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UN Condemns U.S. Police Brutality, Calls For ‘Stand Your Ground’ Review August 31, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Police, Race, Racism.
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Roger’s note: the United States was founded on the genocide of the First Nations peoples and much of its enormous wealth was derived from the forced labor of African slaves.  Racism is as American as apple pie.  This is not leftist ranting, it is historical fact.  Sadly, under the “leadership” of the country’s first African American president, the situation is only getting worse.  Obama’s immigration extradition policies, his orientation towards Wall Street and away from Main Street, the federal government’s militarization of urban police forces — all this contributes to the discrimination and impoverization mostly of peoples of color.  The Republican Party may be more overtly racist in its ideological bias, but it is a Democratic president that is implementing racist policies.  God help America.

 

Posted: 08/30/2014 8:31 am EDT Updated: 08/30/2014 9:59 am EDT
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* Panel issues recommendations after review of U.S. record

* Says killing of Michael Brown “not an isolated event”

* Decries racial bias of police, pervasive discrimination

* ACLU calls for addressing racial inequality in America

 

GENEVA, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing,” Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a news briefing.

Teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer on Aug. 9, triggering violent protests that rocked Ferguson – a St. Louis suburb – and shone a global spotlight on the state of race relations in America.

“The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern and particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown,” said Amir, an expert from Algeria.

“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.”

The panel of 18 independent experts grilled a senior U.S. delegation on Aug. 13 about what they said was persistent racial discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities, including within the criminal justice system.

U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper told the panel that his nation had made “great strides toward eliminating racial discrimination” but conceded that “we have much left to do”.

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, has been put on paid leave and is in hiding. A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence and the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.

Police have said Brown struggled with Wilson when shot. But some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

“STAND YOUR GROUND” LAWS

In its conclusions issued on Friday, the U.N. panel said “Stand Your Ground” Laws, a controversial self-defense statute in 22 U.S. states, should be reviewed to “remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to principles of necessity and proportionality when deadly force is used for self-defense”.

Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old shot dead in a car in Jacksonville, Florida during an argument over loud rap music in November 2012, attended the Geneva session. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Miami, Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, testified.

The U.N. panel monitors compliance with a treaty ratified by 177 countries including the United States.

“The Committee remains concerned at the practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police,” it said, urging investigations.

The experts called for addressing obstacles faced by minorities and indigenous peoples to exercise their right to vote effectively. This was due to restrictive voter identification laws, district gerrymandering and state-level laws that disenfranchise people convicted of felonies, it said.

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the U.N. recommendations highlighted “shortcomings on racial equality that we are seeing play out today on our streets, at our borders and in the voting booth.

“When it comes to human rights, the United States must practice at home what it preaches abroad,” he said.

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.”

 

Obama’s Unprecedented Use of State Secrets to Defend Religious Profiling September 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Racism, Religion, Uncategorized.
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Published on Thursday, September 8, 2011 by Colorlines

by Asraa Mustufa

In the summer of 2006, a French Syrian man known as Farouk al-Aziz publicly converted to Islam in front of a Friday prayer congregation at a large mosque in Irvine, Calif. Mosque leadership and attendants were quick to embrace al-Aziz as a new member of their faith. The Islamic center’s imam asked a congregant to teach al-Aziz how to pray, and he quickly became a regular attendee at the mosque in Irvine and others in Orange County.

Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images 

 However, community members soon became wary of al-Aziz. He would often sit in on groups, listening to other Muslim congregants’ conversations within the mosque, at family picnics or at a local gym. Most troubling to other attendees was his frequent, unusual questions about a violent form of jihad. Community members say when al-Aziz began implying that he was contemplating violent action, boasting he knew where to get weapons and trying to gather people in a plot, congregants quickly brought the issue to the attention of mosque leadership. They obtained a restraining order against him and reached out to the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which helped them report al-Aziz’s actions to the FBI.

As it turned out, the FBI was already well aware of al-Aziz’s activities at the mosque—they had in fact sent him there. He was one of thousands of informants the FBI has used since 9/11 to spy upon Muslim American communities and concoct terrorism plots inside them. The practice has drawn attention from news media and civil liberties advocates in recent years, and Muslim American community leaders are organizing to demand its end. But one huge, unexpected hurdle now stands in the way: The Obama administration’s invocation of a national security provision that makes it impossible for communities and individuals to protect their rights through lawsuits.

The provision, known as the state secrets privilege, permits the government to block discovery in a lawsuit of any information that, if disclosed, could adversely affect national security or foreign relations. President Obama vowed while campaigning that he’d end its use. Instead, his administration has not only continued invoking it, but has done so in a previously unprecedented way in order to protect legally questionable surveillance of Muslim American communities.

President Obama’s Privileged Secrets

Al-Aziz’s name was actually Craig Monteilh, and he was a paid informant working for the FBI. Monteilh, who was profiled in a Mother Jones investigation into the FBI’s spying program this month, had worked with the bureau for several years. He fell out with the FBI after he was convicted of grand theft in 2007 and his role as an informant was revealed in court documents. Monteilh filed suit against the FBI and went public about his activities as an informant—including that he was instructed to infiltrate southern Californian mosques and spy on worshippers.

Earlier this year, Muslim community advocates responded with a lawsuit of their own. In Fazaga v. FBI, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Los Angeles chapter of CAIR allege that by indiscriminately surveilling several southern Californian mosques and collecting information on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of law-abiding American Muslims, the FBI violated their constitutional rights. In addition to Monteilh’s reports of the instructions he received from the FBI, attorneys on the case say that the numerous accounts of Muslim community members who came in contact with Monteilh, as well as some FBI guidelines themselves, all strongly indicate that the FBI’s targeting of mosques was based on religion alone, rather than on following leads or indications of unlawful activity.

Last month, the Obama administration invoked the state secrets privilege in an effort to have the suit dismissed. In the filing, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department cannot allow the case to be litigated, because it would lead to the disclosure of sensitive information, which could in turn “reasonably be expected to cause harm to national security.”

The Bush administration infamously expanded the use of the state secrets doctrine, frequently invoking it to have entire lawsuits dismissed, rather than employing it to have individual pieces of evidence excluded from court, as it had been used in the past. As a candidate, President Obama criticized his predecessor’s repeated use of the privilege “to get cases thrown out of civil court.” Since taking office, however, Obama’s Justice Department has done the exact same thing.

The Obama administration has continued to assert the state secrets privilege in lawsuits still pending from the Bush years, on cases involving warrantless wiretapping, detention, torture and rendition of terrorism suspects at CIA black sites. And the administration has been successful in getting lawsuits dismissed on those grounds. The Obama Justice Department has also asserted the privilege in a lawsuit over the government’s right to target and kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens, outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat to national security.

Both administrations’ use of the privilege to cover up questionable government behavior is not unprecedented. Indeed, in the landmark 1953 Supreme Court case United States v. Reynolds, the government invoked the state secrets privilege to circumvent the disclosure of an accident report in a wrongful death action involving the military. The court bought the government’s argument, but when the document was declassified in 2004, it was found to contain no sensitive information about national security whatsoever. Rather, it contained information proving government negligence.

The Obama administration’s invocation of the state secrets privilege, however, is unprecedented, transparency advocates assert. In previous and ongoing suits where the doctrine has been invoked, plaintiffs were seeking damages for a past violation of rights; the constitutional violations described in the Fazaga v. FBI are ongoing.

“The biggest difference is that here we have an ongoing constitutional violation against American citizens on American soil, and if courts can dismiss challenges to such ongoing violations on the grounds that…the program is secret, then that’s fundamentally inconsistent with very basic structural protections we have in our democratic function of government,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director of ACLU in southern California and a lead attorney on the case. “Our system virtually never allows the courthouse doors to be closed to an ongoing violation of the Constitution.”

Arulanantham also argues the government’s claim that sensitive national security information is at risk doesn’t hold up, given how widely reported Monteilh’s informant activities in “Operation Flex” have been. “There is nothing secret about the fact that the FBI was employing Craig Monteilh and that he surveiled hundreds or thousands of Muslims and gathered information on them.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, further evidence has emerged of similarly indiscriminate surveillance practices. When the northern California chapter of the ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus filed a Freedom of Information Act request about government surveillance of American Muslim communities, they obtained a PowerPoint presentation used by the FBI to train new recruits. The presentation included estimates of the number of mosques in America, and listed states with the largest Muslim populations. It also presented a troubling and simplistic depiction of Muslims and Arabs, and highlighted the work of career Islamophobe Robert Spencer in its recommended reading list.

NYPD Conducting Similar Surveillance

The FBI’s not the only agency snooping on Muslim Americans, though. Late last month, the Associated Press published an investigation on the New York Police Department’s covert surveillance of Muslims communities. The article, based on interviews with over 40 current and former NYPD and federal officials, detailed the aggressive practices of the agency’s domestic intelligence gathering operation. According to the AP’s findings, the NYPD, with much help from the CIA, used undercover officers to map and monitor Muslim-populated immigrant and black Muslim neighborhoods in and beyond the city, and dispatched informants to monitor sermons delivered at mosques and Muslim student groups, without any prior indication of unlawful behavior. The revelations came as little surprise to Muslim civil liberties groups, as such activities by the NYPD have long been widely reported by community members and documented by advocates, as well as by official testimony.

“There was already a picture being painted of the way this program was playing out in local communities. What we didn’t know and was the most troubling about the report was how deep and how normalized this program has become,” said Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the New York chapter of CAIR.

Earlier this year, the Village Voice found that the NYPD had also screened the anti-Islamic hate film “The Third Jihad”—which describes Islam as a threat to the U.S. and was made by the Clarion Fund—at a mandatory counter-terrorism course for officers.

McGoldrick said civil liberties advocates are demanding a federal investigation of the CIA’s involvement as well as investigations by local officials. The NYPD maintains that the CIA’s role in the surveillance is merely advisory.

Community organizations are also trying to equip Muslim Americans with resources to protect themselves from the police department’s profiling. The group Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), which works with low-income South Asian and Muslim immigrants in New York City, is planning a citywide survey to collect information on law enforcement interactions with the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, advocates warn that the all of this surveillance has created a sense of mistrust within communities. “People don’t speak freely anymore, people don’t feel comfortable engaging in candid conversations,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, deputy executive director of CAIR’s L.A. chapter and an attorney for the plaintiff in the Fazaga lawsuit.

“The mosque is a building, but it’s about the community,” Qazi said. “To have the government come and disrupt that, that’s a very clear violation of our First Amendment freedom to practice our religion as we wish.”

A Wrong Headed Approach?

Aside from being predatory and potentially illegal, unwarranted surveillance is self-defeating, Muslim leaders say.

“This isn’t a program that makes us safer. This is a program that is investigating communities and not crimes,” McGoldrick said about the NYPD’s infiltration of Muslim communities via informants. “Instead of stopping crimes, they’re manufacturing crimes and they’re creating the images of crimes, and really just alienating an entire community that’s been nothing but supportive and has been at the lead of policing our own communities since 9/11 and before.”

Qazi had similar sentiments about how these revelations affect Muslim communities’ relationship with law enforcement. “If you’re treating us as suspects, how can we trust that you’ll treat us as partners?” she said, also pointing out that Muslims in southern California immediately alerted authorities when Monteilh began speaking about violent activity. “His role as an agent provocateur didn’t last very long because he was cut short by Muslim community members themselves.”

Yet, techniques like unwarranted surveillance, highly paid informants and questionable sting operations draw huge amounts of funding for the FBI and NYPD. According to Mother Jones, the FBI’s counter-terrorism budget stands at $3.3 billion, and as a whole, the agency spends more on hunting potential threats to national security than on chasing “ordinary criminals,” the New York Times recently found. The AP reports that the NYPD has received more than $1.6 billion from the federal government since 9/11, with little oversight from external authorities.

In counterterrorism, law enforcement relies heavily on informants, some recruited from Muslim communities under the pressure of threatened immigration troubles or past criminal infractions, as the targets of informants account for roughly half of defendants in domestic terror prosecutions to date, Mother Jones’ investigation found.  Some advocates question whether the agencies are more interested in using funds to produce terrorism arrests and convictions than on addressing an existing national security threat.

“There is incredible pressure on law enforcement to prevent attacks…if you are able to lead somebody into a plot, you then have a success. You have made a counter terrorism case, you made an arrest, and you will most likely get a conviction, and all of that plays into how funds are allocated and how different agencies are perceived,” said Faiza Patel, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Patel has written widely on the theory of “radicalization” embraced by different law enforcement agencies (and some politicians), a main aspect of which includes an understanding that certain interpretations or expressions of Islam consistently lead to acts of violence. Such thinking is espoused in a 2007 report the NYPD published on homegrown terrorism, which listed signs of “radicalization” such as regular attendance at mosques, giving up cigarettes, drinking gambling, and the wearing of “urban hip-hop gangster clothes,” or wearing Islamic clothing, growing a beard and even becoming involved in social activism.

“If you think there’s this religious conveyer belt leading to terrorism, then you think it’s useful to see what people are saying and doing in their practice of religion, and that leads you into surveillance of mosques and bookstores and community centers,” Patel said.

The NYPD report might point to a more fundamental problem underlying law enforcement’s treatment of Muslim communities: The view of basic practices of the Islamic faith, including congregation, as indications of potential danger undermines the standing of American Muslims as a group deserving the same social protections as everybody else.

“Look, we’ve had a consensus I think in this country that racial profiling is wrong,” Patel said. “What we don’t somehow seem to have a consensus about is whether or not that rule applies to national security cases, and whether or not that rule applies to things such as religion or ethnicity.”

Asraa Mustufa is a regular contributor to Colorlines.com and a research intern at the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.

© 2011 Colorlines

When Will We All Need to Carry Identity Papers? September 1, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Immigration, Race, Racism.
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Published on Monday, August 30, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

by Jerry Lanson

Once again, what we don’t know about the erosion of rights in this country can be as bad as what we do.

While Americans debate and litigate the Arizona law authorizing search and seizure of anyone police “reasonably suspect” to be an illegal immigrant, U.S. immigration officials on trains and buses up to 100 miles south of the Canadian border are confronting and sometimes strip-searching dark-skinned passengers whose only “crime” may be that they bought a public-transportation ticket to travel within the United States, The New York Times reports.

It’s part of what some consider the new and improved border patrols to protect “the homeland” from potential terrorists. No matter that the kind of people being stopped, The Times reports, include an 60-year-old Ecuadoran-born U.S. citizen who carries a passport while visiting her sister in the Midwest because she’s been stopped before and hassled without it. No matter that it includes a Taiwanese-born PhD student who, two days after delivering a paper at a Chicago conference, was taken from a train — one that had never crossed any borders — in Batavia, N.Y., strip-searched in a detention center and held, facing detention, because his visa had expired. No matter that a 21-year-old Long Island high school graduate was taken from the Lake Shore Limited in Rochester, N.Y., held for three weeks while her mother frantically tried to reach her and released at night at a rural Texas gas station.

These are not rumors. They are true stories, reported and told by The New York Times. They smack of overt racial profiling: How many blue-eyed Swedes and fair-skinned Russians do you think have been stopped on the trains and buses, whether they are gangsters, terrorists or simply PhD students? And they raise chilling reminders of World War II movies in which Nazi soldiers would walk down the aisles of trains looking for Jews.

“It’s turned into a police state on the northern border,” Cary M. Jensen, director of international services for the University of Rochester told The Times. He said foreign students, scholars and parents all have been questioned and, in some cases, jailed because the patrol did not recognize their legal status, the paper reports.

As I said, some Americans, frightened by our decade of war and fearful of anyone “different,” will applaud the newfound vigilance of immigration officials. Some, no doubt, were among the tens of thousands who flocked to the Lincoln Memorial this weekend to hear calls that America return to a more honorable time when we didn’t have to worry about foreigners (read non-white foreigners) crossing our borders. Just when that was I’m not sure since we are a nation founded by the poor and persecuted.

What the Tea Party folks may not be thinking is that this is how police states start. I wonder how they’d feel as white Americans (and the Tea Party is white) if police in Mexico pulled them off a train and threw them in jail because they’d forgotten to carry identity papers?

As for the rest of us, perhaps it’s time to do more than yawn and turn on that new flat screen TV to catch pre-season football. My father fled Hitler’s Germany on foot in 1935, walking through the mountains into what was then Czechoslovakia. If he taught me one thing it was this: What happened there can happen anywhere. That is why even as an American Army vet and longtime U.S. citizen, he never let his passport expire. He was always prepared to move on.

War and fear erode a country’s moral compass and distort its sense of just action. Subtly for most, we’ve lived in a state of both for nearly a decade. And in the process — a little domestic wire-tapping here, a few false arrests of foreign-born there — we’ve begun to accept the significant erosion of the very principles on which this country was founded: its openness, its acceptance of difference, and its welcoming of those with little in their wallets, but with an ethic of hard work and a can-doism that’s always allowed this country to be inventive and thrive.

These were captured in the Emma Lazarus poem taught to all school children and mounted at the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Be sure to tell those huddled masses not to ride the buses or the Lake Shore Limited routes from Chicago to New York. In the Buffalo sector alone, the border patrol reports arresting 1,050  on trains, buses and the stations of both in the six months between October 2007 and April 2008, The New York Times reports. That’s roughly six people a day.

The Buffalo sector didn’t say how many people were questioned and let go. Or how many of those arrests proved false.

You may shrug. Not your issue. I hope not. Me? I’ll keep my passport current.

Jerry Lanson is an associate professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston.

‘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

Posted by rogerhollander in Immigration, Race, Racism, Uncategorized.
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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? 

What’s worse than Sheriff Joe Arpaio? 2 Arpaios…or 10…or more… July 17, 2009

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ACORN
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

What’s worse than Joe Arpaio, the barbaric sheriff of Maricopa County? Recruiting more people just like him.

And that’s exactly what the Department of Homeland Security intends to do.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced recently that the department is expanding what’s called the “287(g) program.” Basically, the 287(g) program enlists local law enforcement agencies to hunt down illegal immigrants and gives them a great deal of freedom in their choice of methods. It’s the same program that allows Sheriff Arpaio to act as an immigration official, and it’s the legal justification he claims every time he commits racial profiling, home raids, public shaming, and all of the abusive methods he and his deputies continue to undertake.

Tell Secretary Napolitano that we don’t need more local law enforcement taking immigration into their own hands. Program 287(g) should be abolished, not expanded.

Program 287(g) doesn’t tell local law enforcement officials to racially abuse and harass members of our community, but we’ve seen that those methods are exactly where it leads. In fact, many law enforcement entities have declined to participate and don’t support the program, saying they’re not equipped to handle the immigration duties. And when that task overwhelms them, the officers make choices that violate our rights — and our humanity — if we happen to look like we might “not be from around here.”

Click here to tell Secretary Napolitano to stop the expansion of the 287(g) program, and then to abolish the program altogether.

The impact that 287(g) program has is life-or-death serious for many communities. When we know that the color of our skin makes us criminally suspect in the eyes of local law enforcement, then where do we go if we are in danger? How can we call the police to stop domestic abuse, if we know that the police may be just as abusive? When racial profiling is part of law enforcement, then minorities have no one to protect them.

Program 287(g) must end soon — and we can’t sit by while the Department of Homeland Security expands it. Tell Secretary Napolitano that expanding 287(g) is the wrong choice, and 287(g) will never be a part of successful immigration enforcement.

In solidarity and strength,
 
Alicia Russell
Chair, Arizona ACORN
 
P.S. Please sign the petition so we can stop a program that is ripping families apart — leaving children and parents on different sides of the border.
ACORN Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
© 2009 ACORN and ACORN logo are Registered Trademarks of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Inc.

ACORN is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 400,000 member families organized into neighborhood chapters in 100 cities across the country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won victories on issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include: better housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. ACORN is an acronym, and each letter should be capitalized. ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

If you no longer wish to receive updates from ACORN, click here to be removed from the list.

B.C. man pepper sprayed when he asked border guard to say ‘please’ March 6, 2009

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The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — A British Columbian man has learned the hard way that you don’t ask a U.S. border guard to be polite when he asks you to turn off your vehicle’s engine.

Desiderio Fortunato, of Coquitlam, B.C., asked the guard to say please and instead received a face full of pepper spray.

“I just said please,” Mr. Fortunato explained Thursday. “He said ‘get out of the car or I spray you’ and … I thought he was just trying to scare me off or something and I was pepper sprayed from a foot or two away.”

He said it was then that five or six border guards jumped on him, placed him in handcuffs and questioned him for three hours last Monday afternoon.

“I felt like I was attacked by a bunch of wolves. They jumped on me, they threw me to the ground and they kneeled on me.”

But he said the worst part was the pepper spray burning his eyes, and every time he rubbed his eyes he made the problem even worse.

Mr. Fortunato, 54, was born in Portugal, but became a Canadian citizen almost 30 years ago.

During questioning from U.S. officials, he said, the first thing they wanted to know was where he was born.

He said the entire demeanour of the officials changed when he told them he was of Portuguese origin.

“Their shields dropped slightly down. It was like you know: OK he’s a Westerner, OK he’s not a Muslim, OK he’s a Christian, he’s one of us. That’s what I read [from them].”

Mr. Fortunato noted that the motto of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to “serve the American public with vigilance, integrity and professionalism.”

“What is that, that’s what they pledge. I’m just asking for a please, and I get pepper spray in the face, and of course their argument is you must comply with anything an officer says.”

U.S. Customs spokesman Mike Milne said the officer made a lawful order that travellers must obey but the use of force is under review.

Mr. Fortunato said he spoke with the same guard later and the man seemed contrite.

He crosses the border two or three times a week to visit his second home in Blaine, Wash., and said he plans to go back.

But first he’ll need to send U.S. Customs an RCMP criminal record check and proof that he lives where he said he did.

He has no criminal record and said he isn’t worried about going back.

Mr. Fortunato, who travels the world competing in and teaching jazz dance, said he often deals with customs agents.

“I just become more cynical,” he said.

Activists Protest Immigration Raids in Phoenix March 1, 2009

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by Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX – Thousands of people protesting a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants by an Arizona sheriff marched through Phoenix on Saturday, toting placards reading “We Are Human” and “Stop the Raids.”

 

[A woman holds a sign as she protests against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona, February 28, 2009. Arpaio has been facing criticism from Hispanic activists and lawmakers, alleging Arpaio's crackdown methods on illegal immigrants involve racial profiling. (Reuters/Joshua Lott/United States)]A woman holds a sign as she protests against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona, February 28, 2009. Arpaio has been facing criticism from Hispanic activists and lawmakers, alleging Arpaio’s crackdown methods on illegal immigrants involve racial profiling. (Reuters/Joshua Lott/United States)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has dispatched deputies into Hispanic communities in the Phoenix area where they stop people and arrest anyone who cannot prove he or she is a legal U.S. resident. 

Under a deal allowing them to enforce federal immigration laws, the deputies have arrested more than 1,500 people whom they determined were in Arizona illegally.

Latino activists and lawmakers call his program a clear case of racial profiling because only people who look Hispanic are targeted. Arpaio steadfastly denies the charge.

Earlier this month, he stirred more controversy when he marched 220 illegal immigrants in shackles and striped prison garb through Phoenix under armed guard.

“Walking people through the streets in chains, public shaming, it’s medieval,” said Veronica Perez, 32, an archeologist carrying signs reading “No Human Is Illegal” and “Stop the Raids.”

“Isn’t cruel and unusual punishment against the U.S. Constitution?” she asked.

The event was organized by activists from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and a group called El Puente Arizona. Estimates of the number of participants ranged from 1,000 to 3,000.

Preparing for the march at a park in central Phoenix, school district coordinator Sylvia Airington, 47, slammed Arpaio’s policies.

“Racial profiling, targeting the Hispanic community — it’s an embarrassment to America,” she said.

What to do about an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States is an explosive political issue. But it has largely dropped out of the debate as concerns turn to the economic crisis.

A bid to push comprehensive immigration reform through Congress was rejected by Republican lawmakers two years ago. President Barack Obama, who supported the measure, has yet to address the matter.

“I voted for Obama for change,” said welder Oscar Camacho, 45. “But with respect to immigration, I see no change at all.”

Around 100 counter-demonstrators waving American flags turned out to support Arpaio on Saturday. Some carried holstered pistols.

“He is the only one to uphold illegal immigration laws,” said Dina Rose, 52, standing on sidewalk by the sheriff’s office in downtown Phoenix. “The county sheriff is America’s last hope of protecting our freedoms.”

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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