California, Chicago set the tone on rational handling of undocumented

A highway sign by Brave New Foundation shames anti-immigrant states

It’s happening! Reversing ‘cowboy-style’ anti-immigrant attitudes, laws like the ones enacted in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and programs such as Secure Communities, that unfairly target Latinos and Asians and bring about massive deportations of non-criminals and family separation is starting to click throughout the country.

Just this week, in cities like Chicago and states like California, notable advances in Anti-Arizona-like legislation were celebrated.

California is the first state to step up and pass a bill (TRUST Act) instructing police to release undocumented immigrants if they haven’t committed serious crimes — instead of handing them over to the federal government. The bill is a rejection of the federally-imposed Secure Communities, it’s a first for the nation and was sponsored by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. The bill goes now to the governor for signature.

“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. United States, faith, labor, and immigrant rights groups in over 12 cities are coming together to demand local officials take their own initiative to turn the tide on Arizona-style laws and federal deportation programs like “Secure Communities,” says says Sarahi Uribe, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who is organizing several events across the country to promote legislature such as Ammiano’s.

California had seen an increase in deportations since the launching of S-Comm.

“We congratulate the California Senate on its leadership in passing this legislation, which is a model for states seeking to reject Arizona’s approach of immigration-based policing,” says Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, in an ACLU statement.

“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Ammiano said in a statement after the Senate floor vote. “The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety.”

And yesterday in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the introduction of the “Safe Families Ordinance.”  The ordinance clarifies and extends Chicago’s existing policy of creating a firewall between federal civil immigration law enforcement and the relationship the City of Chicago, and especially the Chicago Police Department, has with its residents.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauded the mayor’s vision that sets Chicago apart from other jurisdictions, like Arizona.

“The City of Chicago has been at the forefront of U.S. cities in how it handles the reality that thousands upon thousands of immigrants, families and entrepreneurs are seeking opportunity in our city and the reality that the United States has failed to modernize its immigration system for decades. We no longer have a reliable and responsive legal immigration system. Too many individuals are faced with the impossible choice of abandoning their families or going around our legal system because they can find no way through it to meet their responsibilities as spouses and parents. And we give almost no opportunity to immigrants here illegally to take any action that would allow them to earn legal status,” Gutierrez said.

The Congressman also stated the difference is how states and cities are dealing with the consequences of the federal government and the Congress not facing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

“In Arizona, they deal with this reality by enacting laws to sanction racial profiling and by condoning the irrational acts of cowboys — sometimes ones who happen to be Sheriffs and carry guns — and set them loose on immigrants or anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant. We know from the experience in Arizona, Alabama, and many other places that this undermines public safety, wastes precious and scarce law enforcement resources and weakens the bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve and protect. In Chicago, we do things a little differently because we put public safety above political stunts, and we put creating a united, cohesive society over trying to draw dividing lines or driving political wedges,” Gutierrez explained.

The ordinance protects everyone because it allows anyone who witnesses a crime, who knows about criminal activity and anyone who wants to make the city safer to come forward and share that information with police. Most importantly, it targets police resources on criminals and threats and minimizes the amount of city resources devoted to holding non-criminals and non-threats, just because they were flagged in a federal database as possibly violating federal civil laws.

Gutierrez also said that instead of dealing with immigrants by using a ‘building a wall and rounding them up’ approach, the country needs to look forward. “We need laws that match the reality that people are here, people are coming, and that every level of society is more efficient if the federal government sets up a functioning legal system to deal with that reality and keeps up with our modern society,” he said.

A growing number of cities have enacted these progressive policies, including Washington DC, Santa Clara, CA, and Cook County, Illinois and more.

In a press conference in 2011, ICE Director John Morton said that that they estimate there are about one million undocumented immigrants with criminal records and that those individuals are their main target for deportation.

Per the rule of prosecutorial discretion, here’s the deal: if of an estimated population of eleven million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only one million falls under the “criminal” label; that means that ninety percent should not be the targeted or profiled or deported, including about one million youth that would fall under the deferred action policy or the DREAM Act criteria; and, even better, could qualify to legalize their migratory status once they comply with the list of requirements specified in most comprehensive immigration reform bills brought forth in the past.

I think this new mentality involving fairness, practicality and safety is where the country is finally heading. If Congress could say: ‘ampay me salvo y salvo a todos mis Compañeros,’ before Obama’s first term is over, it would be fantastic. If not, deals like the one we are seeing in California will definitely change the tide, set the tone for a grown-up conversation about immigration and eventually open the hand and turn it from a menacing fist to a welcoming gesture.

Five years later, issues for immigrant community still the same

Do you remember a Day without Immigrants in May of 2006? I do. I was there, marching alongside my two teen daughters in Columbus, Ohio. That day, hundreds of thousands skipped work and even shopping to show the country how would it feel if all of a sudden immigrants were not part of the picture.

Not everyone out there that day was undocumented, but we all understood the importance and the weight of large numbers dropping off the equation of businesses.

The Great American Boycott was a one-day boycott of United States schools and businesses by immigrants, which took place on May 1, 2006.

As a continuation of the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, the organizers called for supporters to abstain from buying, selling, working, and attending school, in order to demonstrate through direct action the extent to which immigrants are vital to the economy of the United States. Supporters of the boycott rallied in major cities across the U.S. to demand immigration reform.

The results of that day were astounding: one million people abstained from working.  The economic impact was between five and six billion dollars.

Not much happened after that. Bush left office and candidate Obama won the Latino vote with the promise of comprehensive immigration reform. A year went by and in 2010 we had our first taste of a repeat dish of bad news with Arizona’s SB1070, followed by many copycat laws in at least 21 states.

Georgia has been fighting to keep HB-87 off the books. But the struggle continues. So, A Day Without an Immigrant will take place there tomorrow, Friday, July 1st. And on Saturday, July 2nd there will be a March for Justice to protest HB-87. On this second day, Georgians are again being asked to abstain from working or doing any shopping. The organizers have also requested a day of social media silence in solidarity with the event.

There will be a rally on Saturday converging on the Capitol for what organizers deem ‘the largest mass mobilization the South has seen in years’. People are being asked to wear white, as they did five years ago.

Somos Georgia and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights shared some of the issues and thoughts behind the two day stop.

This week:
1. Six undocumented youths showed us all what it is to be brave.  Dulce Guerrero, Jessica Vasquez, Rolando Zenteno, Nataly Ibarra, Felipe Baeza, and Leeidy Solis came out publicly as undocumented inside the Georgia State Capitol, a few feet away from the chambers where legislators voted to pass HB87.  Led by the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance and joined by hundreds, the youths then went toe to toe with police and were arrested, risking deportation.  All six have been released.

2. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on key provisions of HB87.  Judge Thrash blocked the parts of the law that tried to turn local cops into immigration officers, and that made it a crime to transport, harbor, or induce an undocumented immigrant.   This is a huge defeat for Governor Deal and Rep. Matt Ramsey, the bill’s sponsor.  They were told in no uncertain terms that HB87 is unconstitutional, but they insisted on passing it anyway.  The judge’s ruling makes it clear that Governor Deal and Rep. Ramsey are dead wrong.

3. Dozens of supporters from around the country have arrived in Georgia to kick off Human Rights Summer, based at the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.  People are being trained in the skills we need to win this fight in the long run.

When we march on Saturday, we are saying:
1. It’s time for the Obama administration to terminate its 287(g) agreements with Gwinnett, Cobb, Hall, and Whitfield counties. Judge Thrash found that the main reason Georgia passed HB87 is to scare off immigrants.  Driving away “foreigners” is the same reason Georgia sheriffs have asked for – and gotten – 287(g) agreements.  Recognizing this, the Obama administration should immediately terminate its 287(g) agreements with Georgia counties.

2. Governor Deal has wasted enough of our tax dollars trying to defend an unconstitutional law.  If he chooses to appeal the federal court’s decision, he will be wasting even more of our tax dollars on a useless appeal of an unconstitutional law.

3. We will continue challenging the parts of HB87 that survived the preliminary injunction, particularly the requirement that certain private employers use E-Verify (employment verification). The mandatory use of this flawed database – something that was never intended to be imposed on small businesses – affects the safety and livelihood of our communities

4. It’s time for the Obama administration to put a stop to S-Comm, the controversial data sharing program that links immigration enforcement with local law enforcement.  The police and prisons across the U.S. – but in the South and in Georgia in particular – are the very definition of institutional racism.  The Obama administration should be working to reduce the racism within the criminal justice system, not make it worse by empowering it to go after immigrants.

5. And most of all, it’s time for us to rev up our campaign for a FULL REPEAL of HB87!!!

El Presidente Obama y el candidato Obama necesitan ponerse de acuerdo

Presidente Barack Obama, Gobernador Luis Fortuño y el Diputado Pedro Pierluisi (Foto: White House, fotografiados por Pete Souza)

El ataque de los mensajes presidenciales y electorales bipolares ha empezado. Esto se está poniendo interesante.

Por un lado tenemos al Presidente Obama, tres años después y sin haber cumplido con las promesas electorales de reforma migratoria, y más bien mostrando una tendencia anti-inmigrante con el aumento en las deportaciones en un setenta por ciento, en comparación con el Gobierno de George W. Bush.

Por otro lado, el candidato Obama, cortejando a las comunidades latinas con visitas y discursos en los que no faltan unas cuantas palabras en español.

El Presidente Barack Obama estuvo en El Paso hace unas semanas hablando de la reforma en las leyes de inmigración y acusó a los Republicanos en el Congreso de obstaculizarlo. Esa misma semana, utilizó un mensaje a favor de pasar el DREAM Act en la página del candidato Obama, 2012. El DREAM Act ya va para su undécimo año de esperanzas fallidas en propuestas de ley que aparecen y desaparecen sin ser aprobadas. La maniobra fue denunciada abiertamente por una variedad de organizaciones.

Hace poco el candidato Obama me empezó a enviar invitaciones para donar a su campaña. Le he escrito repetidas veces acerca de la resolución a los asuntos de inmigración, pero al parecer esta no es una conversación sino solamente un pedido de contribuciones.

El congresista Lamar Smith (R-TX) presentó ayer, 14 de junio, una propuesta de ley para hacer que el e-verify, el sistema computarizado que verifica la elegibilidad para trabajar en los Estados Unidos, sea mandatorio para todos los empleadores.

Mientras eso sucedía, el candidato Barack Obama estaba en la isla de Puerto Rico, guiñándole el ojo a los puertorriqueños que viven en los Estados Unidos y que constituyen una porción interesante de los 50 millones de latinos en la nación.

Los puertorriqueños que viven en la isla son ciudadanos americanos pero no pueden votar; sus paisanos sí lo pueden hacer. Y el equipo de Obama 2012 considera que los casi 5 millones de puertorriqueños que viven en el país son lo suficientemente importantes como para ser el primer presidente estadounidense que visita la isla desde John F. Kennedy. De especial importancia para la reelección son los casi un millón de puertorriqueños en Florida y que se dice podrían contrarrestar la influencia Republicana sobre los cubanos.

Durante su visita de solo cinco horas, el presidente expresó su apoyo al referéndum para convertir a Puerto Rico en un Estado. Mientras tanto, el candidato Obama recaudó casi un millón de dólares en donaciones durante una actividad organizada por el Partido Demócrata de Puerto Rico en el hotel Caribe Hilton.

Mientras el presidente y el candidato Obama finalizaban su corta visita, en tierra firme el Senado de Texas aprobaba una ley que permitiría que la policía verifique el estatus migratorio de cualquier persona que detenga por cualquier motivo. Una más de las muchas leyes que se han promulgado ya en Arizona, Indiana, Alabama y Georgia; y que están convirtiendo a muchos de esos Estados en zonas anti-inmigrantes y especialmente anti-latinas, sin importar su estatus migratorio.

Líderes latinos reclaman que el Presidente Obama podría dar una orden ejecutiva para detener las deportaciones, aprobar el DREAM Act y contener la marejada de leyes estatales que estrangulan a las comunidades inmigrantes, costándole millones a los Estados y forzando migración masiva a ciudades que se presenten más tolerantes de la diversidad. Mientras tanto, el candidato Obama se contenta con mantener a los Republicanos en el Congreso a gusto, invitar comitivas de cantantes y otras celebridades a la Casa Blanca para “conversar” del tema de inmigración, dar discursos cargados de emotividad y seguidos de inacción, y otorgar reconocimiento a unos pocos que están haciendo un excelente trabajo a través del programa “Champions of Change”.

De acuerdo a resultados a boca de urna, 67 por ciento del electorado latino votó por Obama en el 2008. Su aprobación en este momento ha disminuido al 49 por ciento, según un sondeo de opinión de ImpreMedia y Latino Decisions (hace un año estuvo en 57 por ciento y hace unos meses en el 41 por ciento). La pregunta es si el Presidente Obama le dará una manito al candidato Obama o si seguirá el mismo camino, cortejándonos por un lado y castigándonos por el otro, menguando en los próximos meses su popularidad con los electores que con tanta expectativa y entusiasmo lo ayudaron a llegar hasta la Casa Blanca.



Tequila Party launches… will it be taken seriously?

On April 20, the day of the first anniversary of SB1070, the harsh and controversial anti-immigrant law, DeeDee García Blasé, the leader of Somos Republicans launched her Tequila Party. In a column in the Voice of Tucson she wrote about her disappointment with current laws and leaders, her frustration with the Obama administration and the surge in deportations and the economic disaster that SB1070 is for Arizona.

“I have been called a RINO (Republican in Name Only) several times because of my stance on immigration,” García Blasé wrote, “yet I know these individuals would have called Ronald Reagan one if he were still alive because he gave amnesty. Dozens of Republican leaders attacked me for being vocal against Republican lawmakers when they embraced harsh anti-immigrant laws. What do they expect? I’m Latina. My people are suffering and it is no different than when Moses pled for mercy with regard to his own Israelites.”

The movement was received with mixed emotions and much disbelief. Much has been said about the stereotypical name and the appeal to just certain populations. However, boiling frustration among Latinos regarding immigration and racial profiling issues may help bring unity and a sense of urgency that will favor a rebel movement that resonates with the Hispanic community as much as the Tea Party has with mainstream America.

Recently, García Blasé went further in her quest to send a message to the GOP. She stepped down from the leadership of Somos Republicans and switched political affiliation.

“The Republicans cannot be anti-immigrant and expect to grow the Latino vote to their benefit. I had it with the Republican Party. I am not doing their work any longer. I’m done. The only way I could go back is if they correct themselves. Right now it’s embarrassing. I feel liberated. I’m switching to the Independent Party to send a message to the GOP,” said García Blasé.

“We cannot afford to stay home. We have to support Obama. He has asked for a grassroots movement, bipartisan support to pass comprehensive immigration reform and we are here to give it to him,” she states. “There are no other options, if we don’t vote for Obama in 2012; we’ll see a Palin as a president. Sarah Palin, for example,  endorses Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), the worst anti-immigrant Republican. Is that what we want?”

The National Tequila Party Movement is a national tour of concerts, events, dinners and rallies that will encourage a massive Latino Get Out The Vote. This movement is non-partisan and although is not about tequila, its first sponsor is Tequila Don Abraham. “We like that the name is controversial, it’s helped us out there,” said García Blasé, who also explained that her team has people from different national origins, including recent immigrants. To appeal to Latinos other than the Mexican community, the events will be headlined as Tequila Party/Café con Leche in cities like Miami and New York.

The first rally took place June 4 in Tucson, Arizona, headquarters of the party and ground zero for immigration advocates. About 50 people gathered to hear their leader. “The siesta is over, amigos. Now is time for fiesta,” she said to the small crowd. The Tequila Party’s slogan is “Your shot for Change.”

The man who inspired García Blasé and others to initiate the Tequila Party is Fernando Romero, a long time Democratic Latino activist in the state of Nevada. “He swirled the idea but nothing really came into fruition. As the 2012 Presidential Elections are underway, we decided to launch the Tequila Party Movement on Cinco de Mayo 2011. We reached out to Fernando Romero and told him he was our inspiration, and he is flattered we acknowledge him as our inspiration,” said García Blasé.

“Tequila Party is about motivating Latinos to participate in the early ballot system and to vote in the primary elections as well as the general elections. All are welcome, regardless of Party affiliation. Move over Tea Party people, the Tequila Party Movement is here. This time you won’t see a bunch of “angry at Obama” people in a rally. Nay, this time you will see fiestas, celebration of cultura and a massive Latino Get Out the Vote Drive,” the Tequila Party leader said.

According to a recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center more than 6.6 million Latinos voted in last year’s election-a record for a midterm-according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center. Fueled by their rapid population growth, Latinos also were a larger share of the electorate in 2010 than in any previous midterm election, representing 6.9% of all voters, up from 5.8% in 2006. At the same time, however, the number of Latino non-voters among those who are eligible to vote has also increased. This increase contributed to a decline in the voter turnout rate among Latinos-down from 32.3% in 2006 to 31.2% in 2010.

Latino Decisions, a political blog, estimates that 21.5 million Latino citizen adults will be eligible to vote in November 2012, up from 19.5 million in 2008. If registration rates remain constant, that will leave over 8 million Latino eligible voters who are not registered in 2012.

Tequila Party’s objective is to bring 20 million voters to the next election.

“We need to be better voters. This is why we believe the Tequila Party Tour is a critical movement to work towards a massive 2012 National Latino Get Out the Vote Initiative. We have leaders in place in all high Latino populated states and we are strengthening our ties with all organizations who want to participate in this important crusade,” indicated García Blasé, who has made this her full-time job. She expressed that the difference between her movement and other voter registration organizations is that Tequila Party is creating events with voter registration booths and educating voters.

The leader says that the Tequila Party has more than 50 grassroots leaders throughout the country working to get sponsors to support their Latino Get Out The Vote rallies. She also assures the skeptical that the Tequila Party is not funded by the Republican Party and that is not a ploy to get Latinos to vote Republican.

While she has no political ambitions, García Blasé highlights Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) as a great leader and even a potential presidential candidate she would support in the future. The Tequila Party has requested Gutierrez to be their national spokesperson. He is “considering it.”

“It’s overwhelming, but the tears of the children becoming orphans and of the DREAMers not achieving their dreams, that’s what keeps me up. Those of us who are legal in this country are pissed at the current state of things. We need to push for immigration reform, send a message to Republicans such as Lamar Smith (R-TX) who are now pushing for enforcement only laws, and let them know that we will be there in droves. People are scared of Tea Party, well, here comes the Tequila Party,” finalized García Blasé.

Cities that the Tequila Party tour will visit have been announced but not the dates; and the leadership promises live streaming video of the gatherings. For more, visit