In the wake of the mid-term elections earlier this month, it might have seemed that there wasn’t much hope to hold onto for progressives, what with climate deniers and tea party fundamentalists rising to some of the highest offices in the land. What we’ve seen since, though, has been a string of executive decisions that might be cautiously described as hopeful. Responding to his new-found willingness to take on the GOP, pundits have commented that Obama is attempting to carve out a progressive legacy in the latter half of his second term. This may be true, but this week’s announcements are also evidence of the work grassroots organizers have been doing to put pressure on the White House since well before the 2008 election. In other words, like other presidents, any progressive legacy Obama manages to build between now and 2016 will be a product of the movements that challenged him most.
Love was the strongest emotion felt at a downtown Washington, D.C. office Thursday night as President Obama announced that he would use his executive power to grant deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. At least 50 undocumented immigrants and advocates, many who have been in the immigration fight for years, were scattered at a watch party to view Obama’s speech from a projector. About five million undocumented immigrants are expected to be helped by the executive action. Just as advocates were quick to congratulate immigrants whose family could now come out of the shadows, others also expressed cautious happiness, and even sadness over the family members who were not given deportation cover.
Erika Almiron, Executive Director of Juntos, Philadelphia.“While we are overjoyed for the families that this announcement will support and offer them some relief, our hearts also lay heavy with the many people we love in our community who may not qualify. When we declare Not One More Deportation, we mean just that. We make a commitment in Juntos to ensure those in our community who do qualify can apply and for those who don’t, we will continue fighting until our loved ones are released from detention, until young people from Ayotzinapa to Ferguson can feel safe in their communities and until we are all free.“ Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of GLAHR, Georgia “While President Obama’s executive order is a significant victory, our struggle for a humane, long-term solution to this country’s broken immigration system will continue. We will continue to demand for an end to local law enforcement’s involvement in federal deportation efforts. And we will continue to fight for all of our community members who will not receive relief from the president’s executive order.”
Today, frustration with the Obama administration’s continued deportations at the rate of 1,000 people a day, plus the humanitarian crisis at the border, has prompted many people of faith to organize more formally, in the spirit of a “new sanctuary movement,” to support new arrivals from Central America as well as undocumented migrants who have long lived in the United States. Noel Anderson, a grassroots coordinator for Church World Service, a faith organization that advocates for immigrant rights, convened the first national conference call in early September that brought together fifty people working in different coalitions to discuss national sanctuary strategy for the first time since the 1980s.
Maru Mora-Villalpando lives in fear of deportation. As a community organizer for #Not1More Deportation and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, her fears are not unfounded. Her nephew was deported in 2008; her cousin was deported in 2010 and she has seen countless other families separated. “I expect that to happen to me as well,” she said. Mora-Villalpando says her 17-year-old daughter constantly worries that she will be deported, particularly because of her activism, which forces her to travel frequently. “We have to be in constant touch. This is how I protect her and lessen her stress that her mother can be taken at any moment,” she told Truthout. Research shows this kind of fear can be profoundly detrimental for children. The study “The Children Left Behind: The Impact of Parental Deportation on Mental Health” notes the crucial role of parent-child relationships in social skills, emotion regulation and self-concept development.
As recently as June, more than 10,000 children fleeing unchecked gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala made it here over the course of a month. Then, a major security crackdown in Mexico slowed the pace of their arrivals down to about 3,000 in August — the lowest rate since January and about the same as the pace of arrivals last year. It’s what passes for “normal” in this sad situation. Chief among them: How much did U.S. military intervention, deportation policy, and Drug War blunders contribute to making El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras unstable and dangerous places, especially for tweens and teens? A lot, actually. This growing realization prompted calls for the kids to be treated as legal refugees.
The militarized “solutions” taught at the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) are also being applied to communities within the US. We need to end the racist system of state violence and militarization at home and abroad. Our Struggles Stand Together: Converge on Ferguson, Fort Benning and the Stewart Detention Center Mass mobilizations in which thousands take to the streets have always been an important part of social change movements. We need to strengthen our organizing and build lasting coalitions with others who are resisting across the Americas. Support our friends in Ferguson and St. Louis! Mobilize your community to converge on Fort Benning, Georgia fromNovember 21-23, 2014, where we will connect the dots between militarization in Latin America and the US. Join the Caravan to the Vigil to Shut Down the Stewart Detention Center, where communities in resistence will come togetheron Saturday, November 22. Stewart is the largest corporate detention center in the US….
The jury concluded that the US and Mexican governments are jointly responsible for a generalized pattern of grave human rights violations committed against migrants in transit on Mexican territory, on their way to the United States, between 2010 and 2014. The jury also concluded that the massacre was the predictable and thus preventable result of actions and omissions by Mexican authorities responsible for systematic, egregious and recurrent human rights violations against migrants in transit. These violations include the Mexican government’s failure to protect migrants in transit from death or injury due to serious abuses committed by drug traffickers and human traffickers in complicity with Mexican authorities.
“Our message is blunt: migrants are dying who need not,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, “It is time to do more than count the number of victims. It is time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants.” The research behind “Fatal Journeys,” which runs to over 200 pages, began with the October 2013 tragedy when over 400 migrants died in two shipwrecks near the Italian island of Lampedusa. The report, compiled under IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, indicates Europe is the world’s most dangerous destination for “irregular” migration, costing the lives of over 3,000 migrants this year.
Thousands of Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip for Europe using tunnels, traffickers and boats, testimonies obtained by Haaretz show. Gazans have been fleeing the Strip since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, but their escape was hardly covered in the media since they have been leaving clandestinely, with the help of paid smugglers. The sinking of two ships carrying Palestinians from Gaza — one off the coast of Malta last week, and the other off the coast of Egypt — and the drowning of hundreds of passengers have focused attention on the trend. The Palestinian Embassy in Greece reported yesterday that the ship that sank off the coast of Malta was carrying more than 450 passengers, most of them Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and that it was rammed intentionally by another ship run by rival smugglers.
In its continued efforts around its Latinos United for Immigration Reform campaign, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 39 of the nation’s preeminent Latino organizations, strongly encourages the President to listen to the perspectives of the Latino and undocumented community as he considers policy options on immigration matters. With 97 percent of the deportation population being Latino, the impact of separations due to the Administration’s deportation policy is hitting Latino families particularly hard. Underscoring NHLA’s commitment to an inclusive approach, the coalition decided at its quarterly board meeting last month to formally endorse the national boycott of meetings with the President on immigration matters if they do not include representatives of undocumented immigrants. Accordingly, NHLA will make every effort to include undocumented representatives in any meeting it has with President Obama on immigration matters. If the White House will not meet with undocumented immigrants, then NHLA members will decline to meet with the President. “NHLA stands with the hundreds of thousands of families that need President Obama to take swift action on deportation relief. Any delay of affirmative relief, as some have urged on the President, should not be contemplated before consulting directly with members of the Latino and undocumented communities as they would be the ones most seriously and irrevocably harmed,” said Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
On July 1st, a group of ‘illegal immigrants’ were flown from Texas’ overcrowded immigrant detention centers to California and transported in three buses for processing in the city of Murrieta. The immigrants, mostly women and children, were greeted by city residents waving American flags, chanting “go back home,” and blocking the road – forcing Border Patrol agents to change course and transport the group to a facility in San Diego. The protests continued on July 4th when more buses were scheduled to arrive at Murrieta. Responding to Tuesday’s blockade, pro-immigration residents in Murrieta, along with supporters from the surrounding counties, held a counter protest to greet the incoming with sympathy and to pressure Murrieta authorities to not allow for another obstruction. While the buses never arrived, the tension of the situation turned violent when five pro-immigration protesters were aggressively arrested by Murrieta police. This past week, the district attorney chose to press charges against the five. One of the charges they now face is as bizarre as it is serious: “Lynching,” as defined by the California penal code. Introduced in 1933 to prevent mobs from kidnapping suspects in custody and executing them, the archaic law only defines lynching as the “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer.” But the account of events given by Murrieta police–the same account that the media reported–and the charges the five now face are unsupported by the facts visible in video footage of the incident. In context, the incident parallels the sometimes deadly brutality exhibited by police in cities such as Ferguson, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco.
Today’s news is a clear statement from Washington that once again, politics trumps the lives of people. Six years ago, President Obama was elected on a pledge to pass immigration reform in the first 100 days of his term. Instead, his administration has squandered the opportunity to move a bill under a majority Democratic Congress. They have chosen to continue the previous administration’s “endgame” enforcement policies to build and expand a deportation machinery that has torn families apart, criminalized working class people whose labor we benefit from, and only served to benefit private prisons and private military contractors on the border. Yet again the President asks the people for more time. Our families don’t have that time – not when ICE’s arbitrary quotas demand that 32,000 people be detained a day and 1,100 end up being deported daily. The major lesson for our movement now is to overcome the cruel partisan gamesmanship that dominates our culture
Federal officials are planning a new for-profit family detention lockup for immigrant children and their parents in South Texas. The 2,400-bed “South Texas Family Detention Center”—as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is referring to it—is slated for a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio. The detention center is part of the Obama administration’s response to the surge in children and families from Central America crossing the Texas-Mexico border. In a statement to the Observer, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the facility was intended “to accommodate the influx of individuals arriving illegally on the Southwest border.” The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” better known in the oil patch as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm connected to San Antonio mogul Red McCombs. Loren Gulley, vice president for Koontz McCombs, said the company is still negotiating the deal but Corrections Corporation of America—the world’s largest for-private prison company—is expected to run the detention center, and Koontz McCombs would lease the existing “man camp” to ICE. A detailed site map provided to Frio County shows a large fenced campus, including both residential housing as well as a gym, chapel and “community pavilions.” The “man camp” has enough space to temporarily house 680 detainees while new structures are being built, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.
Call it irony or call it a nightmare, but the “crisis” of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, which lasted for months amid fervent and angry debate, is now fading from the news. The media stories have been legion, the words expended many. And yet, as the “crisis” leaves town, as the sound and fury die down and attention shifts elsewhere (even though the children continue to arrive), the real factors that would have made sense of what’s been happening remain essentially untouched and largely unmentioned. It couldn’t be stranger — or sadder. Since late June 2014, the “surge” of those thousands of desperate children entering this country has been in the news. Sensational stories were followed by fervent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations with emotions running high. And it’s not a debate that stayed near the southern border either. In my home state, Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick tearfully offered to detain some of the children — and that was somehow turned into a humanitarian gesture that liberals applauded and anti-immigrant activists decried. Meanwhile the mayor of Lynn, a city north of Boston, echoed nativists on the border, announcing that her town didn’t want any more immigrants. The months of this sort of emotion, partisanship, and one-upmanship have, however, diverted attention from the real issues. As so often is the case, there is so much more to the story than what we’ve been hearing in the news.