Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Take action: something might actually happen to fix our broken immigration policies.

After years of failed attempts to develop new immigration legislation there is a post-election buzz: something might actually happen to fix our broken immigration policies. 

Our voices are critical in shaping this moment, in broadening the space for a real conversation. Your experiences and beliefs about our communities need to be heard at the national level. The opportunity of this moment is historical, together we can put forward our vision. Share with our legislators and friends the idea that we are all one people, that we are better together, and insist immigrant are not the problem, our policies are.

Please email your congressional delegation today
Call on them to work for just and humane reform, and let them know you will no longer stand for policies and practices that tear apart families and communities. 

In the hope that we can truly bring fundamental and lasting change, the American Friends Service Committee’s immigrant constituents puts forth seven principles that would recognize the dignity of all migrants and protect human rightsAn immigration policy that mirrors these principles would protect rights of all migrants and would be a model for immigration policies worldwide.

  • Create justice with humane economic policies.  International economic policies, including trade agreements, need to be consistent with human rights, trade justice, and sustainable approaches to the environment and economic development.
  •  Protect the labor rights of all workers.  All workers are entitled to humane policies that protect their labor and employment rights.
  • Develop a clear path to permanent residence.  Inclusive measures must be enacted that lead to permanent residence for undocumented immigrants, multi-status families, refugees, and asylees.
  • Respect the civil and human rights of immigrants.  Immigrants, regardless of status, deserve the same civil and human rights as all U.S. residents.
  • Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border.  The U.S.-Mexico border region must be demilitarized and the quality of life of border communities needs to be protected. 
  •  Make family reunification a top priority.  Recognize the distinctly important and valuable role of family ties by supporting the reunification of immigrant families in a way that equally respects both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
  •  Ensure that immigrants and refugees have access to services.  Public programs and services should not exclude immigrants or refugees.  

The dangerous alternative: In the Senate, Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham are already bringing forward a misguided proposal. How does it measure up to our principles for a humane immigration policy? 
  • Their call to close the border would perpetuate violence for border communities. It comes at a time when record numbers of migrants have died while crossing into arduous terrain. In addition, U.S. Border Patrol has killed at least 18 unarmed border residents in the last two years. 
  • Their call for non-forgeable employment documents would create a new system that would be fraught with errors and erode everyones privacy. Calls for a new system ignore the lessons being learned by E-Verify and other electronic employment enforcement programs. Further, increased employer sanctions do more harm to workers than to unscrupulous employers. 
  • Their call for more temporary guest worker visas for workers in technology, engineering, sciences, and agricultural would be ineffective. Guest worker programs lower community labor standards, and the few protections offered to workers are rarely enforced by agencies in charge of oversight. 
  • Their call for a Go to the Back of the Line pathway to citizenship is more of an obstacle course than a fair procedure. Requirements include paying back taxes, having gainful employment, learning English, paying an undetermined fine, and having no criminal history. These requirements punish a marginalized and vulnerable community.
Email your congressional delegation today — tell them to stand for humane reform to fix our broken immigration system!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

At the Presidential Debates, Community and Faith Groups Demonstrate

At the Presidential Debates, Community and Faith Groups Demonstrate
Declaring Migration is a Human Right, Profiting from Pain is Inhumane

Judith Marquez, 720-690-5172
Jordan Garcia, 303-919-8798, jgarcia@afsc.org

October 3, 2012 Denver, CO – Pressed against the fence surrounding the debate festival observers asked “What are the puppets for?”  Faith leaders, immigrants and community leaders singing and chanting along University and Evans, but the image that drew attention was that of dozens of people dressed in Monarch butterfly wings and the family of 14 foot tall puppets they surrounded.

The Monarch butterfly migrates hundreds of miles every year, crossing Mexico, the US and Canada. The demonstrators insist that the pattern and timelessness of human migration is equally beautiful, natural and significant. “Migration is a human right, people have migrated for centuries. The militarization and policing of borders is out of step with not only our history, but with our familial and economic realities. These policies result in death, as we saw in Chula Vista this week with the shooting death of US citizen mother, wife, sister and daughter Valeria Munique Tachiquin. We are here today to envision communities without this type of violence,” stated Jordan Garcia, Organizing Director at the American Friends Service Committee. 

Clergy surrounding the puppet family with their entourage of butterflies, offered silent witness, blessings and prayer as the grandmother, mother and baby were separated from each other by current immigration policy. Rev. Nancy Rosas explains the moral imperative for change this way “This separation of families, not only detention but also deportation, is morally reprehensible. Families experience unnecessary pain and suffering, we want that to end.”

The group demonstrated the monetary and human costs of deportation and for-profit detention centers like GEO, Inc, both of which have doubled under President Obama’s Administration.  They called on both candidates and the public to oppose inhumane and unwarranted detention and deportation and to recognize the human rights of migrants chanting “Profit from Pain is Inhumane!” as each of the puppets were scattered to the edges of the demonstration. Immigrant detention costs $5.4 million in taxpayer money per day. While detaining a person costs $164 per day per person[1], several studies have shown that alternatives to detention are just as effective at a cost of anywhere from $4 to $12 per day.

Judith Marquez explained her motivation for participating as she passed out fact sheets on the costs of detention and flyers to protest the Aurora for-profit immigrant detention center, GEO.  “It has become more and more obvious that the main reason people are detained is because corporations stand to make money based on tearing apart families. This profiting from pain is suspect.”

The three corporations with which ICE contracts, including CCA and GEO, spent at least $45 million in the past decade on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal levels. [2]

People in butterfly wings surrounded each of the puppets, bringing the family back together through community, transforming profit from pain into a soaring love of family and justice. They left the presidential debates singing “Gonna keep on walking forward, Keep on walking forward, Gonna keep on loving boldly, Gonna reach across our borders, Never turning back”

WHO:                   American Friends Service Committee, Clergy and members from the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, and the Mountain View Friends Meeting, plus  Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, Rights for All People and Padres y Jovenes Unidos.

[1] National Immigration Forum, “The Math of Immigration Detention”, August 2012
[2] USA Today, “Immigrants Prove Big Business for Prison Companies, (August 2012) available at, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-02/immigration-prison/56689394/1  

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Immigrant Repression and U.S. Incarceration Serve Global Capitalist Interests by Chandra Russo

As of August 18, 2011, the Obama Administration had deported over one million immigrants, more deportations than under any other president to date (Dinan, 2011; D’Almeida, 2011). Many of those deported spend at least some time being detained in an immigrant detention center, often a for-profit prison. In the face of such inhumane treatment and with families being torn apart, many of us are left asking: why is this happening? In this paper, prepared for Coloradans For Immigrant Rights (CFIR) and the American Friends Service Committee Denver Office, I will explore this question.

More specifically, I will examine who benefits from the deportation of immigrants and incarceration of both immigrants and citizens. CFIR has asked if immigration policy and practices can be related to mass incarceration in the United States? I suggest that yes, these two phenomena are linked, and that understanding the operations of neoliberal capitalist globalization helps us see how. The U.S. government’s failure to legalize the undocumented, the mass detention and deportation of immigrants, and the incarceration of certain segments of U.S. citizenry are parts of a common system.

We are thrilled that Chandra Russo has written this paper for CFIR/AFSC. To read the full paper please go to: http://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/GlobalizationPaper_Chandra%20Russo_fall%202011.pdf

Chandra Russo is working on her PhD in Sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Having spent some of her formative years in Denver as a member of CFIR (Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, AFSC’s ally project), she gives much credit to both CFIR and the AFSC for much of her current analysis of social justice and immigrant rights.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mexicans in Solidarity with Central American Migrants in Vera Cruz

I hope all is well with everyone. I’m writing from Mexico City. Arrived here around noon on a bus from Xalapa, in the state of Veracruz, and tomorrow I fly to Denver. These ten days of travel in Mexico have been full of activity and sobering observations, as well as new people with their ideas and experiences from around the world.
I traveled much of the time with a friend from northern Colorado who was also presenting at the IAIE (International Association for International Education) conference in Xalapa. She was also interested in going with me to some of my regular stops along the route that Central American migrants travel in the state of Veracruz, Tierra Blanca and La Patrona. Little did she know what she was signing up for!
After leaving behind the snow in Colorado, it was delightful to land in warm, muggy Veracruz late on Friday night February 10, but still with plenty of time to hang out on the plaza buzzing with outdoor cafes, marimba music and general Friday night merry-making. Saturday we wandered a little and then took the bus to Tierra Blanca, a small town in the state of Veracruz where Central American migrants travel through. They usually get off one freight train and wait for another there. The numbers of migrants have been unusually high since mid-January. Fortunately, the levels of violence on the part of the drug cartels seem to have stayed down for the last couple of years. However, traveling by freight train through a country that exploits and rejects migrants continues to be extremely dangerous for them. (That country is Mexico. This all happens before they get to the U.S., the other country that both exploits and rejects migrants.) The numbers of women seemed higher, too, than the last time I was there. We hung out with a group of people I’ve come to know over the years who fix food for people right along the tracks, and they’ve had one hundred to three hundred people per day, with two or three trains leaving each day, for several weeks now. At the migrant shelter, run by Catholic nuns, they have 15 or 20 people sleep there each night, but serve a hundred or two hundred meals a day to other people who come just for meals. They’ve also seen an increase in the number of women.
Early Monday we left for La Patrona, a small community near the city of Cordoba. A group of women there have been fixing food, packing it in plastic bags, and tossing the bags of food and bottles of water to migrants passing through on trains for more than fifteen years. The trains that leave Tierra Blanca arrive in La Patrona a few hours later, so they’ve been getting the same numbers, several hundred people a day. When I was there last summer, they were still working out of an outdoor kitchen with a leaking roof and several other structural problems. An international organization helped them build a new roof and make several other improvements. At some point while we were there, I started to feel really angry and frustrated. I figured out that my anger came from the fact that no matter how many international aid organizations help build better kitchens and shelters, migrants are still risking their lives riding on the tops of freight trains so they can do the lowest-paying jobs in the U.S. and thus subsidize the economy here. And, they’re going to keep doing that until we take action to change laws and policies in this country. The kind of humanitarian help they get in Mexico keeps people alive through the horrific conditions they have to survive, but the real change needs to come from the U.S. The immediate need to feed people overwhelms people who are on the ground in places like Tierra Blanca and La Patrona, but the deeper picture needs to be fleshed out, too.
By Tuesday afternoon we were in lush, hilly Xalapa for the conference, a big change, but not completely disconnected from where we had been. The conference themes included intercultural education, social justice, indigenous education programs, migration and much more. Presenters came from Mexico and the U.S., but also from Spain, South America, Europe and the Philippines. Originally the conference language was to be English, but over the last few months it grew to be a much more bilingual conference with many workshops offered in Spanish. It was a good experience for me to attend sessions in Spanish and note the difference in my levels of engagement as I listened to people who simply read a paper in Spanish and contrasted that with people who had some kind of visuals. I did my presentation on Thursday afternoon and had a good response, including several conversations with people who talked with me later. As with most conferences, the richest moments were the conversations with other participants.
So, I’m heading home with plenty of good experiences, a few new books and motivation for what I want to do. See you all soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ICE Cold Hearts...Melted!

Yesterday, February 13th, 2012 at the Aurora Immigrant Detention Center, 525 handmade Valentines were delivered to 450 people unjustly interned by the state. Today, Valentine's Day, an additional 75 cards were gifted to day laborers in Denver and Aurora... Thanks to you!

Yesterday, the waiting room was full of people waiting to visit thier loved ones and they each took a handmade valentine presented by Maureen and Sister Alicia. Today, each of the day laborers among sheepish grins and chuckles accepted a homemade Valentine of their own. Many people seperated from thier families accepted your loving valentines.

The Valentines you made touched hearts and shared strength. We are all made more whole knowing these stories of fierce love and unforgettable power.

Many people have told us that this Valentine project provided them with an opportunity to not only be creative, but also to be self reflective. To set aside feelings of frustration about political posturing and to put what LOVE they could into a simple beautiful card. To take just an hour or so to think about the experiences of immigrants in this country and to focus on the reasons we struggle for immigrant justice day in and day out.

A special thank you to all of the Valentine Artists, including but not limited to Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, Regis University Social Justice Students, Harriet Mullaney’s English classes at Bruce Randolph Community Learning Center, Wendy Kaas & Sarah Levin, Betty & Anne, Boulder Unitarian Universalists, Stephen Von Merz's DU Class, the Bridge Project, St. Mary's Academy, Fort Collins Holy Family Church Adult Reflection Group and Sister Mary Garcia, Julie Gonzales, Maureen, Rainbow Alley Youth Drop In Center, Wayne's friends, Malcolm & Mariah, Nadine Swahburg, Maggie Gomez, Shannon Masden, Aunnastasia Pacheco, Kenia Morales, Jenny Santos, Ire & Yvette Sauceda-Lindsey, Karla, EJ Becker, Judith Marquez, Greg Ferrari, Che Rise Tren, Nadya Waziri, Lisa Knoblach, Connor McFarland, Melissa Nix, Tom Kowal, Robert McGoey and many others!

On February 6th, 2012, over 200 people gathered at the Aurora Detention Center to make their voices heard. The February monthly vigil was planned by Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, a project of AFSC and Regis University Students.
We invited Stephanie Tanny, a spoken word artist, and Alejandro Jimenez to share their challenging and inspiring poems. We sang some love songs and chanted to the people interned inside. And we decorated the wall that separated us from the center with a huge streamer heart and balloons. We carried signs with our message including a large broken heart symbolizing how our broken immigration system keeps the United States apart from the rest of the world and the broken hearts of those families separated by borders and walls.

Some of the Valentine’s read like this:

Dear Valentine, You are not alone. I hold you in my heart, thoughts and prayers. Love knows no borders or walls and together we can share each other’s strength and courage. I am with you in spirit on this Valentine’s Day. No estas sol@. Est@s presente en mi corazón, mis pensamientos y mis oraciones. El amor no reconoce fronteras ni muros. Juntos podemos compartir nuestr@ fuerza y valor. Mi espíritu está contigo en este Día de San.