A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal

(Ángel Franco/The New York Times)
A Family Divided

“For the father, the choice was obvious: An engineer with several jobs yet little money, he saw no future for his daughter and son in their struggling country, Ecuador. Eight years ago, he paid coyotes to smuggle him into Texas, then headed to New York, where his wife and children flew in as tourists, and stayed.”

A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal

Undocumented Woman Forced to Give Birth Cuffed to Hospital Bed in Nashville

A pregnant woman, Juana Villegas, got pulled over for a routine traffic infraction. As an undocumented immigrant, she was jailed and forced to give labor while cuffed to the hospital bed as a sheriff’s officer stood guard over her. Under Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agreement “287G,” which gives immigration enforcement powers to county officers, police can exceed their authority when they act on immigration laws they are not fully trained to enforce.

See Julia Preston’s story in the New York Times, “Immigrant, Pregnant, Is Jailed Under Pact”

Undocumented Woman Forced to Give Birth Cuffed to Hospital Bed in Nashville

Richard Sandman, In Memoriam

Richard Sandman, in memoriam (1962-2008)

My thanks to Andrés Duque (blabbeando) for the coverage and for always helping Richard with immigration related issues. Anyone working on immigration issues, and Latina/o LGBTQ immigration in particular, knows that this is a major loss. My thoughts and condolences to all his loved ones.

“Thanks, Richard Sandman”

by Andrés Duque

I met Richard Sandman (left) about five years ago in Queens as he was attending an immigration law workshop for immigrants with HIV. We’d corresponded through e-mail on immigration issues before but it was nice to put a face to the name.

Sandman, who often provided pro-bono work representing HIV positive and LGBT immigrants from an academic environment had recently decided to launch his own private attorney practice.

I can’t say that we were friends but over the years we developed a close professional relationship. He often reached out to me to see if I had country-specific documentation on abuses against HIV positive and LGBT individuals in certain Latin American countries and, more often than not, I’d be able to provide him with a wealth of information from my archives. He also would refer clients to me for advice on immigration issues and to facilitate sharing of information in cases that he was working on.

Last time I exchanged messages with Richard back in April , he had asked whether I had articles on Argentina. I’d saved a reminder to send him the information but had yet to get around to it. Yet, the reminder stared at me from time to time and made me feel guilty I still hadn’t looked for stuff in my files. What made me feel at ease was that Richard was pretty good at reminding me if I still hadn’t replied, knowing how overwhelmed I sometimes get at work, and – so far – he had not pressed for the info.

This is why it was such a shock to me to find out on Friday night that Richard, who was 46, had passed away on April 30th. He had been hospitalized on April 23d after suffering a massive heart attack and, though doctors seemed to think he might survive after a week in a coma, unfortunately he did not make it through.

A sweet low-key kinda guy who truly helped hundreds of HIV positive and LGBT immigrants gain political asylum in the United States, Richard was truly an unsung hero. He was somewhat comfortable with the Spanish language which surprised me a bit until I found out his family was from Mexico. Still, as always, he would underplay just how much Spanish he knew and was self-depreciating about his language abilities.

A mutual friend tells me he was so dedicated to his work that few people truly got to know him. By all accounts, though, many seemed to love the guy and recognize his unselfishness in dedicating his life’s work to the issue of immigration.

So, thanks Richard, for dedicating your life to such an unprotected and maligned population. Thanks, Richard, for the many times you expressed admiration for my work. And, thanks, Richard, for inspiring others – including me – to keep doing what we do.

Too late to learn about a recent memorial in my case, friends set up a blog to update others on Richard’s condition from the moment that he was hospitalized. You can read the entries and comments made by friends here.

Richard Sandman, In Memoriam

Immigration Lies

From Radio Matthew

Last week, a middle school student from eastern Texas was assaulted by a group of her Latino classmates after siding against illegal immigration in a class history project. Melanie Bowers said 21 Latino students threatened to rape and kill her after she constructed a sign for her project that read: “If you love this nation, stop illegal immigration.” According to Melanie, a male student jumped on her back, placed her in a choke hold, then dragged her face across a brick wall. The thirteen-year-old’s story captivated a nationwide audience—but in the end, it was just that. A story.

The proof, school administrators say, was in surveillance cameras that Athens Middle School recently upgraded. The school opened in 2000 with some security cameras in place; the recent upgrade by the Athens Independent School District now allow school officials to monitor the school from multiple angles at multiple times. In this case, the cameras served to catch a crime that wasn’t being committed.

“It would have been very difficult for us to find out what happened if we didn’t have that system,” Dr. Fred Hayes, Superintendent to AISD, told KLTV.

According to a statement by Dr. Hayes posted on AISD’s website, “All information gathered from surveillance video and student testimonies reveals that the allegations of assault are false and that the injuries on the student’s body were self inflicted.” The statement goes on to say that any attack on a student is investigated by the school’s law enforcement department; in this case, the matter was also investigated by local law enforcement.

The surveillance video shows Melanie Bowers walking away from the school’s cafeteria toward the administration office. While walking through the halls, she is seen holding her poster to her chest, aimed at a group of students walking by. A male student walked behind Bowers, grabbed her poster and ran. The student ran into the school’s gymnasium with Bowers running after him—passing several teachers on the way, but not stopping to ask for help.

Along with two other girls, Bowers made her way to Assistant Principal Mark Castleberry’s office where she explained the confrontation in the hallway. Seconds later, all three girls are seen leaving Castleberry’s office. The tape jumps to show Bowers scratching her neck, face and arms along the school’s brick walls, but the tape never shows a group of students assaulting her.

Parents Gary Bowers and his wife, Shera, were shown the tape Wednesday. After viewing the surveillance video, they issued a hand-written statement to the media reading, “(Our) daughter was not assaulted and put the marks on her body. No gang violence was witnessed and she filed a false report.”

A false report that now has Melanie Bowers in big trouble. The school plans to charge Bowers with filing a false police report—a Class B misdemeanor in Texas that will likely see a less severe penalty since Bowers is a minor.

Three students involved in the incident were placed on In-School Suspension, initially for the attack, but now for the confrontation. One student received ISS for destroying the sign; the other two students received ISS for provoking the first student. “It’s what we would do to anybody who destroys a project,” Dr. Hayes remarked.

Immigration Lies

(Im)migrant Bashing Reprieve

James M. Munley, Judge from the central Pennsylvania district of Hazeltown, struck down the local ordinances that have sought to punish undocumented (im)migrants for trying to live and work in the brain-drained town. Evidence: Mayor Louis J. Barletta (whose name evinces more border crossing than a snake’s shed skin) made tax payers pay for their own ignorance while scapegoating (im)migrants. Brain drain has been rough for the rust belt.

Hazleton immigration law is rejected: A city cannot take such a national issue into its own hands, a judge rules in Pennsylvania

(Im)migrant Bashing Reprieve

Immigrant Detention Facilities for Families Revealed to be Modern-Day Concentration Camps

Latina Lista culled local news stories about immigrant families being detained without charge or due process some six months ago. To date, there is no major coverage of this story.

Privatized Immigrant Detention Facilities for Families Revealed to be Modern-Day Concentration Camps

One of the more disturbing stories that surfaced after the Swift meat plant raids was how too many children were left without a parent and/or farmed out to friends and families with no immediate word on how they will be reconnected with their mami and papi.

But if news filtering out of one of the newly designated immigrant detention centers for families is any indication, no undocumented parent is going to open their mouth and claim their children if the whole family ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifs going to be subjected to what is becoming known as the first known concentration camp on American soil in the 21st Century.

The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (on the outskirts of Austin, Texas) is a private detention facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America. It and a smaller center in Pennsylvania are the only two facilities in the country that are authorized to hold non-Mexican immigrant families and children on noncriminal charges.

What does this mean?

It means that at the Taylor facility of the 400 people “held” there, 200 are children. And all are families that can be held there for whatever length of time without due process conducted in a timely manner.

To top it off, as long as the men, women and children are held there, the facility’s operator draws a daily profit – per person.

The children range in age from infants on up.

According to the lawyers who have visited their clients in the facility, the children receive one hour of education, English instruction, a day and one half hour of indoor recreation.

Jeans and t-shirts have been replaced with jail uniforms; children are issued uniforms as soon as they can fit into them — and everyone must wear name tags, even the babies.

Lawyers are reporting that thefamiliess are receiving substandard medical care and becoming ill from the food being served them. Children are losing weight and people are complaining of migraine-type headaches.

Those clients who are asylum seekers, say the lawyers, are continually suffering trauma on top of the trauma they’ve already undergone in their home countries – all without receiving any kind of pyschological treatment.

Originally, the detention facilities were touted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as a way to keep families together while waiting for their cases to come up for court review.

Well, they are accomplishing that goal – to the exclusion of being allowed any outside contact with the rest of the world, aside from those who have lawyers.

The plight of these families caught in a government-sanctioned Hell is slowly spreading (Texas Civil Rights Review, Austin’s American Statesman Editorial,American Statesman article) but with Christmas less than a week away these families truly need a miracle to let them know that the outside world knows that they are there — not to mention, the children who need to know that Santa or Los Tres Reyes, or the other Holiday entities observed by those who are not Mexican or Latin American, will know where to find them.

The detention for a prolonged period of any child, regardless of whether or not they are with family members, is beneath what the United States used to stand for.

As of late, the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the direction of Homeland Security, has had too many people – on both sides of the immigration debate – shaking their heads as to what our government is capable of subjecting the children of these immigrants to.

We have felt helpless and too many times my Inbox is filled with emails of “What can I do?” or “Where do we go from here?”

Concerned citizens, led by human rights proponent Jay Johnson-Castro (center), walk in protest 35 miles from Texas state capitol in Austin to Taylor,Texas, site of the Hutto Residential facility.
(Source: statesman.com)

There are few issues that demand immediate action, and when children are concerned, it most always warrants as one of those issues.

For children to be held longer than three days, receive but one hour of instruction and only a half hour of recreational play, to be made to feel like criminals by wearing jail jumpsuits and name tags and not have any contact with anyone outside of the facility is a serious violation of the public trust we have in our government, and how we value children in this country.

What can be done?

As cliche as it sounds, it’s time to contact our government officials:

Homeland Security

The White House

Members of Congress

Corrections Corporation of America

Yet, the secret of doing something, that the blogosphere discovered long ago, is that you don’t stop with one email, one posting or one phone call.

The issue must be talked about and circulated until there is action, positive change and the day when all these families can see that they are not alone.

Related story.

Immigrant Detention Facilities for Families Revealed to be Modern-Day Concentration Camps

Immigrant, Migrant, or Refugee Bodies?: Point System Misses the Point

The proposed “point system” leaves Mexicans, the largest number of (im)migrants to the U.S., in limbo again. The system seeks to “award” points for better educated, higher skilled immigrants, and would remain in place for the next 14 years. But the point system isn’t so much a compromise between Democrats and Republicans as it is a failed system from its conception. It does not address the most pressing issues affecting Mexican immigration to this country, the economies these immigrants help to keep afloat through their labor, nor the working conditions that make their bodies expendable commodities in this economy. Locking the point system into law for the next 14 years neither addresses the U.S.’s changing economy, nor its ability to compete in a “new world order” of its own creation.

“Ekaterina D. Atanasova, a civil engineer from Bulgaria who lives in southern Maine, wants to bring her husband to the United States. Under the Senate immigration bill, he would get high marks — at least 74 points — because he too is a civil engineer, has a master’s degree and is fluent in English.

But Herminia Licona Sandoval, a cleaning woman from Honduras, would have no hope of bringing her 30-year-old son to the United States. He works as a driver at an oil refinery, lacks a high school diploma, speaks little English and would fare poorly under the Senate bill, earning fewer than 15 of a possible 100 points.” (Robert Pear, A Point System for Immigrants Incites Passions)

Immigrant, Migrant, or Refugee Bodies?: Point System Misses the Point

Lou Dobbs on the "Infirm" Latino Body

Lou Dobbs’ source on Mexican immigration issues and the politics of scientific rigor (mortis).

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

Dobbs said he stands “100 percent behind” his show’s claim that there had been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the United States over a recent three-year period, and he further suggested that an increase in leprosy was due in part to “unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country.”

Dobbs’ endorsement of the claim came after CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl challenged the leprosy figure during a profile of Dobbs on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday. Stahl cited a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services document that reported 7,029 cases over the past 30 years — not three.

The dispute highlights the SPLC’s concern that Dobbs and some others in the media are regularly using discredited and inaccurate information about immigrants — material that often originates with far-right ideologues and organizations dominated by white supremacists and nativists.

Dobbs and CNN reporter Christine Romans said they had gotten the information from the late Madeleine Cosman, who was described by Romans as “a respected medical lawyer” – but who, in fact, was a woman who repeatedly ranted about Latino men raping boys, girls and nuns.

Lou Dobbs on the "Infirm" Latino Body