Network of Black Farmers Calls New York Times Investigation ‘Inaccurate’

Network of Black Farmers Calls New York Times Investigation 'Inaccurate'

Black farmers are once again in the spotlight, but this time they’re defending themselves against accusations of fraud. Just a few years after winning a landmark $1.33 billion settlement for decades of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New York Times published a deeply critical look at those court judgements. The Times’ investigation alleges widespread fraud and questions whether similar settlements should be made with Latino and women farmers, as mandated by the Obama administration’s political appointees in the Justice and Agriculture Departments.

From the Times:

The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.

Soon after the Times published its findings, the Network of Black Farmers issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the paper’s claims. When I reached the network’s Heather Gray by phone this morning, she underlined an important point. “The New York Times inappropriately targeted black farmers who are the victims [of discrimination] rather than talking about the behavior of the Agriculture Department, which has for years denied its services to its [black] U.S. citizens.”

See a portion of the farmers’ rebuttal after the jump.

North Carolina Students Protest Harsh Voter ID Bill

North Carolina Students Protest Harsh Voter ID Bill

North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act through its House chamber Wednesday. If the bill passes the Senate, it would only need the governor’s signature to make it mandatory for voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The governor, Pat McCroy (R), has indicated he intends to sign it into law.

To protest the voter ID bill and other proposed legislation that would make voting more difficult, students from universities across the state sat in the House chamber on Wednesday wearing duct tape over their mouths with messages such as, “Do not silence my vote,” and “Say no to voter suppression.” The action was coordinated by students in the North Carolina NAACP Youth and College Division.

Other legislation on the table in North Carolina are bills that would levy a tax penalty on parents whose children register to vote where they attend college, cut early voting — which 70 percent of black voters in the state use — and one that would create the harshest felony disenfranchisement law in the nation.

Georgia High School Students Set to Hold First Integrated Prom

Georgia High School Students Set to Hold First Integrated Prom

Georgia’s Wilcox County High School will hold its first ever integrated prom this Saturday, nearly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education desegregated the nation’s school system. The integrated prom comes after a small “group of [young] ladies” teamed up with the NAACP to pressure school administrators and community leaders to let the event go forward.

In Georgia, proms are organized by private groups, like parents, and not by the school. But since Wilcox County is the last county in Georgia where dances are still segregated by race, WMAZ-TV reported, that has meant separate proms for black and white students.

The students from the small town in rural south Georgia called attention to their efforts by starting a Facebook page that has more than 24,000 “likes.” The “Integrated Prom” page says it represents a group of adamant high school seniors” who “want to make a difference” in their community.

“For the first time in the history of our county, we plan to have an integrated prom,” the Facebook page’s description reads.

“At first, we had a whole bunch of students who you could tell that wanted to support it, but they were too scared to stand out and stand against, not their peers, but their parents,” student Brandon Davis told Democracy Now. “But as times progressed we’ve had more and more students change come help us out — and we’ve actually had more parents. At first, parents were like, ‘Well, that’s tradition, let’s just stay it this way.’ But after time, their children changed and they were like, ‘Hey, I’m going to support my children, this is their memory, Lets go.’”

The Wilcox County Board of Education published a statement on their website that explains “earlier in this school year, a group of ladies approached the Wilcox County Board of Education and the Superintendent to discuss their plans for hosting an ‘integrated prom’.” They go on to point the students may be making history by creating institutional changes.

“The Board and Superintendent not only applauded the idea, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and non-discriminatory,” the statement read.

Obama: God Bless Planned Parenthood (Video)

Obama: God Bless Planned Parenthood (Video)

At a Planned Parenthood gala in Washington this morning, President Obama said the women’s health organization is “not going anywhere,” despite GOP-led efforts to defund it.

“No matter how great the challenge, no matter how fierce the opposition, if there’s one thing the past few years have shown, it’s that Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere today. It’s not going anywhere tomorrow,” the president said on Friday.

Obama: If Daughters Get Tattoos, We Will Too

Obama: If Daughters Get Tattoos, We Will Too

President Obama visited the the “Today Show” on Wednesday morning and explained how he and the first lady plan to keep their daughters from getting tattoos.

“What we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decided you’re going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo,” Obama said. “And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that’s a good way to rebel.”

Two Women Shot At By LAPD During Dorner Manhunt Settle for $4.2 Million

Two Women Shot At By LAPD During Dorner Manhunt Settle for $4.2 Million

The women injured when Los Angeles police opened fire on them during the manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner have reached a $4.2-million settlement with the city, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich told the LA Times.

Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71, were delivering newspapers in Torrance on Feb. 7, when officers mistook their blue Toyota Tacoma for Dorner’s gray Nissan Titan. Hernandez was shot twice in the back, and Carranza sustained minor injuries from broken glass.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck called the shooting “a tragic misinterpretation” by officers working under “incredible tension” hours after Dorner allegedly shot police officers.

Trutanich told the Times the agreement was a “no brainer because the costs were going to skyrocket.”

“We got out of this thing pretty cheaply all things considered,” he said.

Family Of Missing Brown Student Misidentified as Boston Bomber Issues Statement

Family Of Missing Brown Student Misidentified as Boston Bomber Issues Statement

The Rhode Island Department of Health confirmed today the body found earlier this week in waters off Providence is that of Sunil Tripathi, the missing Brown University student who disappeared more than a month ago. Tripathi’s name made national headlines earlier this month after users on social news forums said the Indian-American student resembled one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

“On April 23, our beloved Sunil was discovered in the waters off India Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island,” the Tripathi family’s statement read on Facebook.

“As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude. To each one of you-from our hometown to many distant lands-we extend our thanks for the words of encouragement, for your thoughts, for your hands, for your prayers, and for the love you have so generously shared,” the note continued.

“Your compassionate spirit is felt by Sunil and by all of us.”

“This last month has changed our lives forever, and we hope it will change yours too. Take care of one another. Be gentle, be compassionate. Be open to letting someone in when it is you who is faltering. Lend your hand. We need it. The world needs it.”

The statement was published on the Facebook page the family started to help find their son. It was the same page the family took down because of racist hate messages they received minutes after Tripathi was labeled as the Boston Bomber on sites like Reddit. At the time, news reporters also gathered in front of their home looking to speak to the family of the supposed bomber.

The Tripathi family closed their statement with a few meaningful words.

“With love, The Tripathi Family”

Sierra Club Officially Endorses Immigration Reform

Sierra Club Officially Endorses Immigration Reform

The Sierra Club officially endorsed immigration reform today. The environmental organization’s president Allison Chin published a statement saying “we cannot solve either the climate crisis or our broken immigration system by acting out of fear or by supporting exclusion.”

The Sierra Club Board of Directors announced they unanimously adopted supporting immigration reform:

Currently at least 11 million people live in in the U.S. in the shadows of our society. Many of them work in jobs that expose them to dangerous conditions, chemicals and pesticides, and many more of them live in areas with disproportionate levels of toxic air, water, and soil pollution. To protect clean air and water and prevent the disruption of our climate, we must ensure that those who are most disenfranchised and most threatened by pollution within our borders have the voice to fight polluters and advocate for climate solutions without fear.

The Sierra Club takes a position to support an equitable path to citizenship for residents of the United States who lack official documentation. America’s undocumented population should be able to earn legalization and a timely pathway to citizenship, with all the rights to fully participate in our democracy, including influencing environmental and climate policies. The pathway to citizenship should be free of unreasonable barriers, and should facilitate keeping families together and reuniting those that are split whenever possible.

“By establishing an equitable path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America today, we can empower those in our society who are most vulnerable to toxic pollution to fully participate in our democracy, fight back against polluters and demand public health protections and clean energy solutions,” Allison Chin, Sierra Club president said in a statement.

Polls conducted by the Sierra Club found that Latinos support environmental and conservation efforts with even greater intensity than the average American: 90 percent of Latino voters favor clean energy over fossil fuels. In a blog post published on the organization’s website, Chin pointed also pointed out one “California study found that 74 percent of Asian-Americans, the fastest growing group in America, accept climate science. Yet, significant numbers of these stakeholders and change agents have been denied their civil rights in the public arena.”

UC Irvine Asian-American Frat’s Awful Blackface Video As Bad As It Sounds

UC Irvine Asian-American Frat's Awful Blackface Video As Bad As It Sounds

Members of UC Irvine’s Asian-American fraternity Lambda Theta Delta put their racial ignorance on display last week when they released a video of a student wearing blackface. The college community, which caught wind of the video this week when a YouTube user reuploaded the deleted video, is predictably outraged.

The video includes four Asian-American men dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” to promote the spring induction of the fraternity’s new recruits. One man in blackface plays the part of Jay-Z. It is the very definition of bad taste. I watched as much of it as I could stomach and cringed during the worst of it.

With their racist antics LTD is carrying on the long and horrid tradition of campus racism, which is its own genre of racial antagonism. C. Richard King and David Leonard broke down the history of college goers partying in blackface in the pages of Colorlines—in 2007. King and Leonard describe the “ghetto fabulous” parties of yore as a reactionary aggression toward demands for “political correctness”—but what’s going on seems to be just as much the result of endemic racial ignorance.

Over 100 Chicago Students Boycott Standardized Test to Protest School Closures

Over 100 Chicago Students Boycott Standardized Test to Protest School Closures

On Wednesday a hundred Chicago student activists angry about the city’s plans to shut down dozens of public high schools boycotted state standardized tests to send a message to the district.

“Today we are boycotting the second day of PSAE to show that standardized testing should not decide the future of our schools and students,” boycotting student Alexssa More, a senior at Lindblom High School, said at the protest, Chicago CBS reported. The Prairie State Achievement Examination is a mandatory state standardized test. Over 300 schools from more than 25 Chicago public schools headed to Chicago Public Schools headquarters downtown to take part in the action, Common Dreams reported. CBS put the number at 100 students.

A student-led coalition called Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools organized the action. CSOSOS argues that the planned closure of public schools will destabilize neighborhood communities. Many have pointed out that the planned closures are overwhelmingly concentrated in black and Latino neighborhoods, and thus that the supposed reforms have a disproportionate impact on students of color. What’s more, CSOSOS and other testing critics argue that the test-driven metrics that are a central part of the move to siphon students away from neighborhood schools are an inaccurate and extremely narrow way of gauging a school’s health.

Chicago students are not alone. Around the country educators, parents and lawmakers fed up with the abuse and misuse of standardized testing to exact a punitive market-based school reform agenda are fighting back against the testing regime. Check out the infographic mapping the nationwide resistance to overtesting.

PHOTO: First Ladies At Bush Library

PHOTO: First Ladies At Bush Library

(L-R) First lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former first lady Barbara Bush and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.

The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system.

Watch 70K People Tell The New York Times to Drop The I-Word

Watch 70K People Tell The New York Times to Drop The I-Word Play

On Tuesday April 23, 2013, on the eve of renewed debate around U.S. immigration policy, the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines, and the Drop the I-Word campaign led a coalition of activists, including Fernando Chavez (the son of Cesar Chavez) and Jose Antonio Vargas, to deliver 70,000 signatures to the New York Times, urging them to stop using the dehumanizing and inaccurate term “illegal immigrant” in their news coverage. We caught the action on tape, of course. Check it out.

Will the Courts Block Deferred Action? Keep Calm and Apply For DACA

Will the Courts Block Deferred Action? Keep Calm and Apply For DACA

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Dallas indicated he was likely to block President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process. The case was brought on by Kris Kobach, the conservative Kansas politician who helped draft a number of the country’s most draconian anti-immigration bills, on behalf of ICE Union Boss Christopher Crane and ten other officers and agents.

The lawsuit alleges the deferred action program will prevent ICE officers, employees, and agents from “fulfilling their sworn oath to uphold the law and defend the US Constitution.”

“The court finds that DHS [Department of Homeland Security] does not have discretion to refuse to initiate removal proceedings,” O’Connor wrote in the 38-page decision, Business Week reports.

Still O’Connor, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007, said he can’t decide the case based on the arguments he’s heard so far.

“Accordingly, the court hereby defers ruling on the plaintiffs’ application for preliminary injunction until the parties have submitted additional briefing,” O’Connor said.

Even though O’Connor has not issued a decision in the case, Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy and Policy at United We Dream, says there is one thing that is clear.

“This case is an unsurprising politically-motivated move from longtime opponents of sensible immigration policy on a program that is working exceptionally well. For United We Dream leaders and young immigrants across the country, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [program] has been a resounding success and the result of a hard-earned political victory by the immigrant youth movement,” Praeli said.

“We are confident that the legal basis for DACA is solid. Over 100 law professors have already said that the president has the authority to enact DACA and leaders from both political parties have already weighed in on the matter,” Praeli went on to say.

Writing for the Huffington Post, David Leopold, the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said even if O’Connor rules against DACA “the question is not whether ICE can exercise discretion, but when.”

Leopold expanded on his comment at the Huffington Post:

Even if this judge rules in Crane’s favor — which appears likely — and even if his ruling is later sustained all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, at most the Department of Homeland Security will have to add another unnecessary bureaucratic process — at taxpayer expense — to the DACA process and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. As the judge wrote, “However, DHS’s ability to exercise its discretion at later stages in the removal process by, for example, cancelling the Notice to Appear or moving to dismiss the removal proceedings is not at issue in the present case, and nothing in this Order limits DHS’s discretion at later stages of the removal process.”

“So rest assured, DACA is alive and well,” Leopold went on to say.

Oscars Academy Just Might Be Getting More Latino Members

Oscars Academy Just Might Be Getting More Latino Members

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes for the Oscars, is nearly 94 percent white and 77 percent male, according to a 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation. Blacks make up about 2 percent of the academy, and Latinos make up even less than that.

So what are some of things that could possibly go wrong when the Academy is almost entirely white?

Earlier this year, the Oscar ceremony’s “In Memoriam” reel that features actors who have passed away in the past 12-months left out actress Lupe Ontiveros. The Mexican-American actress worked steadily throughout her 35 year career and her credits included films like “Selena,” “Real Women Have Curves,” “The Goonies” and “El Norte.” 

But she was overlooked.

Members of the National Latino Media Council (NLMC) recently met with representatives of the Academy to discuss ways in which to increase Latino representation amongst members of the Academy.

The meeting was requested by members of the NLMC after outcry from the Latino community arose regarding Ontiveros’ exclusion from the ‘In Memoriam’ reel, and a desire to discuss their concern about the lack of diversity in the Academy’s membership.

“We had a very positive discussion, and reached accord on a number of issues and we believe that the Academy representatives are earnest in working with us to address our diversity concerns,” stated retired Congressman Esteban Torres, NLMC Chairman.

NLMC is working on building a list of qualified U.S. Latinos that the Academy can invite to become members.  The Academy will ultimately decide who they invite.

“We appreciated the opportunity to meet with the NLMC and discuss much of the work the Academy does year-round to encourage new filmmakers and to support Latino artists,” said Academy President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson.”

Calif. Bill That Allows Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Moves Forward

Calif. Bill That Allows Driver's Licenses for Undocumented Moves Forward

Earlier this week, California assemblyman Luis A. Alejo, D-Salinas, introduced Assembly Bill 60 to members of the Transportation Committee to lobby their support for the legislation that would make some undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for driver’s licenses.

“AB 60 allows taxpayers who do not have a social security number to provide multiple identification documents deemed appropriate by the California Police Chiefs’ Association and the State Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as proof of California residency,” Alejo said in a statement.

“They can’t just come from another state and a get a license,” Alejo told Capitol Public Radio.”They have to show utility bills, property, tax documents. Other documents that show the person has lived here.”

Rebecca DeLaRosa, legislative director for Alejo, told the proposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would be the same to those provided to residents who can provide social security numbers. The bill actually prohibits the inclusion or the displaying of the applicant’s individual taxpayer identification number or other number associated with the identity document.

The Ventura County Star has more details from Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee meeting:

On a 12-1 vote that included the support of two Republicans, the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday approved this year’s version of a bill that has either stalled in the Legislature or been vetoed by the governor each year since 2001.

“This is the year for the licenses to become law in California,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, after the vote.

Alejo, the author of AB 60, noted that for the first time the bill has a Republican co-author, has the prospect of receiving significant bipartisan backing and is close to receiving support from the California Police Chiefs Association. Just as important, it is being debated following a Field Poll finding earlier this year that showed public opinion has shifted on the issue and that a majority of voters now supports such a law.

There are an estimated 2 million undocumented motorists nation wide who are currently driving, according to the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. California also has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the nation and it leads the country in the number of drivers in the state.

AB 60 has a promising outlook compared to similar bills previously introduced by termed-out assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who proposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants eight different times

Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at California State University, Los Angeles, told the Sacremento Bee earlier this year that “Latinos have never been in a better position” to send a license bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

“You never know what Jerry is going to do with it, though,” Regalado said. “He remains kind of a befuddlement to predict.”

In October 2012, Brown signed legislation to grant DREAMers granted deferred action to apply for a driver’s license. Brown also signed legislation in 2011 that allows young people who entered the country without authorization as minors and attended California high schools to apply for college financial aid.

The police chief in Los Angeles, the city with the most undocumented immigrants in the country, also supports granting licenses to those without social security numbers. (I should note Beck believes in a separate drivers license to immigrants.)

The measure next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

If the measure becomes law, California would become the fifth state, joining Washington, New Mexico, Utah and Illinois, to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

Hospitals Caught ‘Deporting’ Sick, Undocumented Immigrants [Video]

Hospitals Caught 'Deporting' Sick, Undocumented Immigrants [Video]

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been deported back to their country of origin by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. According to a recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period because they were ineligible for public insurance as a result of their immigration status.

The report published by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) cites more than 800 cases of attempted or actual medical deportations across the country in recent years, including: a nineteen-year-old girl who died shortly after being wheeled out of a hospital back entrance typically used for garbage disposal and transferred to Mexico; a car accident victim who died shortly after being left on the tarmac at an airport in Guatemala; and a young man with catastrophic brain injury who remains bed-ridden and suffering from constant seizures after being forcibly deported to his elderly mother’s hilltop home in Guatemala.

“When immigrants are in need of ongoing medical care, they find themselves at the crossroads of two systems that are in dire need of reform—health care and immigration law. Aside from emergency care, hospitals are not reimbursed by the government for providing ongoing treatment for uninsured immigrant patients. Therefore, many hospitals are engaging in de facto deportations of immigrant patients without any governmental oversight or accountability,” Lori A. Nessel, director of CSJ said in a statement.

“This type of situation is ripe for abuse.” Nessel went on to say.

Chicago Fast Food and Retail Workers Strike

Chicago Fast Food and Retail Workers Strike

Hundreds of Chicago fast food and retails workers walked off the job this morning in a one-day strike to demand wage hikes and union rights. The walk-out is part of an accelerating trend of labor actions by low-wage, non-union workers at some of the country’s largest corporate chains stores and restaurants.

The Fight for 15 campaign, named for its target wage hike, has been organizing workers for months to pull off today’s strike. Organizers expect employees of downtown Chicago chains including McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Sears and Victoria’s Secret to join the action.

The Chicago strike comes on the heels the recent Black Friday Walmart worker actions and several similar walk-outs by New York City fast food workers in November and again earlier this month. Fast food and retail workers are often paid the minimum wage—$8.25 in Illinois—and many say their employers refuse to schedule them for enough hours.

“At the end of the day, it feels like I’ve done all of this to help everyone else, to help the store, help the managers, help the customers, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is looking out for me.” Macy’s employee Krystal Maxie-Collins told Josh Eidelson of Salon, who broke news of the strike last night. Eidelson writes:

Maxie-Collins, a mother of four who works part-time for the state minimum wage of $8.25 plus a commission, said she had initially been hesitant about the strike because of the risk of retaliation. But “what we are fighting for, the reason for doing it, kind of overrode the fear of doing it.” “Usually the things that are worth it,” she added, “you have to sacrifice for.”

The strikes emerge as minimum-wage service jobs fill the labor market space vacated by recession-time losses. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, federal employment data reveals that 43 percent of all job growth in the last two years of so-called economic recovery are concentrated in service fields. More broadly, while low-wage jobs accounted for 21 percent of losses during the recession, they made up nearly 60 percent of labor market growth in the recovery. The inverse was true for mid-wage jobs.

As I noted after the first New York fast food strike last year, workers in the growing service sector tend to be women and people of color.

This new economy is populated by an increasingly non-white labor force. The average fast food worker is about 30 years old, female and, as with low-wage work in general, likely to be a person of color. In 2011, 28 percent of working black women and over 31 percent of working Latinas had jobs in the service sector, compared to about 20 percent of white women.

Further, black and Latino workers are concentrated in the lowest-paying jobs in the service sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While most agree that the workers are a long way from winning wage increases, the community-based and non-union labor organizations leading the targeted, day-long walk-outs intend to bruise companies like Walmart and McDonald’s with a series of actions around the county. The corporations pull in billions in profits and generally pay employees as little as they’re legally allowed.

The actions have the financial support of the Service Employees International Union. In both Chicago and New York, workers say they hope to form a union.

“Fight for 15, seeks to put money back in the pockets of the 275,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food and retail outlets, but still can’t afford basic necessities,” organizers said in a statement. “If workers were paid more, they’d spend more, helping to get Chicago’s economy moving again.”

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Takes On CNN’s Boston Manhunt Coverage

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Takes On CNN's Boston Manhunt Coverage

Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj stars in a new video released today that mocks CNN’s coverage during the Boston marathon bomber manhunt. The video is part of a series by the Los Angeles based sketch comedy group Goatface and was co-written by Minhaj and Afghan-American comedian Fahim Anwar.

Last week CNN correspondent John King, citing multiple “exclusive” sources, falsely reported authorities had arrested the bombing suspect. King described the suspect as a “dark skinned” man but an hour later in turned out the information was completely false.

The video mocks some of the false reporting and makes references to some of real life results that resulted from the misinformation.

The video was directed by: Aristotle Athiras
Written by: Hasan Minhaj, Fahim Anwar
Starring: Hasan Minhaj, Asif Ali, Fahim Anwar, Aristotle Athiras, Rory Scovel, Rob Gleeson, Jake Weisman

Mothers of Young Men Killed by NYPD Call on Musicians to Write Songs for Justice

Mothers of Young Men Killed by NYPD Call on Musicians to Write Songs for Justice

Today, the Justice Committee released a video message from mothers of young men killed by the NYPD that calls on music artists to submit lyrics or songs dedicated to justice for the families. 

“To the artists, I say: We need to hear what is it that I can not express with my voice, or that my son can not express with his voice because he’s not here. So I would like for the artist to bring that pain out that I hold inside from my sons death,” says Margarita Rosario who’s son was killed by an officer in 1995. 

The following mothers were featured in the video:

Artists can participate by writing 4 - 8 bars of lyrics to be used in a collaborative song or creating an original piece dedicated to the mothers. The submission deadline is July 1, 2013. For more information, artists can contact the Justice Committee at

The video also announced an action outside of the NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza on May 10th, 4:30 to “call for justice and reforms.”

“We ask all parents who lost a loved one to any form of violence to stand in the streets with other parents whose children were killed by the police.” 

The Justice Committee was founded in 1983 as the NYC chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. Today the groups says their members include “poor, working class and middle class people of color.”

On Immigration, Points Of Conflict Crystallize As Senators Plunge Into Debate

On Immigration, Points Of Conflict Crystallize As Senators Plunge Into Debate

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The immigration reform bill introduced last week has already come under close scrutiny by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which today held its third hearing on the legislation in five days. While some of the content of the hearings edged toward demagoguery, much of the questioning revealed real points of conflict that will likely guide the committee amendment process in early May. The main policy questions about the bill are largely the same now as they were before it was released. They center on the rigidity of the so-called “border triggers” and Republican ambivalence around provisions that provide the Department of Homeland Security discretion to stop deportations or admit people to a path to citizenship.

The bill introduced last week by a bipartisan group of Senators will open the possibility of citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants currently living without papers in the United States. But to get there, it first requires that Homeland Security reach a set of benchmarks to expand an already bellicose border enforcement infrastructure.

In today’s hearing, Republicans said that the legislation leaves the Secretary of Homeland Security too much power to verify over verifying the security of the border.

“Once the Secretary certifies that the security and fencing plans are substantially deployed, operational and completed, green cards are allocated to those here illegally,” said ranking committee member, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. But, he added, “There’s not much of a definition of substantially in the bill,”

On border security, the legislation sets high targets and allocates $6 to $7 billion in new border spending for fencing, cameras, drones and 3,500 border patrol guards. It also increases criminal prosecutions of people trying to cross. Ultimately, the bill establishes as a benchmark that immigration authorities achieve “effective control” of the border, defined as stopping at least 90 percent of attempted crossings in certain areas. If the Secretary does not certify these are met, none of those on the path to citizenship will receive a green card.

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