhumanity in our midst. Lastly, we walk as a community, in defiance of the borders that attempt to divide us, committed to working together for the human dignity of all peoples.

For Immediate ReleaseMay 30, 2008Contact: Kat Rodriguez, Stephanie Dernek: 520.561.2427
Press Conference:Migrant Trail Arrives in Tucson to Testify About Border ExperienceSunday, June 1, 200811:30amKennedy Park, Ramada #3 Tucson, Arizona
Tucson- An international group participating in the fifth annual Migrant Trail Walk from Sásabe, Sonora to Tucson, Arizona will arrive on Sunday, June 1st. The 75-mile Walk will culminate in a press conference, followed by a community gathering at Kennedy Park in Tucson, Arizona. The Migrant Trail, a Walk through the most traveled corridor on the Arizona-Sonora border, sponsored by a coalition of nineteen organizations, bears witness to the thousands of women, men and children who have lost their lives in an attempt to provide a better future for themselves and their families. "The deaths of more than 5,000 women, men and children are the direct result of our failed and unconscionable U.S. border policies," says Jodi Read of Mennonite Central Committee. "We, as people of faith and conscience, are called to make this journey together as witnesses, to be the voices that our migrant brothers and sisters no longer have." For the last five years, this collaborative effort has joined friends and allies from across the country and from international backgrounds for a one-week experience through the Sásabe corridor, where most crossings occur and the vast majority of bodies are recovered along the Arizona-Sonora border. An act of solidarity, the Walk is a means of bearing witness to the death and devastation that has resulted from the violence, division, and xenophobia in response to the mass migration that has resulted from failed border and trade policies. "I recently returned from Juarez/El Paso where the militarization, violence and death toll increase daily. I am impelled to action for those I met and for the migrant community in Chicago, Illinois," says Stephanie Dernek of 8th Day Center for Justice and Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition, who has made the journey for the last three years to the Arizona border. "I walk the Migrant Trail to be a witness to the human rights violations, unjust and racist border/immigration policies. I walk in remembrance of those who died in the journey and to recommit myself and my community to work to bring about justice and peace for the migrant." The Migrant Trail Walk will begin the final 6.7 miles of their journey at 9am at the BLM campsite on Ajo Way and San Joaquin Road. Participants will be welcomed home at Kennedy Park with speakers, music, food, and testimonies from participants and supporters. This event is free and open to the public.

The Migrant Trail
c/o Arizona Border Rights Foundation
P.O. Box 1286 Tucson, AZ 85702
Tel: 520.770.1373Fax: 520.770.7455
www.derechoshumanosaz.net

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tom Kowal on the Migrant Trail Walk

Statement by Tom Kowal from Denver, at the press conference in Tucson at the end of the 5th Migrant Trail Walk, June 1, 2008:

There is a reason why we are here. We are here in memory of the 5,000 women, men and children who have died in the past 14 years on this border. These brave people committed no crime. They came across this desert because they need to feed their families. They died because the US laws are broken. These laws are unrealistic, inhumane and lethal. They serve only those who would exploit other human beings, and those who seek to divide us.

We are one community – somos un pueblo. So when these brothers and sisters -- these friends and neighbors -- suffer and die in the desert because the safe routes have been closed by failed policies, we all suffer this loss.

And so Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and the American Friends Service Committee stand here in witness to those sacrificed in this killing field. We mourn with their families and we call for reform. We call on our government to end this evil madness; to immediately pass humane and realistic comprehensive immigration reform; to reprogram the billions of dollars being wasted on border militarization to human needs.

It is not too much to ask to stop the killing and to begin healing our border communities.
~ Tom Kowal

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reflections on the Migrant Trail Walk, by Tom Acker

I recently returned from a symbolic journey. In the materialistic, pragmatic context of most of our lives, we tend to disregard those things which transcend our daily existence. But here I am writing to you, dear reader, of a place in which what are usually disquieting abstractions, life and death, are tangible constants. They are seen in bleached bones of animals, circling vultures, stupefying heat and dusty dry arroyos. These are elements that accompany you if you venture outside the air-conditioned comfort that most of the inhabitants seek in southern Arizona.

The hidden side of the folkloric Southwest border is deadly. The reality of the desert becomes a horrific and epic awakening for those unfortunate individuals that make up the thousands that attempt to traverse our hemisphere’s most forbidding region: the Sonora Desert that straddles both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border.

Since October 2007, 52 people have died in the desert (as of June 6th, 2008). They die from dehydration, hypothermia and hyperthermia. These statistics reveal the stark reality that unsuspecting economic refugees face upon encountering this inhospitable region for the first time.

Immigration is an act of desperation. The urgency to leave one’s home arises from the extreme poverty that exists in southern Mexico (the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca are famous for this) and Central America. The verdant rainforest of the Lacandona jungle of Chiapas bears no resemblance to the arid international desert with its cholla cactus and its mesquite trees. Add to the physically demanding geography the Sonoran desert’s socio-political chaos. As lethal as the desert are the gangs of narcotraffickers, human traffickers and those that prey on the ill-prepared migrants, the bajadores. This frightening no-man’s land also harbors stories of unscrupulous Border Patrol agents as well as Mexican border officials.

The migrants connect with traffickers, the coyotes, in the northern Mexican launching site of Altar. These entrepreneurs promise them safe passage across the Arizona desert in exchange for thousands of dollars, usually borrowed from relatives or loan sharks. I, on the other hand, felt well protected. My worries were few as I meet my friends and colleagues from the previous year’s Migrant Trail at the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson. Among them are members of innovative and courageous groups like Humane Borders, No More Deaths, Tucson Samaritans, Derechos Humanos and Green Valley Samaritans as well as good citizens from colleges, faith groups, and just interested humanitarians. We prepared to walk for 6 days the 75 miles between the Sonoran border village of Sásabe into the increasingly treacherous Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

The Migrant Trail walkers are following an natural south-north passage through the Altar Valley with mountain ranges to our east and west. It is as if we were literally passing through an altar where migrant men, women and children are tried to the extreme. It is an inhumane sacrificial altar on which there is a divine struggle between good and evil. In this large expanse of desert, the mistake of taking the wrong arroyo, separating from the coyote, joining up with the wrong groups of fellow migrants is paid for in human lives. In fact, this is sacred ground.

As we approach the outskirts of Tucson we camp in an old quarry which belongs to the Tohono O'odham people. Their disconnection from their traditional Mexican relatives and culture is testimony to the ill conceived immigration policies that castigate this beautiful and rich cultural environment. Many Tohono O'odham people are no longer able to participate in centuries-old events because they lack the recognized documentation necessary to cross at the border check points. Pre-1994, they could move relatively freely between their Mexican and US communities. Now they are prisoners resulting from laws about which they were not consulted.

Arizona currently has the nation’s harshest immigration laws. Colorado follows closely behind. Tucson resident and AZ native, Quaker Mike Gray, observed that the Arizona natives are not the motor behind the state’s cruel legislation. He observes that the influx of Northern retirees from the mostly white suburbs of Chicago and other Midwest areas, unaccustomed to living in multiracial communities, are largely responsible for the anti-Latino changes in the Arizona political climate. The irony in Tucson is the fact that the attraction for these Gringo immigrants fleeing northern winters are the “Spanish” motifs of the sprawling subdivisions popping up through out the desert. Every one of them sports a quaint “Hispanic” name like Corte El Rancho, Miramar, Maria Elena, etc.

I was fortunate, being on vacation, to be able to deliver a car-load of survival packages with varying contents donated by the good people of the Grand Valley to be used by the humanitarian organization No More Deaths at the Mariposa aide station in Nogales, Sonora. NMD ameliorates the suffering of the persons detained by the U.S. Border Patrol and deposited, blistered, dehydrated, disoriented and broken, far from their homes and families. Our shipment was utilized immediately the week we were walking. Jim and his wife Sarah from the Southside Presbyterian Church gratefully received this help from 600 miles north and asked that I convey their appreciation for the support this contribution gives. If you want more information about the border and the humane organizations working there, go to www.nomoredeaths.org/ There you will find more links to organizations affiliated with them as well.

~ Tom Acker is a professor of Spanish at Mesa State College and President of Grand Valley Peace and Justice. He is also a member of CIRC through the Western Colorado Justice for Immigrants Committee.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Denver Anti-Immigrant Ballot Initiative

This August's primaries aren't only about presidential politics. An anti-immigrant ballot initiative has made it onto the August ballot. The measure would force police to impound the car of anyone found not to have proof of residency on their person. See Wash Park Prophet for a detailed analysis and text of the bill.

Some may wonder why the group behind the initiative (CAIR) didn't ask for a November slot. That may be because they are counting on low turnout for the already decided presidential primaries to work in their favor.

Let's show up for justice, vote no on this ballot initiative and exercise our voting privileges this August 12th.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Deacon Daniel Klawitter on Satyagraha Hunger Strike

As some of you may know, Gandhi coined the term Satyagraha to describe his philosophy of nonviolent resistance to the British Empire. The word itself translates from the Sanskrit as: “the firmness of truth.” Well, I want to offer up some firm truths for those of us here today.

Many people are shocked to discover that 27 million slaves exist in our world today, half of them children under the age of 18. You may be surprised to know that nearly 200,000 people live enslaved at this very moment in the United States, and an additional 17,500 new victims are trafficked across our borders each year. Far too often, “guest” workers in America become trapped into arrangements that are nothing more than indentured servitude. Too often, workers are held against their will in this country and forced to work in slave-like conditions as domestic maids, agricultural workers, cooks, dishwashers and garment workers in sweatshops.

In fact, the commerce in human beings today rivals drug trafficking and the illegal arms trade for the top criminal activity on the planet.

So no matter what your religion might be, I would hope that we can all agree on one of the firmest truths of all: that all human beings, regardless of their country of origin, have a right to dignity, respect, and just compensation for their labor. The British Empire that Gandhi fought against may be gone, but we still have a class of financial and business tyrants who seek to build their empires by exploiting the vulnerable. So I would invite all people of good will to stand firm against these predatory practices and to lend your voice to the new abolition movement which seeks to end slavery once and for all in the 21st century.

Thank You,

Deacon Daniel Klawitter

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Quaker perspective on immigration

I'm thrilled that my article "Seeing that of God in our immigrant Neighbors" was published in the May issue of the national Quaker magazine Friends Journal. I wrote this after several years of thinking and talking about how Quaker "testimonies," or social principles, would apply to the issue of immigration. Here's an excerpt from the article:


Friends have been concerned about the exploitation and dehumanization of workers for many years, most notably in our opposition to slavery. I see these injustices in the context of immigration today, but as Friends, we have not reached clarity on a common, Spirit-led response. My experiences working with immigrants confirm my belief that the Quaker testimonies call us to pursue humane policies towards immigrants. My faith calls me to work for a society where we celebrate the dignity and gifts of everyone, regardless of immigration status.

The suffering I see caused by our broken immigration system touches me deeply. It pains me to see immigrants dying in the process of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As a parent, I weep when I think of the immigrant parents who live with the possibility of deportation separating them from their children. I feel angry watching the stricken looks on immigrant teenagers' faces when they see a sign saying, "Illegal Immigrants Not Welcome." Surely, there is a better solution. I believe we can create an immigration system that will work for all of us; we do not have to play the rights and benefits of one group against another's. We have more to gain by coming together and addressing the real causes of inequality and injustice. Our testimonies can help guide us towards an alternative vision of society, where we honor that of God in everyone.

To read the whole article:
http://www.friendsjournal.org/immigration-and-friends-testimonies

Monday: Protest the Aurora Expansion of the GEO Immigrant Dente

"There is something morally wrong about the privatization of prisons and detention centers.”
Rev. Patrick Demmer,
Graham Memorial Community Church

"When the goals of the city are achieved…
- Aurora’s diversity continues to be celebrated as an essential
characteristic of the community.
- Public, private, and religious organizations meet the educational
and service delivery needs of immigrants.
- Aurora has no households that are isolated from the community
by a language barrier.
- Immigrants continue to take advantage of abundant opportunities
to assimilate or acculturate, and fully participate in civic affairs."

The two quotes above express our values and vision for Aurora. The expansion of the GEO Detention Center contradicts those values and calls into peril the ability of our community to be the one we envision it to be. Detention expansion sends a clear, negative and chilling message to the immigrant community potentially impacting their willingness and ability to be celebrated, to be served, to serve and to assimilate and acculturate.

When any part of our community is isolated and cut off from the rest, all of Aurora and the Metro area suffer. Come out this Monday to the City Council meeting and express support for a united, open Aurora that reflects our values and respects our whole community.

City Council Hearing to Decide on GEO Detention Center Site Approval
DATE: Monday, June 2
TIME: 6:30 pm Protest and Press conference
PLACE: Aurora Municipal Center, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway
WHAT: Come protest the GEO Group's proposal to triple the size of its immigrant detention center in Aurora. We need to let Aurora City Council see AND hear strong opposition to inhumane immigrant detention.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bringing Love to the Immigration Conversation

“I may not agree with it all, but I love you for what you’re doing.”

This was not the closing comment I had expected from a self-identified “businessman, ardent capitalist, and, conservative.”

We had spent the past hour discussing one of the most politically divisive issues of our time: immigration. As an immigrant justice advocate in this discussion, I did not even think love would come up, and certainly not for the task at hand- opposing the construction of 1,100 more beds at the immigrant detention center in Aurora.

Then again, perhaps love is really the point.

Immigration has become such a political hot button that real humanity gets lost in the discussion. We get caught up in the buzzwords and fear-mongering, and we lose the heart.

“John,” we’ll call my conversation-mate, is moved by love, along with his own economic self-interest, when he talks about his best young worker, an immigrant from Central America. John believes “Carlos” deserves the opportunity to make a better life for himself, to make enough money at his job to ultimately go to school.

John, like most Americans I know, believes we should all have the opportunity to work hard and go far. And John admits wanting to sponsor Carlos so that he can get legal status to be in the country and pursue all the opportunities this country has to offer.

Of course, “It’s not quite so easy,” I have to explain. John can’t simply help Carlos fix his immigration status. That is one of the myths many of us believe, that it is easy enough to immigrate “the legal way.”

Most folks who actually know an immigrant and have explored avenues for legalization or family reunification are the first to understand that our nation’s policies require a complete overhaul. Love, we are told when we try to get people rights or reunite families, is beside the point.

Just last week, an Aurora City Council Member asked for some support for an immigrant family quite dear to her. She recently had met the father, a Filipino immigrant, legal permanent resident, and health care professional. The man told her of his family’s failed attempts to bring their three-year-old child to the US.

I looked into it and, saddened, came up with the same conclusion as the attorney’s with whom this man had consulted. According to the current visa bulletin, which outlines wait times for legal immigration to the US, it will be 5-7 years before this family can be reunited with their infant son.

One has to conclude that the US visa system does not take love, or the wrenching pain of divided families, into account. Neither does a proposal to triple the size of the immigrant detention center in Aurora, making it the largest facility of its kind in the country’s interior. Immigrant detention is pretty ghastly. Just check out these recent reports about mass sexual assault, untimely detainee death and generally abhorrent conditions:

http://www.woai.com/content/troubleshooters/story.aspx?content_id=2690837e-5c2a-4ea0-92dd-2e64a54996b2
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/immigration/cwc_d1p1.html?referrer=emaillink
http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/419/immigrants-prisons.html

Regardless of the flood of scandals, if you think about the premise of immigrant detention at all- locking good, hard-working families up in prison facilities because there is no good way for them to get “legal” status- well, there isn’t much love in that.

But can a self-proclaimed conservative and I, the leftist of left, sit at the same table, discussing the issue of immigration, and agree that love is really what this whole immigration discussion should be about? It seems so. He chose that language of “love”, not me.

Love. Simple and deep.

In the struggle for social justice, we often talk about “changing hearts and minds,” cultivating a new debate where people value humanity above profits and xenophobia. Yet John, “businessman, ardent capitalist, and, conservative,” has taught me something. What if it’s not necessary to change hearts and minds, but simply connect the two?

When it comes to our country’s conversation about immigration, one of the most controversial, politicized, and hateful debates there is- how much further could we get if we just brought a little love to the table?

HUNGER STRIKE SOLIDARITY VIGIL



On Friday, May 30, at 12:00 pm, Colorado Jobs with Justice will have a vigil to show solidarity with "guest" workers from India who are engaged in a hunger strike in Washington DC. We will also discuss similar cases of human trafficking happening in Colorado. Read about one case here. More info about this local action will be posted here soon. For more information about the hunger strikers, visit the hunger strike blog here. This is day nine of the strike and there has already been one hospitalization. Keep these courageous workers in your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May 1st Rally

The May 1st Committee
Convenes a Celebration
of International Labor Day


As immigrant workers we want to recognize and celebrate this day by having a festival to promote unity and tolerance. For this reason we insist on the following to create more unity and tolerance:
      • NO to the expansion of the detention center in Aurora
      • NO more racial profiling by the police and state Patrol
      • NO more Deportations
      • YES to documents and a path to citizenship for all
We invite the public to come
SHARE their poems, music and reflections at our open mic
HEAR music and speeches
SEE traditional indigenous dance


Date: Thursday, May 1st

Time: 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Location: Fletcher Plaza, 9898 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
(Colfax and Elmira, In Front of Martin Luther King)

Flyer from the May 1st Committee

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DHS Rule Negatively Impacts All Workers

These comments were sent to the Department of Homeland Security on April 25th, 2008
_________________________________________________________________

Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, a project of the Colorado office of the American Friends Service Committee, submits these comments in opposition to the supplemental proposed rule that reissues the rule on Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter.

The mission of Coloradans For Immigrant Rights (CFIR) is to create a welcoming climate for all members of our community, to advocate for humane immigration policies and to eliminate unjust immigration practices. We build broad support for immigrant justice by educating and organizing citizens in support of immigrant rights. Many CFIR members have the privilege of citizenship; therefore, we believe it is our responsibility to take guidance from immigrant based groups, and to reach out to other citizens with a pro-immigrant message. We believe diverse pro-immigrant voices grow and strengthen the movement for immigrant justice.

Because of the SSA no-match letters, our staff and members have already received calls reporting increased fear and confusion as employees and employers struggle to understand the policy. Additionally, due to the current anti-immigrant climate, many citizens of Latino descent in Colorado have reported racial profiling across a number of areas. Reissuing this rule can only make it worse.

Relying on a flawed database to solve our nation’s immigration issues is a mistake. Rather the DHS should pursue worksite policies which would enable employers to help their workers adjust their immigration status. It would not only be a more productive and humane, it would recognize the enormous contributions immigrant workers make daily to our nation’s economy.

Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, joins the national American Friends Service Committee office in strongly opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s reissuance, without any substantive change, of the Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter. The rule does not address the issues raised by the court. It has resulted in the firing of lawfully authorized workers. The proposed changes are not substantive, thus the rule will continue to undermine labor rights thereby causing a detrimental impact on all workers. Additionally, the rule will further overburden the Social Security Administration. Finally, the rule will be costly to workers and to our nation’s economy. At a time of crisis in our nation’s economy, we should be creating policies that strengthen our workforce and communities and that recognize the contributions that all workers make regardless of their status.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rep. Curry Threatened After Standing up for Decency: Write or Call to Thank Her

After Rep. Bruce made repeated disparaging remarks about immigrants, Rep Curry asked him to address the bill in front of the House, HB1325. Rep. Bruce continued his anti-immigrant rhetoric and was gaveled down (not allowed to speak further) by Rep. Curry. (Details from the Denver Business Journal)

Today, Rep. Curry is under increased protection from the State patrol after receiving numerous calls and mail threatening her. (from the Grand Junction Sentinel)

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Send a letter, email or phone call to Representative Curry to:
  1. Thank her and let her know you support her decision to uphold standards of decency and decorum on the House floor.
  2. That while we oppose the bill, if she has decided to vote for the HB1325, then we are counting on her to vote for worker protections amendments in Committee.

WHAT IS HB 1325 AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
HB 1325 is a bill which would create a Colorado specific guestworker program. Many anti-immigrant bills were passed last year during a special session of the house including SB90, which encourages the police to act as immigration agents, and HB1310 which specifically denies State services to those who cannot prove legal residency. These bills sent a message. The message was received by migrant workers who decided Colorado wasn't worth it and didn't come to work.

As a consequence, we are now in our second season of leaving crops to rot in the fields due to labor shortages. For farmers this has been painful and prompted them to pressure the legislature for action. The farmers have not been able to get the necessary workers through the flawed federal H-2A VISA program, so they are asking for our own program in Colorado.

Guestworker programs are historically problematic and exploitative. This bill still represents a guestworker program and has the potential to be equally so. Now the Bill is heading to Committee where the House and Senate will hash out their different versions. There are several amendments on the table which would increase worker protections and make the bill less exploitative, at least on paper.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Alamosa Brother’s & Sisters Need your help!

“While the Red Cross and State Emergency Management set up water distribution sites, SLVIRC found that much of the immigrant community did not use the official sites out of fear of interaction with uniformed police.”

To support SLVIRC's efforts to distribute safe drinking water to the immigrant community,please send monetary donations to:

"Familia Fund"
c/o SLV Immigrant Resource Center

P.O. Box 1534
Alamosa, CO 81101

Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition member organization, the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center (SLVIRC), is in need of monetary donations to support ongoing efforts to supply safe drinking water & emergency information to the immigrant community in Alamosa and the surrounding area following the contamination of the city's water supply.

Background

San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center
The San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center (SLVIRC) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1987 with the mission to connect and empower immigrants with resources to achieve legal documentation, fulfill their economic needs, and integrate into the community. SLVIRC is the only recognized immigration service provider accredited by the Bureau of Immigration Affairs in the region.

SLVIRC is one of the founding member organizations of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and works very closely with the Guatemalan Association of Alamosa and the Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative.

Alamosa Water Crisis
On March 18, 2008, the city of Alamosa confirmed that the city's water supply was contaminated and tested positive for Salmonella. On March 19, the city issued a notice informing residents that the city water was unsafe to drink and began distributing bottled water. Alamosa anticipates that city residents will not have water usage, other than to flush their toilets, through the first week of April.

While the Red Cross and State Emergency Management set up water distribution sites, SLVIRC found that much of the immigrant community did not use the official sites out of fear of interaction with uniformed police. This reaction could be a result of both the increased local and state enforcement of immigration laws in Colorado, as well as, the highly publicized tragedy in San Diego in 2007 where immigrants escaping the wild fires were detained and deported by Immigration Customs Enforcement.

SLVIRC responded quickly to the crisis by distributing emergency information to the Spanish-speaking immigrant community and setting up its own water pick-up site at the SLVIRC office. SLVIRC began distributing approximately 250 gallons per day to the immigrant community beginning on March 21st. The Mormon Church, and the Alamosa police department have provided the water being distributed. On March 27th, SLVIRC was recognized by the CO Emergency Division as a distribution site and received bottled water.

The Center is currently providing information to the immigrant community through KRZA radio station and through written and oral communication in Spanish and Qanjobal (indigenous language of Guatemala).

In order to adequately respond to the emergency situation, SLVIRC office will remain open 7 days a week instead of 5 days for the next three weeks. SLVIRC has had to increase staff time significantly to cover the crisis. Your emergency financial support will cover additional staff time, printing materials, and communications efforts for the two-month period beginning March 18th through May 18th.

To support, please send monetary donations to:

"Familia Fund" c/o SLV Immigrant Resource Center
Attention: Flora Archuleta, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1534, Alamosa, CO 81101

Or for any questions please contact Flora Archuleta, SLVIRC Executive Director, at flora@slvirc.org or 719-587-3225, ext. 11

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ICE Intimidates Student Activist: Donate Here

I have faith…

I have faith that God will help us through this test…

I have faith in people.

This is my story…

On July 26, 2006, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) came to my home and detained my parents and sisters. My family came to the United States 15 years ago. Over the course of those 15 years we have become integrated in this community, we have paid our taxes, and have tried several times to legalize our status.

When I graduated from high school, one of my goals was to go to college. I knew that an education would give me the freedom I so long for. I knew that an education was a human right. However, because I was an undocumented student this meant I was not eligible for this right. Did this mean that because I was undocumented I was not worthy enough to be considered a human being?

I fought for my right to a college education and successfully was admitted to Miami Dade College in the fall of 2003. But that was not the outcome for many others, and I knew that I had to fight for this injustice. I knew that MLK was right when he said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

I began to fight for educational rights. I fought for immigrant students rights. I stood up and spoke out. I marched along thousands of people. I humbly testified and shared my story with many people in hopes that I would be able to kindle their hearts and change their minds. I prayed to the Almighty God on my knees, and I asked for a change.

I have endured the burden of this responsibility for almost two years. ICE officers told my family to thank me for what was happening to them. ICE officers told my parents to reprimand me for what I was doing. ICE officers threatened me and asked me to stay quiet. And yesterday the herald wrote U.S. Immigration Judge Carey Holliday had refused to hear their arguments.

Pacheco "freely chose to draw unwanted attention to herself and her family," he wrote in a March 18 response. "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones."That runs through my head every single day, and like a dagger those words cut through my chest and stab my heart.

My family has been extremely supportive of my cause. My father has told me several times he is proud of me. He brings me up when I am down. He has been the wind beneath my wings. My mom says that I inherited from her the fighter in me. I love my family, and I also love this country! I know that justice and love will prevail in the end. I know this because one of the ICE officers said to my mom, “Why are you crying? Don’t you believe in God?” He comforted her, he was humane, and he showed her love.

I believe in the power of change. I believe in the power we have to make a difference and do good. One day I had to give a speech around September 11. I remember hearing someone talk about the tragedy that took place that day. And I remember thinking if 16 people were able to cause such a horrific thing, imagine what 16 people can do for something good. It really takes one person to make a difference.

Time for a change is of essence in this case. My family will appear in front of an immigration court judge this Monday, April 14, 2008. I don’t know what the outcome of this appearance will be. We’ve been put in a very uncomfortable situation because we are uncertain of the future. My family has to be ready to ask for voluntary departure in order to avoid being detained in a detention center. We need to present passports, airline tickets, bonds, and other fees, and we are reaching out to our friends and family for help. Unfortunately, we are really short on the money, and today I ask for your help. I have set aside my pride and feelings of shame because I really need your help.

I am dying inside because I feel my family is being snatched away from me. Even though I am 23 years old, I still need my mom. I have been terribly sick these past few weeks, and she has been the one that has spoon-fed me the medicine, has made special food to make me feel better, and has sat down by my side to caress me and soothe my pain away. I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like losing a parent forever. My peace rests in that, even though they are deporting my family, I am still going to be able to hear my mom’s voice and my dad’s encouragements through a telephone.

Thank you for reading this letter, and thank you for your support! If you feel it in your heart that you are able to help my family, please let me know. We need to have everything turned in to the lawyers by this Friday, April 11th.

Thank you once again, and God bless you,
Gaby Pacheco
Please feel free to pass along!

TO DONATE CLICK HERE





By MAIL:
Maria Pacheco
13380 SW 2nd Terrace
Miami, FL 33184

Chipotle:Burrito with a Serving of Exploitation

On April 2nd, Coloradans for Immigrant Rights joined in a March and protest in downtown Denver.

What were we protesting? The conditions under which Chipotle's tomatoes are picked.

Link to audio

The conditions under which those who pick our tomatoes are heartbreaking and unjust. There are no holidays, sick days, retirement or other benefits. There is not even an attempt at paying the minimum wage. The workers are asking for one more cent per bucket of tomatoes picked.

photo courtesy of Jobs With Justice, Denver

McDonalds and Yum Brands both agreed over the last five years to pass along the extra cent to workers. Chipotle and Burger King are the only fast food giants left who refuse to support the workers.

Chipotle's slogan is that it is "Food with Integrity". You be the judge.
To take action:
http://www.ciw-online.org/

For More Information:
http://www.sfalliance.org/chiphq.html

Update on the Detention Center

PROTEST
The protest on Wednesday was amazing. Diverse community members came out and showed that they don't want private prisons in their back yard. Miriam Pena from CPC was the master of ceremonies. Emily Parkey from RAP spoke and Reverend Demmer gave the main speech.

Reverend Demmer highlighted the fact that the private prison group, GEO, doesn't have a contract with Immigration Control and Enforcement nor the Department of Corrections for building this facility. He spoke of how the facility could be used as a private prison or as immigration detention. Most importantly, he urged us to think about the morality of profiting off of others pain and suffering. There is a role for government in areas of the common good. Prisons are one such area. He spoke of how a multi-national corporation can build something like this with no contract and no predictor for use or need, simply because they are a corporation. He compared the plan to build this prison to the Field of Dreams; "If you build it, they will come". The problem with private prisons is that their business is to profit from imprisoning people. Rehabilitation would cut into their profits.

HEARING
After the protest, we all went into the Planning Commission hearing. Testimony was heard both for and against the detention center/prison. The Planning Commission is an appointed judicial body and they are only allowed to consider testimony concerning 11 criteria, most of which were related to architecture and neighborhood impact.

One of the criteria is the relationship of any new building to Aurora's comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan cites Aurora's diversity and inclusion of the immigrant population as part of its values and goals. The Planning Commission did not accept the perspective of our testimony that this detention center works against those goals.

The Planning Commission did hear our complaints about the small waiting area. The size of the waiting area and the limit on the number of children allowed into visitation, have made for long waits outside the building for many families of those being detained. The new facility will not have any larger of a visitation area. The architect promised to work with the Commission to answer those complaints. The Planning Commission also followed up on questions about adequate natural light inside the detention center. The Commission unanimously approved the building plans for the center.

NEXT STEPS
This was just one step in the process to prevent the construction of this center. Stay tuned for further meetings and actions over the next months as we continue to work with our allies for social justice!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Protest Detention Center Expansion

COALITION ASKS AURORA PLANNING COMMISSION TO VOTE AGAINST CONSTRUCTION OF PRIVATE IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTER

Contacts: Chandra Russo, CIRC, (303)893-1500; Miram Peña, CPC, (303) 866-0908

Immigrants Rights Groups join with neighbors, former employees of the GEO Group and faith leaders to oppose construction

WHAT: Protest to oppose private detention center and ask Aurora Planning Commission to vote against construction

WHY: The GEO Group, a billion dollar corporation, wants to build an 1,100-bed immigrant holding facility in Aurora. A coalition of immigrant rights groups, criminal justice reform advocates, faith leaders, Aurora residents and business owners oppose this proposed construction for a variety of reasons:
· Detention destroys families and communities
· Detention hurts asylum seekers and other victims of torture and trauma
· Conditions in detention are atrocious
· Private prisons profit off of misery

WHEN: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - 5:15pm: Press Conference and Protest
6:00pm: Planning Commission Hearing

WHERE: Aurora Municipal Center
15151 E. Alameda Parkway; Aurora, CO
Press conference and protest outside; Hearing in Council Chambers

SPONSORS and SPEAKERS INCLUDE:
· Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
· Colorado Progressive Coalition
· Rights for All People
· Loretta Perry-Wilborne, ex-employee of the GEO facility in Aurora
· Rev. Patrick Demmer, Graham Memorial Community Church

For more info check out these previous blog posts:
Detention to Expand
Reflections on Aurora Detention Center

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play in Fort Collins and Boulder this week

FORT COLLINS:NOW
Remembering Edgar Chocoy
Play serves as a reminder of the sometimes fatal flaws in the U.S. immigration

By Greg Campbell
gcampbell@fortcollinsnow.com
1:05 a.m. MT Mar 27, 2008


Four years ago this Thursday, a 16-year-old boy was gunned down in the streets of Villanueva, Guatemala, by members of a notoriously violent gang from which he tried heroically to free himself. The regularity with which such murders occurred in places like Villanueva made the death of Edgar Chocoy at the tattooed hands of Mara Salvatrucha wholly unremarkable. But the circumstances of his being on the streets in the first place made those gunshots echo around the world.

They will be heard in Fort Collins as a play based on Edgar’s struggle to save his own life comes to the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University. It’s a documentary look at how a troubled boy who was trying desperately to change his life was sentenced to death by a flawed U.S. immigration system.

Chocoy’s story begins and ends in the slums of Guatemala, but his fate was sealed in a Denver courtroom. His Fort Collins lawyer, who hasn’t yet seen the play, said knowing his story will be told on stage brings back a flood of emotions, including anger and sadness. But there’s also hope and opportunity.

“There was a lesson to learn in Edgar’s death and we haven’t learned it,” said immigration attorney Kim Baker Medina. “I’m very glad that they did the play because we shouldn’t forget about Edgar Chocoy as a person and for what he represents. The system failed him terribly, and we need to learn about why that happened and we need to work to see that it doesn’t continue to happen.”

READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE
STORY IN THE DENVER POST
ORIGINAL STORY FROM 2004

DETAILS

Du Novo, Part 1: Lil’ Silent will be performed in
Fort Collins
Date: Monday, March 31
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Lory Student Center as part of CSU’s week-long celebration of Cesar Chavez.
Spanish translation will be available on a limited basis.

The event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

A second performance will be held:
Boulder
Date: Wednesday, April 2
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: the University of Colorado Law School in the Wolf Law Building’s Wittemyer Courtroom.

For advanced reservations to the Boulder show, email denovoreservations@gmail.com


Friday, March 14, 2008

Anti Immigrant Hate Crime in Boulder!

Write a Letter to Support Ivan and his family!
(talking points included below!)

While the Boulder Community pulls together an appropriate response for their community, our support in the form of Letters to the Editor is necessary and welcome!

What You Can Do:

1. Read the coverage
2. Make a pro immigrant comment online
3. Send off a letter to these two news agencies:

READ THE COVERAGE
Daily Camera
Two teens arrested for bias attack in Boulder
Pair allegedly insulted, pushed and hit Hispanic man

By Vanessa Miller , Heath Urie; Originally published 01:37 p.m., March 12, 2008

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a Hispanic man Tuesday outside a PDQ convenience store after calling him a derogatory name and asking him, "Why are you stealing our jobs?" according to Boulder police.

Abraham Paquet, 19, of Broomfield, and Joshua Ruzek, 19, of Lafayette, were arrested after officers saw them attacking Ivan Ponce De Leon-Najera, 26, of Louisville, about 6:15 p.m. outside the store at 5200 Manhattan Circle.

Ponce De Leon-Najera told police the teenagers approached him as he was leaving the store, called him a name associated with his ethnicity and then asked him about taking their jobs, said police spokeswoman Sarah Huntley.Huntley said Ponce De Leon-Najera turned around and "exchanged a few words" with the teens.

The two suspects then started pushing and punching him, and Ponce De Leon-Najera told police they tried to spit on him, Huntley said.

(CLICK FOR MORE)


Write a Letter:
Send it to:
The Boulder Daily Camera and send it to openforum@dailycamera.com

The Rocky Mountain News Printed the same story…
Write a letter to the Rocky Mountain News and send it to letters@RockyMountainNews.com

You Could Say:

· As a community we need to pull together to support the victim of this heinous and outright racist attack. I am shocked at the brutality of the hate crime and the ignorance of its perpetrators. Hate crimes like this are motivated by hostile feelings against an identifiable social group, in this case immigrants. They are very different from regular crimes motivated by economic gain or personal animosity. Hate crimes communicate to the whole immigrant community intolerance and discrimination. They are used to exclusively to intimidate an entire community, not just one person.

* Immigrants are often erroneously blamed for decreasing wages and unemployment levels. However, scapegoating this vulnerable population only distracts attention from the real causes of economic instability and inequality in this country; failed economic policies and corporate greed. Immigrants are an integral part of our society and are a valuable resource in our communities. Solutions need to embrace the people and families contributing to our nation economically and socially. In fact, comprehensive immigration reform would benefit all workers by bringing undocumented workers out of the margins, thus raising wages, improving work conditions, increasing public safety, and defending labor protection.

For Your Letter:
Three points are sufficient (although more is okay), the length of your letter can be anywhere from 8 sentences to a few paragraphs.

Remember, editors like to publish personal accounts or community impact. Often times, the newspaper will call indicating they might print your letter.

Rocky Mountain News:
1. No maximum length. Shorter letters are considered first and edited least.
2. Submissions must include full name, address and phone number for verification purposes.
3. Anonymity is seldom granted.
4. Letters by the same author rarely appear more often than every 90 days.

Daily Camera
1. Timely topics of local interest are given first preference.
2. All letters are subject to editing.
3. 300-word limit; name, full address and daytime phone required;
4. no anonymous or "open" letters;
5. each writer is limited to a letter a month

Please send a copy of your letter to jgarcia@afsc.org
Thank you for supporting the human rights of immigrants!

More Reading on Immigration & Hate Crimes:
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/03/10/7587/


Published on Monday, March 10, 2008 by Associated Press
Hate Crimes Linked to Immigration Debate
by David Crary

NEW YORK - Anti-immigrant sentiment is fueling nationwide increases in the number of hate groups and the number of hate crimes targeting Latinos, a watchdog group said Monday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a report titled “The Year in Hate,” said it counted 888 hate groups in its latest tally, up from 844 in 2006 and 602 in 2000.

(CLICK FOR MORE)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mennonites Sued By Feds

ON the Southern Border the federal government continues to ignore the wishes of local governments and private property owners as well as tribes, environmentalists, ranchers, and human rights organizations. The federal government is intent on extending the physical barrier of a wall all along the border. Reagan once urged the USSR to "Tear down that wall", now we are building our own.

All of the groups mentioned above have begun to take a stand by refusing the federal government access to their land. The most recent of these is the Mennonite Church. The federal government is now suing them for access.

Simultaneously the government has decided not to build the wall along a posh golf course and country club. Apparently the wall is meant not only to keep poor people out, but also meant to impact the livelihood and environment of those citizens who are not rich.

Similarly, NAFTA and other free trade agreements are continuing to make the rich richer and the poor poorer in all countries who are members. Mainly, these agreements allow goods to flow freely while limiting human migration. The limitations on human migration pit workers against one another and isolate them from one another. The isolation of workers allows corporations and governments to pay less than a living wage and erode wages in developed countries, essentially weakening the bargaining power of workers. The wall makes it easier to maintain that isolation.

The wall will also result in riskier and more deadly border crossings. The wall doesn't change the conditions created by NAFTA or reform our immigration system. It maintains a power structure which exploits us all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blankets on the Border

Dear All:
I thought the description below was poignant. Deportations often occur in the middle of the night so that the private company is reimbursed for two days work, even though this is the coldest period in the high desert. EMAP National Office began sending blankets in 2004 and this regional EMAP took up their request in 2005 on referral from the last EMAP Director Shahina Malik. Local Quakers are involved in the effort (Healing Borders).
For four years we have shipped them blankets and this is a call for good quality used/new blankets for next years shipment. If you come here for a meeting and want to drop off a blanket, do so! This is part of our bit to support Migration and Mobility Goal.
~Stephen McNeil

Assistant Regional Director for Peacebuilding and Relief Work

American Friends Service Committee

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde
---

Dear Stephen and AFSC,

Thank you for the latest shipment of blankets for use by migrants being returned to Mexico after being apprehended by the Border Patrol. The blankets are much appreciated.
Friday I loaded 8 boxes of blankets in my car and took them to a drop off place in Bisbee, AZ. It was snowing when I was unloading them. By now they will be at the newly opened Migrant Center in Naco, Sonora. The Naco Migrant Center is in the next town west of us, here in Douglas. I hope you will approve of our sharing your gift with them. Already, in just a little over a month since they have been open, about 1,400 migrants have stopped at the Naco Center. Saturday morning I visited the Naco Migrant Center for the first time to help them celebrate their official open house festivities.
Earlier in the week, on Thursday evening, I spent from 9pm -1am at our Agua Prieta Migrant Center. It was just prior to the weather change and the snow we recieved on Firday. While I was there we fed burittos and coffee to 49 migrants who came through, and offered them whatever other services they might need. By Friday night I would imagine blankets would have been one of these needs. Of the 49 people, I saw at least one young boy and at least 1/2 dozen women. Most of the group were younger men.
Again, thank you and AFSC.
I am hoping can send photos by parcel post at some later time.
Thank you,
Judy Plank

Pledge for Legislators

ON February 5th an interfaith group asked Colorado legislators to sign this pledge. The pledge guides the words legislators use in an effort to keep hate to a minimum and to enable us to talk about differing perspectives on immigration without demonizing immigrants.

“We are concerned that at times the debate demonstrates little respect for the issue or the people affected by the legislation. Immigrants are living in a climate of fear, hate, and As a legislator representing the people of Colorado, I believe that regarding matters where we are not of one mind, our humble respect for each other and all of God’s children can draw us together to be of one heart.

Therefore, I pledge that as I take positions and enter into dialogue on the issue of immigration that the tone of my discourse and the choice of my words will reflect the respect I have for the sacred humanity of those about whom I am speaking and with whom I may disagree.”

The numerous faith leaders said in a statement that they believed all people should discuss their differences in a spirit of civility, reason, and humility.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Event in Aurora


There is an awesome upcoming event in Aurora which will facilitate conversation in the community around day laborers. Over the last year an ongoing dialogue with city council, code enforcement and the police in Aurora resulted in a sort of truce. This event will spark conversation between all residents of Aurora, including those who work in day labor. I hope to see lots of new faces at the event and am really excited to see this multi-media display about the lives and work of day laborers.