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Republicans, baseball players and the Terminator against Arizona’s new law

A New York Times /CBS News poll shows that about 60% of the country supports SB1070, Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law, despite it’s harsh provisions that inevitably lead to racial profiling and transform Arizona into something of a police state where everyone has to carry their papers around with them at all times to prove their status. But the same poll also revealed a large majority of people in favor of a comprehensive overhaul of immigration. The fact is SB1070 that puts the federal issue of immigration enforcement into the hands of local law enforcement is not the solution to the country’s broken immigration system, and a whole range of leaders, lawmakers, activists, law enforcement officers and Members of Congress are speaking out loudly against it.

This starts with a number of Republican voices uncomfortable with the law. Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr wrote a strong piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in which he opposed SB1070 for exercising state police control over an exclusively federal function – protecting our borders and enforcing immigration law. In addition to calling the law troubling because of the “vagueness and breadth” of its provisions, Mr. Barr criticizes it for being “in conflict with traditional notions that the police are not permitted to stop and detain individuals based on mere suspicion.”

Another Republican voice against the Arizona law was that of Florida’s Rep. Connie Mack who thinks that the bill has echoes of Nazi Germany’s Gestapo. He disregarded what is often stated by proponents of the law as an excuse – the Center’s inaction on immigration reform, and said-

This law of “frontier justice”…is reminiscent of a time during World War II when the Gestapo in Germany stopped people on the street and asked for their papers without probable cause. It shouldn’t be against the law to not have proof of citizenship on you…This is not the America I grew up in and believe in, and it’s not the America I want my children to grow up in…Instead of enacting laws that trample on our freedoms, we should be seeking more ways to create opportunities for immigrants to come to our nation legally and be productive citizens.

And last week, on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger spoke out against SB1070. Calling the Congress and White House’s inaction on tackling the issue of immigration “irresponsible,” he called Arizona’s anti-immigrant law “a mess” and said that it was something he “would never do.”

In addition to lawmakers, some of the loudest objections to the law have come from police officers around the country who feel that in addition to inevitably leading to racial profiling, SB1070 takes away the trust that the community has in local law enforcement and divert resources away from focusing on serious crime, making their jobs of enforcing the law much harder.

Opposition also comes from the baseball community which has been buzzing about Arizona. At a game in Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks faced a lot of opposition from the crowd for the immigration law, with fans yelling “Boycott Arizona!” A day later, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Association issued a statement condemning the law, and Rep. Jose Serrano of New York wrote a letter to the baseball commissioner Bud Selig urging him to change the location for the 2011 All-Star game, currently scheduled to be held in Phoenix, as a way of sending a strong message to Arizona lawmakers that the baseball community is against the law.

30% of baseball players are Latino, and with 140 young Latino baseball players scheduled to arrive in Arizona for the Arizona Rookie League in June, MLB officials are concerned. Apparently Arizona is not new to being boycotted by sports teams. In 1993, when Arizona refused to honor the Federal holiday of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the NFL pulled the Super Bowl. Twice burned, maybe the lawmakers need to learn that diverse as this nation’s sports teams are, they won’t tolerate laws that disrespect the diversity and freedom that is integral to this country.

Two-time All Star Adrian Gonzalez, one of the biggest names in baseball, has said that he will not play in 2011′s All Star game as long as SB1070 is in effect. Since then more and more MLB players have come out against SB1070, calling it “racist stuff,” “immoral” and a violation of human rights. Actions include signing a petition to the MLB Commissions Selig asking him to boycott Arizona!

This length and breadth of voices against SB1070 is testament to the long list of reasons that the law should not be implemented.

Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

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The Trail of Dreams encounters the KKK

On January 1st, four courageous students embarked on a 1500-mile symbolic walk from Miami to Washington D.C. to strengthen and inspire the immigration movement. Inspired by the idea of non-violent resistance, the Trail of Dreams has been joined by hundreds of inspired folks who walk along with the students in small towns and cities, to stand together for the passage of the DREAM Act.

But Felipe, Gabby, Carlos and Juan have also met with their share of challenges along the way. Coping with limited resources, finding shelter at each stop on their journey, and being away from their families for four months, they have also had to contend with some opposition to their cause. Now in the deep south, the most recent, and decidedly the most jarring of these, has been their encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in Nahunta, Georgia last week.

Yes, we too thought the KKK had no place outside of the embarrassments of history. Apparently we were all wrong on that. While the group is not very strong or active nowadays, there are still a few thousand Klan members scattered around the country, 50 of whom decided to hold a rally “against the Latino invasion” in Georgia at the same time that the “dreamwalkers” were passing through the area. One of the students, 20 year old Juan Rodriguez, wrote about the encounter on the Trail of Dreams blog -

Today we drove to Nahunta, GA where the Ku Klux Klan was organizing an anti-immigrant demonstration, under the premise that “God put each race in their respective continent and they were meant to stay there”. I can’t help but keep being amused by these concepts that the very organization can’t seem to be able to uphold appropriately. Is the KKK secretly on a campaign to reclaim all lands back for the indigenous people of North America and preparing for the voyage back to Europe? I find this highly unlikely….It is disappointing that after so many years of social reformation, we still have organizations filled with so much hate convening and gaining the support of communities….Ultimately, the success of today was to be able to stand hand in hand with our friends from the NAACP; singing liberation songs together and acknowledging our united struggle for racial justice. We ALL deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

It seems unacceptable that while the walkers and the NAACP (who had organized a rally to counter the KKK) were promoting tolerance, dignity, and humanity, the KKK were propagating hatred and racism. And it’s far from over. After completing 600 miles of their walk, the four students are in a part of the country that is notorious for its anti-immigrant sentiment. This week they will enter Gwinnett County, Georgia, home of Sheriff Conway, known for his anti-immigrant stance.

It takes a lot of courage and determination to do what the dreamwalkers are doing and that’s why they need your support. Check where your Member of Congress stands on immigration reform and let them know what you think about it.

UPDATE: Yesterday we had mentioned that the Trail of Dreams walkers were going to be passing through a very risky area, Gwinnett County, which is a 287(g) county that is home to Sheriff Conway, also known as the “Joe Arpaio of the South.” Sheriff Conway is notorious for having racially profiled and arrested many immigrants, documented and undocumented, in the past few months. We need you to support them right now, more than ever, by monitoring their progress, spreading the word, blogging, and garnering support for them. Today, we found out that the students walked into the Gwinnett County courthouse and demanded to speak to Sheriff today. And they did while wearing shirts emblazoned with the word “UNDOCUMENTED.” Rather than face them, Sheriff Conway opted to have one of his subordinates deal with the walkers. In sum, Conway backed away from doing what he does to immigrants in Gwinnett County on a daily basis: arrest and help deport them.

Photo courtesy of trail2010.org

How many hunger strikes will it take?

Jeanfamily From a letter of testimony by Christina Fernandez, a wife of a detainee held at the Reeves County Detention facility:

Are they asking for a massacre?  Or do they think that we the wives, children, parents, siblings and family members of these men will sit back and wait until we receive body-bags, because they didn’t do their job as officers of the law and staff members of the Federal Bureau of Prisons?

My husband is over 500 miles away from his home address (so are many of the other Cuban prisoners) and in a facility that is not for him.  He is a resident of the United States and though he is of Cuban nationality, he is not deportable.  I am a born US Citizen and so are our three daughters,  we have not seen my husband, their father, since January 2009…Something must be done for my husband and the other Cuban men, so that neither I, nor any of the other families receive a phone call of bad news. I want my husband returned to me and our daughters in one piece and alive.

The atrocious conditions and lack of medical care at Reeves have already led to two large scale riots by prisoners following the death of an epileptic detainee, as well as numerous protests, vigils and marches organized by activists and human rights groups. With no answer to the detainees and their families and no action from the Bureau of Prisons, Manuel Joan Friere Alfonso and Jorge A. Fernandez, along with 16 other Cuban nationals that are being held at the detention facility, are threatening to go on another hunger strike if they do not receive immediate redress for their grievances.

This comes close on the heels of the five individuals in Homestead, Florida who began the New Year with their pledge to Fast for Our Families. Jon Fried, Jenny Aguilar and Wilfredo Mendoza are some of the individuals who have vowed to consume only liquids until the President and the Department of Homeland Security respond to the demands of all those families that have been torn apart by detention and deportation. In a letter they wrote to President Obama six days after they began their fast, they expressed that:

The situation in which immigrants live and the hurt that the people we represent are enduring has forced us to take drastic action…we understand the risks we confront and we will not deny the fact that we are scared, but we cannot just sit and wait for Immigration Reform. Every day that goes by, dozens of families are destroyed. Every day that passes, hundreds of children are separated from their parents and thousands of young students are in detention instead of in college…Mr. President, please put yourself in our shoes and just imagine for a minute what it would be like to be separated from your beautiful daughters just because you were born in a different latitude.

Then, on January 5th 2010, the Fast for Our Families campaign received national attention when Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant leader who was detained on December 30th during a routine check-in with ICE, began his own fast in prison, joining his efforts with the fasters in Florida. Since then over 1,000 petitioners and 50 organizations have come together to demand Jean’s release.

Jean entered the U.S. on a green card, as a legal permanent resident, in 1986. Three years later, at the age of 19, he was convicted of selling cocaine and served 11 years in prison for his crime. He is now 41 years old, is married to a U.S. citizen, Jani Montrevil, and is a father to four American-born children. Moreover, he has since stayed out of trouble, started a van service to support his family and become a community leader; he is an immigrant rights activist with the New Sanctuary Coalition and Families for Freedom.

On December 30th, Jean made his check-in with ICE in New York, which he has done every month since he was released from prison, and was unexpectedly arrested and transported to a Pennsylvania prison. According to immigration laws passed in 1996, any immigrant convicted of a felony, even if retroactive, can face deportation, but ICE has not released any statements as to why he was arrested this time. Jean is on a hunger strike, refusing to eat food until the government reforms laws on deportation practices that “destroy families.”

Support for Jean’s release is growing after a rally of over a hundred people protested for the reform of these draconian immigration laws outside the Varick Street Immigrant Detention Center in New York on Tuesday, January 5th. Amongst the protesters were 8 clergy and 2 community members who were arrested for blocking traffic to prevent the transport of more immigrant detainees. Rev. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church, who knows Montrevil well, stated:

I am being arrested because it is a moral outrage that our government would do this to such a great man and father. These immigration laws that destroy families contradict the values we should uphold as a society. They need to change now.

Jani Montrevil showed support for her husband’s decision to join the fasters in Florida and said of their common goal, “We will fight together!” And Jon Fried, who has almost completed a week of his fast was excited to hear the news. “It is great to know that this movement to keep our families together is spreading across the country, he said. All across the country, solidarity actions for Fast for Our Families are being planned, with groups in Texas and New Hampshire organizing efforts to join in support over the next week. 

We despair that such drastic, physical measures are required to ensure that families are reunited and future families are spared the horror of losing loved ones, and can only hope that these measures bear fruit before it is too late.

Please sign the petition to the President and the Senate demanding Jean’s release by clicking here.  If you represent an organization that would like to show support for Jean, sign on here.

Find more information about Jean Montrevil’s case here.

Photo courtesy of www.newsanctuarynyc.wordpress.com

UPDATE: As of January 25th, 2009, Jean Montrevil was released from detention. The fight continues to end the threat of deportation, but he is back home with his family and community members in New York City.

Abounding protests kick off the New Year and highlight the pressing need for immigration reform

TrailofDreams 2009 witnessed neither abatement in the numbers of people detained by immigration enforcement, nor in the number of families separated as a result of deportation. And little progress was made towards advancing comprehensive immigration reform, except for the bill introduced by Rep. Gutierrez on December 15th. Consequently, 2010 has begun with a flurry of courageous and provocative protests by immigrant rights advocates calling for just and humane immigration reform ASAP.

On the 1st of January, four young student activists set out on a protest march in which they have committed to walking 1,500 miles from Miami, Florida, across the Southeast, to Washington D.C., arriving on the steps of  the Capitol on May 1st (a day that has become important for immigrant rallies in recent years). The walk, which has been called The Trail of Dreams, is inspired by the idea of non-violent resistance, and aims to strengthen and inspire the immigrant rights movement and help organize the advocate networks across the country to stand together for the passage of the Development Relief in Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM ACT).

About 100 people gathered to see off the four walkers, Juan Rodriguez (20), Carlos Roa (22), Felipe Matos (23), and Gaby Pacheco (24), as they began their journey from the Freedom Tower in Miami. Over the next few months, the four will be chronicling their journey through a blog as often as they can. The walkers are all top students and community organizers at local colleges and expect students and supporters to join them along the way.  Since they are not all here legally, they face a high risk of exposing themselves to immigration agents over the duration of their walk.  “We are aware of the risk,” Felipe said to the New York Times. “We are risking our future because our present is unbearable.”  From an article in the Washington Post:

All say they are willing to take the risks that come with bringing attention to the plight of students who, like themselves, were brought to the U.S. as children and are now here illegally. “I’m tired of coming back to school each semester and hearing about another friend who was picked up and deported,” Juan Rodriguez told a group of supporters during a recent gathering.

Also on the first day of the new decade, after sitting down to their final meal together, another group of brave and committed individuals in Florida began the Fast for Our Families protest, in which they have initiated an indefinite fast in the name of all those people who have lost, and continue to lose, loved ones due to deportation, detention and raids.

The fasters include a Haitian mother who is facing the threat of being separated from her children, a Puerto Rican man whose wife faces deportation, and a female professional truckdriver, the initiator of the fast, who lost her business and her livelihood when she was deported in 2005 after living here for 18 years, when her ex-husband reported her to the authorities. She came back to the country to be with and support her three children, and was subsequently put under surveillance by ICE. Today she wears an electronic bracelet and faces deportation.

One of the fasters is Jon Fried, a 50 year old man who has been involved in social justice and labor movements for 35 years and runs the organization We Count! On day 2 of the fast, he wrote:

Five of us are fasting indefinitely, as long as it takes; our target is President Obama and our goal is to get him to use the legal authority he has, now, without Congress, to suspend the detention and deportation of immigrants with American families, those who have US citizen children and/or spouses…This decision to fast was not taken lightly. I was tired of getting phone calls from a mother, a father, a brother, a sister saying that their loved ones, their family, was taken away by ICE…

Most urgently, the cost is too high. Now. It’s too painful. It’s too horrific. My friends and neighbors shouldn’t be collateral damage in a political scheme. Parents and youth ripped from their families is not an acceptable cost. Thousands of people marked and tracked with electronic shackles, living in fear of being taken away from their loved ones every time they report to ICE or its private contractors, is not an acceptable cost. Young people being deported to homelands they hardly remember is not an acceptable cost. It is time to say to President Obama: This is on your watch.

Together, the participants of the Trail of Dreams and the Fast for Our Families campaigns hope to build momentum and push the current administration towards just and comprehensive immigration reform that asks for:

1) EQUAL ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION
2) A pathway to citizenship
3) An end to the separation of families
4) And a deliberate and radical shift from the federal funding of raids, detentions and deportations to better educational opportunities for ALL the youth of America!

There are a number of ways that YOU can get involved and show your support towards these bold efforts.

For updated information about the Trail of Dreams, click here, and to follow the Fast for Our families, here. Also, join their facebook group to learn more about their personal stories.

Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com