Border Patrol Use of Force Rules: Shooting at Rock-Throwers Still OK

Border Patrol Use of Force Rules: Shooting at Rock-Throwers Still OK

On Friday the Border Patrol released guidelines to officers outlining when the use of deadly force is permissable. The guidelines come after intense advocacy from immigrant and human rights activists in the wake of multiple deadly Border Patrol shootings aimed at people who were allegedly throwing rocks at officers.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher wrote that the officers’ “level of force applied must reflect the totality of the circumstances surrounding each situation.” Fisher advised officers to stop shooting at moving vehicles and rock throwers, that is, unless officers believe that the “subject of such force poses and imminent danger of death or serious injury.” According to Fisher, Border Patrol officers have killed 10 people since 2010 after rock-throwing incidents after 1,713 incidents of rock-throwing. 

The memo “leaves much to be desired,” ACLU policy counsel Chris Rickerd told the AP. “It is largely a restatement of existing policy, which is a shame because clearly existing policy isn’t working,” Rickerd said.

Read the Border Patrol memo (PDF).

Watch DREAMers Come Back Home

Watch DREAMers Come Back Home

Some 150 people who have been deported from the United States are set to return over the next few days via the Otay Mesa post of entry between Tijuana, Mex., and San Diego, Calif. Organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the crossers will split into two groups: Dreamers will cross today, and families (including children) will cross sometime this week. The group has pulled off largely successful similar actions in the past. This third crossing is being called Bring Them Home 3. 

You can watch two live streams of the crossing—one from the Mexican side, and the other from the U.S. side

Ann Coulter Suggests Creating ‘Death Squads’ if Immigration Reform Passes

Ann Coulter Suggests Creating 'Death Squads' if Immigration Reform Passes

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter is never one to mince words, but in her recent debate with journalist Mickey Kaus at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) she expressed some shocking attitudes about immigrants and immigration reform. She began by suggesting that Democrats only support immigration reform because they’re looking to increase their voter base, and criticized both Democrats and Republicans for endorsing so-called “amnesty.” But she also shared some disturbing views on shaming and “the poor.” 

There’s an overwhelming cultural sense, a political correctness, to end shaming. Shaming is good. It’s almost a cruel and insensitive thing for the upper classes, the educated, the college graduates, to refuse to tell poor people ‘keep your knees together before you get married.’

She went on to suggest immigrants should be shamed for “running across the border illegally,” and said the notion of families getting torn apart by immigration policies is a myth perpetuated by liberals and the media, because most undocumented immigrants are young men (who come into the country illegally in the backs of trucks marked “pico de gallo”). Coulter ended the conversation with a zinger. 

Immigration is forever, it is game over when that happens. Amnesty is forever. You gotta vote for the Republicans one more time, and just make it clear that if you pass amnesty that’s it, it’s over. And then we organize the death squads for the people that wrecked America.

Considering the climate around immigration reform, the hardships caused by record numbers of deportations under President Obama, and the most recent polls suggesting voters across political parties favor immigration reform, Coulters comments come across as narrow-minded, cruel, and disconnected from the tough realities immigrants face. 

New Romantic Comedy Explores Detroit’s Arab-American Community

New Romantic Comedy Explores Detroit's Arab-American Community

Stereotypical representations of Arab-Americans as hyper-religious or terrorists are all too common, and one Detroit filmmaker hopes to challenge these notions in a new romantic comedy. “Detroit Unleaded” tells the story of two young Arab-Americans, Sami and Najila, falling in love and balancing culture, romance, and everyday life in Detroit.  Lebanese filmmaker Rola Nashef originally produced the film as a short, and was encouraged by local community members to create a full-length version.

In a recent Q&A with Truthout, Nashef describes the challenges of dating within Arab-American communities, racial tensions among different groups in Detroit, and what inspired the film. 

I wanted to present a story that was told through an Arab-American dynamic instead of explaining Arab-American culture. It was my goal to create complex characters on both sides of the glass, seen through an Arab-American perspective. If I can get an audience member to identify with Sami, who is trapped in a job that he doesn’t like - and just happens to be Arab - that audience member is bonding with a person that they have been told is their enemy. 

I think it is important to balance our image with more universal experiences. Who hasn’t lied to sneak out of the house to see their crush or been stuck in a job they don’t like?

(h/t Truthout

Kumbia Queers Launch U.S. Tour

Kumbia Queers Launch U.S. Tour

On Thursday the Kumbia Queers, an all-woman Latin American cumbia band whose name parodies the popular all-male Kumbia Kings, launched a U.S. tour to promote their newest album “Pecados Tropicales.” Playing for an intimate crowd at the Queens Museum, the Kumbia Queers talked about the role of women in a music genre that continues to be heavily masculine, where women are more often sexy backup dancers or sex object in songs than performers. Nearly all the band members have backgrounds in punk and heavy metal, and said that they chose to develop their unique cumbia style, which they call tropi punk, in part to make a statement about the representations of women (particularly queer women who challenge common notions of femininity) within the cumbia scene 

Cumbia, described by some as the “backbone of Latin America ,” is a music form that blends African and Indigenous sounds and rhythms with Latin American styles and instruments.  The music is commonly heard, with distinct regional characteristics, throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and has also been growing in popularity in the U.S.  The Kumbia Queers tours continues on to Washington D.C., Chicago, and Austin, as well as multiple dates in California. 

Last Abortion Clinic in the Rio Grande Valley Shuttered

Last Abortion Clinic in the Rio Grande Valley Shuttered

Following news that the Alabama House passed some of the strictest abortion restrictions yet this week, the aftermath of the new Texas abortion legislation continues to unfold. On Thursday the last abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, the poorest region in the state that houses two of the poorest cities in the nation, were closed. The McAllen clinic, one of two operated by Whole Woman’s Health that were shuttered, was the closest available reproductive health provider for predominantly poor immigrants and Latina women living in rural areas along the U.S. Mexico border. Following these closures there are 24 abortion providers in the state, down from 44 in 2011 and expected to fall to eight once the final provisions of the new Texas law goes into affect. As more and more clinics close across the state it creates an undue burden particularly for low-income women of color, who must travel farther and incur added expenses to obtain reproductive health care.

Rachel Maddow recently did an exclusive story, visiting women living in the Rio Grande Valley and talking with advocates from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Paula Saldaña, is one of the advocates volunteering to do health care outreach for women there—who are one third more likely to die of cervical cancer. In addition to the increased financial burden that comes with decreased access to reproductive health care, Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman’s Health says they’ve seen a steady increase of self-induced abortions among women in Texas since regulations became stricter, sometimes with dire consequences for women.

Watch the Trailer for the ‘Annie’ Remake Starring Quvenzhané Wallis

Watch the Trailer for the 'Annie' Remake Starring Quvenzhané Wallis

In an incredibly adorable adaptation, Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis stars in the much anticipated remake of the 1982 hit film “Annie.” Set to release on December 19, the film also stars Jamie Foxx as the newly named billionaire Benjamin Stack (once Daddy Warbucks) and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan. Will Smith and Jay Z are co-producers on the film, and originally Willow Smith was set to play Annie. As expected, there have already been a slew of racist comments on social media about the the new black Annie, but just as much praise for why this is a welcome and exciting adaptation of a classic story. 

Production Begins on New Biopic of First Openly Gay Baseball Player

Production Begins on New Biopic of First Openly Gay Baseball Player

Jason Collins and Michael Sam have both been applauded for coming out about their sexuality and helping change homophobic sports culture, but in 1976 a less celebrated athlete was paving the way. Glenn Burke was the first openly gay person in major league sports, and came out while he was a player for the Oakland A’s in the late ’70s. According to friends and teammates, he was ostracized for his sexuality and pushed out of baseball. 

Following the 2010 documentary “Out: The Glenn Burke Story,” it was announced that Jamie Lee Curtis is producing a biopic about his life.  The film will be called “Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story,” based on the memoir Burke wrote with Erik Sherman. In addition to his contributions to sports and LGBTQ communities, he is also credited with inventing the high-five. Burke died of complications from AIDS in 1995. 

Immigration Activist Disrupts Obama Speech in Connecticut

Immigration Activist Disrupts Obama Speech in Connecticut

On a routine visit to Central Connecticut State University on Wednesday, President Obama was again confronted by a passionate immigration reform activist calling for an end to deportations. John Molina, a 46-year-old Colombian immigrant, interrupted a speech Obama was giving about his recent minimum wage increase. Much like 24-year-old Ju Hong—who called out the president in November during a speech in San Francisco—Molina stood on a chair and yelled, “Mr. Obama, stop the deportations!”

Originally, Molina went to the event to join a demonstration outside of the university, and hadn’t planned on going in. But once he arrived he decided it was his only chance to tell the president how he really felt.  Unlike with Hong, however, the president did not respond, nor did he intervene when Molina was asked to leave. 

“I feel good, but frustrated. I couldn’t tell him everything, and I wanted to say more,” he told Colorlines over the phone in Spanish, calling from his job doing maintenance at a Connecticut golf club. “He’s deporting too many people, and he’s the only one with the power to stop it. I don’t want him to deport any more families.”

Molina came to the U.S. 20-years-ago, fleeing Pablo Escobar-era Colombia, and seeking economic opportunities. The number of deportations during Obama’s term in office, reportedly more than under any other U.S. president, is set to hit two million by April.

New Film Honors WWII Muslim Heroine

New Film Honors WWII Muslim Heroine

Add the name Noor Inayat Khan to the honor roll of women who fought against Nazi Germany. A new docudrama, “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story,” dramatizes the real-life story of Khan, a young Muslim of Indian and American heritage who was the first female radio operator sent by the British into Nazi-occupied France. Khan’s decision to join the war effort is all the more intriguing given that she was raised in a pacifist Sufi household.

Later captured and executed at Dachau, Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross—the UK’s equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

The film recently premiered in Washington, D.C. but it’s making its way around the country. Ft. Wayne, Ind. is the next stop.


Youth File Complaint Against NC Public High Schools

Youth File Complaint Against NC Public High Schools

A February civil rights complaint accuses two North Carolina school districts of denying, delaying or discouraging school enrollment based on immigration status. The districts’ actions are symptomatic of a statewide problem, a coalition of civil rights groups including the SPLC say.

The complaint describes discrimination faced by a Guatemalan and a 17-year-old Honduran immigrant, twice denied enrollment, allegedly because she was too old.

As of last week, according to a statement reported by the Duke Chronicle, one of the school boards had not yet heard from the DOJ or SPLC-and-company regarding the complaint.

North Carolina law, according to the SPLC, says all students under 21 are entitled to a public education in the school district in which they live.

Alabama House Passes Four Strict Abortion Bills

Alabama House Passes Four Strict Abortion Bills

In one of the poorest states in the nation, the Alabama House passed harsh anti-abortion legislation on Tuesday. The state already had a long list of reproductive health restrictions, including parental consent for minors, state-mandated counseling and ultrasounds, a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion, and limited access to public funds for treatment. Adding to those, this week Alabama lawmakers passed the so-called “heartbeat ban,” which would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—once there is a detectable heartbeat—without exceptions for incest or rape. The bill also increases the waiting period for an abortion to 48 hours, requires women to consider perinatal hospice care if there are abnormalities in the fetus, and makes it even tougher for young women to obtain abortions. 

Pro-choice advocates have strongly opposed this type of legislation particularly because many women don’t yet know they are pregnant at six weeks. Similar legislation was considered last year in Ohio and North Dakota. The deliberations also became racially charged when State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) stated, “99 percent of the whites that are sitting in here now, if [their] daughter got pregnant by a black man, they gonna make their daughter have an abortion.”  More than a quarter of Alabama residents are black, and the Latino population has also been steadily increasing. And of the 542,770 women in Alabama who need access to contraceptive services and supplies, 19 percent are black, 4 percent are Latina, and 19 percent live below the federal poverty level.

Artist Kevin Truong Creates ‘Visual Catalogue’ of Gay Men Across the World

Artist Kevin Truong Creates 'Visual Catalogue' of Gay Men Across the World

For nearly two years Vietnamese artist Kevin Truong has been collecting a visual catalogue of gay men from across the globe. So far he’s photographed 373 different men for The Gay Men Project, each image distinct and highlighting their individual characteristics and personalities. The project is also participatory, and those photographed are invited to share their personal stories to go along the images. Truong recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue the project. 

My goal is to create a platform, a visibility on some level, and a resource for others who may not be as openly gay. A visual catalog of gay men and their stories. When I think of my own experience, and all the time I spent in the closet and hiding the fact that I was gay-to be at a place now where I feel completely comfortable being on the blog and telling the world “Hey, I’m a gay man,” I think there’s a power in that, for me and for a lot of the men on the blog.

There are hundreds of wonderful images that showcase a diverse range of gay men of different races and ethnicities. Below are a few choice examples. 








Juan Bago and Remezcla Team Up on New Web Series

Juan Bago and Remezcla Team Up on New Web Series

Actor/comedian Mike Diaz (aka Juan Bago), perhaps best known for his YouTube famous music video ‘Pan Con Queso’ chronicling the hunger pangs of Dominican friends in New York’s Washington Heights, is joining forces with Latino arts and culture site Remezcla on “Studio Heads.” The new mockumentary-style web series follows Bago and friends in their efforts to create a recording studio. Featuring his signature parody of Latino masculinity and jabs at Dominican culture (#DominicanProblems), the series promises to be hilarious, slap-stick comedy that anyone, Latino or other, can relate to, and features cameos by Tony-award winning actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

(h/t Remezcla

Former Black Panther Marshall ‘Eddie’ Conway Released After 44 Years in Prison

Former Black Panther Marshall 'Eddie' Conway Released After 44 Years in Prison

Marshall “Eddie” Conway, described by advocates as one of the nation’s longest-held political prisoners, was released yesterday after more than four decades in prison. Conway was the Minister of Defense for the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party when he was convicted of killing a Baltimore police officer in 1970, though he continuously affirmed his innocence.  He claims he was framed for the murder, and a victim of dubious testimony gathered through surveillance under the controversial counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, which has been linked to assassinations and widespread arrests of black political figures. Local police officers’ unions are quoted saying they are disappointed Conway won’t be serving the remainder of his life sentence. 

Numerous campaigns have been launched over the years to petition for Conway’s release. During his time in prison, he organized a union, a library, a conflict-resolution organization for young men called “Friend of a Friend,” and also wrote a memoir titled, “Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther.” Conway’s release comes after the late Herman Wallace, another Black Panther who spent more than four decades in prison (mostly in solitary confinement), passed away just three days after being released. Upon release he thanked supporters, urging them to support other political prisoners who are still incarcerated, and says he will continue his work with and expand “Friends of Friends.” 

(h/t Democracy Now!)

Florida Senate Committee Passes ‘Warning Shot Bill’ as Marissa Alexander Faces Triple Sentence

Florida Senate Committee Passes 'Warning Shot Bill' as Marissa Alexander Faces Triple Sentence

Less than one month after Michael Dunn was convicted of lesser charges in the Jordan Davis murder case, and amid new reports that Marissa Alexander could face a triple sentence during retrial, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee passed CS/HB89, the so-called “warning shot bill.” If signed into law by Governor Rick Scott, this bill would expand the controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws at the center of the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis murder trials. The NRA-backed bill would make it legal to fire warning shots based on a “perceived threat,” thereby turning what is now considered an armed aggravated assault into self-defense. 

Alexander’s retrial is expected to begin in July, and last week the Office of State Attorney Angela Corey announced her office would seek to increase Alexander’s sentence from 20 to 60 years. Alexander was unsuccessful in using the “Stand Your Ground” defense in her own case, despite being charged with a lesser crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot at her abusive, estranged husband. The bill, which some say lawmakers drafted in support of Alexander, has been called into question by activist groups such as the Dream Defenders, which challenge any expansion to existing “Stand Your Ground” laws that have had dire consequences particularly for young people of color in that state. 

Senate Blocks Obama’s Pick for New Civil Rights Chief

Senate Blocks Obama's Pick for New Civil Rights Chief

[Updated with statement from President Obama at the end of this post]

Today, Senate Republicans and Democrats voted to block President Obama’s pick for Justice Department Civil Rights Division head Debo Adegbile, the former lead attorney on voting rights for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Republicans opposed him mostly because of his involvement as an LDF lawyer in the appeal for the imprisoned human rights activist Mumia Abu-Jamal. Adegbile’s assistance in that case consisted of helping file a brief claiming that the jury in Abu-Jamal’s trial — where he was convicted for killing a police officer — received improper instructions for their deliberations.

The judge in that case did find merit in that brief, but members of the U.S. Senate apparently did not. Many of the Republicans accused Adegbile of helping a “cop killer.” National law enforcement associations encouraged the Senate to block Adegbile for the same reasons. 

On top of that, seven Democrats joined with Republicans to block Adegbile on similar grounds, some of them afraid that a favorable vote would hurt their re-election chances this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, also voted against Adegbile, but only under a technical procedure so that he could bring Adegbile back up for a vote in the future. 

“I believe that Republicans have distorted this good man’s record in an attempt to score political points and block confirmation of a faithful defender of voting rights,” said Reid at the vote hearing today. “Republicans have not given this good man a fair shot at confirmation.”

It was thought that Adegbile would have a smoother transition through the Senate thanks to a rule change sparked by Reid in November that would require only a simple majority vote (51 votes) for nominees to federal agencies, as opposed to the 60 votes that were needed in the past. But today’s obstruction was largely covered in racial animus, according to those present for the vote. 

“Today’s vote demonstrated the worst elements of our political system,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Unhinged rhetoric trumped substance, racialized language triumphed over thoughtful discourse, and our legal and political system will pay the price. It’s hypocritical for Senators to claim to support civil rights enforcement and then turn their backs on our communities by voting against the consideration this nominee on his merits.”

President Obama released this statement on the Senate’s failure to confirm Adegbile:

“The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant. Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable. He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked. His unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law - including voting rights - could not be more important right now. And Mr. Adegbile’s personal story - rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators - is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules. As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him. The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice - and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.”

The Housing Crisis Continues, and Many Are Tired of Waiting

The Housing Crisis Continues, and Many Are Tired of Waiting

The housing crisis catapulted by the great recession hit communities of color particularly hard. Latino and black homeowners were 70-80 percent more likely to be offered subprime loans before the recession, and 71-76 percent more likely to have lost their homes than white homeowners. Many of those most affected by the housing crisis continue to experience hardships, especially in an era where unemployment remains highhousing costs have reached their highest in two decades, and rental rates have steadily increased, causing many to spend a disproportionate amount of their income paying for a place to live. 

Today, the Homes for All Campaign launched “I Can’t Wait“—a new multimedia digital storytelling platform that enables those still grappling with the housing crisis to share their personal story. The site also provides a calculator and resources to help visitors determine how much of their income they are and should be spending on housing. People such as Jackie L.—who is currently living in an abandoned house in Springfield, Ill., and Clerida R.—who is seeking a new home after hers was foreclosed on in Boston, Mass., are featured on the site. Their stories put a human face on the ongoing U.S. housing crisis, and the hardships faced by communities of color struggling to find adequate housing in a tough economy. 

NYPD’s Lone Black Scuba Diver Files EEOC Complaint Over Racial Taunts on the Job

NYPD's Lone Black Scuba Diver Files EEOC Complaint Over Racial Taunts on the Job

In the seven years Oscar Smith served on the New York Police Department’s scuba-diving unit, he was the only black member of the team. And according to allegations detailed in an official complaint he filed with the Police Department of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he was unwelcome among the unit’s ranks. 

Smith told the New York Times he faced regular racial and homophobic taunts:

When his application to join the unit in 2003 was first denied, Mr. Smith said, he heard that the captain of the unit had blocked the transfer “because, he said, ‘black guys couldn’t swim,’ ” according to his complaint. That stereotype would rear up even after he joined the unit, he said. A supervisor “repeatedly asked me how it was that a ‘black man’ could have passed the swim test,” Mr. Smith wrote in the complaint.

In his complaint, he said that shortly after joining the diving unit he was “subjected to racial hostility, derogatory comments and unfavorable treatment.” He was soon given a nickname, Tautog. When he asked the other divers what it meant, he was told it was another name for the blackfish. Some colleagues dismissively told him that he was “descended from slaves.”

At first, he said, his instinct was to “brush it off,” but the comments got worse and even turned menacing.

“You could go on a dive op and not wake up — anything could happen,” he said his co-workers told him. “I’d say, ‘That’s nice to know.’ ” But as such comments increased over time, he said, “It didn’t seem like it was in jest.”

The NYPD’s spokesperson declined to comment on the complaint. Read the rest of the article at the New York Times.

Former Rikers Island Youth Inmate Opens Up About Solitary Confinement

Former Rikers Island Youth Inmate Opens Up About Solitary Confinement

As a teen Ismael Nazario did time in New York City’s Rikers Island prison for assault and robbery charges. “Without being convicted he says he spent a total of 300 days in solitary. The longest stretch was four months,” reports Daffodil Altan for NewsHour. It was excrutiating, Nazario says. “Like, my eyes would start playing tricks on me. I would start seeing black dots. And I’d focus on them. It’s crazy. It looks crazy when I demonstrate it, how it used to look. You see the black dots and you just focusing on the black dots and your eyes is just follwoign them around all over the cell. You’re trying to escape seeing the black dots. But you can’t, there’s no black dots there. It’s crazy.”

Today he’s a youth counselor in Brooklyn. But back on Rikers, solitary confinement proved to be a profoundly destructive practice. After long stretches in solitary confinement, which requires 23 hours of total isolation in a small cell, Nazario started talking to himself, pacing back and forth, screaming through a small slit in the door at his cell, a not uncommon response to the solitary confinement. For years advocates have been highlighting the dangers of solitary confinement, which many prison reform advocates consider tantamount to torture. 

Folks are finally listening. In late February New York state announced that it’s rolling back its use of solitary confinement for the most vulnerable populations, including youth, pregnant inmates and those with mental disabilities. 

Watch the rest of the PBS NewsHour segment.

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