Tag Archives: Deportation

La Jaula de Oro: Rights, Safety and Resources for Immigrant Workers

31 May
La Jaula de Oro, a ballad by the norteño group Los tigres del norte, mourns the plight of the undocumented worker in the United States.  The verses describe a man struggling to support his family, but unable to enjoy a life of liberty and peace for fear of deportation:
Jaula De Oro Album CoverDe mi trabajo a mi casa
yo no se lo que me pasa
aunque soy hombre de hogar
casi no salgo a la calle
pues tengo miedo que me hallen
y me puedan deportar.
From my work to my home
not sure what’s up with me.
Although a guy who loves his home
I never leave the house
‘cuz I’m scared that they’ll find me
and could deport me

In the chorus, the song’s title, La jaula de oro (The cage of gold), hits the listener with the power of its meaning:

De qué me sirve el dinero
si estoy como prisionero
dentro de esta gran prisión
cuando me acuerdo hasta lloro
y aunque la jaula sea de oro
no deja de ser prisión.
What good to me is money,
if I live like a prisoner
inside this huge prison?
When I think of it I cry.
The cage may be made of gold,
but it never fails to be a prison.
The jaula de oro provides a haunting metaphor of the trapped position of undocumented workers in the United States – where the pressure and necessity of work exists within a society hostile to immigrants.  For most immigrant workers, the jaula is more than abstract.  Poor job security, immigration enforcement, low (and sometimes no) wages, and lack of basic protections create real barriers and physical limitations that, ultimately, wear and tear on their well-being.

As we have seen with other issues, limited rights lead to limited safety and fewer resources for immigrants and immigrant communities. More in-depth research on the connections between employment, immigration, and health can be found in our Immigration and Occupational Health Bibliography. Click here for a pdf.


As in the song, the fear of deportation is very real in the workplace.  The term “immigration raid” generally conjures up images of ICE agents bursting through factory doors, handcuffing and deporting workers, and leaving ghost towns in their wake. These raids have been replaced with a new tactic – the Silent Raid. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now pressures employers to fire their undocumented workers, threatening employers with large fines if they hire workers who do not pass the E-verify system. As a result, immigrant workers around the country – from the Chipotle food servers in Minneapolis, Minnesota to the Pacific Steel workers in Berkeley, California – have been denied their livelihood. The jaula de oro, jobless.

Poor job security and the threat of ICE prevent workers from exercising their employment rights. This leads to:

  • Unsafe workplaces if workers are unable to speak out against hazardous conditions.
  • Wage theft when unscrupulous supervisors, knowing workers have little recourse, cheat their pay.
  • Limited labor organizing when union leaders and members are threatened with layoffs, deportation or detention.

Here are a few examples from public health research (for more resources click here):

  • Punitive employer enforcement measures like E-Verify were linked to increased deportation fear and reduced mobility (Amuedo-Dorantes 2013)
  • A study of Latino day laborers found that workers’ rights abuses, discrimination and social isolation have an additive impact on Latino day laborers well-being and substance use. In the absence of access to treatment or health care, many workers resorted to self-medication. Supportive family, religion, and friendships were identified as protective factors (Nalini 2011).
  • A survey of workers from restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown found that 50% of workers experienced at least one minimum wage violation (Chinese Progressive Association, 2010).


Cultivating Fear Report CoverConsider the young woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch who was raped by her boss in a remote farm field in Central California. She was one of the few female almond pickers at her work. She did not feel safe reporting the assault to the authorities because of her legal status. Living and working on her own in the United States, she needed work to survive. Trapped by the fear of deportation and the male-dominated workplace, she felt that she must continue picking almonds. This woman’s story is played out among undocumented workers in countless situations throughout the US, resulting in mass scale worker vulnerability. Fewer protections can leads to dangerous and even abusive work conditions.

Here are a few examples from public health research (for more resources click here):

  • In a survey of over 400 immigrant Latino from Virginia, only 31% received any job safety training and 55% had no workers’ compensation coverage. Of the 47 (11%) with a work injury in the past 3 years, 27% reported difficulty obtaining treatment, 91% lost time from work and 29% had to change jobs because of the injury. The annual occupational injury rate was 12.2/100 full-time workers, compared to an expected rate of 7.1. (Pranksy 2002)
  • In a study of farmworker mothers in the Salinas Valley, 78% had detectable levels of common pesticides, a level higher than the national average. (Castorina, 2010)  Another study found that the state and federal laws that are meant to protect workers from pesticide exposure are not fully implemented. (Murphy-Green 2002)
  • A study of over 100 male farmworkers from North Carolina found 38% had significant levels of stress, including 5 stressor domains: legality and logistics, social isolation, work conditions, family, and substance abuse by others; 18.4% of farmworkers had impairing levels of anxiety and 41.6% depression; social isolation was strongly associated with anxiety and working conditions were strongly associated with depression. (Hiott 2008)
  • Interviews from 52 farmworker women found that nearly all had experienced or knew someone who had experienced rape, stalking, unwanted touching, exhibitionism, or vulgar and obscene language by supervisors, employers, and others in positions of power. (Human Rights Watch, 2012)


Check Please Report Many times, entire workplaces or communities of immigrant workers are trapped in a cycle of low-wage labor. As the result of unenforced labor laws, unscrupulous employers, and the constant fear of deportation and retribution from their employers, many immigrants work for below minimum wage or no wage. In a striking example, immigrant workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown are shortchanged an estimated $8 million a year in wages by employers who violate minimum wage laws.  Li Jun, an immigrant who works in San Francisco and shares a single resident occupancy hotel room with her family, says: “I want the government to enforce minimum wage laws. I want them to allow people like us to have just a little bigger space to live.”  The occupational vulnerability that results from legal status forces immigrants into jobs with low pay and long hours – significantly reducing access to healthcare, healthy food, and healthy housing.

Here are a few examples from public health research (for more resources click here):

  • A review of US farmworkers found that fewer than 20% have health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs. (Villarejo, 2003)
  • The survey of workers from restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown also found that 42% work over 40 hours a week, half of these people work over 60 hours a week and 54% of worker pay for health care out of pocket. (Chinese Progressive Association, 2010)

What will immigration reform do to the jaula?

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), which recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, includes provisions that will have a major impact on immigrant workers and their workplaces.  For immigrant workers and non-workers alike, the bill creates a “path to citizenship” that is estimated to take up to 13 years to traverse.  It is likely to exclude many of currently undocumented immigrants because of the stringent eligibility criteria.  The millions who are eligible for the newly-created Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) Status will be able to work and, it is estimated, increase their earnings by 15 percent over five years.  The boost to the economy would create an estimated 121,000 jobs each year.  The provisions specifically related to workers and employment include:

  • Increase in visas for skilled immigrants.  Utilizing a points system, individuals would be eligible based on educational degrees, employment experience, the needs of U.S. employers, U.S. citizen relatives, and age.
  • Nonimmigrant W Visas for lower-skilled jobs.  Workers would authorized to work for up to three years for registered employers in an occupation with labor shortages.  W visa holders could eventually apply for merit-based green cards.
  • Mandatory use of E-Verify.  Also known as an Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS), a system for verification of workers’ authorization would be phased in based on employer size over a period of 5 years.
  • “Blue card” status for agricultural workers.  Workers who performed agricultural employment for no fewer than 575 hours between 2011 and 2012 would be eligible and then could apply for a green card in five years.
  • Additional provisions include protections that ensure that employees could collect back pay regardless of their immigration status and increase legal protections for immigrant workers who are fired in violation of labor laws.

The National Immigrant Law Center provides an excellent a summary and analysis of all of the provisions of the bill and the Washington Post has outlined the 48 amendments added during the Senate Judiciary hearings.

The jaula presented by Los tigres del norte is tragic and bleak.  The singer grives:

…mi Mexico querido
del que yo nunca me olvido
y no puedo regresar.
…my beloved Mexico
that I never forget
and can never return to.

Fortunately, despite many barriers and limitations, immigrant workers engage daily in forms of struggle to assert their rights.  On an individual level, many immigrant workers, such as the woman who survived sexual abuse in her workplace in the almond fields, are connecting with resources and services that support them as they struggle to make a life in the United States.  Others come together to create workplace or political advocacy groups.  Around the country, immigrants, supported by advocacy groups, unions, and other workers, have been fighting in workplace-by-workplace winning back jobs and wages and increased labor protections.  Some groups, such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have been able to advance public policies.  Others, such as the Chipotle food servers and the Pacific Steel workers, have launched local workers’ rights movements.  These efforts to gain greater worker protections and more progressive immigration laws, are essential to protecting the health of immigrant workers.


The Curious Ostrich Immigration Policy-to-Health Framework

20 Feb

At the Curious Ostrich we provide updates and analysis on immigration news – providing health professionals and immigrant rights activists a “heads up” on immigration, xenophobia, and health. Looking at current events and national policy through a health perspective, we see that our immigration laws are powerful determinants of health for immigrants in the United States.  In the past, few public health researchers have focused on the ways immigration policies affect the rights, opportunities, and health of immigrants. But the public health field is increasingly taking notice that immigration policy is health policy. We believe that we will be more likely to achieve justice for immigrants and healthier communities when public health professionals understand (and address) the social and policy contexts that impact immigrant communities.

Last year, the American Public Health Association issued a policy statement supporting an end to the Secure Communities enforcement program.  The American Journal of Public Health published a recent study calling for more research on how state-level immigration policies, specifically, SB 1070, affect public health.  A growing number of researchers are trying to document and understand how policies and the experience of being undocumented affects health, such as immigrants’ access to health care (Stevens et al., 2010; Vargas Bustamante et al., 2011) and the impact of family separation, legal vulnerability, and stress in undocumented families (Arbona et al., 2010; Brabeck and Xu, 2010).

This is an important starting point!  Yet, the immediate experiences of immigrants and their families are the result of the full context of their lives in the United States, as well as our nation’s often anti-immigrant history, culture, politics, and laws.  Public health research and action must reflect this full picture.  

We have created a framework to illustrate the web of factors related to laws and policies that have an impact on the health of immigrants.

Immigration and Health Diagram_6

1) Our laws and policies are rooted in historical, political and cultural contexts.  The US has implemented immigration policies since it founding, including deportation and exclusionary policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Each wave of anti-immigrant policy has been driven by racist and xenophobic narratives – immigrants viewed as a threat or as undeserving. The legacies of these cultural narratives and harmful policies continue to impact how immigrants are treated both in our political and popular debates and narratives.

2) These laws and policies influence the circumstances of immigrant’s lives, specifically their rights, resources, and safety.  Can immigrants access appropriate and affordable health care services? Do immigrant workers receive fair wages and are they safe in their workplaces? Are immigrant children able to attend schools and universities?  Do immigrants feel respected and safe in their communities? All of these questions are decided by specific federal, state, and local policies that expand or limit the rights and resources that determine the opportunities for immigrants and their families, as well as their overall safety in this nation as they pursue those opportunities.  These three factors are interconnected, as rights can create safety and access to resources or safety and resources can support individuals to exercise their rights.

3) These three factors are also inseparable, because the positive presence of all three are needed to promote positive physical, mental and community health outcomes.
When protective factors – such as access to health and educational services – align, immigrants will experience greater health and well-being. The lack of any or all three of these, such as limited access to employment and educational opportunities, stress and fear due to discrimination and anti-immigrant legislation, or vulnerability to violence, result in significant health risks.

Public health professionals and immigrants rights activists will have to make critical assessments of how existing and proposed policies may protect or harm the health of our nation’s immigrants. Our hope is that this diagram provides a framework for considering how various immigration policies may actually impact immigrant communities.  For example, the debate on “comprehensive immigration reform” is just heating up. It is heartening that there is growing support for a path to citizenship, but the proposals currently being developed would make the process lengthy and burdensome and continue existing bans on receiving public benefits. The proposals would also further codify border militarization and enforcement programs. Public health has an important role to play in these debates – ensuring that the true community costs are considered as immigration policy decisions move forward.

When we look at this diagram, we also see many opportunities for action! People working in all areas of public health can incorporate an immigrants rights perspective into their work. In the coming months, we will provide information and discussion on some of the main health issue areas in this diagram. And we will share ideas and opportunities for health and immigration activists alike to participate in this work.

Stay tuned to the Curious Ostrich for up-to-date health research and analysis.

2013: New opportunities for healthy immigration reform?

9 Jan

The Curious Ostrich has big plans for 2013! We are now moving to a monthly format, providing readers with in-depth analysis and commentary on the public health impact of immigration policies and national conversations around immigration. As always, our mission is to bring attention to the ways immigration policies affect health and to provide information and resources for health and immigration advocates alike. Want regular updates on immigration issues? Like our Facebook page!TCO cover

Over the course of 2012, a number of policies and events across the country significantly, and often negatively, affected the health of immigrants and their communities. Deportations continued at an all time high, separating families and at great cost to our economy. Due to programs such as Secure Communities 1.6 million people were deported during President Obama’s first term. Our nation’s growing immigration enforcement system now receives more funding than all other federal enforcement agencies combined. This focus on enforcement and a militarized border increased border violence and resulted in many deaths, some perpetrated  by the US Border Patrol itself.

Immigrants also continue to be denied many basic rights. For example, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes a long way in expanding access to health insurance, undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-approved individuals are barred from new health insurance programs. At the state level, although the Supreme Court knocked down many of the provisions in Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070,  the “paper’s please” provision will move forward.  Other states continue to follow Arizona’s lead in anti-immigrant legislation.

The impact of xenophobia and anti-immigrant politicking is not limited to immigrant communities. For example, in 2012 the Violence Against Women Act, a traditionally non-controversial, bi-partisan bill, failed to be reauthorized for the first time in its history. This was in part due to Republican supposed opposition to protections for immigrant women.

In 2012, we also saw promising policies and inspiring activism by undocumented immigrants, particularly youth. Influenced by ongoing activism by DREAMers, President Obama granted deferred action to “childhood arrivals” (DACA), creating the largest opening in many years for undocumented individuals to gain work permission and protection from deportation. While not a long-term solution, DACA created opportunities for many young immigrants.

Exciting grassroots mobilizations also helped raise the profile of immigrant issues and pushed forward a more progressive policy agenda. The Caravan for Peace turned attention to the human impact of border violence and the United State’s role in drug war violence; undocumented youth are using art and creativity to assert their rights; DREAMers sat-in at Obama campaign offices; the Undocubus shared stories at the Democratic National Convention; and the Campaign for the American Dream team walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about immigration policy.

Moving into 2013

Building on this momentum, 2013 brings new opportunities for making immigration policy more just and protecting immigrant communities. President Obama’s re-election turned new attention to the power of communities of color in our political system and we now have the most diverse Congress in US history. Polling suggests that the public and elected officials are ready to consider immigration reform. President Obama has repeatedly stated that comprehensive immigration reform will be a priority early on in his second administration. However, for too long, political debates about immigration have focused on controlling immigration through the criminalization and stereotyping of immigrants.  Therefore, we hope to see these policy discussions and decisions acknowledge the importance of immigrants to our society and economy and affirm that all people, including immigrants and regardless of their immigration status, have rights as residents of this nation.  Specific policies that we would like to see from the 113th congress include:

      • Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the US.  The increasing numbers of young immigrants applying for deferred action demonstrates that creating a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for papers is not only relatively politically non-controversial, but is feasible and has tremendous positive impacts. This is a start, but temporary status for a small portion of undocumented immigrants is not enough.  There are still roughly 11 million individuals who lack papers and a path to citizenship. This is an injustice, not only to these individuals, but to their families and communities and the nation as a whole.
      • Reduce deportations and keep families together.  Enforcement programs and deportations needlessly tear people from their jobs, communities and families, with devastating emotional and economic impacts.  A simple fix would be to end programs such as Secure Communities.  In addition, policies are needed to end the fear that deportations have caused by creating clear delineations between local police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
      • Create accountability over and reform the detention system. The unregulated and unhealthy network of privatized detention centers must be reformed and regulated. This should include expanding accountability and oversight for current detention centers.  The all-historic-high number of detention beds in centers and county jails creates a gross profit motive and should be reduced.
      • End the militarization of the border.  Border fence and patrolling policies throw money into militarization, rather than the true safety of people in the United States.  There should be an end to financial support for the border fence, reduction in funding for the Border Patrol, and increased oversight over the Border Patrol, including the training and background of officers and their use of surveillance technology.
      • Increase access to education and social services for all immigrants.  Immigrants should be positively included in public policies.  This is a matter of both fairness and of effective crafting of public policies, as economic, social service and health policies ultimately have an impact on immigrant communities, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

The connection to health

At The Curious Ostrich, we believe that all of these policies and their resulting challenges and opportunities for immigrants are public health issues. Immigration policies, and related social and economic policies, directly impact the health of immigrants in a number of ways – from reduced access to essential services and resources to the  fear and stress that result from discrimination, criminalization and deportation. Over the course of 2013, we will continue to explore these links between immigration policies and health:

      • Access to health care— Many people are barred or have limited access to health insurance and health care services due to their immigration status. Access to regular primary care is important in preventing many diseases (e.g. diabetes), while limited emergency care services results in unnecessary deaths.
      • Diminished rights and protections— Fear of deportation diminishes the rights of undocumented individuals by shaping their decisions about accessing services such as education or police protection. For instance, many undocumented workers are victims of wage theft, yet they do not have legal recourse without risking deportation.
      • Access to resources— Diminished rights lead to reduced access to resources to lead a healthy life. For example, undocumented immigrants may choose not to access public resources, such as education or social services, because they believe they are not eligible or they are afraid of coming into contact with government officials.
      • Discrimination— There is widespread anti-immigrant sentiment embedded in our national policy and media discourses, and anti-immigrant groups continue to advocate effectively for policies that devalue and dehumanize immigrants because of their lack of legal standing. From conservative politicians campaigning on deportation policies, to widespread discriminatory commentary in the news, there is a strong national narrative that a lack of papers justifies less-than-humane treatment.

There are feasible policy solutions that can reduce the risks to and protect the health of immigrant communities. There are dynamic and mobilized advocates who will continue to fight for the rights of immigrants.  Public health advocates can play a critical role.  Therefore, in 2013, our hope is to see not a continuation of the short-term and enforcement-focused policies often associated with “comprehensive” immigration reform, but rather the promotion of healthy immigration reform.

“Reform” for whom?; deportation is the problem; DACA update; and the 10 worst detention centers 11/12-11/18

18 Nov

Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham

What’s really in immigration “reform”?  
Seth Freed Wessler of Colorlines.com posses the question: “What qualifies as “reform,” for whom and at what price?“ Those who are concerned about the well-being of immigrants should be wary of the political rhetoric starting to fly about the halls of Congress and the airwaves of the mainstream media. The dominant narrative in the US is that the immigration system is broken.  This narrative helps perpetuate the view that undocumented people are criminals or lawbreakers.  As a result, the policy “solutions” that are likely to be re-introduced in the next Congress focus heavily on enforcement measures.  Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham, who co-authored a bill that failed in 2010, are likely to take the lead.  In interviews after the election, both stated that their plan would be “heavy on enforcement and avoid anything that sounds like amnesty.” As Colorlines.com reports, immigrant advocates are prepared to take a stand against so-called reform measures that increase enforcement.

Deportation the problem, not immigration courts
A report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department highlights our nation’s broken enforcement and deportation policies. The report determined that the backlog of cases in immigration courts are due to increased deportations, not problems with the court system.  Currently, immigration judges are ruling on an average of 1,200 deportation cases each year and the system still has a backlog of over 300,000 cases of individuals awaiting to see whether or not they face deportation.

Over 50,000 individuals approved under DACA
In total, over 300,000 applications have been filed.  Data released by USCIS show that over 80,000 applications have been submitted by individuals in California, almost 50,000 from Texas, and almost 20,000 from New York.  It is predicted that as many as 100,000 individuals will be approved by the end of the year.  The New York Times predicts that the number of applicants is likely to increase now that President Obama’s re-election ensures that the policy will continue.

“Expose and Close” campaign pushes for closure of 10 detention centers
Detention Watch Network’s campaign to end the nation’s detention system has released a report highlighting the conditions in 10 of the worst detention centers in the US.  They document the chronic human rights violations in these 10 centers as a means of drawing attention to the rampant abuses and lack of oversight across all 250 of ICE’s detention facilities.

14 Die in crash at border, Mrs. Obama decries shattered families, Guatemalan mother loses child while in detention, DOJ sponsors FAIR attendee, 7/16-7/23

26 Jul
Crashed Truck at Southeastern Border

Photo by: CNN

Another tragedy due to increased border enforcement
As the border becomes more militarized, migrants put themselves into more dangerous situations. One such situation had a tragic ending this weekend as a truck loaded with passengers veered off the road and crashed into a tree in Southeastern Texas. Among the 14 who died. two were children. Authorities in Texas are having a difficult time identifying victims because many of the carried little more than toothpaste and a change of socks.

First Lady speaks out against shattered families
Mrs.Obama spoke with Univision, where she said, “There is nothing more critical than keeping families together and that is why Barack has been fighting so hard for comprehensive immigration reform.” This would be the same Barack Obama who has deported over 1 million immigrants since he arrived in office. Many who are parents themselves.

Courts deny parental rights to Guatemalan mother
In a travesty of justice, a Missouri juvenile court denied a Guatemalan mother parental rights this past week. Her son was adopted by another family while she was held at a detention center after ICE raided the poultry plant where she worked. Her son became one of the many who lost their parents because of detention and deportation. The case made national headlines, but even with the raised attention, the boy was not returned his biological mother. The decision is an example of a family devastated by detention. It also demonstrates that lack of recognition for the rights of immigrant parents and their ability to raise their own children.

Sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina use federal funds to attend event sponsored by hate-group FAIR
As reported by pro-immigrant blog, Imagine 2050, sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina have used federal funds from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to attend meetings held by the notorious anti-immigrant group FAIR. The deputies have frequent interaction with FAIR, despite having open racial profiling cases against them by the DOJ. By allowing federal funding from the DOJ to pay for FAIR events, the United States government is supporting the anti-immigrant sentiments that these group support. This is what institutional racism looks like.

DREAMers begin walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., 3/5-3/12

12 Mar
The Curiuos Ostrich bloggers meet the walkers of The Campaign for an American Dream

The Curiuos Ostrich bloggers meet the walkers of The Campaign for an American Dream.

On Saturday, March 10, youth from across the US left San Francisco to walk in support of the DREAM Act.  Their organization is the aptly named Campaign for an American Dream.  As Republicans and Democrats vie for presidential votes, these young people will also engage with voters, sharing the stories of their struggles to motivate DREAM Act supporters and to challenge the assumptions of opponents.  They will arrive in Washington,D.C. in time for election night in November.

Last weekend, Curious Ostrich bloggers had the opportunity to sit down with Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas and Nico to hear about their plans and motivation for this journey.  Over plates of spaghetti and between bites of garlic bread, they discussed everything from their strategy for crossing the Rockies to how they may handle threatening situations.  They have been meeting weekly by phone for months with an extensive group of activists from around the nation that are supporting the effort.  A legal team is providing them with legal advice and working with local law enforcement in each county they walk through to ensure their protection.  A logistics team is coordinating volunteer hosts to provide food and lodging in each town and city they visit.  This network of support will allow the walkers to focus on their goal, which is, in their own words: “To create positive, productive dialogue around the passage of the DREAM Act and fairer immigration policies in general.”

They have each put aside their studies, jobs and family responsibilities for the nine month trip.  Lucas, one of the first members of the organization, explained by email why they decided to organize this walk: CAD was inspired by the Trail of DREAMs in 2010, which was a walk that took place from Miami, FL to Washington DC. When we came together to discuss the possibilities for the DREAMer movement in a re-election year, we wanted to create a walk on a larger scale that would take us across America. By reaching out to more communities in the nation throughout the West Coast and the Midwest, we can plant the seeds for a real change in America. A change that not only takes place legislatively, but through the public’s hearts and minds.

Despite the challenge ahead, they all displayed a healthy dose of humor, cracking jokes at one another about who would carry who when the going got tough.  Between laughs and discussion of their strategy, glimpses also emerged of the sorrow and disappointment of living within the confines of our immigration system and of the challenge ahead of them.  Jonatan, a recent college grad from Georgia, had recently spent four weeks in a detention center. Raymi, born in Utah, represents one of the 8.8 million people in the US who are in mixed-status families.

As the walkers made their final preparations this week, news came out of Georgia that the state legislature has moved closer to barring undocumented students from all 60 public colleges and universities (currently, they are barred from the 5 most competitive colleges in the state system).  Jonatan shared his thoughts with The Curious Ostrich via email about the developments in his home state:

If Senate Bill 458 becomes law, undocumented students will not be able to attend state colleges even if the students can pay full tuition upfront. This is flat out unacceptable. I am very ashamed that the state of Georgia refuses to see the abundance of bright minds in the undocumented youth. I am not going to sit with my hands crossed, I will make it known that I am walking for the undocumented youth in Georgia and I will not rest until we are able to fight this bill down. I was educated in a public university in Georgia so what does that say about my degree? I think that this is a matter of discrimination to undocumented youth and we are being bullied by lawmakers. This isn’t right.

At the heart of what is so exciting and inspiring about these youth and other young DREAM activists is their resilience and creativity.  In the face of the risk of “coming out” as undocumented and the potential for deportation, DREAMers have used creative, direct-action tactics to hold lawmakers accountable and provide each other with support.  Just as importantly, young activists such as Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas and Nico give the American public a human side of the immigration debate.

 Follow their walk at http://www.cadwalk2012.org

In other News:
ICE Closes 1 Percent of Deportation Cases, New America Media, 3/9/12
John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that ICE has reviewed half of the 300,000 pending deportation cases and that only 1,500, or 1 %, were closed.
Court blocks more parts of Alabama immigration law, Reuters, 3/8/12
A US appeals court expanded its injunction against additional parts of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law.  Pending further ruling, the state will not be able to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining a driver’s license or from entering contracts with the state.
Silicon Valley leaders take up the Dream on behalf of young migrants, Los Angeles Times, 3/7/12
A group of Silicon Valley corporate donors is working to support undocumented students’ access to higher education and access to jobs through paid internships.

Let’s call it what it is: 396,906 = Mass Deportation, 10/17-10/24

24 Oct

Latinos Said to Bear Weight of a Deportation Program, NewYorkTimes, 10/18/11

The Department of Homeland Security’s report on annual deportations has become an expected and widely reported reverse census, an accounting of how many people are no longer in the country. This week’s announcement, that a record 396,906 individuals had been deported, caused quite a media flurry.  Through TV, radio or print the number 396,906 has been sliced and diced to report the percentage of criminals, the percentage that is Latino, the percentage that left citizen children behind, etc.

What was not reported however, was Why the number 396,906?  This reverse census has come to be considered an inevitable and acceptable aspect of our immigration system.

The fact is that 396,906 deportations are not inevitable. This number is not caused by undocumented individuals, but by the Bush and Obama administrations’ policy of mass deportation.  The Executive Branch sets policies such as Secure Communities and use of workplace raids to proactively remove immigrants, all under the guise of national security. Continue reading