CUT CLASS? GET DEPORTED.
SKIPPING SCHOOL USED TO COST you a couple hours of detention and the wrath of mom, but for Winona, Texas high schoolers Brisa and Lluvia Amante, it got them deported. In February, the 17-year-old twins skipped school and went to truancy court twice. But when Smith County Justice of the Peace Mitch Shamburger sent the sisters to jail to shake them up a little, ICE stepped in, unbeknownst to him. “The officer called me and said I wouldn’t have to worry about them skipping school anymore because ICE was deporting them back to El Salvador,” Shamburger said.
BLACKS HIT HARDER BY RECESSION
WHILE THE GOVERNMENT defends its fondness for corporate bailouts—including the staggering $3.2 billion to Bear Stearns—the rest of the country is already feeling the effects of the looming recession. According to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, Black workers will be hit the hardest. “The Black unemployment rate is typically about double the white unemployment rate, and in the last two recessions it rose faster than the overall unemployment rate,” said Algernon Austin, the institute’s director. The study evaluated unemployment rates over the past decade. The Black joblessness rate is expected to hit 11 percent by 2009, while the national unemployment rate could rise to 6.4 percent.
SOMEBODY’S BEEN WATCHING TOO MUCH OF THE WIRE
BEFORE SHE WAS EXPOSED as a literary fraud, Margaret B. Jones, author of Love and Consequences, won critical acclaim for her memoir about life as a half-white, half-American Indian child in foster care and Crips drug runner in South Central L.A. Turns out Margaret B. Jones is actually an Episcopalian private school graduate who grew up in affluent Sherman Oaks, California with her biological white family. “I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who [other] people don’t listen to,” Seltzer said. The $100,000 advance probably motivated her, too.
AMERICAN INDIANS TO CHERTOFF: GET OFF OUR LAND
AFTER TWO YEARS of protracted legal struggles, Eloisa Tamez was ordered in April by a U.S. district judge to relinquish her Rio Grande Valley land to the Department of Homeland Security as Secretary Michael Chertoff moves on plans to extend the Mexico-U.S. border wall through her property. Tamez argued that the border wall would cut off farmers of the local Lipan Apache community from a vital water source needed for land irrigation. The 73-year-old indigenous land-grant property owner, who had been fighting to keep the surveyors off her land, was the last of more than 50 property owners the federal government had sued. Tamez and her ancestors have lived on the South Texas land for more than 250 years.
RAVESNO CARDING FOR IMMIGRATION OR GENDER
SAN FRANCISCO WILL BEGIN issuing municipal identification cards to city residents in August, regardless of immigration status, making it the second city to do so—New Haven, Connecticut, began offering ID cards in July 2007. Supporters have hailed it as a public safety measure that will encourage undocumented residents to come forward to report crimes and access banking services. But the move is also a win for the queer community, whose advocates convinced San Francisco officials to leave gender specifications off the cards, thus helping the city’s transgender residents. It’s a small, wallet-sized step towards inclusion.
CHEATING EMPLOYERS BEWARE
THE KANSAS STATE Supreme Court ruled last year that undocumented workers are covered by a state law that doubles the amount of money an employee can collect if their boss deliberately withholds pay. Since that ruling, the Sunflower Community Action group in Wichita has teamed up with the state’s Department of Labor to file claims for immigrant workers, who are routinely cheated out of their wages. The group printed a labor rights guide that urges workers “not to remain silent anymore.” Last year, Kansas workers won a total of $1.3 million in unpaid wages.
NOTHING VIRTUAL HERE
IMMIGRANTS WHO SEND MONEY back home to their families are familiar with the price gouging of predatory wire transfer companies. Now there will be payback. In May, the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action, better known as TIGRA, announced it had signed an agreement with the wire transfer company Virtual Money that requires the company to donate 1 percent of its pre-tax profits to a community reinvestment fund. “Of the 175 money transfer companies in the U.S., this is the first agreement with a nonprofit organization to commit to fair prices and human rights screens on its investment and real community reinvestment,” said Francis Calpotura, executive director of TIGRA.
NOVEL ABOUT GHETTO NERD NABS PULITZER
THIS YEAR, DOMINICAN AMERICAN novelist Junot Díaz became the sixth writer of color to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the award’s 60-year history for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The book is about a fat “lovesick ghetto nerd” tackling a 500-year family curse stretching all the way back to its roots in the Dominican Republic. Díaz, who also won the National Book Critics Circle Award this year, is known for his gritty literary writing on masculinity and immigration. Now he may be getting the Hollywood treatment, too. Wondrous Life has been optioned by Miramax Films.