Archive | July, 2009

Obama Addresses Immigrant Health Care Agenda

27 Jul

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Last week, CBS’s Katie Couric interviewed President Barack Obama on issues addressing immigrant health care reform in the U.S. When asked whether undocumented immigrants should be covered under a new health plan, Obama disagreed, except for one exception.

“If you’ve got children who may be here illegally but are still in playgrounds or at schools, and potentially are passing on illnesses and communicable diseases that aren’t getting vaccinated, that I think is a situation where you may have to make an exception.”

It is irrational to make an exception for undocumented children and not for undocumented adults. It must be taken under consideration that children are not the only ones who may be passing on illnesses and diseases. Undocumented  adults interact with citizens all the time–in gas stations, restaurants, churches, hospitals, public transportation, taxis, schools, offices, marketplaces and gyms on a daily basis, for example. It has been shown that these adults, who lack of health insurance, are forced to use emergency health services, or nothing at all. This makes no sense economically.

Anti-immigrant activists oppose covering undocumented immigrants in any public health care bill because they claim that it might lure more  immigrants to the U.S. who will “take advantage” of health care benefits. President Obama is feeling the heat to fulfill the mandate of the voters who put him in office and wants to take action before his August deadline.

“We’re not going to cover undocumented workers,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,  “That’s too politically explosive.”

What would be unfortunate–and has the potential to be truly explosive in the long run, for the U.S.–would be to provide health insurance for undocumented children, but not their parents. Clearly there are many American-born children with undocumented parents who suffer from a lack of health insurance coverage.

American citizens are not the only individuals living in the U.S., and  undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S., pay taxes and contribute to our economy. They deserve and depend on health care as much as American citizens–47 million of whom also lack coverage. In fact, health care should be considered a human right–not a “privilege.”

At the White House press conference, President Obama acknowledged that “We spend more on health care than any other nation. We must rebuild the economy stronger than before, and health care reform is central to that effort.”

He is completely right about this.

If we want to rebuild our economy, immigration reform is just as important.

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Another DREAMer is victorious!!!

27 Jul

tahaTaha Mowla, an 18-year-old graduate of Dickinson High school in New Jersey, who has lived in the U.S. for the past 16 years, was set for deportation because his lawyer missed a filing date on his application for permanent residency when he was a minor.

His pending deportation set for July 29th to Bangladesh was brought to a end when Taha was granted deferred action by the Department of Homeland Security, thanks to tremendous efforts from fellow DREAMers, SEIU and Dreamactivist.org.

Supporters of Taha’s deportation termination signed petitions, co-signed Senator Menedez’s letter on Taha’s behalf, called DHS’s Secretary Janet Napolitano and urged her to defer action on Taha’s deportation, called New Jersey Senators Menedez, Lautenberg, and Congressman Sires to sign a private bill on Taha’s behalf, as well as join Taha’s Facebook Group.

Their selfless efforts made a huge difference in Taha’s life.

“I am overwhelmed with the kindness of the Department of Homeland Security and the support of Senator Menendez and hundreds of grassroots activists whose efforts have changed my life forever,” said Taha. “Today, instead of packing my bags to be taken off to a country I do not know, I am rejoicing with friends and family over the life I am blessed to live and the achievements I am sure to accomplish in this country that I love.”

Taha’s victory has made headlines throughout the nation and inspired others to fight for their rights to remain in the U.S. Sadly there are millions of other

DREAMers who are still at risk for deportation.

Both Taha and Walter, who were granted deferred action by DHS, will be working with DREAM activists and grassroots organizations to provide the same assistance they were given to other DREAMers who are bombarded with difficulties in pursuit of a better life and education.

It is up to all DREAMers and supporters to take action and help us pass the DREAM Act in order to prevent situations like these and provide better education for all DREAMers! Si se puede!

Napolitano and DHS Expand 287(g) Program

22 Jul

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The Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary, Janet Napolitano, recently announced that ICE has expanded the 287 (g) program to 11 new jurisdictions.

This is horrible news.

“This new agreement supports local efforts to protect public safety by giving law enforcement the tools to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens,” Napolitano said.

All agencies that actively participate in the 287(g) program are obligated to sign the new agreement and abide by the new requirements in order to continue as participating organizations. The new agreement officially emphasizes going after serious and violent criminals and expanded federal oversight in an effort  to prevent overzealous local implementation of the program.

These words on paper will not change the fact that the 287(g) program is a failure, and amounts to state-sanctioned racial profiling and wholesale intimidation of immigrant communities. Several studies have shown these facts. The program should be completely canceled–not sugar-coated to try to counteract its well-deserved bad reputation.

Realistically, there is no way that Napolitano and DHS can ensure that law enforcement officers will follow the rules and regulations. In fact, most of them receive inadequate training to do this work. We have seen what little respect infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has for the human rights of immigrants.

Despite claims that ICE agents are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation professionally, humanely and with acute awareness of the impact enforcement has on the individuals they encounter, they persistently disregard the law and commit offensive acts and inappropriate behavior against undocumented immigrants–pointing loaded guns at mothers, in front of their children, for example. This happened here in Florida during a raid last year.

The 287(g) program IS  racial profiling at its worst, and the fallout from keeping it around includes unjust detentions and deportations, false imprisonment and constitutional violations–or less visibly, immigrant communities living in fear–so much that they won’t even report crimes.

What could be worse for our communities?

Council on Foreign Relations Addresses Need to Overhaul U.S. Immigration System

13 Jul

The CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy has come out in favor of immigration reform in their report, which addresses concerns about U.S. immigration policy and national security. In their report which was released this month, they said the growing numbers of illegal immigration in the United States is causing continuous harm to our national interests.

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CFR urges Congress and the Obama Administration to move ahead with immigration reform legislation in order to achieve three critical goals:

  • Reform the legal immigration system for more efficient operation, respond to labor market necessities, and enhance U.S. competitiveness;
  • Restore immigration law’s integrity through an enforcement regime that strongly discourages employers and employees from operating outside the legal system, secure America’s borders, and levy significant penalties against those who violate the rules; and
  • Offer a fair, humane, and orderly way to allow many of the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to earn the right to remain here legally.

 

The Task Force’s recommendations for immigration policy reform show the immigration system’s potential to improve and better serve our country’s national interests. It is time to move forward—and fix our broken immigration system.

The CFR report states that “continued failure to devise and implement a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America’s economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security.”

 

We can and must do better.

Police Press Conference Addresses Need for Immigration Reform

6 Jul

jtimoneyAs Congress and the President are poised to tackle immigration reform, Chief John Timoney, Miami’s Chief of Police, Chief Art Acevedo, the Police Chief of Austin TX, and former Sacramento Police Chief, Art Venegas, held a press conference at the Biltmore Hotel, in Miami, coordinated by America’s Voice, to address how the broken immigration system has a negative effect on law enforcement and public safety.

“It is crucial that the law enforcement perspective be considered in any debate on immigration,” Chief Timoney said. “All our citizens are directly affected, whether they are immigrants or not, by these policies.”

More police departments throughout the country are taking a stand in favor of immigration reform—and they are drawing these conclusions from their own experience. If an undocumented individual witnesses a crime, they often do not contact local law enforcement for fear of being detained and/or deported. Clearly this does not help our communities. Many are also in favor of issuing drivers licenses to all residents, including the undocumented, as this would provide useful data, encourage all drivers to get auto insurance, and diminish the incidence of hit and run accidents.

FLIC is pleased to see that leaders in law enforcement acknowledge the urgent—and practical—need for immigration reform—and we will count on their leadership and support as we move forward.

Victory! Justice For A Hardworking DREAMer!

6 Jul

walterlara Last Wednesday, July 1st, Walter Lara held a press conference in Washington D.C. hoping to persuade Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to stop his pending deportation.

Thanks to SWER, SEIU, First Focus, and FLIC’s much appreciated efforts—including planning a fast for Walter’s cause—Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson asked a top Homeland Security official to postpone Lara’s deportation because “he has earned the chance to live and work here and call America home.” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) introduced a private bill for the same thing. On July 2nd,  The Department of Homeland Security moved to defer Walter Lara’s scheduled deportation that was set for July 6th, 2009 to July 3rd, 2010—providing him with a one year stay in the U.S. “As I look to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends this weekend, I have once again seen what makes America the best country in the world. Americans are fair, just, and kind” Walter said.

At this point, Lara is allowed to apply for a job legally. Unfortunately he cannot apply for citizenship. Although his case has been deferred, he may be deported at any time. “Walter Lara’s deferred action is a major step towards the passage of the DREAM Act and a symbol for youth power in Miami. As we celebrate this victory, we must remember that are 2 million students in the USA who are going through a very similar situation,” said SWER’s Felipe Matos. Hopefully the DREAM Act will be passed in the next year so that undocumented students like Walter can have hope for brighter futures.

FLIC’s interns go on a road trip! Check out what the Social Justice Scholars were up to in NYC!

1 Jul

SJS NYC Group PicOn behalf of the Civic Opportunities Initiative Network (COIN), the New World Foundation, and Marga Incorporated, our fellow interns made their way to the “Big Apple!” All ten interns, along with Siria, Naftalie, Francesca and Danna, spent 25 hours together, driving and getting to know each other better. The FLIC and WeCount! interns, along with 50 others from Community Coalition (South L.A.), CHIRLA- Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., Make the Road New York, Southwest Organizing Project (New Mexico), and Tenants & Workers United (Northern Virginia) came together on Friday June 26th for COINS’s three-day kickoff retreat.

The retreat included discussions about race, class, gender, prejudice, discrimination, institutional power, privileges, and systems of oppression in the U.S. Activities addressed cross-cultural communication, teamwork-building, social justice, political leadership, academics and a “no-talent show.” We started by watching an introductory video explaining COINS’s main objective: to strengthen community leadership, establish intergenerational and interethnic collaboration, and stabilize community-based organizations as strong anchors for development in low-income communities. By creating strong relationships with organizations in their communities, youth will have an opportunity to incorporate active citizenship into their education— learning about service, advocacy, organizing, and what it takes to build effective community organizations. Before each workshop or activity we did an ice-breaker to make everyone feel comfortable.

We were divided into groups of five—each teammate from a different organization. We discussed academic empowerment and its goals. One goal was to understand the history of inequality in the U.S. and its education system. Another was to access where you are academically and practice tracking your progress. During one activity we learned how prejudice + discrimination + privilege + institutional power = oppression. We defined discrimination, privilege, and prejudice and differentiated one from the other. We wrote each other “fuzzies”—basically compliments for one another on sticky notes that we put up on a wall. It made us all feel positive and empowered.

And on the final day of the retreat, we took them off and read them. The interns went out for evening excursions at Times Square, and meals throughout the city. The entire trip was an exceptionally motivating and unforgettable hands-on experience for all the Miami/Homestead scholars. As our summer internships continue, we are bonding and connecting with one another, becoming more involved and building on our knowledge and awareness as we discuss pressing social issues in our communities.