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Should Taxpayers Be Funding Private Schools That Teach Creationism? February 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Religion, Right Wing, Science and Technology.
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Roger’s note: What is at issue here is not only the question of publicly funding the idiotic notion of creationism, but the very substance of public education.  Public education (advocated by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto) is a sine qua non of democracy.  The massive effort by the extreme right to privatize public education, aided and abetted by Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is aimed at replacing what is left of democracy in the United States with theocratic tinged militarized corporatism.

John Scalzi (CC BY 2.0)
Part of an exhibit at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.

By Zack Kopplin

According to so-called education reform advocates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education, school vouchers, which allow parents to direct state money to private schools of their choice, are essential because “families need the financial freedom to attend schools that meet their needs.” From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, to Newark, N.J.’s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, these programs are backed by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and they enjoy the support of powerful interest groups such as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the American Federation for Children.

Voucher programs have been established in 12 states and the District of Columbia, and they are spreading as Texas and Tennessee attempt to create ones of their own. As the use of vouchers has expanded across the country in recent years, new questions have arisen that extend beyond concerns about their appropriateness and legality. We’ve pushed standards, testing and accountability for public schools, so why shouldn’t private institutions receiving vouchers have to meet those same requirements? Should private institutions be allowed to ignore state science standards and teach their students creationism while receiving taxpayer money? Does learning about biblical creation, rather than evolution, really help to meet students’ needs?

I first investigated the relationship between creationism and voucher programs after reading an AlterNet article in June about Eternity Christian Academy in Louisiana. Now removed from the state’s voucher program, the school was using the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum to teach students that the mythical Loch Ness Monster existed and somehow disproved evolution. As I looked further into Louisiana’s program, I found that there wasn’t just one school but at least 20 private ones getting vouchers and thus receiving millions of taxpayer dollars. After reviewing my research, New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist James Gill wrote that “vouchers have turned out to be the answer to a creationist’s prayer.”

This isn’t just a Louisiana problem. It seems clear that the U.S. is facing a national creationism epidemic. In an exposé I wrote posted by MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, I identified hundreds of additional voucher schools in nine states and the District of Columbia using dozens of different creationist curriculums. These schools are receiving tens of millions of dollars, and maybe even hundreds of millions, to teach religious beliefs in violation of state science standards. With 164 such campuses, Florida’s John M. McKay Scholarships for Students With Disabilities Program contained the highest concentration of creationist voucher schools I was able to uncover. Indiana, which has been marketed as the “gold standard” for voucher accountability, has at least 37 such schools teaching creationism. A couple of its campuses proudly advertise that their students are taken to the Creation Museum on field trips. So far, I’ve discovered 311 creationist voucher schools across the country.

Those 311 schools are not the only taxpayer funded institutions teaching creationism. There are likely hundreds more. Although many are difficult to find, either because they don’t have websites or don’t advertise their creationist curriculum, lots of voucher schools fit the profile of creationist campuses that are already known. On top of this, two states, Arizona and Mississippi, have voucher programs but don’t release the names of participating schools. Officials with the Arizona Department of Education confirmed to me that every private school in the state is eligible to participate in the program, and since I’ve identified private creationist schools there that could be involved, there is little doubt that Arizona is funding some of them. I believe it’s a safe bet that every school voucher program in the country is financing creationism.

These campuses would be shut if they were subject to the same standards as public institutions. The courts have shot down the teaching of creationism and intelligent design with public money over and over again, so why are we letting taxpayer funded private voucher schools teach them? The scientists and educators who devised both state science standards and the national common core standards knew creationism was pseudo-science that would not help American students get the education they need to succeed in a global, 21st century economy. That’s why we don’t teach creationism in public schools. Taxpayers should be outraged that their hard-earned dollars are enabling the mis-education of private school students.

Aside from not meeting these basic academic standards, many voucher schools suffer from other significant problems. Louisiana bloggers have exposed profiteering prophets who sought to capitalize on taxpayer funding for private schools. The Miami New Times reports that voucher schools in Florida are being run by administrators who “include criminals convicted of cocaine dealing, kidnapping, witness tampering, and burglary.” A school in Louisiana’s program was slated to receive millions of dollars from vouchers but lacked the facilities needed to house new students.

Proponents of vouchers argue that diverting money from public to private schools will help students learn by increasing inter-campus competition. But when voucher programs contain institutions that teach creationism instead of science, it’s easy to see that damage is being done to students whose futures are jeopardized by poor education.

Although a judge recently ruled that the way Louisiana funds its school voucher program is unconstitutional, it continues to operate as the state appeals the decision. Similarly, the voucher program in Colorado has been halted by a court injunction. But given the aggressive activity of taxpayer funded voucher programs across the country, we need to fight to make sure that no additional ones are created. And we need to stop politicians in states such as Indiana and Wisconsin from following through on plans to expand already existing programs. Today’s students and our nation’s future demand it.

Zack Kopplin is a science education advocate and winner of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Education and the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin Award.

In Arizona, Life Somehow Begins Two Weeks Before Conception. Don’t Ask. April 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Arizona, Health, Women.
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04.13.12 – 1:08 PM, www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

Proving definitively that Arizona is the worst place in the country to be a woman, or even a biped, Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law three extreme anti-abortion measures including a so-called “egg drop” bill that effectively bans abortion after 18 weeks, except in cases of medical emergency, by redefining pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception. Also under the richly named Women’s Health and Safety Act, schools and the state must promote adoption and birth as the best outcome for an unwanted pregnancy, in part by displaying images of fetuses. And clinics must have signs warning against abortion “coercion” – all this, in the name of  “protecting women from the serious health and safety risks of abortion.” We’re speechless.

GOP Wants To Be Sure Women/Idiot Children Understand What Rape Is and Get Permission Slips For Pretty Much Everything March 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org

The surreally awful news in the war on lady parts just keeps coming. An Idaho legislator wants women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and “counselling;” if she was raped, her doctor should make sure she was really raped and not just a participant in “normal relations in a marriage.” Alaska’s State Rep. Alan Dick (really) wants women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound and a written permission slip from the guy who, you know. Arizona wants to make it nigh on impossible to get an abortion, but if you make it through all the legislative hurdles you should have to watch an abortion. Then again, the author of the Arizona bill requiring women to prove to their bosses they are using birth control pills for non-slutty reasons, or get fired, is rewriting the bill because apparently, bewilderingly, some people got upset. Funny: Why don’t we feel better?

 

January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Immigration, Race, Racism.
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The Color of Collaboration

by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, January 17, 2012

 

Though the feds, after a three-year investigation, have charged Arizona’s racist thug and Sheriff Joe Arpaio with overseeing the worst racial profiling ever recorded, the nation’s two top (black) justice officials – President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – say they will “collaborate” with Arpaio to remedy abuses that grossly violate their own guidelines, says a scathing Phoenix New Times story, “Coddling Joe: How Do You Collaborate with A Felon?” Michael Lacey details Arpaio’s history of “police-state terror”: bullying the defenseless by sending out armed, ski-masked, body-armored SWAT teams to arrest drivers with busted turn signals; blatantly destroying a mountain of racist evidence; and finally, defiantly, not exactly quaking in his boots before the federal charges, but, rather, responding with a declaration he “will not cower,” accompanied by 29 pages of “lawyers’ brain vomit, lies, and threats.”

 

List of cities boycotting or condemning Arizona June 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Race, Racism.
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www.votolatino.org, May 13, 2010 

Below is a list of cities who have passed (or are considering passing) boycotts on business in Arizona or have condemned SB 1070.  Please comment and leave a source on this story if there are more cities not listed that have (or are considering) resolutions.

San Francisco

  • San Francisco supervisors, on a 10-1 vote, approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for a boycott of Arizona-based businesses. It asks for, but does not demand, that city departments refrain from entering into new contracts or extending existing ones with companies headquartered in Arizona, unless severing those ties would result in significant costs to the city or violate other laws. (via SF Gate)

Los Angeles

  • The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to stop doing business in Arizona unless the state’s tough new immigration law is repealed.  The city does about $52 million worth of business with Arizona companies, but it’s likely that only about $8 million worth of contracts can be terminated. (via NPR News)

Milwaukee, WI

  • The Milwaukee Common Council Tuesday (5/4) failed to act on a resolution calling for the city to boycott companies based in Arizona.  The council sent the measure back to committee. Alderman Robert Puente said his colleagues need to further study the Arizona law. (via WUWM)

Austin, TX

  • The resolution, proposed by Council Member Mike Martinez, calls for ending all business-related travel to Arizona by city employees, unless it is related to police investigations, providing humanitarian aid or protecting Austinites’ health and safety. (via Austin American Statesman)

West Hollywood, CA

  • The council voted 5-0 Monday night to approve the boycott. The action immediately suspends official travel to Arizona and calls for developing official sanctions. (via CBS2)

Boston, MA

  • As the City Council passed a resolution urging that Boston cut business ties with Arizona, Menino said it was important to send “a message’’ that the city disagrees with that state’s response to illegal immigration. (via Boston.com)

Oakland, CA

  • The council voted 7-0 Tuesday in favor of the boycott. It calls on city officials to review existing contracts with Arizona-based businesses and not enter into any new ones. It also says staff should not travel to the state on official city business. (via Fresno Bee)

St. Paul, MN

  • Mayor Chris Coleman is ordering city departments to no longer travel to conferences in the state of Arizona. (via My Fox 9)

Washington D.C.

  • Responding to Arizona’s new immigration law, the resolution requests that the city government and the employee pension fund “divest’ from all Arizona state and municipal bonds and ban city workers from traveling to that state on official business.  The resolution, which will be voted on at a later date, does not appear to prevent the city from doing business with Arizona-based companies, as some Hispanic activists had proposed. (via Washington Post)

New York City

  • New York’s City Council will consider a resolution calling for a boycott of all things Arizona. Ydanis Rodrigues, a Manhattan Democrat, filed the non-binding resolution Wednesday, a council aide confirmed. (via WSJ)

Boulder, CO

  • Employees of the City of Boulder will no longer be traveling to Arizona for business, City Manager Jane Brautigam announced, as a show of the city’s opposition to the recent immigration legislation passed in that state. (via Examiner)

Seattle, WA

  • Seattle’s City Council unanimously passed the Boycott Arizona Resolution, directing departments not to send employees to the Grand Canyon State and to refrain from doing new business with firms in Arizona in protest of the tragic new law. (via Examiner)

Brownsville, TX

  • During their Tuesday evening meeting, the city commission voted unanimously to pass a resolution against Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. (via Valley Central)

Hartford, CT

  • That until the repeal of SB 1070, the City of Hartford shall not engage in any discretionary travel to Arizona and when applicable and without conflicting with any laws, the City of Hartford shall not engage in any contract for goods or services with any Arizona-based company. the Court of Common Council urges all public and private universities with campuses in Hartford to decline invitations to any sports tournaments in Arizona (via L. E. Cotto and City of Hartford Resolution)

Coachella, CA

  • The Coachella City Council formally opposed Arizona’s new immigration law Wednesday night. (via Desert Sun)

El Paso, TX

  • The city’s resolution only condemned Arizona, but counselors added a boycott at last minute and approved the measure. (via News Channel 9)

Columbus, OH

  • Mayor Michael B. Coleman has banned city workers from traveling to Arizona on government business, a decision that plunged Columbus yesterday deep into the nation’s emotional debate over illegal immigration. (via The Columbus Dispatch)

Pedagogy of the Oppressor: Arizona’s Racism to the Top May 24, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Racism.
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Published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Jesse Hagopian

The interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.”-Paulo Freire, quoting Simone de Beauvoir, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed 

We should be teaching these kids that this is the land of opportunity, and, if they work hard, they can achieve their dreams, and not teach them that they’re oppressed.– Arizona’s Superintendent of Public schools Tom Horne defending HB  2281 that bans ethnic studies programs from the Arizona Public Schools.   

A divide deeper than the Grand Canyon separates the truth from Superintendent Horne’s justification for outlawing ethnic studies in Arizona. 

With the overall unemployment rate at 9.9 percent, the Black unemployment rate at 16.5 percent, and the Hispanic unemployment rate at 12.5 percent, the idea of working hard and getting ahead is a fast fading dream. Put in the context of Arizona’s recently ratified SB 1070-which codifies racial profiling into state law by compelling police to demand papers of anyone they “suspect” may be undocumented-Arizona’s banning of ethnic studies programs must be seen as an attempt to erase past lessons that would aid in current struggles against oppression.   

Call it Arizona’s 4 R’s curriculum: Reading, ‘Righting, ‘Rithmatic, and Racism.  

Horne’s primary target for his 4 R’s curriculum is the Tucson Unified School District’s popular Mexican-American studies department.  One of his primary objections to the program is their use of Paulo Freire’s classic text Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which argues against the “banking” model of education that perpetuates oppressions by muting creativity and critical thinking in a mechanical process where the teacher “deposits” facts that are to be memorized without any intrinsic value or connection to the students’ lives.  Freire posits that liberating education consists of a problem-posing method that helps students become “critical co-investigators in a dialogue with the teacher.”

The one claim of Superintendent Horne’s that we know must be true is his assertion that he has read Pedagogy of the Oppressed-judging by the way he has mastered the tactics of tyranny detailed by Freire.  Arizona’s HB 2281 specifically forbids classes that:

1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.  2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.  3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.  4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The first point leaves me confused. The primary unit where revolution enters the U.S. history curriculum is during the study of the American Revolution. When kids begin studying the Declaration of Independence in their seventh grade social studies class, is a teacher’s job now at risk if they fail to whiteout the section that reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”?

The second point is tragicomedy, since the SB 1070 and HB 2281 themselves are designed to promote resentment against Latinos by first making anyone with brown skin a potential suspect and then denying Arizonians access to education about Latino ethnicity. 

The third point erroneously assumes that ethnic studies programs can only benefit the culture that is the focus of the curriculum.  The Texas State Board of Education’s recent ratification of curriculum changes to their textbooks  (which have long been used as an industry standard for the rest of the country), deleting references to Harriet Tubman and inserting references to freemarketeer Thomas Freedman, only punctuated the fact that America’s pupils are in desperate need of courses that have not been whitewashed by conservative ideologues.

Point four is just some bedsheet-wearing-burning-cross-on-the-lawn-heckuva-job-Brownie, style racism. Superintendent Horne conflates ethnic solidarity with what he calls “ethnic chauvinism” in an effort to deny students access to the history of people of color. As the great Chicano union organizer César Chávez reminded us, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” In fact, a Wikipedia entry on ethnic chauvinism should be added to describe Horne’s support of the Arizona Department of Education’s recent decision to remove teachers whose spoken English is deemed to be heavily accented or ungrammatical from classes for students still learning English.

As Kim Dominguez, a graduate of the Tucson Public Schools’ Mexican American Raza Studies program, told the news show Democracy Now!, “Although Tom Horne has a lot of allegations about what the program is and what the classes do, he’s never visited a classroom, he’s never had a conversation with any of the students or the alumni…I think that if anything is promoted in the classes, it’s solidarity among humanity.”

Solidarity, however, is exactly what HB2281 wants to prohibit-because proponents don’t want a growing Mexican population to benefit from finding common political cause.

Here is what the apartheid state of Arizona doesn’t want its students to know: In the 1960s and 70s, people of color forged a common cause that radically altered the educational landscape in America.   

One of the highpoints of struggle for the Chicano movement on public schooling came in March of 1968 when students walked out of five high schools in East Los Angeles, in a protest described by the Los Angeles Times as “a week and a half of walkouts, speeches, sporadic lawbreaking, arrests, demands, picketing, sympathy demonstrations, sit-ins, police tactical alerts, and emergency sessions of the school board.” The demands of these students-most of which were won-included a citizens review board, the hiring of Chicano personnel in schools with majority Chicano enrollment, and authorizing the citizen board to develop bilingual and bicultural programs based on school-community partnership. Dropout rates declined dramatically, and the East Los Angeles walkouts became a model for Chicano activists across the Southwest. 

This movement helped pressure the U.S. government to conduct a Commission on Civil Rights from1968-1972 that provided the most detailed survey yet made of Mexican-American education.  The Mexican-American Education Study made a special analysis of schooling in the Southwest and revealed, as Meyer Winberg points out in his book, A Chance to Learn, 

…the essential continuity of Mexican-American education in the United States: (1) a high degree of segregation, (2) an extremely low academic achievement, (3) a predominance of exclusionary practices by schools, and (4) a discriminatory use of public finance.   

In fact, Arizona’s ethnic studies program itself was originally created to help resolve a race-discrimination lawsuit against Tucson public schools.  

Today, even as this month marks the 56th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education meant to strike down segregated schooling, the proportion of students of color who go to integrated schools has dropped to its lowest level since 1968.  The Urban Institute reported in 2005 that 70 percent of emergent bilingual students are concentrated in just 10 percent of schools, usually in urban poor areas.

But instead of working on legislation to address the racism and inequity in the education system, Arizona state legislators are now proposing SB 1097 that would effectively transform administrators and teachers into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents by obligating them to determine the legal status of students and their families.  If this bill passes the Arizona House of Representatives (it was already passed by the Arizona State Senate on March 31) it will no longer be enough to give a student detention in the principal’s office– educators will be asked to send their kids to an ICE detention cell to await deportation.

As radical education theorist Henry Giroux has written, “We have entered a period in which the war against youth, especially poor youth of color, offers no apologies because it is too arrogant and ruthless to imagine any resistance.” 

This time, however, their arrogance has gone to far.  Protests, Petitions, and boycotts have erupted across the country. 

Students and youth have already taken the lead on some of the most important actions in defense of immigrants.    

In an action with echoes to the Black students in Greensboro who sat in at segregated lunch counters 50 years ago, three courageous undocumented immigrant youth occupied the offices of Arizona’s Republican Senator John McCain on May 19th to demand that he back the DREAM Act–which would grant permanent citizenship to undocumented workers’ children if they completed two years of college. This action marked one of the first known instances of activists risking deportation for immigration reform legislation. 

On that same day during Michele Obama’s visit to a Maryland elementary school, a second grade girl admitted in their conversation that her mom was  undocumented, and challenged the First Lady:

“My mom … she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers.”

If you can summon the courage of this second grader to speak truth to power you should come out to the national day of protest against Arizona’s “Juan Crow” laws on May 29th.  If your city isn’t one of the over 15 major Metropolitan areas boycotting Arizona, pressure your city council to join the movement. If you are a parent, go to your next PTA meeting and introduce a resolution against HB 2281 and SB 1070 and 1097.  If you are a teacher, go to your union meeting and do the same-then purchase “A People’s History for the Classroom” and teach the lesson on the U.S.-Mexico war that produced the current border that now brands so many Mexicans as “illegal”.   

The great historian and educator Howard Zinn gave some prophetic advice for educators in Arizona’s ethnic studies department in his last broadcast interview before he died on January 27, 2010:  

My advice for a future history teacher is, “Don’t obey the rules”….think outside the lines that are set for us by the school administration or the politicians. That’s the most important advice I can give to a young teacher about independence and courage and risk.  

Jesse Hagopian is a teacher in Seattle and a member of the rank-and-file union caucus Social Equality Educators (SEE).  You can contact Jesse at jessedhagopian@gmail.com

‘Los Suns’ Set Against Arizona’s Immigration Law May 6, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Immigration, Race, Racism, Sports.
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Published on Thursday, May 6, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

The Phoenix Suns basketball team takes a public stand against Arizona’s law that promotes racial profiling of immigrants

by Dave Zirin

A battle has been joined for the very soul of Arizona. On one side, there are the Minutemen, the craven state Republican lawmakers, Governor Jan Brewer, and the utterly unprincipled John McCain, all supporting SB 1070, a law that codifies racial profiling of immigrants in the state. On the other are the Sun Belt residents who protested on 1 May, the students who have engaged in walkouts, and the politicians and civic leaders calling for an economic boycott of their own state.

This battle has also been joined in the world of sport. On one side is Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Owned by state Republican moneyman Ken Kendrick, the team has drawn protestors to parks around the US. On the other side, we now have the NBA‘s Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday the news came forth that on Cinco de Mayo, the team would be wearing jerseys that say simply Los Suns. Team owner Robert Sarver said, after talking to the team, that this will be an act of sartorial solidarity against the bill. Their opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, have made clear that they support the gesture.

In a statement released by the team, Sarver said: “The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.”

He followed up the statement by saying to reporters: “I looked around our plane and looked at our players and the diversity in our organization. I thought we need to go on record that we honor our diversity in our team, in the NBA and we need to show support for that. As for the political part of that, that’s my statement. There are times you need to stand up and be heard. I respect people’s views on the other side but I just felt it was appropriate for me to stand up and make a statement.”

After Sarver spoke out, the team chimed in against the passage and signing of SB 1070. Two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, who in 2003 became the first athlete to go on record against the Iraq war, said: “I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don’t want to see and don’t need to see in 2010.”

All-Star power forward Amare Stoudamire, who has no political reputation, also chimed in saying: “It’s going to be great to wear Los Suns to let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100%.”

After the story broke, I spoke on the phone with NBA Players Association president Billy Hunter about the Suns audacious move. “It’s phenomenal,” he said. “This makes it clear to me that it’s a new era. It’s a new time. Athletes can tend to be apolitical and isolated from the issues that impact the general public. But now here come the Suns. I would have expected nothing less from Steve Nash who has been out front on a number of issues over the years. I also want to recognize Amare. I know how strident Amare can be and I’m really impressed to see him channel his intensity. It shows a tremendous growth and maturity on his part. And I have to applaud Bob Sarver because he is really taking a risk by putting himself out there. I commend them. I just think it’s super.” He said that the union would have their own statement out by the end of the week.

This kind of political intervention by a sports team is without precedent and now every athlete and every team has an opening to stand up and be heard. Because when it’s all said and done, this isn’t just a battle for the soul of Arizona. It’s a battle for the soul of the United States. Here come the Suns indeed.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Reagan’s Refugees: Why Undocumented Migrants Have a Right to Work Here May 2, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Guatemala, Immigration, Mexico.
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Posted by Tikkun Daily at 2:41 pm
April 30, 2010

By David A. Sylvester. Cross-posted on Tikkun Daily.

Undocumented migrants have a right to work here because they deserve economic reparations for failed U.S. economic policies and disastrous military interventions.

Hundreds of thousands march for immigration rights in Chicago, May 1, 2006. Credit: Alana Price. Hundreds of thousands march for immigration rights in Chicago, May 1, 2006. Credit: Alana Price. 

We hardly need another symptom of the spiritual and social bankruptcy of the system, but this new Arizona law targeting and criminalizing undocumented migrants is a good example. You might know that Gov. Jan Brewer signed last week a new law that broadens police power to stop anyone at anytime for virtually any reason simply for looking suspiciously like an undocumented immigrant. It is supposed to take effect in August, but this is unlikely since it is probably unconstitutional and will face a barrage of court challenges.

This Saturday, May Day, the traditional day for workers rights, more than 70 cities are planning protests against the law, and boycotts against Arizona are spontaneously spreading — as they should. Mexican taxi cab drivers are apparently refusing to pick up anyone from Arizona, and the Mexican government has issued a travel advisory warning Mexicans of the danger of traveling through Arizona. In California, pressure is growing to join the boycott.

In the midst of this uproar, few are asking one simple question: Why? Why do so many Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans enter the U.S. by the most dangerous and expensive route possible? Just imagine yourself in their shoes: You leave your family and neighborhood to make a dangerous trip, including a difficult trek for three nights across barren deserts, pay as much as $7,000 person to put yourself in the hands of an unofficial guide of questionable character. On the way, you are prey to exploitation, robbery and especially if you are a woman, to rape. Then you arrive to live in crowded apartments, hopefully with some family members or people you know, but under constant fear of arrest and deportation. If you’re lucky, you get the brass ring you’ve been reaching for: casual work cleaning homes, gardening or working odd jobs in construction for $8 to $10 an hour. If you’re unlucky, you might stand on street corners for hours waiting without work, vulnerable to the temptations of drugs and alcohol to numb despair.

Sound like a bargain? Now, consider that, in spite of this, you decide scrape together another $7,000 to bring the next family member. How can this make any sense? It does if you take a close look at what has happened to the economies and social fabric of the countries below the U.S. border. Most U.S. citizens have little idea of the devastation wrought by NAFTA in Mexico and by the murderous civil wars that Reagan Administration funded and supported during the 1980s has done to El Salvador and Guatemala.

This is the reality that none of the opponents of this “illegal” immigration want to face. And it is a reality that even the advocates of change have not fully articulated. In essence, the neoliberal economic policies of the so-called Washington consensus, including NAFTA, have plunged Mexico into an economic crisis in the countryside. More than 2 million agricultural workers have been forced off their land and have moved into urban areas that can’t absorb them. The undocumented workers from El Salvador and Guatemala, the two other main sources of migration into the U.S., are fleeing dysfunctional and oppressive social and economic systems maintained by U.S. military power and funding since Ronald Reagan and CIA director William Casey turned these small countries into demonstration projects for Cold War power. As a result of these interventions, the U.S. has blocked democratic social change in these countries, sustained the exploitative legacy of the conquista and kept the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of rich, uncontrolled oligarchies.

In other words, Arizona is facing “blowback,” the natural consequences of failed U.S. policies trumpeted by the Arizona-style conservatives. These undocumented workers are economic refugees fleeing from broken economic systems — and they have every right to work here to earn the living that they cannot earn in their home countries. It’s a form of economic reparations. And the situation would be considered ironic if it wasn’t so tragic: The more the economic policies fail, the more the poor of these countries are impoverished and the more they seek to survive in el Norte, the more the supposedly anti-government, free-market fundamentalists want to put the government squarely on the backs of and into the lives of individuals through increasingly repressive measures.

It isn’t just some kooky left-wing thinking to blame Washington’s policies for a large part of the problem. This is widely known among the academic researchers. I spoke with Marc Rosenblum and Miryam Hazan, two staff policy analysts at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. who have studied the issues. “NAFTA has supported a low-wage development model, and with Mexico’s implementation, you haven’t seen integrated development,” Rosenblum said. “Almost everybody will agree it has increased migration.”

The basic problem is that Mexican tariffs were lowered under NAFTA so that inexpensive corn and other agricultural products from U.S. agribusiness flooded Mexico and drove out up to 2.3 million small and medium-sized farmers. The idea was that they would move to the cities and provide the labor for new, more advanced industries to export. As Hazan describes it, the idea was to “modernize” the Mexican countryside.

The only problem is that such a plan depended on Mexico’s GDP growing at 6 percent to 7 percent — almost two-thirds of the rate of China’s growth. In fact, Mexico’s growth has stagnated under NAFTA at half the expected rate. Besides, it isn’t clear what these “new advanced industries” were supposed to be, except for the sweatshops and maquilladora along the U.S. border. Cheap labor is not what economists would call “a competitive advantage,” because there’s always another country with even cheaper labor to exploit.

Hazan has found that each year, Mexico adds 1 million new workers to its labor force — but only creates half a million jobs. This means that every year, half a million Mexicans must either enter what she calls “the informal economy” of low-wage work without benefits, the criminal and black market economy, or leave the country.

In fact, the criminal economy of the drug cartels, estimated at 2 percent of Mexico’s GDP, has become the new export-oriented industry. Again, for all the complaining about the Mexican drug traffickers, few people are wondering what kind of society has developed we’ve developed in the U.S. that generates such an incessant and growing demand for narcotics. Without the U.S. demand, the narcotraffickers would be largely out of business.

In El Salvador, there’s a separate problem stemming from the violence of the Reagan wars of the 1980s — and now compounded by the recent deportation of U.S. gang members back to El Salvador. Originally, they entered the U.S. as children with their undocumented parents, learned their gang skills in the U.S. and then once arrested, were deported back to El Salvador. As a result there’s been an explosion of gang violence in El Salvador.

Every week, I hear of new reports from Salvadoran friends: Six bodies showed up on the streets overnight in one small town, a man with an expensive car is kidnapped and killed, a schoolteacher threatened with a gun by a disgruntled parent of one of his students. During a visit three years ago, the student leader of the National University suddenly disappeared without explanation, and the newspapers were reporting a wave of killings of poor drug dealers in the slums as “social cleansing.” In addition, the phenomenon of femicide, the rape and murder of women, is not just a problem in Juarez or the border towns but has become a new problem throughout the countries. At one point, gang members had apparently infiltrated the telephone companies in El Salvador, found out who had been making calls to the U.S., then called those U.S. cell phone numbers with a simple message: Send us $500 within 24 hours or we’ll kill your family.

Guatemala is hardly any safer. A friend of mine who was a journalist in Guatemala City had to leave with his family after a government official took him aside and played for him tape recordings of his cell phone conversations with his sources — when he was inside his own home! Assassinations of the community leaders opposing destructive mining operations are common. At another point, a well-known TV reporter was gunned down in broad daylight in the capital.

From my experience, when I asked about this violence, many people there said it was difficult to know exactly what to blame: the economic crisis, the unresolved conflicts of the civil wars, the habit of violence from the wars or the lure of fast money in the drug trade, the unraveling of families as the more and more parents head north into the U.S. to work. All of it is connected to U.S. policies and actions, particularly the 1980s wars.

“There’s no question that the civil wars were a big source of initial migration of Central America into the U.S.” Rosenblum told me. The problem has become worse in El Salvador, he said, because besides the violence, it has embraced the neoliberal economic policies of corporate development that has led to highly unequal growth among the rich and poor.

These economic and social problems are precisely why the U.S. will never solve the problem by enforcement, no matter what kind of walls we build or border patrol we fund. The “push” out of these countries has become much greater than the “pull” of a better economy and growing social networks of migrants now living in the U.S.

The Arizona law shows how much enforcement alone sacrifices basic moral values. The law itself is chilling to read. In the tradition of the double-standard legal system pioneered during the war on terror under Bush, it broadens police powers and makes enforcement much more stringent for non-citizens than for citizens. It requires all immigrants to carry documents, such as driver’s license, to prove their immigration status whenever asked by police with a “reasonable suspicion” about their status. If you are undocumented, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined (between $500 on the first offense up to $2,500) jailed for six months under mandatory sentencing. Courts are prohibited from suspending or reducing sentences. It also turns citizens into vigilantes: anyone can sue a government for failing to enforce this law. It prohibits picking up day laborers on streets to hire, transporting anyone in your car without documents if you do so “recklessly disregarding” their immigration status. And it expands the powers of police to pose as workers when they investigate employers who might be hiring the undocumented workers.

Where’s the Tea Party when you need it? Isn’t there supposed to be a revolt brewing in this country in favor of a “constitutionally limited government”? And isn’t this the free market at work, with workers responding to the market signals of wages to meet the demand for labor where there is a lack of supply? Oh, I forgot: Free markets and limited government are good — unless they interfere with U.S. dominance and privilege.

It’s easy to slip into bitter rhetoric, but the hypocrisy of the debate has its own spiritual significance. The U.S. seems to be afflicted by a strange blindness that prevents it from understanding the full dimensions of the problem it has created. I think this blindness is a natural spiritual consequence of the idolization of power and wealth. In my opinion, one of the best analyses of this was in the Nobel Prize speech of British playwright Harold Pinter. He spoke about the relationship of truth and lies in art, and then connected this to the relationship of truth and lies to political power.

To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

Then he focused how lies played a part in the brutality of the U.S. government’s treatment of Central America:

I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

Pinter pointed out that at the time the U.S. maintained 702 military bases in 132 countries and said:

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

This hypnosis isn’t just of the rest of the world; we’ve hypnotized ourselves so that we fail to understand the consequences of our actions. We’ve become like the violent drunk who trashes a motel room at night, then wakes up in the morning and demands to know who made such a mess.

In my brief search of the Web this week, I found only one person who had the courage to say aloud an obvious truth. Seth Minkoff of Somerville, Mass., a lone letter-writer to The Boston Globe of Somerville explained eloquently why the immigrants have a moral right to be here:

What goes unmentioned, however, is that some of us also feel that the fundamental aim of this law — enforcement of federal immigration regulations — is immoral.

A great many undocumented immigrants come here from countries that the United States has systematically devastated for generations by overthrowing democracy (as in Guatemala), sponsoring dictatorship and state terror (Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti), and invading and annexing territory (Mexico). Actions such as these have helped the United States to control a grossly outsized share of world resources.

Until the US share of world resources is proportional to its population, so-called illegal immigrants will have a moral claim second to none on the rights of US citizenship. Arizona’s new law, like the federal laws it seeks to enforce, is an assault on people’s basic right to feed and clothe their families – in other words, on their right to access their fair share of the planet’s wealth, the patrimony of humanity.

The readers of The Boston Globe, profiled for advertisers as highly educated and high-income, responded with such comments as:

What a complete F$%KING MORON. Does that moral right include stealing, bank robbery, perhaps rape and why not murder too.

And:

Shame on you Minkoff, go take your nonsense to Cuba or talk to Chavez and see how you make out.

And:

This letter sounds like it was written from some fatuous far left wing Chomskyan elitist nutty northeast college professor.

Seth, Harold Pinter’s got your back.

It would be helpful if more people had his back as well. But some of the opposition to the Arizona law is disappointing. For instance, U.S. Catholic bishops couched their opposition entirely in terms of pragmatics. Salt Lake City Bishop John Wester called the law “draconian,” as if problem is only its severity, not its inherent nature. He worried that the law could “possibly” lead to racial profiling when racial profiling is almost unavoidable in spite of hypocritical language to the contrary in the law. He worried about how immigrants might be “perceived and treated” and the impact on U.S. citizens who are unfairly targeted.

This statement should have been much stronger in the light of Roman Catholic tradition. Basic Catholic teachings evaluate the moral value of actions and distinguish between morally good and evil choices. Actions are “intrinsically evil” if they are “hostile to life itself.” The examples of these actions include the obvious, such as homicide and genocide but also include:

whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit;

whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit and not as free responsible persons;

all these and the like are a disgrace and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator (Encyclical Letter of John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor IV, italics mine).

By this Catholic standard, the Arizona law is not only badly designed and unconstitutional but quite possibly an intrinsic evil. One can argue that the law is also an attempt to stop human smuggling and trafficking in women and children, but if this was its aim, it would have been designed differently. As written, it subjects immigrants to the torture of insecurity and offends their human dignity with arbitrary imprisonment and deportation.

In the end, the crisis can be solved until we face the spiritual roots of the lies, the violence and the self-righteous myths we tell ourselves. We need to understand and address the real nature of the problem if we want to solve it. I’ve always remembered the words of a friend of mine as we participated in a memorial service for Monseñor Oscar Romero in San Salvador: “We have to start telling ourselves the truth.”

Arizona: It Gets Worse May 1, 2010

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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, April 30, 2010

Arizona’s purging of brown-skinned residents continues apace with two new moves: It has decided to remove any teachers whose spoken English is heavily accented or ungrammatical – almost half the teachers in some school districts are native Spanish speakers – and to curb a popular ethnic studies program in Tucson by banning any courses advocating ethnic solidarity or designed primarily for one ethnic group. Racist much? 

As Obama Considers Napolitano For Homeland Security Chief, A Look at Her Immigration Policies as Arizona Governor November 27, 2008

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Democracy Now! Interview, Novermber 26, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama is on track to name Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary. Napolitano is a two-term governor, as well as a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general for Arizona. She was the first governor to call for National Guard troops to secure the US-Mexico border. We take a look at her immigration policies with Aarti Shahani, a researcher with Justice Strategies.

Guest: Aarti Shahani, Researcher with Justice Strategies, teaches at New York University, and co-founded Families for Freedom.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Napolitano has supported comprehensive immigration reform along the lines pushed by Senator McCain before the presidential campaign. She was the first governor to call for National Guard troops to be deployed along the US-Mexico border. This is Napolitano speaking about immigration in 2006.

JANET NAPOLITANO: As U.S. Attorney, I supervised the prosecution of more than 6,000 immigration cases. As Attorney General, we wrote the law that breaks up human smuggling rings by seizing their assets. And as governor, I have worked closely with Arizona’s border community to address illegal immigration head on. We’ve cracked down on human trafficking by increasing the penalty for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the United States. And we’ve disrupted dozens of criminal syndicates involved in human smuggling with our fraudulent ID taskforce. We’ve redesigned Arizona’s ports of entry to better detected illegal cross-border activity and we’ve utilized new technology to track stolen vehicles that transport illegal immigrants and drugs on our highways. We fought to increase the presence of the National Guard on the border at federal expense. And today National Guard members from Arizona and around the country are stationed at the border providing critical support to the border patrol so they can do less paperwork and more law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, I’m joined by Aarti Shahani, researcher with justice strategies. She’s co-founder of families for freedom. Welcome to Democracy Now!

AARTI SHAHANI: Hi. Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday we were looking in depth at the economic team, the ‘E-team’ of president-elect Obama. Now today immigration. Though governor Napolitano has not been exactly named, that is the rumor that is going around.

AARTI SHAHANI: I think we should take pause and look at Governor Napolitano. She’s right now being celebrated as a liberal on immigration who can finally breathe some fresh air into a very hateful debate. The fact about Janet Napolitano is that she’s the leading democratic hawk on immigration. Her legacy in Arizona has been two-fold and I think it’s important to look at the nuance here. She rose to power politically as a prosecutor. She rose to power politically under Bill Clinton as Attorney General. She won the governorship in 2003. Soon after she won the governorship of Arizona, which is the leading immigration enforcement state, I mean if you want to understand what is the future of immigration enforcement, look at the state of Arizona and what it’s done. In her state, there were basically white supremacist groups trying to pass, and effectively passing a bill called Proposition 200 through ballot initiative. Proposition 200 back in November of 2004 required that just about any public servant start calling in a suspected undocumented person for deportation. It’s sort of the prelude to the Sensenbrenner bill that people blew up about in 2005. Governor Napolitano looked at this bill and she said this is hateful, this is wrong and she didn’t veto it, but sort of vetoed it by dragging her feet on its implementation.

Now the punch line comes when to save political capital or to try to regain political capital because there was a lot of falling out over her move there, she said, “Listen, I’m not against cracking down on illegal immigrants. I’m just saying we should crack down on the right types of illegal immigrants. And she introduced her own tough on immigration platform Now, that platform is two-fold. Part of it is enhanced border enforcement. The fact is that she called border crossing a national security crisis, the first governor to do that in US history, wanted to bring in Homeland Security resources to protect against this border crossing.

Now the other piece of the story that I think people are not familiar with is she that actually made a name for herself in Homeland Security circles by regularly writing to Chertoff and lobbying him to bring not just more border security resources to Arizona but ICE resources to Arizona, specifically Governor Napolitano wanted to see it an increase of interior immigration enforcement in Phoenix areas outside of border communities. She was the first governor to broker a 287-G agreement with ICE. Now, I’m not sure how many people know what 287-G is about, But basically, it was a tiny piece of law passed by Bill Clinton back in 1996. It was resurrected by ICE as a leading pilot project to devolve immigration enforcement from Federal to local hands, that is to bring the border into the interior so to speak. So Governor Napolitano was the first Democrat, the first one in the country to say we want 287-g in our state. And she opened up the door toall of the local enforcement, stopping while brown stuff we’re seeing in Arizona. She has a very peculiar relationship with Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of MaricopaCounty is known as a total–the toughest sheriff in America, is what he calls himself. That’s his autobiography. Janet Napolitano readily went to Joe Arpaio back in 2005 and said, for our immigration agenda we need some of your jails because he runs a tent city, for which he was being sued left and right. We need some of your jails. And Joe Arpaio said to her, if we have to we’ll build jails from here down to Mexico to hold the immigrants you want to pick up.

AMY GOODMAN: Now wasn’t she criticized for signing agreement with him, with Arpaio, the last day she was the U.S. Attorney, ending a federal investigation into allegedly inhumane conditions in his prisons? Describe, Arpaio is not your typical law enforcement officer.

AARTI SHAHANI: Arpaio’s theory on law enforcement is take all the handcuffs off. And so Arpaio’s known for running a tent city. He’s the first sheriff to start a woman chain gang. He puts people in these tents in the hot blazing sun. He says they are hardcore criminals, the fact is they’re all people that are pre-trial detainees that are being charged with crimes but not yet convicted or people receiving less than a year’s sentence. In Arpaio’s jails, you have situations where people are dying. He makes a joke of feeding his prisoners green bologna and putting on them pink shorts to emasculate them. There were a series of lawsuits from 2002 to 2005, where people were suing Arpaio for deaths in his jails. A lot of lawsuits that were won—I think there were over $11 million in settlements were Maricopa County had to pay out for Arpaio’s games. Now all of this was going on now Napolitano because she is a tough on crime, law and order Democrat, was willing to look the other way on that stuff and say you know what, it’s ok that he’s doing that stuff because he can serve a purpose in this broader agenda that we’re trying to push. And right now as Arpaio has gotten very unpopular, she’s now trying to distance herself from him. It’s dangerous not to see the connection between them.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Janet Napolitano’s take on the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo and CNN Anchor Lou Dobbs. She is responding to a question about Tancredo and Dobbs after her speech at the National Press Club last February

JANET NAPOLITANO: They have both refused to acknowledge that what they have proposed won’t work. That it is more rhetoric than real and it’s not a solution to this problem. And the way I know this is, A, because I know this issue very, very well. I deal with it day in and day out and I mentioned it since I was the United States Attorney. And because the people of Arizona get this. I mean, if you look at how they voted over the past few years, people of Arizona are mad, they’re frustrated. As I said, they’ve got every right to be so. They’ve put into place initiatives to foreclose the supply of public benefits to illegal immigrants. They don’t want their taxpayer dollars going for that.

On the other hand, myself, Gabby Giffords, who was recently elected to Congress for the southern part of the state, Harry Mitchell who recently defeated J.D. Hayworth and came to the Congress from the Maricopa county area. You know, their opponents were banging the Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo line. And it didn’t win. And it didn’t win because people in Arizona and I think they’re probably a little bit beyond people in other non-border states, understand that immigration has to be dealt with all the elements I set out and if all you do is talk about building a wall or sealing a border you are not giving them a real solution. Because you know why, they’ve been to the border. Because you know why, they understand how whole elements of their economy depend on immigrant labor. And to some degree now illegal immigrant labor.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Governor Napolitano. Aarti Shahani, she’s rumored to be the next head of Homeland Security.

AARTI SHAHANI: I think the salient part of Governor Napolitano as a federal executive as opposed to a state one, is that on the state level she pushed some of the most right-wing agendas on immigration enforcement. She went full speed ahead with the Bush agenda to move them from Federal to local hands. She lobbied for federal money and for federal resources to up immigration and enforcement in Arizona. So now the question is going to be, once she becomes a federal executive, is she going to continue with the same legacy she had on the state level? Is she going to continue to bang the drum saying, we need to get money to states so they can do their own immigration enforcement just like the state of Arizona did? Is she trying to replicate the Arizona model around the country? Or is she going to take pause and say maybe immigration enforcement as the leading strategy on immigration is not the right thing? And I think when you look also at what she’s proposing, I mean, governor Napolitano actually approved the first state level employer sanctioned bill in the country. She believes in a state level guest worker program in the state of Arizona. Now we all know that guest worker programs are not the way to ensure immigrant rights, immigrant workers rights, American workers rights in the coming administration. And so I think that the fact that’s such a cutting part of her agenda is reason to be afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to ask you just very quickly about these major raids that took place in Laurel, Mississippi, and Postville, Iowa, one during the Democratic Convention. These are the largest immigration raids in U.S. History and what they portend, with the major candidates hardly raising the issue of immigration at all.

AARTI SHAHANI: These raids are happening because ICE is going in local communities and devastating their local democracies by going into totally un-strategic sites with no plan whatsoever and basically striking fear. A good question for Governor Napolitano as head of
Homeland Security would she rather freeze ICE activity will she actually try to put a cap on what they’re doing and all the charades and the show and will she look at homeland security from a holistic perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally not far from here in Long Island in Suffolk County, immigrants rights activists have filed a complaint with US Justice Department. Latino Justice contends that the Suffolk county police discouraged Latinos from reporting crimes. And the reason this is so critical now, it follows the November 8 killing of Marcelo Lucero. Crimes victims being afraid to go to the police because they’re afraid that they’ll be working with ICE, with immigration authorities who question their immigration status?

AARTI SHAHANI: Within the state of Arizona, it is basically understood that victims of crimes when they call the police are going to be turned in for deportation, that’s certainly true in Maricopa County. So Governor Napolitano can look what’s happening around the country and see the natural after-step of intensive, state-sponsored enforcement is hate crimes that’s going to be the case. So, if we want to put a stop to that, populist or private citizen reaction to foreign-born people, the government has to set a better example as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you think we’ll be less targeting overall under president Obama

AARTI SHAHANI: You know, I hope so and it’s hard to imagine that it could be any worse under Obama than it was under Bush. So I actually want to say that we should expect more from Obama than just stopping the sheer fascism of the Bush Administration. For example are restored the ability to drive, the basic driver’s license, which he brought up during his presidential campaign and was supportive of. Another thing we should expect from Obama is to look at the entire system of mass detention. immigrants are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in this country. That’s not just because of George Bush. It’s because of policies set by Bill Clinton as well. The fact that people are dying in detention, hundreds of people have died in civil detainee custody. So, can we expect Obama to now look at this massive system and say we shouldn’t be locking up people this way?

AMY GOODMAN: Aarti Shahani, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Researcher with Justice Strategy. She teaches at New York University and co-founded the immigrants rights group, Families for Freedom.

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