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NEW FILM: The Call – A choice no woman should face

Sonia has worked so hard for this: a healthy family and a normal life in an average American town. But on a night that should have been like any other, she is forced to make an impossible choice that could shatter her family’s dreams forever.

 Keep your daughter safe — or keep your family together? 

What call would you make?

In our powerful new short film inspired by a true story, Sonia’s crisis shows why we must all support the human rights of immigrant women today. This video is the centerpiece of Breakthrough’s #ImHere campaign, an urgent and innovative call to action for the rights of immigrant women in the United States. More about #ImHere after the jump.

Produced in collaboration with over 30 partner organizations, the multi-award-winning People’s Television and starring distinguished actors from stage and screen, “The Call” is inspired by the real experiences of the brave women and families we’ve encountered in our work. “Sonia” is fictional, but her emotional story is not. No mother should have to face the choice she does. With your help, no mother will.

Please watch and share this film to say: #ImHere to put the rights of women like Sonia on the national agenda. Are you?

Tweet the filmKeep your daughter safe or your family together: what call would you make? Watch and share http://ow.ly/e4jGH #ImHereIVote @Breakthrough

Share on Facebook: Watch #ImHere: THE CALL, a short film about a choice no woman should have to face. http://ow.ly/e4jGH

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Alabama’s Watergate

If you needed additional proof that Alabama is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, look no further. With a population of only 693, the ironically named township of Allgood, Alabama managed to send shockwaves through the international community this weekend, using a provision of HB 56 to deny clean water and proper sanitation to residents lacking state identification.

Allgood’s “papers for water” policy is a draconian interpretation of Section 30 of the controversial law, which deems it illegal for an individual lacking proof of citizenship to enter into any “business transaction” with the “state or a political subdivision of the state.” With many families already confined to their homes for fear of deportation, the loss of clean water and sanitation could be catastrophic.

And the impact of such a measure is not limited to undocumented households alone. The amended terms of access are also likely to impact poor, elderly and minority citizens, who are less likely to have photo identification and proof of citizenship. This level of disenfranchisement is a haunting reminder of Alabama’s troubled history during the civil rights era – one the state is coming dangerously close to repeating.

HB 56 is already considered to be the most draconian piece of anti-immigrant legislation in the country, but the most recent development in Allgood is a graphic reminder that immigrant rights are human rights, and denying fairness to some puts all of our freedoms at risk.

Stand in solidarity with the people of Alabama and spread the word – take action to restore fairness now.

Photo courtesy of thinkprogress.org

Immigrant women defy odds on International Women’s Day

March is the month where International Women’s Day celebrates the strides women have made, in spite of all they have to endure. Like Rosa Morales, an immigrant woman who turned her life around and went from the brink of being deported, to being awarded a scholarship for her contribution to society.

Two years ago, what started as a 911 call to register a case of domestic violence turned into a deportation case for Rosa. Although her husband was a legal resident, she had been living in the U.S. as an undocumented resident. Rosa, then a 35 year old mother of two boys, was taken to an immigration detention facility where she was held for a month before she was given a deportation hearing and released after her husband paid a bond. While in detention, Morales looked back on her life, realized that she was frustrated with living under extreme financial hardship, and took the decision to turn her life around. Soon after her release, she earned her GED and joined Promotoras, a group of women volunteers who visit schools and churches to provide information on health and education to other women in the community. In spite of continuing financial hardship, both Rosa and her husband have enrolled in college and she aims to follow this up with a social work degree at Arizona University, a job, and then citizenship. Recently, in honor of her commitment to bettering the life of her family and community, Rosa Morales was awarded the Virginia Palmer Memorial Scholarship from the Tucson Branch of the American Association of University Women.

While Rosa’s story is one of hope, we also want to call attention to the hardships faced by many immigrant women as they struggle to provide for their families. From exploitation by employers to the denial of reproductive health, domestic violence to the constant threat of separation from their children, undocumented women face many challenges. Many will be in the March for America on March 21st, calling for just and humane comprehensive immigration reform to reclaim their lives and contribute to society without living in fear.

But not everyone is sympathetic to the cause. In a conference call two days ago, Numbers USA, The John Tanton Network and the Tea Party Movement discussed strategies to counteract the March for America, with the groups advocating an anti-immigration stance that targeted Latina women and even children. From our friends at Campus Progress who listened in.

CALLER 1: I would like to speak out on something. I feel the new welfare queen in America today is women coming from Mexico with a bunch of babies. So I feel they’re all coming over here and having all these babies, they are the new welfare queen in America…

CALLER 3: One piece of information would be, they aren’t babies, they’re dependents. Don’t use babies. It’s emotional to them. They have dependents. We have babies.

And the racist ball didn’t stop rolling, even though the accusations are unfounded and irrational. Callers discussed strategies to flood Congress with phonecalls and faxes “to create the perception that there was a grassroots opposition to immigration reform”. Perceptions are powerful, but so are the actions of hundreds of thousands of workers, families, and women calling for immigration reform. So get your voices out there.

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

Is the Tea Party’s racist rhetoric going to save broken families?

While it is difficult to find much coherence within the fractured and fast-changing Tea Party Movement, a look at their convention in Nashville last week shows that the issue of immigration seems to have gained greater popularity, emerging largely from the links made between immigration and the healthcare debate at their town hall meetings held last summer. Spearheading this issue for the Tea party agenda was Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Congressman who kicked off the Nashville Tea Party Convention with a slew of racist comments meant to further the argument against immigration reform.

And then because we don’t have a civics literacy test to vote, people who couldn’t even spell vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House named Barack Hussein Obama.

The Nashville Convention sought to unite the movement against the path to legalization. Tancredo’s opening speech included the argument that while Obama’s plans for immigration reform needed to be halted, it was a good thing that McCain had not been elected or he would already have ensured that Rep. Gutierrez’s bill for immigration reform was passed and “amnesty” given to the country’s undocumented immigrants. He incited the audience to protect the country’s culture saying “our culture is based on Judeo-Christian values whether people like it or not!”

While some, such as a Tea Party blogger Keli Carender said that immigration was not a part of the official agenda, Tancredo’s opening remarks, the prominent presence of the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, as well as a number of signs against “amnesty” from their individual supporters at the convention indicated that immigration issues could become a prominent feature on the movement’s agenda.

So what would Tom Tancredo have to say about the latest report by the Urban Institute that holds that immigration enforcement has a large-scale, detrimental effect on children? The truth is that the immigration system is in dire need of reform and racist rhetoric is not going to solve the complex problems caused as a result of a broken immigration system.

The report is based on research conducted amongst over 100 children of undocumented immigrants that were targeted by raids and arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in six U.S. states. Of the 190 children interviewed for this study, two-thirds were U.S. born citizens. The study says,

Children whose parents were detained for longer than a month experienced more changes in eating, sleeping, frequent crying, fear, anxiety, regression, clinginess, and aggressive behavior.  68% of parents or caretakers questioned said they noticed at least three behavioral changes in the short-term, or three months after a parent was arrested. In the long-term, or nine months after an arrest, 56 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 17 showed angry or aggressive behavior. The most typical changes were an increase or decrease in eating among all age groups.

Long-term separation of children from their parents is “exceptionally harmful” to the development and growth of children. The report recommends immigration reform must include alternatives to detention such as electronic monitoring and supervised released, as well as a priority quota for immigrants with children to be considered for legal residency.

It’s groups like Tancredo’s that have gone on about the connections between immigrants and crime. An ACLU brief finds that the increasing criminalization of undocumented immigrants has led to a diversion of attention and resources away from more serious criminal offenses such as organized crime, gun trafficking and white collar crimes. For starters unlawful presence in the United States is NOT a “crime”. And secondly only the Federal Government can regulate immigration. So when states and localities use criminal laws to go after undocumented immigrants, they are not only adding to the misinformed rhetoric around “criminal” immigrants but actually diverting resources from where they should be applied. Moreover, studies have shown that increased immigration does not lead to increased crime and that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated for violating criminal laws than non-immigrants.

Once again, we urge the leaders and citizens of this country to step away from their petty vendettas and take a look at the bigger picture, both in terms of what already exists and in terms of what would be best for all.

Photo courtesy of RaceWire.org

Law Enforcement Officer Says “Fire Arpaio!” who has taken the law into his own hands

Picture 1An effective and powerful resistance movement launched against Sheriff Arpaio’s of Arizona is finally yielding results. The Sheriff, notorious for his controversial anti-immigration stance directed against communities of color, has been under investigation by the Department of Justice for alleged civil rights abuses, and is now part of a federal grand jury investigation for possible use of his office to intimidate local officials and political opponent who disagreed with him. Meanwhile, a large scale protest expecting ten to twenty thousand people is being organized for this Saturday in Phoenix, Arziona, to bring national attention to the hatred and extremism that Arpaio breeds, along with a need to put pressure to end the agreement with the federal government that allows him to practice immigration law.

Here is a guest post by Detective Alix Olson of Madison Police Department, Wisconsin featured on the Imagine 2050 blog decrying Sheriff Arpaio’s policies

In my 29-year career as a police officer and detective with the Madison Police Department, in Madison, Wisconsin, I have witnessed and experienced many instances of hatred, violence and racism. In most cases, those negative things were not initiated by law enforcement; sometimes, unfortunately, they were. The 95% of us who sincerely strive to “serve and protect” are tarnished by the 5% of us who intentionally “disserve and destroy.” Nowhere is this more apparent in current American law enforcement than in Maricopa County, Arizona, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio has taken the law into his own hands, at the expense of the Constitution, professional ethics, and proper police conduct. Earlier this year, the mayor of Phoenix wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney general’s office, asking the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate Arpaio’s aggressive illegal immigration crackdowns. Mayor Phil Brown wrote that Arpaio’s sweeps show “a pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests.”

Using local law enforcement to enforce Federal immigration laws, as Sheriff Arpaio is doing, weakens the very community links local police and sheriffs’ departments work so hard daily to maintain and build upon. Having community members who are afraid of local police should not be the goal of a department; instead, a far more wide-reaching and positive effect is gained by police-community trust, interaction and collaboration. This might sound too much like social work to Sheriff Arpaio, whose top-down, dictatorial methods favor humiliation, degradation, prisoner abuse, racial profiling, terrorizing Latino residents, and cavorting with local neo-Nazi groups. And according to a 2008 policy report on effective law enforcement by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian-leaning watchdog group based in Phoenix, Sheriff Arpaio’s department “falls seriously short of fulfilling its mission.” The report found that Maricopa County has “diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration.”

As we all know, police need the community’s trust to help solve crime and make our country stronger and safer for everyone living here, regardless of immigration status. I’m sure Sheriff Arpaio’s department is having a terrible time finding Latino witnesses and victims of crimes willing to report incidents or testify, but that supposes that he cares about them enough to take reports or help develop their cases for court in the first place. Dehumanizing is another strategy used by Sheriff Arpaio, parading inmates through the streets in funky clothes, “sheltering” them in sweltering desert tents, treating them like vermin, forgetting that he is as bound to them by a universal bond of humanity as much as he is bent on eradicating them.

When chief executives of local law enforcement agencies effectively target subgroups of persons who are not committing crimes, they not only alienate the community, they make it much harder for their agencies to recruit high caliber persons with integrity who reflect the faces of the community to take on the very hard job of policing. A sheriff like Joe Arpaio must have the hardest of times making those hires, and the more the world hears about him, the harder it is for more grounded, public spirited police agencies to hire the best of the best.

American law enforcement must demand the removal of Sheriff Arpaio from duty. He is truly a menace to the residents of Arizona, and our country. Simply stated, Sheriff Arpaio has marred the reputation of law enforcement for generations to come.

His warped sense of “justice” has no place in our society, unless we support Japanese internment camps, the ghetto-ization of African-Americans, and the deaths of countless Latinos attempting to survive their own countries’ destruction at the hands of US foreign and economic policies by struggling to come here to live, work and protect their families. I call upon the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the US Department of Justice, to work diligently to remove him from the office he has squandered with racism and hate. Those of us in law enforcement working hard to build bridges of respect and trust with our communities don’t need another Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor erasing our progress.

Photo courtesy of www.puenteaz.org