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Entries tagged "latinos"

Latinos' One-Sided Love Affair with Obama

November 15, 2012 ·

Clearly, we Latinos love President Barack Obama. He garnered nearly three-fourths of our vote. In battleground states like Nevada, Florida, and Colorado , we helped catapult the incumbent president to victory.

An Obama supporter displays an "Obamanos" sign at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. Photo by Mundo Hispanico.Unlike African Americans, Latinos didn't always back Democrats by this kind of margin. In 2004, George W. Bush garnered 40 percent of the Latino vote. Had Mitt Romney pulled that off this year, he might have won the White House.

Although Obama overwhelmingly won our support, we're still unhappy with his immigration track record. He's made no progress toward achieving a long-overdue and comprehensive immigration reform. Even more disheartening, more people are being deported under his leadership than during Bush's presidency. To put this in its tragic context, thousands of our families have been torn apart. Too many kids are growing up without their parents.

Obama lucked out because the Republican Party is taking such an extreme stance on immigration that many Latino voters that might have otherwise voted GOP rejected it at the ballot box.

Romney advocated for "self-deportation" and failed to distance himself from Arizona's Republican-led state government, which passed an extremist "papers please" law that implicitly advocated racial discrimination. Most Republicans oppose the DREAM Act, a bill that would give millions of young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Republicans regularly refer to undocumented immigrants as "illegal aliens," insinuating that they're not only different but somehow sub-human.

We aren't single-issue voters or a homogenous voting bloc. But we do take the issue of immigration personally. Nearly all Latino voters have ties of some sort to undocumented immigrants. We may have been undocumented at one point or have family and friends who are currently undocumented or used to be. Both my parents came to this country without legal documentation.

Ironically, they became citizens because of the 1986 amnesty law President Ronald Reagan signed. Some of my best friends are undocumented. Most of them came to this country when they were kids. This is the only country they've ever known. This is their home — they're as American as me. The DREAM Act would provide my friends and others like them with the opportunity to realize their true potential as American citizens.

When Republicans label all undocumented immigrants as "criminals," "aliens," and "illegals," we in the Latino community can't help but feel that the GOP is badmouthing our grandparents, our mothers and fathers, our neighbors, and our friends. Why would any group support a political party that explicitly disrespects its loved ones?

On Election Day, we came out in record numbers in support of Obama. In tight Senate races in states like New Mexico and Virginia, the Latino vote gave those Democratic candidates a winning edge Without Latino support, the Democratic Party would have lost its Senate majority in 2010 and failed to win it back this year.

The onus is now on the White House to prove that he deserved our votes.

In his most recent press conference, Obama said he supports "a pathway for legal status" instead of citizenship. This is discouraging news. We voted for him because we want our loved ones to become citizens. We won't settle for less. Obama must push for bills like the DREAM Act, and fight for comprehensive immigration reform, but more importantly he must ensure that these are legitimate pathways to citizenship.

We may love President Obama, but now it's time for the entire Democratic Party to prove it loves us back. How long can this one-sided love affair last?

 

Javier Rojo is the New Mexico Fellow at Institute for Policy Studies. IPS-dc.org

Belen, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and the Suffering of Central American Migrants

October 3, 2011 ·

This year, the Letelier-Moffitt international award will be presented to Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter), a migrant shelter based in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico that provides humanitarian assistance to migrants in transit and works to protect them from kidnapping, extortion, sexual abuse, and murder. As a voice for the human rights of migrants in transit, it has courageously worked to document abuses against migrants and denounce human rights violations of migrants by Mexican officials.

But no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.
Job 31, 32

Eleven Years of Violence and Persecution, Against the Odds: The blood and deaths of migrants, and the seeds of hope.

The Year 2000
Migrants prepare for an orientation at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by Humanidad sin Fronteras.The Mexican city of Saltillo and its community shuddered with the arrival of the first Central American migrants. They were fleeing Hurricane Mitch, as well as the poverty and violence they endured in their countries. For this aristocratic city's conservative majority, it was a threat, an invasion of their supposed harmony and traditional peace. After this fear came criminalization, rejection, disdain, and that xenophobic question: Why couldn't they go somewhere else?

Nevertheless, the migrants, beaten men and women — who were dirty and dispossessed when they entered the city's outskirts — just said; "We're hungry and we're tired and we have been beaten!" This underscored one of the most beautiful and evangelical traditions that prevails in our community: take our bread and share it! Whenever a migrant arrives, at midnight, in the early morning, at dawn, or in the heat of the day, there will always be a group who will take him or her in, that will say: "It doesn't matter what time it is, you're going to sit down at our table, share our bread, and then go rest."

2001: The Criminalization of Aiding Migrants Sets in and the Murders Begin
Criminal charges were increasingly brought against us for aiding migrants. "Conservative Christian" groups considered it "sinful" to give the refugees shelter, because they were supposedly arriving "illegally," which made them "illegal" too. There were even people who were happy when they died, saying "they deserved it for having come here."

The wave of migration gave way to murder and spilled blood. Delmer, Alexander, and David, all Hondurans, were murdered by bullets, as they slept. Ismael Cruz was stoned to death by security guards on the train.

We were bloodstained when we retrieved the bodies, but this act planted the seeds of hope. It gave us the courage to persevere.

With the strong backing of our Bishop, Raul Vera, I organized together with three religious women the Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter next to the train tracks.

Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad Sin Fronteras

(These are two non-profit organizations whose names translate as "Bordering Justice" and "Humanity without Borders." They provide the migrants who have sought shelter in Saltillo with legal and counseling support.)

Obstacles and Challenges

Mariano, a migrant from Honduras, watches television at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by LatinDispatch.We pushed back against the fear of migrants and the terrifying discrimination against them. It was necessary to engage the broader community in a debate over migration.

We didn't want to only focus on organizing a shelter. Instead, we addressed the overall issue of migration as a social and historical phenomenon that today runs through history, society, the fabric of society and the Church itself.

We didn't want to treat migrants simply as victims, but instead as a new kind of emerging heroes, and beacons of hope.

This is why we formed two organizations: Frontera con Justicia and Humanidad sin Fronteras to assemble a team of professionals that could offer persecuted migrants not just lodging, food, and health care, but a comprehensive package of services, including legal representation, counseling, and advocacy for laws aimed at protecting their rights.

It was a radical humanitarian endeavor. The migrants who came to our shelter would feel upon arrival that they had left the evils of persecution and aggression behind. Once they'd reached us, they could belong to a movement to build a more humane and liberating society.

The Violence Has Never Ceased

We would have loved to have seen an end to the violence. But to the contrary, it has grown and so have our enemies: organized crime, and the complicity of security forces.

The consequences have been dire: murders, kidnapping, torture, disappearances, rape, and sexual abuse, even the paradigm of anti-migrant cruelty, the massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in August 2010, and the discovery of 47 other clandestine mass graves with mutilated bodies.

Our Achievements

  1. More than 50,000 Central American migrants have passed through our shelter.
  2. In the 11 years of our work, we have made the broader community recognize the pain and suffering that migrants endure.
  3. We have made progress in political and legal advocacy work in favor of migrants.
  4. We have traveled abroad to connect with organizations and international bodies in the defense of migrants' rights.
  5. We have inaugurated "New Wine in New Casks" with a new Church with new liturgy and ecclesiology that has a migration perspective.
  6. We have innovated therapeutic humanitarian counseling for migrants who were tortured when they were kidnapped.

The Letelier-Moffitt Award's Significance

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the human rights and migrant policy organizations that chose to give us this award. Criminal charges are increasingly being brought against us and we are now under attack more than ever. The levels of risk and insecurity faced by the people defending migrants' rights are the same as what the migrants themselves experience.

This is an award for courage and a just fight on behalf of people who have to migrate. We are in solidarity with these people. They are our brothers. With that in mind, we receive this award, not as bosses or experts but as fighters in the struggle for human rights.

Father Pedro Pantoja Arreola is the director of Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and chief adviser for two organizations that provide legal services and other forms of humanitarian support to Central American migrants, Frontera con Justicia (Bordering Justice) and Humanidad sin Fronteras (Humanity without Borders).

Emily Schwartz Greco translated this blog post, which is also available in Spanish on the Institute for Policy Studies website.

Need a Quick and Thoughtless Response to Any Public Policy Issue in Arizona? Blame Immigrants.

June 20, 2011 ·

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, has spent the last three years championing regressive measures like his home state’s SB1070 “Papers Please” law and privately expressing anger and frustration over Latino support for Barack Obama at the polls three years ago.

Now, the man who championed the 2006 Senate bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants is blaming migrants for the fires that have devastated vast area of Arizona and New Mexico.

From CNN:

Sen. John McCain is blaming illegal immigrants for starting some of the wildfires that have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in Arizona.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain, R-Arizona, said Saturday at a press conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

McCain’s statements are troublesome in a number of ways. By claiming that a secure border would solve the nation's immigration problems, McCain furthers the view that a fenced-up southern border is an urgent necessity.

A shut border is an impossible goal, grounded in the nativist imagination and supported by private and military contractors eager to build a taxpayer-funded industrial complex out of immigrant surveillance and detention. A more militarized southern border does nothing to address the complex root causes of migration. The economic push factors that drive Mexicans and Central Americans to take the risk of crossing the border without inspection will remain, and human and drug traffickers will continue to operate underground migration services for these desolate populations.

Moreover, McCain's statements further the "us vs. them" mentality that has led to atrocious policies of restriction that damage the economy and social trust. It may very well be that an unattended campsite on a migrant trail was the result of the fires (made worse by a regional drought that may be affected by climate change). But McCain should lead like a statesman, letting the respective agencies investigate the cause of the fires and refraining from providing distractions that further divide people. After all, the establishment of desert crossings is directly related to the failures of politicians like McCain forcing our society into a futile and expensive quest for a close border, which began in urban crossings and has driven migrants to the desert.

Arizona Vigilante Declared Guilty on All Charges

February 15, 2011 ·

Via Colorlines:

This afternoon a Pima County, Arizona, jury found Minuteman border vigilante Shawna Forde guilty on two counts of first-degree murder for killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul Flores Jr. in May 2009, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Forde was also convicted of attempted first-degree murder for shooting Brisenia’s mother Gina Gonzalez, along with other aggravated assault and robbery charges.

When the judicial procedures following the murder of a 9-year-old and her father conclude in the sentencing of those responsible, it’s a sign that, at least in its corrective functions, the law has done its job. But in the larger scheme of things, the factors that gave rise to the monstrous Minuteman movement that claimed the lives of Brisenia and Raul Flores continue unchecked, and seem likely to stay that way for a long time.

Forde’s activism thrived in an era when Americans have become more alarmed about immigrants. In 2010, on average, American respondents believed that 39 percent of the population was born abroad, according to a Transatlantic Trends poll. The real number is about 14 percent. In Congress, the Democratic strategy to appease the anti-immigrant voices by engaging on their level of finger-waving discourse has lefts us farther away from immigration reform than before Obama took office. The DREAM Act is dead, and any version that could clear the GOP-dominated House would over-emphasize the enforcement that people like Forde want.

Latino voices and experiences continue to be shut out. The mass media did not cover this trial for months, and then only on the surface. In its own lethargic reaction, the FBI knew in advance that Forde’s group was planning to break in to houses where they suspected they could steal from drug cartels. Their surveillance and intelligence was useless in preventing this loss of life.

Shawna Forde, the gun-happy, conspiracy-minded member of the Minuteman American Defense, seemed to enjoy the attention she got by border-watching in this 2008 video dug up by Crooks and Liars: “When the sun goes down, all bets are off,” says a smiling Forde to a Norwegian TV crew that traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border. “I have my gun, and you’ll be very sorry that you did not have one.” Forde will be sentenced next week, and her two associates will go to jury trial later this year.

Our prayers remain with Brisenia’s family and the people in Arizona working everyday to bring this human rights crisis to an end.