Report: Latinos Scared To Report Crime Because of Local Immigration Enforcement

Latinos are far less likely to contact police to report crime because of fears that doing so could trigger immigration detention and deportation. That’s according to new polling data released today of over 2000 Latinos in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix.

The report, “Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement,” finds that Latinos in general and undocumented Latino immigrants in particular are unlikely to call police to report crime because of fears that police will inquire about their immigration status. University of Illinois Chicago researchers and Lake Research Associates pollsters found that 44 percent of Latinos in these cities say they’re unlikely to call police if they’re victim of a crime. And 70 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants say they’re less likely to tell police if they’ve been targeted by a criminal act.

Responding to the report findings, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement, “Federal deportation policy doesn’t just destroy families, it is destroying public trust in law enforcement and, as a consequence, threatening everyone’s public safety.”

The survey also found that over 60 percent of undocumented immigrants in the four counties say they feel isolated and are afraid to leave their homes because police could ask them about their immigration status.

The report focuses in particular on the impact of programs like Secure Communities that use local cops and jails to begin the detention and deportation process. Advocates have long said that these programs put immigrant communities at risk of becoming victim to crime and violence. Evidence of this has so far been largely anecdotal. The survey provides a larger analysis.

The federal government deported 409,000 people last year, largely through these programs. Even as Congress considers immigration reform, the removals appear to have continued at a similar rate.

La. Supreme Court: School Voucher Program Funding Is Unconstitutional

La. Supreme Court: School Voucher Program Funding Is Unconstitutional

The Louisiana Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform agenda today. In a 6-1 vote the Court ruled that funding for school vouchers, a central part of the governor’s education law, is unconstitutional because it diverts public money meant to fund public schools toward private schools.

The expansive voucher program pulls funding from what’s called the minimum foundation program, in clear violation of Louisiana state constitution. “The state funds approved through the unique MFP process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific and unambiguous language of the constitution,” Justice John Weimer wrote, the Times-Picayune reported.

It is a serious setback for Gov. Jindal’s ambitious education agenda, much of which has ended up in the courts. The voucher program was a central part of Act 2, Jindal’s 2012 sweeping school reform package which included provisions to increase the use of private online education programs for public education; speed up charter school approval and forcefully tie teachers’ jobs’ to their students’ test scores. In March a judge ruled the teacher tenure and evaluation portions of Jindal’s law unconstitutional as well.

FOX Broadcasting Cancels ‘Cops’ After 25 Years

FOX Broadcasting Cancels 'Cops' After 25 Years

After months of pressure, senior executives at FOX Broadcasting have decided not to renew the show “Cops” for another season. Critics of the long-running police reality TV show claimed that it pedels in misrepresentations and caricatures of black and Latino communities. The show will instead move to a niche network, SpikeTV.

“We have been working tirelessly to push this damaging reality TV series off primetime network television, and today we applaud FOX for dropping this toxic show from its lineup,” said Executive Director, Rashad Robinson. Last week, the online civil rights organization sponsored ads in AdvertisingAge and Daily Variety denouncing the show’s racially-charged content. The ads came after the group circulated an online petition against the show.

“Out of primetime, COPS no longer has a mainstream platform and will have a significantly smaller audience. Research shows that exploiting persistent dehumanizing stereotypes that marginalize Black Americans have real-world consequences, and there is much more work to be done to bring about a significant cultural shift in the ways we are portrayed in the media,” Robinson said in a statement to the press.

WNBA’s Brittney Griner Is Really Happy for Jason Collins, Wants to Inspire Others

WNBA's Brittney Griner Is Really Happy for Jason Collins, Wants to Inspire Others

After the NBA’s Jason Collins made his coming out announcement last week, a good number of folks wondered what the big deal was. After all, openly gay professional women athletes have been around for years — including soon-to-be WNBA rookie Brittney Griner, who came out publicly the week before Collins to a lot less fanfare. But Griner doesn’t mind all the attention that Collins is getting. In fact, she’s incredibly happy for him.

In an essay published by the New York Times on Sunday, Griner recounted her own coming out story. From The Times:

People have asked me if I’m at all bothered that my “announcement” after the W.N.B.A. draft last month didn’t receive as much attention as Jason’s. Frankly, it didn’t matter at all to me. I simply answered a question honestly and am just happy to tell my truth and to be in a position to encourage others to do the same. It’s all about living an honest life and being comfortable in your own skin. It strengthens me to know that Jason and I (along with so many other out pioneers and allies) are united in a mission to inspire others who may be struggling. I want everyone to feel at peace and O.K. with being who he or she is.

Griner casually announced to the sports world that she was gay during a post-WNBA draft media interview.

In the Times essay, Griner goes on to describe how she was “bullied in every way imaginable” because of her height (she’s 6’8”) and sexuality, and hit “rock bottom” in seventh grade.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out exactly where I fit. During that journey, I realized that everyone has a unique place in this world. I also discovered that the more open I was with my family and friends, the more I embraced others, and the more committed I became to doing the things I love, like basketball, skating and, of course, eating bacon (the greatest food of all time), the more love and confidence I received in return.

Griner and Collins are two great examples of courage. And two fantastic role models for athletes.

Jason Collins Talks Race, Coming Out, and Religion With Oprah

Jason Collins Talks Race, Coming Out, and Religion With Oprah

NBA center Jason Collins spoke with Oprah recently about his decision to become the first active male professional athlete in a major American sport to come out as openly gay. Collins shocked the sports world one week ago when he announced his sexuality in a beautifully written Sport Illustrated cover story. With Oprah, he elaborated a bit on what it means for him to be black, openly gay, and a person of faith.

“I grew up in a very religious family,” Collins told Oprah. “I knew as an African-American that it adds another dimension to the discussion,” he said of race impacts the discussion of his sexuality.

Is the ‘Pigford’ Pushback a Case of Resistance Against Reparations for Black Farmers?

Is the 'Pigford' Pushback a Case of Resistance Against Reparations for Black Farmers?

Ten scholars from major universities have risen to the defense of black farmers who were accused in a New York Times article of exploiting and defrauding a settlement made to remedy decades of discrimination in financial lending. In a letter to the editor, the group professors wrote that the New York Times article:

“underplays the history of racial dispossession, uses cherry-picked examples, and creates needless antipathy to the lawsuit and the settlement with black farmers. Focusing on fraud and invoking familiar, racially freighted stereotypes of undeserving opportunists serve to throw into question all payouts rather than explaining why they were ordered in the first place.”

A letter from Ralph Paige, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, was also published in the Times, where he said their article:

“does not offer historical context of the vast scope of discrimination in rural areas throughout the country by the Agriculture Department. It does not mention the decades of studies by the Commission on Civil Rights and the Agriculture Department itself that confirm discrimination against black farmers. It also does not mention the countless black farmers who worked diligently on farm plans only to have their loan applications thrown in the trash can right in front of them by the Agriculture Department’s county supervisor.”

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The plight of the black farmers was also featured on a segment of the Melissa Harris Perry show this past weekend. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democratic congresswoman who represents large rural swaths of Alabama where black farmers live and work, called the Times article a “gross mischaracterization of the entire process.”

The Nation executive editor Richard Kim said on the show, “If we think of this as reparations, the point of reparations is actually to be historically minded and to understand the many times in which discrimination impacted this group of people. And that’s probably the best way in which to frame this, as a historical inquiry and about justice.”

The Racial Wealth Divide: Why Housing Matters [Infographic]

The Racial Wealth Divide: Why Housing Matters [Infographic]

It can hard to see wealth. Sure, there are markers of it everywhere: homes, jobs, cars. But the true indicators of wealth, like home equity, retirement savings, and a family’s investments aren’t usually on public display. Now, a new infographic from United For a Fair Economy is trying to expose just how deeply divided our nation’s wealth is along the lines of race. And those divisions have grown even starker since the economic recession began in 2008.

“This infographic draws attention to the intersection of housing as both a globally-recognized human right and as a commodity in a global stock market controlled by the wealthy,” wrote Mazher Ali, the organizations communications coordinator. “We urge readers to acknowledge the history behind the long-standing racial wealth divide and to consider the interplay between federal housing policies and risky financial practices and their impacts on the divide.”

An Open Letter From Assata Shakur: ‘I Am Only One Woman’

An Open Letter From Assata Shakur: 'I Am Only One Woman'

Correction on 5/6/13 at 2:37pm EST: This morning we published an open letter from Assata Shakur, who was recently placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List. We reported that the letter was published on May 3. However, the letter actually dates back several years. The University of Texas’ Digital Repository dates the letter to 1998. Apologies for the error. 

In her letter, Shakur provides her own account of the events leading up to her arrest and 1977 conviction. She also details the extent to which the media played a role in her prosecution. Shakur was sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years before she escaped to Cuba.

The U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that “The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through “friendly” news contacts.” This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today.


Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth.

Last week, the New Jersey State Police and the FBI announced a $2 million reward for information leading to Shakur’s capture. The FBI has also put up billboards across New Jersey asking for the public’s help in her arrest. Since her exile, Shakur has remained outspoken about racial and economic injustice in the United States and, as a result, has become one of the most widely recognized and admired names in the struggle for black liberation. While her supporters are not surprised by the FBI’s continued diligence in the case, many were taken aback by timing  and prominence of the agency’s renewed efforts.

Renowned scholar and activist Angela Davis, who was once on the FBI’s List of the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and labeled by President Richard Nixon as a “dangerous terrorist” in 1970 before being exonerated, appeared on Democracy Now last week to talk about the timing of the agency’s new pursuit of Shakur. 

You know, certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do. You know, I continues to say that we need revolutionary change. This is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of terrorism, because it precisely is designed to frighten young people, especially today, who would be involved in the kind of radical activism that might lead to change.

Davis appeared in a segment that also included Shakur’s longtime attorney Lennox Hinds. You can see video and a full transcript of that segment over at Democracy Now.

North Carolina Election Board Drops 56 HBCU Students From Voter Rolls Under Dubious Cause

Close to 60 students at the historically black Elizabeth City State University were targeted by a county Republican Party chair who challenged their voter status for questionable reasons. Of the group, 56 students were dropped from voter rolls for no better reason than having a voter registration address that was different their parents’ home addresses. They used their college campus addresses instead.

Two students were kept on the rolls after they showed up at a hearing on April 19 with lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to defend their registration status. Some of the notices for that hearing that went out to the rest of the students came back as undeliverable, while others failed to show for unknown reasons. The board decided that the students’ absence was evidence that they should be dropped.

Southern Coalition executive director Anita Earls told Colorlines that dropping people from voter rolls due to undeliverable mail may be a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. They plan to sue the county and today sent a letter to the elections board indicating their intent to do so. The two students who they saved from being dropped are resident advisors who live on campus. It’s not known how many of the other 56 who were purged were also university employees.

Earls also tells us that the Republican Party county leader who made the challenges, Richard Gilbert, only targeted the black college students, that he filed no other challenges at any other universities. Pasquotank County, where the challenges occurred, is also a Section 5-protected jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act.

Angela Davis, Attorney Defend Assata Shakur Amid New FBI Efforts

Angela Davis, Attorney Defend Assata Shakur Amid New FBI Efforts

One day after the FBI and the state of New Jersey announced that former Black Panther Assata Shakur had become the first woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List, Angela Davis and Shakur’s longtime attorney Lennox Hinds went on Democracy Now in the exile’s defense. Like many of Shakur’s supporters in the U.S. and abroad, both Davis and Hinds questioned why the FBI has suddenly renewed its interest in the Shakur’s capture; currently, Shakur is 66-years-old and has been living in exile for over three decades.

Davis’ explanation:

Well, see, there’s always this slippage between what should be protected free speech—that is to say, the advocacy of revolution, the advocacy of radical change—and what theFBI represents as terrorism. You know, certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do. You know, I continue to say that we need revolutionary change. This is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of terrorism, because it precisely is designed to frighten young people, especially today, who would be involved in the kind of radical activism that might lead to change.

And Hinds’:

Now, why today is Assata Shakur now being branded a terrorist? If we look at the definition of terrorism, what is it? It is the use or the threat of use of force against a civilian population to achieve political ends. What happened in the case of Assata Shakur? You have heard, in her own words, this woman was a political activist. She was targeted by whom? J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in a program that was called COINTELPRO. That program was unveiled by whom? Frank Church, Senator Frank Church, in the 1970s. He chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee. That committee determined that the FBI was using both legal, but mostly illegal, methods—to do what? In the FBI’s own words, they wanted to discredit, to stop the rise of a black messiah—that was the fear of the FBI—so that there would not be a Mau Mau, in their words, uprising in the United States.

You can see the entire interview and transcript over at Democracy Now.

At this point, one can only speculate about why the state has renewed its efforts to capture Shakur. But what’s clear is that they’re serious about it. In addition to offering a $2 million reward for her capture, the FBI has also put up billboards around New Jersey.


How Public Policy Built The Racial Wealth Divide

How Public Policy Built The Racial Wealth Divide

The racial wealth gap never ceases to amaze. Black and Latino families hold pennies of accumulated assets compared to every dollar of the average white family’s investments, retirement savings and home equity. Wealth matters a lot. It’s what families use to buttress against hard times—say a period of joblessness—and it’s what parents pass onto their kids to pay for college and avoid taking out big loans. This means that families without wealth actually pass on a future of debt.

So it’s particularly enraging to observe, once again, that the racial wealth gap is the product of very clear and deliberate public policy. Ta-Nehisi Coates has a post at the Atlantic on a foul 1950’s housing market practice that sprang up because the federal government refused to insure loans for black families. In the space left by this legal exclusion, housing speculators bought cheap properties, jacked up the prices and sold the homes to black families. If the families missed a single payment, the broker could terminate the contract, take all the money the family already invested and kick them out of the home. Coates explains:

Buying on contract meant that you made a down-payment to a speculator. The speculator kept the deed and only turned it over to you after you’d paid the full value of the house — a value determined by the speculator. In the meantime, you were responsible for monthly payments, keeping the house up, and taking care of any problems springing from inspection. If you missed one payment, the speculator could move to evict you and keep all the payments you’d made. Building up equity was impossible, unless — through some Herculean effort — you managed to pay off the entire contract. Very few people did this. The system was set up to keep them from doing it, and allow speculators to get rich through a cycle of evicting and flipping.

Coates posted a chart mocked up by 1960s advocates to show the kinds of markups we’re taking about. The first column reads, “Documented Price Paid By Speculator.” The second: “Documented Price Change To Negro Buyer.” In one case, a home listed on the chart is sold to a black family at nearly three times the purchase price, not including interest.

“In that chart you can literally see black wealth leaving one neighborhood and migrating to another,” Coates writes. “It was not just legal. It was the whole point.”

It’s a prime example, Coates writes, of why “the wealth gap is not a mistake. It is the logical outcome of policy.” And it’s upon this policy history that new forms of predation emerged. The subprime loans of the last decade were targeted to black families who’d been denied affordable and regulated lending services. These losses are part of the reason the wealth gap is now growing. And as I wrote earlier this week, the very same communities appear to be the targets of new schemes, this time in the form of totally unregulated “pension advances” that saddle elderly folks with mammoth interest rates. Some of these borrowers are pushed to advance companies because an earlier foreclosure tanked their credit score and all hope of getting a bank loan.

Sherman Alexie, and the ‘Homoerotic Extravaganza’ of Sports

Sherman Alexie, and the 'Homoerotic Extravaganza' of Sports

So what’s so scary about having an openly gay man like Jason Collins in a professional sports locker room? Straight men may have to start recognizing basketball as the “homoerotic extravaganza that it is”, according to Indian writer and lifelong basketball enthusiast Sherman Alexie.

In a piece for The Stranger, Alexie names what so many sports fans have been tip-toeing around in the aftermath of Collins’ historic coming out.

So who are the best-looking men in the USA? The answer, obviously, is professional athletes. I mean, Jesus, Google-Image Adrian Peterson. Study how cut, shredded, and jacked he is.

Cut. Shredded. Jacked. Those are violent straight-boy adjectives that mean “beautiful.” But we straight boys aren’t supposed to think of other men as beautiful. We’re supposed to think of the most physically gifted men as warrior soldiers, as dangerous demigods.

And there’s the rub: When we’re talking about professional athletes, we are mostly talking about males passionately admiring the physical attributes and abilities of other males. It might not be homosexual, but it certainly is homoerotic.

There are strict social rules governing sexuality and gender, and nowhere is that more evident than in the world of sports. Read Alexie’s entire essay over at The Stranger.

More Dying Prisoners Could Be Released To End Life

Federal inmates diagnosed with terminal illness may now have a better chance of release so they can die outside of prison walls. A report released yesterday by the Department of Justice urged the Bureau of Prisons to expand policies to release terminally ill inmates. The report notes that the BOP plans to release new guidelines to streamline its release protocols for prisoners expected to die within 18 months.

The federal prison system currently lacks clear standards and protocols for requests for “compassionate release,” the DOJ Office of the Inspector General report finds. Petitions for release can take as long as 7 months before administrators reach a decision. As a result, in 13 percent of cases the DOJ reviewed, prisoners died before they receive a response to a release request. And because only 8 of the Bureau’s 111 prisoner handbooks reviewed inform inmates about the policy, many don’t know they can apply in the first place.

“The BOP…provide[s] no criteria or standards to use in evaluating whether a medical or nonmedical circumstance qualifies for consideration,” the report says. It recommends that the Bureau of Prisons expand the compassionate release practices to other “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances beyond terminal illness.

A shift in BOP practice in this regard could have a significant impact on the rapidly growing population of elderly prisoners. A 2012 Human Rights Watch report revealed that between 2007 and 2010 the number of prisoners in federal and state facilities who are older than 64 grew at 94 times the rate of the overall prison population. About 45 percent of prisoners who died behind bars in 2007 were over the age of 55.

Assata Shakur Becomes First Woman to be on FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 12.28.07 PM.pngThe FBI announced today that former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur is the first woman to be added to its most wanted terrorist watch list. Shakur was convicted of the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper and sentenced to life in prison. In 1979, she escaped from prison and has since sought refuge in Cuba as a political exile. Shakur still professes her innocence in the case, and her name has since become synonymous with the ongoing political struggles of Black Power Era activists who supporters say were falsely accused of crimes during the 1970s.

The FBI and the state of New Jersey also announced Thursday that the reward for Shakur’s capture has been doubled to $2 million.

Los Angeles Times Drops ‘Illegal Immigrant’

Los Angeles Times Drops 'Illegal Immigrant'

Great news from the Los Angeles Times. One month after the Associated Press and USA Today announced that they will no longer describe undocumented immigrants as “illegal”, the fourth most widely distributed paper in the country says that it will do the same.

From the L.A. Times:

Immigration is one of the most contentious and compelling subjects of our time. In our coverage, we aim to report with authority and balance — to be fair, nuanced and precise. We know that language matters and that our word choices must likewise be fair, nuanced and precise.

The Times adopted its current style on immigration-related language in 1995, recommending the use of “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” in lieu of “illegal aliens.” Those phrases have become highly politicized since then, prompting the Standards and Practices Committee to consider an update. The committee has been consulting with reporters and editors from across the newsroom since last fall, as well as meeting with advocates seeking an end to the media’s use of “illegal immigrant.” After hearing strong arguments for and against the current Times style, we concluded that it was time for a new approach.

“Illegal immigrants” is overly broad and does not accurately apply in every situation. The alternative suggested by the 1995 guidelines, “undocumented immigrants,” similarly falls short of our goal of precision. It is also untrue in many cases, as with immigrants who possess passports or other documentation but lack valid visas.

Read more at the Times.

The announcement is another major victory for the Drop the I-Word campaign, which launched in 2010. The campaign is now calling on the New York Times to stop referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegal”, and recently delivered a petition to the New York Times’ doorstep with 70,000 signatures.

Odd Future Feels Bad That You’re So Sensitive About Its Mountain Dew Ad

Odd Future Feels Bad That You're So Sensitive About Its Mountain Dew Ad

Los Angeles-based hip-hop collective Odd Future isn’t afraid of a little controversy. That much became clear on Wednesday amid outrage over a series of Mountain Dew commercials created by frontman Tyler, the Creator. One of the ads features a battered white woman at a police station line-up trying to identify her attacker. The suspects are all men (members of Odd Future) and a menacing goat, which spends its time whispering threats to the frightened woman. Another ad shows how the woman got there: she was assaulted by the goat at a restaurant where she worked as a waitress. Critic Dr. Boyce Watkins called the ad “arguably the most racist commercial in history.

PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, pulled the ad on Wednesday. Tyler, the Creator also yanked it from the group’s YouTube page. Odd Future’s manager Christian Clancy issued a lukewarm statement on Tumblr that falls pretty much in line with how Tyler, the Creator usually responds to critics: If you’re offended, you just don’t get good art. Here’s an excerpt:

It was never Tyler’s intention to offend however, offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended. Out of respect to those that were offended and the ad was taken down. For those who know and respect Tyler he is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru humor. This is someone who grew up on David Chappelle. This situation is layered with context and is a discussion that Tyler would love to address in the right forum as he does have a point of view. As someone who hasn’t had the experience of being discriminated against I choose to respect the opinion of those who have… what I can speak to is Tyler who represents much more than the current narrative this story suggests. Contrary to what many may discern from this Tyler is the embodiment of not judging others, his delivery may not be for everyone (which is true for anyone who pushes boundaries) but his voice is nonetheless important to the conversation since his demographic understands what he ultimately stands for and sees the irony of it all.

As Cord Jefferson pointed out at Gawker, Mountain Dew is having a particularly bad week at the intersection of race and rap.

Unfortunately, the cowering white woman vs. black men and goat was only half of Mountain Dew’s image-management problems today. Its recently hospitalized spokesperson Lil Wayne issued an apology for the verse he’d contributed in February to the Future song “Karate Chop (Remix),” in which he said that he would “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till.”

To Wayne’s credit, he did issue a heartfelt apology to Emmett Till’s family.

RIP Chris Kelly: Watch This 1992 Kris Kross Performance at the Billboard Music Awards

Hip-hop fans are in shock this morning over the news that 34-year-old Chris Kelly died last night at an Atlanta-area hospital. Kelly is known as one half of the popular early ’90s hip-hop duo Kris Kross, whose hit single “Jump” became one of the most popular songs of the decade.

In honor of Kelly, here’s a look back at the 1992 Billboard Music Awards, where the Kris Kross beat out Billy Ray Cyrus (father of current star Miley), TLC, and Nirvana to win the award of debut artist of 1992.

TAGS: Kris Kross

Major Companies Rely On Underground Labor Brokers That Charge Workers High Fees

Some of the country’s biggest temp agencies and high profile companies regularly delegate hiring and employment services to a network of underground labor brokers that charge workers obligatory fees for rides to their jobs and to cash checks. The fees push workers incomes below the minimum wage. That’s according to a new investigation by ProPublica and Marketplace, which ran a multi-part series this week on the practice.

The labor brokers, called “raiteros,” are often informally subcontracted by major temp agencies that have contracts with companies including Fresh Espress, Sony, Marlboro and Ty Inc. to deliver temporary workers to warehouses and factories. The raiteros control access to the jobs from start to finish, determine who gets jobs and who doesn’t and charge workers $5 to fill out job applications and $8 for a ride to work. “If you don’t pay for a ride, raiteros won’t find you a job,” Marketplace reports. Workers said that if they drive to work themselves they’ll lose the job.

The investigation found that the mostly Latino and largely undocumented folks locked into these relationships with the brokers don’t get paychecks directly from the companies, but rather through the raiteros themselves. The brokers distribute checks at check cashing shops that charge workers one to two percent. “Even immigrants with their own bank account are obligated to use a check cashing service,” Marketplace reports.

In the end, workers end up getting paid below minimum wage after the fees are deducted.

Several workers in Chicago, where the investigation is based, told Marketplace and ProPublica that when they complained to the temp agency Select Remedy that they had not received checks, the agency referred the workers back to the brokers.

In Illinois, state laws passed in 2006 made it illegal for temp agencies to require workers to pay for transportation to and from work or force them to pay fees to cash checks. After the law changed, the entirely underground and unregulated raiteros popped up around the city and broke all the rules without notice.

Some advocates interviewed for the story say the raiteros insulate employers and temp staffing agencies from dealing with complaints from workers and from legal concerns about hiring undocumented immigrants.

This May Day, Support Bangladeshi Workers With More Than Just Boycotts

This year’s International Workers Day coincides with ongoing fallout from the latest Bangladeshi factory accident, which killed at least 386 people when a garment factory collapsed.

The annual day celebrates the international labor movement. And this year it’s an especially poignant May 1st. As multinational corporations heed, or ignore, calls to demand better worker conditions in the poorly constructed and accident-prone factories, and as people revive talk of boycotting retailers like Wal-mart, what’s needed from consumers in the global north is not simply boycotts, writes Vijay Prashad.

Prashad, over at the Guardian, argues:

What is needed is robust support for the workers as they try to build their own organisations at the point of production. Pressure on north Atlantic governments that mollycoddle multinational firms would create a breathing space for workers who otherwise suffer the full wrath of firms that couch their repression in the syrupy language of hard work and growth rates.

The Bangladeshis are capable of doing their own labour organising; what they need is political backing to do so. What is also needed, then, is clear-cut opposition not to this or that retailer, but to the system that produces pockets of low-wage economies in the south in order to feed a system of debt-fuelled consumption in the north. None among us is against global connections, but it is high time we put our minds to work to reject neoliberal globalisation.

What is needed, in other words, is an international labor movement.

Is Facebook’s Push for Immigration Reform More Sinister Than It Seems?

Is Facebook's Push for Immigration Reform More Sinister Than It Seems?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a big splash last month when he launched, a pro-immigration reform organization. The young tycoon pulled together a rock star list of silicon valley elites to “”continue to promote innovation and meet our workforce needs.” The group’s current raison d’etre is to ensure that the immigration bill provides tech companies with enough visas for foreign workers to fill jobs they say can’t fill with U.S. workers.

But as might be expected from an outfit whose members include a number of the country’s most successful businessmen from across the political spectrum, Zuckerberg’s new outfit may have some rather sinister motivations. appears most interested in securing tech companies’ access to lower-paid foreign workers.

The Gang of Eight immigration bill is set to expand visas for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, so called STEM jobs and Zuckerberg’s is jumping into the fray to lobby for fewer strings attached to hiring foreign workers.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen reports:

As promotes high-minded ideals of openness and opportunity, Facebook’s lobbying firms have been doing the dirty work of making sure immigration reform means they can freely hire high-skilled immigrants for less money than their American counterparts. Specifically, Facebook has been trying to insert language into the Senate immigration bill to eliminate a requirement that American companies make a “good faith” effort to hire Americans before looking abroad, according to the Washington Post. And Facebook wants to axe rules that would require companies to pay these foreign workers more.

Facebook and other advocates for more so-called high skilled visas—the H1B and L-1 visas—argue that their companies suffer because there simply aren’t enough U.S. workers with the right skills to fill jobs. Indeed, there’s been far more demand for these visas in recent years than there are visas available.

But there’s also new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, that finds that the U.S. actually has enough tech workers to fill jobs here. If that’s the case then why do companies like Facebook want so many easily accessible guest workers? According to EPI and others, it’s because firms can pay these workers less than they can pay U.S. workers for the same jobs.

“The bottom line is that these visas can be used for cheaper indentured work,” says Ron Hira, a Public Policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who’s contributed to EPI analysis. Hira says that because companies control the H1-B and L-1 visas of their employees, workers are regularly exploited and subjected to terrible working conditions, under-paid and sometimes left without any work at all once they are arrive in the country.

Recently, a group of 350 teachers in Louisiana who were in the country on H1-B visas—the same kind Zuckerberg wants more of with fewer regulations—won a $4.5 million settlement after they were forced to pay illegal and exorbitant fees and subjected to workplace abuses by the contractor that brought them to the U.S. to teach.

While the current Senate bill does raise the wage floor for the H1-B visa program, it does not significantly extend Department of Labor oversight over wage and hour violations and critics say it leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation.

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