Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

Undocumented Immigrants Reply to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration

ASPIRE Press Statement, November 25, 2013
(ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation.)

Asian-Pacific-Islander Undocumented Immigrants
Respond to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration Reform

(Read SF Chronicle article on Obama’s SF speech on immigration reform: http://tinyurl.com/m8lhtvk )

San Francisco – Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), the nation’s first undocumented Asian immigrant organization, asked President Obama today at his speech on immigration reform in San Francisco’s Chinatown to stop deportations.

Ju Hong, an ASPIRE member, spoke out during the President’s speech. He asked, “Mr. President, please use your executive authority to halt [deportations]. We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, you have the power to stop deportations.” Members in the crowd joined ASPIRE and SF Dream Team members, who were next to Hong, in chanting, “Yes, you can. Stop the deportations!” Mr. Obama replied, “Actually, I don’t, and that’s why we’re here.”

As the Obama administration approaches almost 2 million deportations, ASPIRE requests the following from President Obama:

“Explain your legal analysis for why you, as the chief executive, do not have the authority to stop deportations today. An average of 1,100 immigrants are deported every day under your administration. How can you support immigration reform while at the same time brutally enforcing our broken immigration system at the rate and speed that you do? You referred to the holidays in your speech. Isn’t this the perfect time to finally exercise your executive powers to halt deportations and keep our families together? And won’t that put much needed pressure on the House to pass real immigration reform? We respectfully await your prompt response.”

The President has broad discretion in law enforcement in general and in immigration law enforcement in particular. This discretion includes: the power to choose whether to bring enforcement actions against specific individuals or categories of people, and the power to interpret existing laws and regulations. The President also has the authority to end or modify existing enforcement programs, including Operation Streamline and Secure Communities. Both are merely programs created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are not required by law. Executive power made possible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which can be expanded more broadly to protect families.

“As an undocumented immigrant, my power comes through my voice. President Obama, you have the executive power to stop the pain in our communities. You said you are just following the law. But as you have acknowledged, our immigration laws are broken. The law also does not require you to deport 400,000 a year. You cannot support us while deporting thousands of our community members every day. We don’t need any more speeches. We need you to take real action,” says Ju Hong, ASPIRE member.

“An executive order from President Obama is the catalyst for immigration reform. As ASPIRE, we have organized countless lobby visits in Washington D.C. and throughout California to try and fix our broken immigration system. We also have hosted townhalls supporting just and humane reform, and put ourselves at risk engaging in civil disobedience. But the suffering of our communities who are facing deportation and languishing in detention centers continues unabated. So we are using our voices to tell you directly what our community needs and what you can do today,” May Liang, campaign organizer and member of ASPIRE.

# # #

ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation. We started with a few young people looking for help with their undocumented status at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. ASPIRE has grown to an organization of 50+ members in the last 5 years. We educate people about immigration reform, advocate for more just policies on immigration, and mobilize undocumented youth and allies for actions to push for fair and inclusive immigration.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aspiredreamers Twitter: @Aspiredreamers

Read about the Dignity Campaign, which advocates for real immigration reform: http://dignitycampaign.org/

Read the Dignity Campaign’s analysis of the failings of SB-744, the Senate’s “comprehensive immigration reform” that Obama advocates: http://tinyurl.com/lf69qta

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Chile, Mapuche, and the Bernal Heights Library Mural

pw-bernal-mural_front_panorama-w_copyright6-26-12CHILE AND MAPUCHE

The SF Gray Panthers November 2012 Newsletter reported the painting over of the mural about Chile that was on three sides of the Bernal Heights Library. That mural included references to the Mapuche indigenous population of Chile. Today in Chile the Mapuche are threatened and persecuted by the government of President Sebastian Pinera much the same way as did Pinochet.

The Mapuche are an ancient indigenous people in southern Chile who matched the powerful Incas over centuries and kept hold of their various territories. The Spanish tried in vain to enslave them. Once Chile was independent from Spain it finally overwhelmed the long Mapuche resistance in the effort called “Pacification of Araucania.” This process in the late 1800s destroyed Mapuche agricultural and trading economies and created a system of Reducciones, similar to US Indian reservations.

Since the overthrow of the Pinochet government in Chile the Mapuche have been struggling to reclaim their territory, their language, their agricultural and horticultural skills adapted over the years to Chile’s incredibly varied terrain, and their own specific culture. The current Chilean government has resisted these efforts by increasingly militarizing areas, including such actions as army and helicopter attacks on the community of Temucuicui. Protests on the ground led to the arrests of some of the protesters led to widespread hunger strikes in Concepcion and Temuco in support of the arrested Mapuche. Subsequently, four men were convicted of killing a police officer. In October, the Chilean Superior Court annulled the murder charge due to “irregularities in the trial.” The Court left standing accusations of possessing arms and mandated a new trial.

Much of the information in this article was reported on line by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. It was certainly not covered by the US mainstream media. Painting over the Bernal Heights mural about Chile under Pinochet is part of the selective re-writing of history.

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“Everybody In! Nobody out!” Means No Exclusion of Undocumented Immigrants

Since its inception, Single-Payer healthcare’s most enduring rallying theme has been “Everybody In!  Nobody Out!”  This vision, which resonates with our most basic striving for equality, is being challenged now, as progressives and sections of labor rally behind Bernie Sanders’ new single-payer law, S.915, which contains the fatal flaw of excluding undocumented immigrants.  (Section 102, Universal Entitlement)  Single Payer has always been about EQUAL, comprehensive, accessible, affordable, economical healthcare for EVERYONE.  The damage the working class would suffer from passing this bill as is, and splitting us into “legal” and “not legal” groupings, would negate any advances that would be made by getting rid of  insurance companies.

I would like to present a resolution that was submitted to the American Public Health Association in response to the Obama Health Plan’s exclusion of undocumented immigrants.  In the year before the American Public Health Association (APHA) had its 2010 annual meeting on the theme of “Social Justice,” a massive health reform law had passed which totally excluded some 12 million undocumented immigrants. And while immigrants had been hoping for far-reaching reforms and a measure of long-delayed justice, harassment and deportation of undocumented immigrants had markedly increased.  In response, members of the Health-Not-War group at APHA proposed the following resolution to send an unequivocal message that this is intolerable to us as human beings and as public health workers.

Opposing the Exclusion of Undocumented Immigrants from Health Care Reform

November 5, 2010

The American Public Health Association,

Noting that this March, 2010, Congress passed and the President signed a massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which not only leaves at least 23 million uninsured1, but explicitly excludes ALL undocumented immigrants,1 and,

Noting that the PPACA even forbids undocumented immigrants from using their own money to buy health insurance at discounted prices through the exchanges,2 and,

Noting that, of all groups, undocumented immigrants have arguably the greatest need of having healthcare expanded to them because:

FIRST: Undocumented immigrants are twice as likely to be uninsured as documented immigrants,3 and,

SECOND: Undocumented immigrants are generally excluded from Medicaid and SCHIP by federal law, and state-funded exceptions to this pattern will become rarer as state budgets languish. Moreover, most undocumented immigrants must wait five years after gaining legal residency to apply for Medicaid and SCHIP.4

THIRD: Undocumented immigrants’ future access to healthcare will be more challenging because  (1) increasing raids5 and deportations6, Arizona’s SB 10707, and the Secure Communities Initiative8 are likely to make undocumented immigrants more fearful of registering at health facilities and traveling to them, (2) State and County budget cuts are eliminating health services for  undocumented immigrants9, (3) Anti-immigrant groups are pressing jurisdictions to withdraw health services from undocumented immigrants10, and (4) Legislators are considering withdrawing citizenship from US-born children of undocumented immigrants, compromising their children’s access to healthcare as well as overturning a 150-year old constitutional right,11 and,

FOURTH:  Many of the factors contributing to poor access to healthcare for immigrants in general are worse for undocumented immigrants, such as immigrants’ fears of presenting at health institutions, immigrants’ increasing unemployment rates combined with the higher cost of buying individual insurance, and health institutions’ fear of losing funding for treating immigrants.   Even among the insured, immigrants’ and their children’s access to ambulatory and emergency care is worse than that of citizens,12 and,

FIFTH: Future funds for hospitalization of the uninsured, including undocumented immigrants, will be reduced, as PPACA reduces Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments to hospitals serving the uninsured. Though these hospitals’ burden of uninsured will drop over time, PPACA specifies DSH payments must drop faster13, and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Actuary estimated that the combined reductions at $64 billion over ten years.14

SIXTH: Reducing undocumented immigrants’ already poor access to healthcare is particularly dangerous and morally indefensible in light of their increased rates of injury, illness15, and death16 from hazardous  occupations17 and housing18, compounded with their vulnerability to deportation if they report dangerous conditions or seek treatment.

Noting that measures taken to deny healthcare to undocumented immigrants often result in citizens losing healthcare also, as exemplified by the 2004 cancellation of Colorado’s Presumptive (Medicaid) Eligibility program, which had allowed pregnant women to receive prenatal care while their Medicaid applications were being processed. The entire program was eliminated because about half of the women were found to be ineligible by immigration status. Citizen and immigrant women alike were put at risk, as well as their unborn children.19

Noting that  APHA has taken a clear positions against withholding medical care from undocumented immigrants in its resolution 2001-23, which “Urges the President and the Congress to oppose denial of eligibility for programs providing nutritional, prenatal, public health, medical care, and behavioral health benefits and services to any person residing in the United States on the basis of her or his immigration status”;20  its resolution 9501, which “Opposes any mandates and initiatives that would limit access to public health interventions and health services for undocumented and documented immigrants and their children;”21 and its resolution LB04-07, which “Deplores and warns against measures curtailing, eliminating, or disrupting health care to undocumented immigrants.”22

And finally, noting that the recent passage of this massive Health Reform law that explicitly and categorically excludes the grossly underserved undocumented immigrant population presents public health advocates with a grave challenge,

Therefore, the American Public Health Association

1.  Calls on the President, and Congress to end the exclusion of healthcare for undocumented immigrants from Health Reform, and

2.  Calls on the President and Congress to support health reform that provides equal, comprehensive, affordable, accessible healthcare for every person, regardless of their status of health, employment, income, or legalization,  and

3.  Calls on the President and Congress to assure that community health centers receiving $11 billion of dollars of federal aid over the next five years through the PPACA23 continue to give undocumented immigrants comprehensive health care, and

4.  Encourages public health advocates to attend future events on immigration reform (public rallies, demonstrations, press conferences and the like) with the demand of comprehensive, affordable, accessible medical care for all immigrants, regardless of legalization status.

References:

1.  Kaiser Health News. Some Will Remain Uninsured After Reform. Available at: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2010/March/24/Some-Will-Remain-Uninsured.aspx.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

2.  Lewin Group.  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Long Term Costs for Governments, Employers, Families and Providers.   Available at: http://www.lewin.com/content/publications/LewinGroupAnalysis-PatientProtectionandAffordableCareAct2010.pdf.  p. 22.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

3.    Pew Hispanic Center.  Hispanics, Health Insurance and Health Care Access.   Available at: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1356/hispanics-health-insurance-health-care-access.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Working Immigrants.  Health uninsured rates among immigrants: far higher.  Available at: http://www.workingimmigrants.com/2009/08/health_uninsured_rates_among_i.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

4.   Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured,  Summary: Five Basic Facts on Immigrants and Their Health Care.   Available at: http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/7761.pdf.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

5.   Coalicion de Derechos Humanos.  Massive ICE sweep terrorizes Arizona communities following state passage of anti-immigrant profiling law.   Available at: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=166&Itemid=1.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

6.   Common Dreams.  Obama Administration Immigration Deportations Exceed Bush’s Record.   Available at: http://www.commondreams.org/print/56327.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

7.   Arizona Daily Star, National Physician Groups Condemn Arizona SB 1070.  Available at: http://azstarnet.com/news/blogs/health/article_ca3a8c46-62c6-11df-9a0a-001cc4c002e0.html.  Accessed November 3, 2010.

8.   San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network.   San Francisco Immigrant Legal And Education Network Opposes The Implementation Of The Dangerous Secure Communities Program In San Francisco.   Available at: http://www.sfimmigrantnetwork.org/comments/sfilen_opposes_implementation_of_secure_communities_program_in_san_francisc, Accessed October 3, 2010.

9.   New York Times.  Reprieve Eases Medical Crisis for Illegal Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/us/06grady.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report.  Economic Recession Forcing Local Health Departments To Reduce Services to Undocumented Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=57497.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

New York Times,   Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals.   Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/us/03deport.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

10.   Washington Independent.   Anti-Immigration Activists See Opportunity in Health Care Debate.  Available at: http://washingtonindependent.com/55044/anti-immigration-activists-see-opportunity-in-health-care-debate.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

11.   Newsweek Magazine.  The Next Front on Immigration.   Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/01/the-next-front-on-immigration.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Politico.  John McCain backs citizenship hearings.  Available at: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0810/40589.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

12.   Health Affairs.  Left Out: Immigrants’ Access to Health Care and Insurance January/February 2001.   Available at: http://www.projectshine.org/files/shared_images/Left_Out.pdf ,   Accessed October 20, 2010.

13.   The Hospital & Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

(PPACA) of 2010 and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act (HCEARA) of 2010. Available at: http://www.haponline.org/downloads/HAP_Summary_2010_PPACA_HCEARA_April2010.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

14.  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Estimated Financial Effects of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” as Amended.  Available at https://www.cms.gov/ActuarialStudies/Downloads/PPACA_2010-04-22.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

15.  Moure-Eraso R,  Friedman-Jimenez G.  (2004) Occupational health among Latino workers: a needs assessment and recommended interventions.  New Solutions. 14/4:319-47.  Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=129.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

16.   Richardson, S. Fatal work injuries among foreign-born Hispanic Workers. Monthly Labor Review, October, 2005.   Available at:  http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2005/10/ressum.pdf.   Accessed on November 4, 2010.

17.   APHA Policy Statement 2005-4: Occupational Health and Safety Protections for Immigrant Workers.  December 14, 2005.  Especially see Richardson S, Ruser J, Suarez P. Hispanic Workers in the United States: An Analysis of Employment Distributions, Fatal Occupational Injuries, and Non-fatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses in National Research Council: Safety is Seguridad. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 2003.  Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=48  and http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=57.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

18.   Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Living in America: Challenges Facing New Immigrants and Refugees.  Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/files/publications/other/Immigration_Report.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

19.   Wall Street Journal.   Prenatal Care Is Latest State Cut In Services for Illegal Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.uniset.ca/naty/maternity/wsj_imm_med.htm.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

20.   APHA Policy Statement 2001-23: Protection of the Health of Resident Immigrants in the United States.  Available at: http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=262.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

21.   APHA Policy Statement 9501: Opposition To Anti-Immigrant Statutes.   Available at: http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=96.   Accessed October3, 2010.

22.   APHA Policy Statement LB04-07: Responding to Threats to Health Care for Immigrants.  November 9, 2004.

23.   PPACA Health Care Reform Timeline.   Available at: http://stabenow.senate.gov/healthcare/Health_Care_Timeline.pdf.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

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ALERT: Arizona Argues to Keep Racist SB SB 1070 in SF Court, MONDAY, Nov 1, 9 AM, Mission & 7th St.

ALERT: Arizona Argues to Keep Racist SB SB 1070 in SF Court, MONDAY, Nov 1, 9 AM, Mission & 7th St.
On Monday, The State of Arizona will be in Federal Court in San Francisco, arguing that it should be allowed to retain its SB 1070, a law promoting racial profiling by mandating state official checks papers of anyone who might look undocumented.
Major protests are planned, with immigrants rights activists coming from Arizona and Texas. Importantly, we are emphasizing the similarity between Arizona’s SB 1070 and Obama’s Secure Communities Initiative, by which fingerprints from *any* arrest are shared with Immigration, leading to deportation proceedings for undocumented immigrants even if it is later determined that no crime occurred.  See Gray Panthers Resolution “Solidarity with Immigrant Workers and Families,” adapted at 2010 CARA Convention.
Please join us this at 9 AM, Monday, November 1, at the new Federal Building, Mission & 7th Sts., San Francisco (two blocks from Civic Center BART station.  See map.)
More Information:

Appeals Court Hearing on SB 1070 sparks major community protest

Faith, immigrant leaders stage procession and rally to honor immigrant families;

Speak out against police-ICE collusion in Arizona and at home

Religious leaders, community residents and organizations will hold a large procession and protest rally against Arizona ’s discriminatory SB 1070 as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco conducts a hearing on the controversial law. Advocates will also draw connections between the law and the Federal “S-Comm” program that creates a new collusion between police and ICE.

Monday, November 1, 2010

  • 8:00am Blessing at St Patrick’s Church, 756 Mission St , San Francisco
  • 8:30am Procession to Federal Courthouse, 95 7th St , San Francisco
  • 9:00am Program and Rally at Courthouse as hearing begins, 95 7th St , San Francisco
  • 5:00pm SB1070 Arizona Artists Against 1070 Opening, The Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission Street , San Francisco

Who: Bishop Otis Charles, Episcopal; Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Presbyterian; Fr. Louis Vitale, Catholic (Franciscan); Rev. Jeff Johnson, Lutheran. Bianca Rojo, US Citizen whose parents were unjustly deported when she was a teenager, has helped register Latino voters in Arizona, as well as members of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Causa Justa::Just Cause, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Day Labor Program of La Raza Centro Legal, Chinese Progressive Association and more.

Visuals: Procession led by clergy leaders in formal garb, featuring images by Arizona artists, skeletons and flowers and other day of the dead imagery to symbolize the separation of families and deaths of migrants on the border.

Why: Arizona ’s harsh SB1070 has created a human rights crisis in the state and illustrates the dangers of Police- ICE collusion, as it undermines community safety and hurts immigrant families. Advocates also see worrisome parallels between SB 1070 and the so-called “Secure” Communities or S-Comm program, which mandates collaboration between police and immigration officials across the country, effectively referring to immigration officials for deportation immigrants whose fingerprints are taken by law enforcement personnel, even for minor infractions, and even if the person is innocent. Cities like San Francisco have demanded the right to opt-out of S-Comm. Monday’s vigil calls for an end to the humanitarian crisis in immigrant communities and a stop to cruel enforcement policies which are separating families and creating a climate of fear.

Today as people of faith we stand with immigrant families and communities across this country who are suffering from unjust laws like Arizona ‘s harsh SB 1070. Immigrants are part of our congregations and contribute greatly to the economy and to the community,” said Rev. Deborah Lee. “We pray for families who live each day in fear of being torn apart by deportations. We pray for our elected officials and call on them work together to find effective solutions. Our country urgently needs immigration policies that honor our best American values and respect the dignity of all people.”

We need real and humane solutions to our broken immigration system, like legalization for all, not harsh enforcement policies which drive the immigrant community further into the shadows,” said Juana Flores of Mujeres Unidas y Activas.

+++++

Andrea Cristina Mercado

Lead Organizer

Mujeres Unidas y Activas

3543 18th St #23

San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 621 8140 ext. 301

andreacristina@mujeresunidas.net

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Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor

New York Times, July 8, 2010

Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor

TEL AVIV — Perched 22 stories above an affluent suburb of this prosperous seaside city, three Chinese construction workers inched their way along the arm of a crane last autumn and refused to budge. Facing deportation because of expiring visas, theirs was an act of desperation aimed at getting thousands of dollars in wages they claimed their Israeli employer had illegally withheld.

The daredevil protest had the desired effect: after the men spent nine hours on the crane, the construction company agreed to pay each the equivalent of $1,000. Satisfied, they climbed down and voluntarily headed to the airport.

For Israelis, the crane standoff — the second in a matter of months — was an unwanted reminder of their country’s troubled economic experiment with foreign labor. Since the first intifada of the early 1990s, more than a million migrants from the developing world have come to Israel to replace the Palestinians, who were the country’s original source of cheap labor.

At least 250,000 foreign laborers, about half of them illegal, are living in the country, according to the Israeli government. They include Chinese construction workers, Filipino home health care aides and Thai farmhands, as well as other Asians, and Africans and Eastern Europeans, working as maids, cooks and nannies.

“Israelis won’t do this work, so they bring us,” said Wang Yingzhong, 40, a construction worker from Jiangsu Province in China who arrived in 2006.

But even as foreign workers have become a mainstay of the economy, their presence has increasingly clashed with Israel’s Zionist ideology, causing growing political unease over the future of the Jewish state and their place in it.

The government has lurched through a series of contradictory policies that encourage the temporary employment of migrants while seeking to impose tight visa and labor restrictions that can leave them vulnerable to abusive employers, advocates for the workers say.

Those who overstay their visas and try to remain in Israel live in fear of the Oz Unit, a recently created division of immigration police officers who hunt down illegal migrants and assist in their deportation.

The government insists it wants unskilled jobs to go to unemployed Israelis, especially Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Critics say the policies are hypocritical and racist because they treat foreign workers as undeserving of legal protection.

“All too often we have to fight to make Israelis see that these foreign workers are human beings,” said Dana Shaked, the coordinator for Chinese laborers at Kav LaOved, a workers’ rights group.

Although the Israeli government issued a record 120,000 foreign work permits in 2009, the country’s political leaders say they want to phase out migrant labor. “We have created a Jewish and democratic nation, and we cannot let it turn into a nation of foreign workers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a conference of the Israel Manufacturers Association in January.

The No. 1 target is the Chinese, who in recent years have received nearly all of the construction work permits. Chinese accounted for a quarter of all deportations from 2003 to 2008, more than any other foreign group. The rate was expected to soar as 3,000 of those permits lapsed at the end of June.

The Chinese end up in the most desperate straits here partly because they are recruited through a murky network of manpower companies that rights groups say operate like human trafficking rings. Chinese pay up to $31,000 in illegal recruitment fees, the highest fees of all foreign workers, according to Kav LaOved, which says the money ends up in the pockets of go-betweens and government agencies in both countries.

The Chinese must work for an average of two years just to repay the money they borrow to afford those fees. Unaware of their rights and unable to speak Hebrew or English, many fall victim to a minefield of abuse like squalid living conditions, withheld wages and the early termination of work permits, which make them liable for deportation before they have repaid the recruitment fees or saved money for themselves.

Most Chinese endure the injustices more quietly than the workers who staged the dramatic crane protests last year. Some, like Liu Shiqi, 39, said he showed up to his job as a cook one March morning to find the restaurant closed and the owner gone without paying him. “They know we’re alone and don’t speak Hebrew, so they take advantage of us,” he said.

Worker advocates say the Chinese Embassy has long been indifferent or even hostile to the workers’ plight. When 170 construction workers went on strike in 2001 seeking back pay, embassy officials warned them that they would be imprisoned upon their return to China for breaching their contracts and breaking Chinese labor law. The men who protested on the crane did so after the embassy ignored their pleas, they told Kav LaOved.

Yang Jianchu, the Chinese consul for immigration affairs, says his staff does all it can to help those in trouble. He also dismissed accusations by worker advocates that the Chinese government profits from the exorbitant recruitment fees. “We don’t know where the money goes,” Mr. Yang said. “This is the truth.”

Laborers who become illegal after losing their jobs or overstaying their visas say they are easily exploited by Israeli bosses.

One 40-year-old Chinese worker from Jiangsu Province said he was once forced to sleep in a shipping crate. Fears of being arrested by the immigration police consume him. “When I sleep, they catch me in my dreams,” said the man, surnamed Jiang, who asked that his full name not be printed.

The government has quietly begun to replace Chinese with other non-Israelis, issuing 15,000 construction permits to Palestinians this year. This comes as right-wing politicians have heightened accusations that foreign workers are stealing Israeli jobs and threatening the nation’s Jewish character, an assertion many on the left dismiss.

“Saying foreign workers are diluting the Jewish state is racism,” said Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Israeli Parliament and a critic of the foreign-worker policy. “On one hand, Israel is bringing them here and making money off their backs, and on other they face all sorts of harassment.”

Even if the law is changed, it will be too late for people like Lin Qingde, a Chinese construction worker who is one of 26 plaintiffs to sue an Israeli-Arab merchant accused of stealing $1.7 million from hundreds of workers, money that he was supposed to wire to their families in China. The police arrested the businessman, but, while waiting to testify at the trial, Mr. Lin’s work visa expired and he was also arrested.

Stuck behind bars for five months and afraid he might be killed in China for failing to repay a $40,000 debt, Mr. Lin was finally called into court in May to give his account. A few days later, he was deported.

Hay Haber, the lawyer for Mr. Lin and the other plaintiffs, said he was ashamed of Israel’s justice system. “These workers, unfortunately, have no place in Israel,” Mr. Haber said, surrounded by stacks of evidence files in his Tel Aviv office. “Here they are nothing but cheap slaves.”

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We don’t want just any immigration reform!

Renee Saucedo

We don’t want just any immigration reform!

Last week, we witnessed the powerful marches of immigrant communities in Washington D.C., and in other cities, in support of “immigration reform.” These righteous protests allowed those impacted by unfair immigration laws to remind lawmakers of what they are demanding: legalization for themselves and their families.

But some of the groups that organized the march in Washington, led by beltway advocates like the National Immigration Forum and the National Council of La Raza, are supporting policies beyond legalization which actually harm immigrant communities. Reform Immigration For America, or “RIFA,” the coalition spearheading a national immigration reform campaign, recently came out in support of the conservative, Senate proposal, authored by Senators Lindsey Graham (Republican-SC) and Chuck Schumer (Democrat-NY). In a recent email, RIFA celebrated President Obama’s support for this “bi-partisan blueprint for reform” and mentioned the rally in San Francisco as further support for a “bi-partisan bill.”

It is horrifying that immigrant rights groups would support a proposal that would have devastating impacts on immigrants. Among other things, the Graham-Schumer plan proposes an intensification of raids, detentions, deportations and militarism of the US-Mexico border. Over 350,000 undocumented migrants were incarcerated last year in private detention centers. This number will rise under the bi-partisan plan.

Graham-Schumer also propose creating a biometric national identity card that everyone, including US citizens, must carry to prove authorization to work. This means that people working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned. And they propose to expand guest worker programs that have been documented numerously to be highly exploitative. It will be harder for immigrant workers to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages.

In the area of legalization, the Graham-Schumer proposal involves “going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.” It offers no real alternative to the current system and makes it almost impossible for most to legalize their status.

As the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) states, “(the bi-partisan blueprint) sets a low bar for the debate, placing harsh and failed enforcement strategies at its heart in hopes of drawing conservative support, regardless of the human rights consequences of such policies.” (Press Release dated March 20, 2010). The “bi-partisan blueprint” outlined by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and supported by President Obama, is a horrible starting point for legalization.

Many respectable advocates argue that, while Graham-Schumer may not be the ticket, we should support less onerous proposals such as the Luis Gutierrez bill, introduced by the Illionois Congressman in the House of Representatives. “It’s best to get at least residency for some, even if this means accepting provisions which would lead to further criminalization and exploitation for others,” they say. “It’s the best we’re going to get.” They make a strategy argument rather than a political or ideological one.

However, Luis Gutierrez’s bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, offers benefits to some, but criminalizes the vast majority of undocumented immigrants. While it eliminates the program encouraging collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration, provides an avenue for undocumented youth to apply for residency, and improves the oversight in the current detention system, it does little in the area of legalization. The Gutierrez bill creates a new “conditional non-immigrant visa status” (CNIS) and those who qualify could apply, with no guarantee, for residency. The only real difference between this proposal and the current system is that applicants’ biometrics would be registered witht he Department of Homeland Security and they would have to wait at least 6 years to gain their residency. Most undocumented immigrants I’ve spoken to about this proposal do not consider it to be beneficial.

Even if the Gutierrez bill was favorable in the area of legalization, it still does more damage than it does good. Among other things, it increases border militarization and enforcement, raids, and deprtations, instead of addressing the economic and social issues that fuel migration across the border. The bill also mandates the use of an “Employment Verification System (E-Verify), requiring all employers to fire employees whose names do not match their Social Security numbers. Finally , the bill creates a Commission with an anti-worker character, since its stated goal is to pursue “employment-based immigration policies that promote economic growth and competitiveness, while minimizing job displacement, wage depression, and unauthorized unemployment.” The establishment of this commission is the first step towards setting up an expanded guest worker program.

Of course, the human rights implications of both the Graham-Schumer and Gutierrez proposals are deadly and catastrophic. Under both, more families will be separated, more people will suffer and die while attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. More workers will be exploited and discriminated against. Employers will still be ble to exploit cheap immigrant labor while temporary workers would be barred from many of the benefits and rights of US citizenship, as well as from many of the labor protections guaranteed under US laws. And undocumented migration to the US will continue to conveniently mischarcterized as a “criminal,” or “illegal,” issue, rather than as a consequence of economic trade agreements and political repression which displaces millions. Employers want to keep it this way to ensure their supply of cheap, vulnerable, exploitable labor.

No immigrant, labor, or human rights organizaiton can in good conscience rationalize the support of the Graham-Schumer or Gutierrez proposals.

Instead, we must hold steadfast to what immigrant communities really want and deserve: Immediate legalization for the millions of undocumented and a reasonable legalization process for future immigrants; An end to the criminalization of immigrants, workplace enforcement, and raids; The repeal of Employer Sanctions; the Expansion of Family Visas to end the backlogs in family reunification; An end to the detention and deportation system; The end of border militarization and protection of human rights of border communities; An end to guest worker programs; The protection and expansion of civil rights, labor rights and due process for immigrants.

We must continue to organize around just immigration policies in terms of labor mobility and human rights, not as an issue of national security and enforcement.

In 1986, Employers Sanctions was traded in exchange for legalization for some. This proved to be disastrous in the long run for millions of workers who cannot get work legally, or who are discriminated against by employers.

Why are we chopping off our bargaining power away so early in the game? Why don’t we demand everything that we want from the start, knowing that we will probably have to compromise on some things as the process moves forward? I don’t understand why advocates believe we must begin negotiations with the lowest common denominator.

I believe that we should never fight for the rights of some at the expense of others. Legalization for some will be an empty victory if at the same time most undocumented immigrants are facing higher exploitation, suffering, and even deaths.

We must continue to support immigrant communites in their struggle to obtain a fair legalization law. We must not allow certain advocacy organizations to negotiate away rights on their behalf. By organizing, marching, etc. we must continue to demand just immigration laws and to work towards ending policies which criminalize and exploit members of our community. In the long run, the immigrant rights movement will be stronger for it.

Renee Saucedo is the Community Empowerment Coordinator at La Raza Centro Legal, in San Francisco.  Her email address is renee@lrcl.org.

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Meeting: Civil Liberties in the Time of Obama

“Civil Liberties in the Time of Obama”
Tuesday, March 16, 1 PM
Fireside Room, Unitarian Center
1187 Franklin St (betw. O’Farrell, Geary), SF
Free, Wheelchair OK
A SF Gray Panther Program, Public Invited

As with war, Obama has been disappointing on civil liberties issues, such as the extension of the Patriot Act, extraordinary renditions, military tribunals, detentions without charges, not charging the architects of torture, not closing Guantanamo, and failure to intervene in the cases of Mumia and Lynne Stewart.

Similarly, Obama has been disappointing on immigration issues, such as family separations, widespread ICE raids, mass firings, police checkpoints, continued immigrant detention and deportations, and a network of secret detention facilities violating basic rights and needs. Meanwhile an immigration reform bill is being introduced that promises to arouse more controversy.

Angela Chan, a lawyer from San Francisco’s Asian Law Caucus, a leading advocate for civil liberties, will describe the impact of some of these trends, especially for San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policy.

Ms. Chan has been active in fighting the deportation of immigrant youths arrested for felonies without any investigation of whether the arrests were based on facts or simply racial profiling by the police. Many of these charges were later dropped, but the youth are already deported to countries where they often have no family support.  In response to community outrage, Supervisors passed an ordinance that bars turning over juvenile immigrant arrestees to ICE unless subsequent hearings establish the arrestee was actually guilty, but Mayor Gavin Newsom has refused to implement this law.

Read more: http://tinyurl.com/y9c8t8w

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