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Parent Trigger Hits Again in Los Angeles’ Watts Public School

Just weeks after their first triumph with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the parent trigger advocacy group Parent Revolution announced Monday that they’re going for another parent trigger win in the same district. Parents at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood, who organized themselves to pull the parent trigger with the help of Parent Revolution, filed a successful petition last month to overhaul their children’s school. LAUSD verified the parents’ petition.

Now, the parents’ chosen reform model, which calls for the overhaul of Weigand by replacing the principal and undergoing other deep institutional changes, will move ahead. The Weigand parent trigger effort, which marks the fourth time that the use of the parent trigger has been attempted, is the very first to call for an in-district reform. Past attempts have led to bitter court battles, charter school takeovers or greater charter school involvement in a school campus.

“We want to work with the district and the teachers to make our school a place where our children can learn and succeed,” Weigand parent activist Llury Garcia said in a statement.

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother’s Day in New Orleans

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother's Day in New Orleans

Journalist and documentarian Deborah “Big Red” Cotton was one of the 19 people wounded in the tragic shooting during a “second line” Mother’s Day parade yesterday. In total, ten men, seven women and two 10-year-old children were injured. Cotton had just launched her own website NewOrleansGoodGood.com, which highlights off-the-beaten path restaurants and attractions normally ignored by mainstream media.

But Cotton also wrote about often-ignored problems in New Orleans concerning violence and poverty. The tragic irony of her being wounded in a second line parade is that she wrote about this very issue often in her blog. When a woman was murdered three years ago after a second line parade, and some journalists attempted to draw causations and correlations between murder and second line tradition, Cotton wrote:

The unfortunate murder that occurred on Sunday is not symptomatic of second line culture. On the contrary, it’s directly attributable to deep social ills that New Orleans has yet to get a firm grasp on: a broken criminal justice system that allows murderers to get off easily and maintains bad cops which in turn undermines residents’ faith in cooperating with authorities; a broken education system that leaves citizens unable to function as adults in the professional world; and an economy based on two sectors that thwart ambition and opportunities — tourism and government. To end the murder culture, one must acknowledge and address the legitimate root problems and depart from racial biases that serve to further marginalize a distressed community.

We can end the story right there and call “church.” Except that yesterday Cotton herself got caught in the crossfire of all of those broken systems that produced her shooter, as did the 18 others who were shot and wounded. In this video, posted eerily almost one year ago exactly by Park Triangle Productions, Cotton expressed her concern about New Orleans violence and also her compassion and love for black men in the city who are too often the perpetrators and victims of that violence:


FBI officials remarked that yesterday’s shooting was “street violence” not an act of terror, but Ariella Cohen, a friend of Cotton’s and editor of Next American City, questioned why that distinction is even necessary. Wrote Cohen:

This distinction is troubling because it distinguishes between crime that is seen as against ‘all Americans’ from crime that is seen as a byproduct of an urban American sub-culture, a subculture that happens to have racial and class associations.

Local attorney Samantha Kennedy, who’s also a capital mitigation specialist who worked in Tucson after the mass shootings there, questioned if trauma services would be available to the New Orleans communities as they were offered in Arizona and Colorado. “We have a multigenerational multi-layered PTSD in this community,” wrote Kennedy on Facebook. “Violence begets violence because trauma begets trauma. We live in a highly traumatized community. When are we going to take the biopsyhochemical and emotional needs of our people seriously?”

Gov. Jindal allowed a behavioral health program in Louisiana that served “at-risk,” low-income children to close, but has proposed legislation that would streamline case management services for that population of children.

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Immigration reform advocates renewed calls on President Obama today to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the path to citizenship in the proposed Senate reform bill. On a call today, labor and immigrant rights groups said that Obama should get ahead of the immigration legislation by directing the Department of Homeland Security to stop removals of immigrants who could benefit from the legislation.

Obama has previously said that he would not issue a moratorium on deportations, suggesting that such an order could derail the legislative reform efforts by angering Republicans. But representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and United We Dream, argued today that the introduction of the Senate immigration bill should change the equation: With the perimeters of eligibility for a path to citizenship now clear, the President should get a head start by protecting potential citizens.

“We’re not asking for the president to do something unilateral,” said Thomas Saenz, director of MALDEF. “He can apply quite easily the standards set forth in the bi-partisan committee.”

Speakers on the call rejected Obama’s previous decision to continue deporting non-citizens at a rapid pace while Congress considers the legislation.

“The President is not and con not be a bi-stander in the process,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON. “He has to intervene” to stop the deportations.

Alvarado added that stopping deportations will create the space for undocumented immigrants to take part in the immigration reform process. “It will give immigrants the breathing room to participate in the process,” he said.

The federal government has carried out well over 1.5 million deportations in the last 4 years. Many of those removed leave behind family in the U.S. Lorella Praeli of the group United We Dream, a coalition that successfully pressed Obama to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy to stop removing DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, says her group wants protections for their family members.

“President Obama has deported more people than any other president and we will not stand by,” she said. “It’s very hard to say that you’re serious about solving the problem while you’re breaking up families.”

About 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizen kids, according to data obtained by Colorlines.com. Many others have spouses, parents and undocumented children in the U.S. as well.

Yvette Martinez’s husband was deported to Guatemala last week, even though she says he has no criminal record. The couple was stopped while driving near Springfield, Mass. The Republican, a western Massachusetts paper, reported:

What they thought would be a quick trip to the store for toothpaste turned into a real-life nightmare for Yvette Martinez and her husband, Roger Sabora-Martinez.

The Springfield couple was stopped for a traffic violation by a state trooper on Chestnut Street on Feb. 18, and Sabora-Martinez, 33, was charged with driving without a license and failing to use a turn signal. When he was taken to the state police barracks on Armory Street, it was discovered that Sabora-Martinez is an undocumented resident.

The advocates say they are not asking the President for another Deferred Action program, but rather a stronger guarantee that the Department of Homeland Security will follow its existing guidelines and refrain from deporting so-called low-priority immigrants who have not been charged with a crime and could apply for provisional immigration status under the bill.

The immigration reform legislation is in early stages—the Senate Judiciary Committee began coting on amendments on Thursday—and few think it could become law before the end of the summer. If deportations continue at the rate they have for the past four years, between 100,000 and 150,000 more people could be removed before any undocumented immigrant could apply for immigration papers.

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors ‘The View’ May Add Latina

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors 'The View' May Add Latina

“The View” co-host Joy Behar announced in March that she is departing ABC’s long-running daytime talk show. Actresses Brooke Shields and Jenny McCarthy both are rumored contenders to fill in Behar’s seat but there are rumors the seat may go to a Latina.

Last Friday co-host Sherri Shepherd visited Jay Leno and mentioned comedian Debi Gutierrez was a guest co-host in the show, adding, “I think we need a Latina on the show.” Her comments fueled a number of rumors that ABC executives may replace Behar with a Latina.

If some of those rumors are true, the Latina joining “The View” may not be representative of your average Latina in the U.S. A 2012 Gallup poll found 51% of Latinos identified as or leaned Democratic, while a little less than a quarter (24%) identified with or leaned toward the GOP. Women and children of Latino immigrants are even more likely to identify as democrats.

But ABC executives may be looking for a ‘conservative Latina’ to replace Behar, according to sources interviewed by the U.K.’s “Daily Mail.”

Former “Real World - San Francisco” star and outspoken conservative Rachel Campos-Duffy and singer Gloria Estefan are being considered to replace Behar, according to the NY Daily News.

Contemporary Christian and Latin pop singer Jaci Velasquez, who also co-hosts her own radio show, is rumored to be in the running too.

An ABC spokeswoman told the Daily Mail that ‘at this time we have no comment’ regarding the rumors.

“The View” was the most watched daytime network talk show in 2012.

Watch the Trailer for Oscar Grant Film ‘Fruitvale Station’

Watch the Trailer for Oscar Grant Film 'Fruitvale Station'

The trailer for Ryan Coogler’s highly anticipated film “Fruitvale Station” is out. The film is based on the last day of the life of Oscar Grant, the unarmed 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed in Oakland by a transit officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. The film adaptation, originally titled “Fruitvale”, got lots of attention at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and stars Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

After Grant’s death, Colorlines.com’s Julianne Hing reported extensively on the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the transit officer who was later convicted in his slaying. You can read that reporting here.

Detroit’s Fast Food Workers Strike As National Trend Grows

Detroit's Fast Food Workers Strike As National Trend Grows

As many as 400 Detroit fast food workers walked off the job Friday in a mass action that mimics similar stikes in three other cities in recent weeks. On Wednesday, dozens of St. Louis fast food workers also went on strike.

As the Nation’s Josh Eidelson reports:

Hundreds of Detroit fast food workers plan to walk off the job beginning at 6 AM today, making the motor city the fourth in five weeks to see such strikes. Organizers expect participants from at least 60 stores, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, and Popeye’s locations.

[snip]

Along with a shared significant supporter—SEIU—the campaigns in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit have apparent strategies in common. Rather than waiting until they’ve built support from a majority of a store’s or company’s workers, they stage actions by a minority of the workforce designed to inspire their co-workers.

Like strikes in other cities, the Detroit workers are demanding a raise, to $15 an hour, plus the right to unionize. The strikes hold particular significance in Detroit, where the decline of unionized manufacturing jobs has transformed the city and left many residents to rely on low-wage jobs. According to organizers in Detroit, there are now over 50,000 fast food jobs in the city, two times the number of remaining auto-manufacturing sector jobs. And like the rest of the country, most near-term job growth in Detroit is expected in the low-wage, service sector. Organizers say that’s why the jobs need to pay a living wage.

Finally, Beautiful Mother’s Day Cards for Every Type of Mama

Finally, Beautiful Mother's Day Cards for Every Type of Mama

It’s that time of year where we show the courageous mamas in our life lots of love. And what better way to celebrate than with these Mother’s Day cards from Strong Families, a campaign from Oakland-based reproductive justice organization Forward Together? This year’s e-cards are meant to celebrate all the non-traditional mamas who don’t live behind white picket fences and whose lives usually aren’t represented by your standard Hallmark card. Take a look at the entire collection of cards this Mama’s Day.




MIcahBazant_mamasDay2013.jpg

Illustration: Micah Bazant




Cece Carpio_MamasDay2013.jpg

Illustration: Cece Carpio




MelanieCervantes_mamasDay2013.jpg

Illustration: Melanie Cervantes




AmarylisDejeseusMoleski_MamasDay2013.jpg

Illustration: Amaryllis Dejesus Moleski

W. Kamau Bell Hits the Street to Ask: What’d You Like to Say to a White Person? [VIDEO]

Comedian (and beloved board member of the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.com) W. Kamau Bell is back on FX for a second season of his show “Totally Biased.” And this week he took to New York City streets to ask people of color in: what have you always wanted to say to white people?

And then he presents an actual white man for them to speak to! The segment is rich with honest and funny race talk. But of course it begs the question: what would you like white people to know?

Day One Of Immigration Amendments: Enforcement Is Never Enough For Republicans

Day One Of Immigration Amendments: Enforcement Is Never Enough For Republicans

The congressional battle over immigration reform began in earnest yesterday as the Senate Judiciary Committee jumped into the amendment process. The Senators started on the border security section of the legislation and Republicans spent much of the eight-hour session calling for significantly more border control. Though at the end of the day, the legislation moved only slightly to the right, the minority party’s zeal for more enforcement appeared nearly unlimited.

On Tuesday, Senators on the Committee filed over 300 amendments to the legislation. Yesterday, as they began the voting process, the 18 members got through 32 of the proposed changes. Several amendments passed to increase the border buildup in the already border-heavy bill. The committee approved an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to require border patrol to stop and detain 90 percent of border crossers on the entire border. As the bill was originally written, that “effective control” provision applied only to areas with historically high rates of crossing. The Senators also agreed on an amendment that will require the Department of Homeland Security to report back to the Judiciary Committee.

The Democrat controlled committee rejected several more amendments from Grassley and other members that would have strengthened so-called border triggers and threatened the path to citizenship entirely. Even with the additional amendments, some Republicans said they would simply not support the legislation.

“The committee has voted down every serious border security amendment today,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican. “If it doesn’t have real border security, it will not pass.”

The comments from Cruz beg the question: What is enough enforcement? And the tone many Republicans set suggests that for them there’s no limit. In the Senate, those Republican demands may not prevail, but in the Republican controlled House, which has yet to begin deliberations on reform, these sentiments will be powerful obstacles.

Meanwhile, the willingness of Democrats and members of the bi-partisan Gang of Eight Senators who wrote the bill to agree yesterday to several of the border enforcement amendments has some asking how far they’ll be willing to move to the right as the rest of the amendments come to vote in the next several weeks.

The next section of the bill, which the Senators are expected to take up on Tuesday, contains the 10-year path to citizenship. While Democrats and the two Republican Gang of Eight members on the committee will reject proposals from Cruz and others that would gut the path to citizenship, there are many smaller amendments that could dramatically limit the promise of the reform bill.

An amendment filed Tuesday by Sen. Jeff Sessions, a veteran and vocal opponent of immigration reform, would remove from the bill a provision allowing deported parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply to come back to the U.S. That provision, which could help tens of thousands of families reunify, was seen as a major victory by immigrant rights advocates who point to the crippling effect of deportations on families. It’s not clear though on which side of the Gang of Eight and Democrats threshold for compromise that provision will fall.

In a similar way, two amendments from Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would add immigration rights for same-sex couples. The original legislation excludes LGBT rights. Tens of thousands of gay U.S. citizens are now prohibited from petitioning for green cards for their non-citizen partners because of federal laws. The Leahy amendments aim to fix this discriminatory legal arrangement. But Gang of Eight member Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has yet to say how he’ll vote on the measure, which Republicans broadly oppose.

Republicans were not the only ones to propose additional enforcement yesterday. The committee passed an amendment from California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein’s that could increase funding to localities to prosecute non-citizens in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, it appears the comprehensive immigration reform bill will move to the right as it is amended. The question though is how far can it move in that direction before it’s too exclusionary for some Democrats and immigration reform advocates to accept.

Malcolm X’s Grandson Killed in Mexico During Robbery

Malcolm X's Grandson Killed in Mexico During Robbery

Malcom Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X, has reportedly been found dead in Mexico. He was in the country to meet with labor leaders and sources say that he was killed during a violent robbery attempt. Shabazz’s death was confirmed by sources who spoke with Talking Points Memo.

“He was murdered. He was in Mexico City and I believe they attempted to rob him and he didnt allow it, so they beat him to death and he died on his way to the hospital,” Miguel Ruiz, a member of the California-based labor group Rumec, told TPM. “This is all I can confirm, everything else is under investigation for the meantime.”

Shabazz’s first made national headlines when, at the age of 12, he set a house fire that would later claim the life of his grandmother and Malcolm X’s widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz. He spent four years in a juvenile detention center in New York state. His early troubles with the law were the subject of a lengthy New York Times feature in 2003.

In recent years, Shabazz followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became an outspoken activist. He believed that his political work and family name made him a target for government surveillance. In 2011, Shabazz told the Amsterdam News, “I’ve been a target all my life. My family is targeted.”

More from Talking Points Memo:

Last month, the Iranian state-owned news outlet Press TV published a lengthy statement attributed to Shabazz in which he claimed he was being harassed by the FBI and police in upstate New York due to time he spent in Syria and his attempts to travel to Iran. Shabazz had appeared on Iranian television in April 2012. In the statement published by Press TV, Shabazz accused multiple U.S. government agencies of having “set the climate for my grandfather’s assassination, and made my family a long-suffering casualty of COINTELPRO, and other anti-Black repression programs.”

News of Shabazz’s death first broke Thursday night on Twitter. Many of his supporters expressed sadness and outrage.

Shonda Rhimes on TV’s Lack of Diversity: ‘I Think It’s Sad and Weird’

Shonda Rhimes on TV's Lack of Diversity: 'I Think It's Sad and Weird'

Everybody’s favorite ABC drama, “Scandal”, is the subject of a must-read piece in the New York Times. In it, the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, talks about how she deals with being one of the most powerful writers in television. “What was great for me about ‘Scandal’ was I had earned a lot of political capital with the network,” Rhimes told me Willa Paskin at the Times. “I had done ‘Grey’s,’ I had done ‘Private Practice.’ What were they going to do, fire me? I wasn’t worried about what anybody else thought. This one was for me.”

But, importantly, Rhimes also discusses the fact that she, a black woman, casts some of the most racially diverse shows on television. Racial diversity isn’t usually television’s strong suit.

From the Times:

Rhimes refuses to make an issue of her casting. “I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing,” she told me over the phone a few months ago. “It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And, oh, by the way, it works. Ratings-wise, it works.” In addition to its general success, “Scandal” is also rated No. 1 on network TV among African-American viewers.

While race on Rhimes’s shows is omnipresent, it is not often discussed explicitly. This has led to a second-order critique of her shows: that they are colorblind, diverse in a superficial way, with the characters’ races rarely informing their choices or conversations. Rhimes, obviously, disagrees. “When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”

In November, TVEquals.com released an infographic that showed just how white the Fall 2012 TV line up was. It wasn’t pretty.

Three Key Graphs From New Census Report on Voting Rates by Race

Three Key Graphs From New Census Report on Voting Rates by Race

Yesterday, Census finally released a report on how people voted by racial categories, making official what elections scholars have been saying for months: Black voter turnout rate exceeded that of white voters for the first time in our nation’s history.

This is, of course, special because of the voter intimidation and suppression history of America, all the way up to November 2012. While black voters expanded by 1.7 million voters between 2008 and 2012, the number of white voters dropped by about two million — “the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next,” reports Census.

Below are three key graphs from the Census report:

Census Graf 1.png

The above graph shows the wide berth in growth for the black voter turnout rate, as well as the drop in the white voter turnout rate. What’s most troubling in this graph, though, is that it shows a huge drop in the turnout rate for Latino voters — a decrease that has been on a continual slide slide since 1996.

Census Graf 2.png

This graph shows the voting rate gap between white voters and each of the non-white voter racial categories. While the black voting rate exceeded the white rate by over 2 percentage points, we see that the Latino and Asian rates fall far below that of the white voting rate. Since 1996, the gap between Latino and white has improved only marginally while the Asian rate has regressed from 15.7 percent in 1996 to 16.8 percent last November.

Census Graf 3.png

The most disturbing of the three graphs shows that the black and Latino youth vote has regressed significantly. Consider that black and Latino voters expanded their voting rates by 10.8 and 7.4 percent respectively between 2000 and 2004; but between 2008 and 2012, black and Latino voters decreased their rates by 6.7 percent and 4.6 percent. The much ballyhooed “enthusiasm gap” may have fallen on voters aged 18 to 24.

Jay Smooth on Charles Ramsey, Humor and the Trouble With Memes

Jay Smooth on Charles Ramsey, Humor and the Trouble With Memes

Over at Ill Doctrine, Colorlines.com’s Jay Smooth gives one of the most succinct analyses of the media spectacle surrounding Charles Ramsey, the man who helped save three women from a brutally violent decades-long ordeal in Cleveland. Yes, dude’s funny. And sure, it’s okay to laught. But, as Jay puts it:

“Whenever a certain person is in the news, we have a certain compulsion to flatten out that person and immediately flatten out their personhood into this paper-thin, click-bait, Chappelle show, laughing-for-the-wrong-reasons viral joke.”

St. Louis Fast Food Workers Latest To Go On Strike

St. Louis Fast Food Workers Latest To Go On Strike

St. Louis became the third city where fast food restaurant workers staged a day-long strike to demand higher wages and the right to unionize. Organizers yesterday expected as many as 100 workers to walk out of restaurants including a McDonald’s. The local CBS affiliate reported that last night and this morning, seven St. Louis fast food restaurants have been forced to halt operations because workers refused to come to work.

In April, Chicago hundreds of fast food workers walked off the job . That strike mimicked a November fast food strike in New York. Like those previous actions, St. Louis workers, who often earn the state’s $7.35 hourly minimum wage, are demanding a raise to $15 an hour.

The strikes come as low-wage jobs like those in fast food restaurants grow in number. As I wrote in December:

An oft-cited report by the National Employment Law Project reveals that in the fledgling economic recovery, the only parts of the labor market that are expanding significantly provide low-wages. The report finds 43 percent of all jobs gained in the last two years were in food service, retail and other services sector work. These are some of the least unionized jobs in the country. Only about 7 percent of private sector workers have a union and that rate is even lower for service workers.

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.

The labor actions are part of a trend to organize workers in service sector jobs that have historically been unorganized or excluded from labor law protections. Most labor experts agree that unionization in the fast food sector is a long way off.

Margaret Cho, Alice Walker and 100 More Artists Call for Humane Immigration Reform

Margaret Cho, Alice Walker and 100 More Artists Call for Humane Immigration Reform

On Tuesday more than 100 artists, comedians, writers and musicians issued a statement calling on Congress and President Obama to pass humane, inclusive and just immigration reform.

The signers, whose statement is available at MigrationIsBeautiful.com, say immigration reform must include five basics:

End the detentions and deportations that cause separation and suffering for families; Preserve families by expediting the visa process and retaining longstanding policies that reunite and stabilize families; Ensure all immigrants have basic workers’ rights; Provide equal immigration rights to LGBTQ individuals and families; and Create a clear roadmap to citizenship that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Because, they contend, “Migration is natural and beautiful. The human truth is that all people move, and all people have rights. Creating a just and humane immigration process is a moral and cultural imperative that secures the future of a vibrant nation.” Their calls come just as the Senate is taking up its immigration bill.

Take a look at the list of supporters in full; it’s a who’s who of smart artists. Novelists Ha Jin and Teju Cole support humane immigration policy. As do filmmakers Mira Nair and Robert Redford, along with comedians Negin Farsad and Margaret Cho, and actors Rosario Dawson, Blythe Danner and Alfre Woodard. Who wouldn’t want to be in such good company?

To kick off the campaign, which is a collaboration between The Culture Group, Air Traffic Control, and CultureStrike, artists Favianna Rodriguez, Ray Hernandez, Julio Salgado and Jason Carne created images with the campaign’s signature butterfly attached to it. Check out their work below:

by Favianna Rodriguez

by Jason Carne

by Julio Salgado

by Ray Hernandez

Senate Battle Lines Drawn on Immigration Bill

Senate Battle Lines Drawn on Immigration Bill

The battle lines in the congressional immigration reform debate were drawn more firmly yesterday when members of the Senate Judiciary Committee filed well over 300 amendments. The committee will begin discussing the amendments tomorrow starting what’s likely to be several weeks of debate and voting on the bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Republicans have introduced a number of amendments that would largely gut the promise of a path to citizenship and impose nearly unachievable benchmarks for border security. But because Democrats hold a ten of the 18 seats on the committee and two of the Republicans, Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., are among the bill’s drafters, most of those are likely to fall flat. Meanwhile, several Democratic proposals, most notably provisions to provide same-sex couples with immigration rights, will face stiff opposition from Republicans and possibly some Democrats.

From The Right

Republican members of the Judiciary committee filed the majority of the 300 amendments to S.744. In general, the amendments aim to strengthen enforcement measures in a bill that already requires significant new investment in the border and interior immigration controls.

Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee offered an amendment would require Congress to first sign off on a border security plan offered by the Department of Homeland Security. Congress would have the power to decide if that plan is sufficiently implemented before undocumented immigrants could apply to the path to citizenship. Along with an amendment from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tx., requiring the federal government affirm that the US-Mexico border is under “full operational control,” these provisions would likely make border security requirement unattainably high. If passed, the so-called border triggers could put the path to citizenship on indefinite hold.

Lee would also require applicants to the path to citizenship to pay all back taxes since entering the U.S. The amendment could prove prohibitive for undocumented immigrants who’ve lived in the country for long periods.

Among the 77 amendments introduced by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, one would do away with language intended to protect immigrants from being deported because of laws like Arizona’s SB 1070. Grassley would also require DHS to deport undocumented immigrants who denied entry to the path to citizenship.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Ut., proposed to increase the fee for green cards after the 10 year path to citizenship. He also wants all registered immigrants to provide DNA records.

From The Left

The amendments getting the most attention are two from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to include in the bill immigration rights to for same-sex couples. The so-called Protecting American Families Act and another amendment, would allow LGBT Americans to sponsor non-citizen partners for green cards and provide other immigration protections to “permanent partners.” Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court is considering, bars same-sex couple from federal marriage benefits, including those that involve immigration.

Republicans are calling the provision a poison pill. It “will ensure that [the bill] fails,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Meanwhile, it’s not yet clear if the Democratic members of the eight-member group who drafted the bill will support the LGBT provisions.

Democrats also proposed amendments to provide greater protections for immigrants in detention and deportation. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota offered an amendment to protect children of deportees from becoming separated from their parents. Franken was joined in introducing the amendment by several other Democrats but also by Republican Sen. Grassley. The amendment, called the “Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act,” would provide detained parents with more access to their children and greater latitude to arrange for their kids to travel with deported parents. In the case that detainees’ children are in foster care, the amendment would provide greater access to those proceedings.

Another amendment from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would expand the version of the DREAM Act in the immigration bill to include undocumented immigrants under the age of 16. Currently, the reform legislation provides a fast track to citizenship for undocumented immigrants over the age of 16 who came the country as children. But the provision does not include younger undocumented immigrants and as a result most minors will have to wait the full ten years for the ability apply for a green card.

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced a series of amendments to maintain family-based immigration. The reform legislation as written would no longer allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their immigrant siblings. Hirono would restore the sibling visa category and expand family-based immigration to additional relatives.

Senators will begin discussion on the amendments tomorrow and debate and voting will last at least through next week. Because Democrats control the committee, the bill could leave relatively unscathed. But ultimately, how far the bill moves right or left may depend on votes in coming weeks from the four Senators on the Judiciary Committee who took part in drafting the bill. While they will no doubt reject major shifts that change the underlying nature of the legislation, their willingness to agree to smaller amendments could have significant impact on immigrant communities.

This post has been updated since publication.

The Sad Lesson of Charles Ramsey: We Still Love to Laugh at Black People

The Sad Lesson of Charles Ramsey: We Still Love to Laugh at Black People

Details are slowly emerging from the Cleveland kidnapping case and they’re absolutely horrific. Neighbors report having seen naked women on leashes at night in the backyard of the home where the women were later found. But the surprising star of the media frenzy surrounding the case continues to be Charles Ramsey, the black neighbor who initiated the victims’ freedom and whose recounting of the incident has seen gone viral.

In an interview (posted above) with ABC’s Cleveland affiliate on Monday, Ramsey described how he was busy “eating [his] McDonald’s” when he heard a woman (later identified as Amanda Berry who, along with the two other women in the home, had been missing for a decade) screaming for help. Ramsey said he knew something was wrong when “a pretty little white girl runs into a black man’s arms.” It was a streak of humor in an otherwise overwhelmingly bleak situation.

But it’s also a caricature that had also become all too familiar on the Internet. As Aisha Harris wrote at Slate, videos like Ramsey’s have become part of a troubling viral trend that’s loaded with racist signifiers:

Before Ramsey, there was Antoine Dodson, who saved his younger sister from an intruder, only to wind up famous for his flamboyant recounting of the story to a reporter. Since Dodson’s rise to fame, there have been others: Sweet Brown, a woman who barely escaped her apartment complex during a fire last year, and Michelle Clarke, who couldn’t fathom the hailstorm that rained down in her hometown of Houston, and in turn became “the next Sweet Brown.”

Over at NPR’s Code Switch blog, Gene Demby asks if we’re laughing with Ramsey or at him. And the answer’s pretty clear:

Very quickly, they went from individuals who lived on America’s margins to embodying a weird, new kind of fame. Williams ended up being offered work doing voiceovers for radio. Dodson leveraged his newfound notoriety to get his family out of the projects.

[snip]

But race and class seemed to be central to the celebrity of all these people. They were poor. They were black. Their hair was kind of a mess. And they were unashamed. That’s still weird and chuckle-worthy.

No matter how heartbreaking the story, we still love to laugh at black people.

New York Times Recycles Same ‘Racist Undertones’ It Covers

New York Times Recycles Same 'Racist Undertones' It Covers

The New York Times published an A1 story today about the struggles of farm workers of color in the U.S. But rather than explore the ways that our agricultural and immigration laws have degraded the quality of work and systematically pushed workers of color into the margins, Ethan Bronner strings together quotes that largely regurgitate racist tropes about lazy black workers and “efficient” Latinos. What could have been a story about labor conditions and very real problems of exploitation ended up a mess of racial stereotypes that pit black and Latino workers against each other and makes black folks out to hate immigrants.

The story is ostensibly about a set of lawsuits in Georgia and elsewhere in which U.S. citizens, some black, are suing farms for not hiring them. Some of the plaintiffs say they weren’t hired because of their race or nationality, that the farms only hire Latinos.

But here’s a few passages from the story about workers at a Georgia farm called Southern Valley:

Even many of the Americans who feel mistreated acknowledge that the Mexicans who arrive on buses for a limited period are incredibly efficient, often working into the night seven days a week to increase their pay.

“We are not going to run all the time,” said Henry Rhymes, who was fired — unfairly, he says — from Southern Valley after a week on the job. “We are not Mexicans.”

Jon Schwalls, director of operations at Southern Valley, made a similar point.

“When Jose gets on the bus to come here from Mexico he is committed to the work,” he said. “It’s like going into the military. He leaves his family at home. The work is hard, but he’s ready. A domestic wants to know: What’s the pay? What are the conditions? In these communities, I am sorry to say, there are no fathers at home, no role models for hard work. They want rewards without input.”

After putting us through this litany of generalizations and racist undertones, Bronner writes, “Such generalizations lead lawyers — and residents — to say there are racist undertones to the farms’ policies.” Thanks.

Why not frame the story around what the story is about: the way that guest worker programs depress wages and public policies have systematically pushed black and Latino workers into the most vulnerable parts of the labor market? Why not write about the racist undertones in the policies—the one’s that lock guest workers into captive employment relationships that make it possible for employers to force folks to work seven days a week?

It’s not that Bronner doesn’t give these ideas some space, but to frame the story as it’s framed makes a problem of structural racism into another black-brown struggle. There is a story here about the impact of guest worker programs on wages for other low-income workers, including black folks, but it’s hard to find that story through the weeds.

For a more nuanced take on how black and Latino workers often struggle together at the botton of the labor market, read Brentin Mock’s 2010 story on workers in post-Katrina, post-BP spill New Orleans. Mock wrote about…

an ugly underbelly to the new economy that’s being built. It is one in which opportunity is ever-more concentrated in a few hands, and in which profiteering capitalists and scapegoating politicians are pitting struggling workers against one another in starkly racial terms.

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.

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