By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger
As the immigration debate grows increasingly tense and intertwined with economic worries, cultural anxiety, and deep-seated racism and xenophobia, it is important to be clear about what’s at stake. This debate is about our humanity; about our most fundamental legal precepts concerning a human rights; about refusing to exploit the weak. Put simply: Human beings have rights that cannot be taken away by the stroke of a pen, rap of a gavel, or by angry pundits who demonize the disadvantaged.
RaceWire reports on a new campaign to push back against CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who continually presents immigrants as bearers of disease, inherently criminal, socially corrosive. His hate speech contributes to hate crimes by extension. Pundits like Dobbs have long been able to remain under the radar, but seem to be losing their ability to keep their personal agendas within the bounds of acceptable speech. Presente.org is launching a new campaign that works "with dozens of leading Latino organizations and … allies in cities across the country — from Los Angeles to Phoenix to Orlando." Presente.org and their allies are banding together to "demand that CNN no longer allow Dobbs to spew hate thinly disguised as ‘news.’”
We must not lose our moral bearing during difficult times. Let us be reasonable, as Alvaro Huerta is. Writing for the Progressive, Huerta notes how quickly the media leaped upon Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst, and yet all avoided "The central question: Why shouldn’t undocumented people get health care?" If the undocumented pay taxes; if they have "historically contributed to making this nation the most powerful and affluent country in the world," then they shouldn’t be denied access to care.
But lest we equate morality with productivity; this conversation is not just about how many assembly lines a person has worked. It is about who we are as a nation. Today’s immigrant stories of exclusion and fierce struggle for rights are quintessentially American stories. They challenge us to respond in alignment with our stated ideals and the spirit of morality that we assume informs the law.
Naima Coster at Wiretap reports on a one group of people who have risen to this challenge. A coalition of immigrant community leaders and clergy came together to get Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials off of Riker’s Island. Every year, approximately "3,000 immigrant New Yorkers face deportation" due to a "collaboration between ICE and the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC)." This partnership was uncovered by a 2008 Freedom of Information request, which revealed a complete lack of policy for regulating the actions of ICE agents, who were "not required to identify themselves, provide interpreter services or inform detainees of their constitutional rights to remain silent and have an attorney present." The coalition was successful: Former DOC Commissioner Martin Horn has agreed to regulate all ICE operations at Riker’s Island.
As Coster notes, this victory is critical because it "challenges Obama’s plan to expand the Secure Communities program," an initiative developed under the Bush administration that places federal agents in local jails. Of course nobody wants dangerous people running around; we can all agree on that. But if there is nothing protecting the vulnerable from exploitation, then the law means nothing at all.
Speaking of those needing protection, the trend of sweeping social challenges into prisons continues at an alarming rate, as reported by New America Media. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, H.R. 7311 may be well-intentioned and is ostensibly "designed to combat labor and sex trafficking," but will it do more harm than good? Previously, the Border Patrol would reunite a minor with their family within hours upon detaining them. Under H.R. 7311, minors would be placed in detention and could stay there for months. While it is true that the private detention industry might cheer such a move, surely these children and their families will not.
Public News Service reports on immigration reform’s movement in Arizona. While Border Action Network director Jennifer Allen celebrates the suspension of "military-style workplace raids," she is disappointed that the Obama administration "has put off promised comprehensive immigration reform, while at the same time expanding such harsh measures as having local police enforce federal immigration laws." Allen points out that policies bringing federal forces into local communities "further marginalize immigrant communities, make public safety activity by local law enforcement more difficult, and in many ways discourage people’s hope that we’re in fact going to see new leadership on immigration reform."
Finally, on a more positive note, we return to New America Media and hop a border or two with Juanes, a Colombian singer and activist. The second Paz sin Fronteras [Peace Without Borders] concert organized in Cuba was "an important step toward ending the island’s isolation created from both inside and out." Juanes is scheduled to perform next year on the U.S.-Mexico border. Perhaps the power of music can again, at least momentarily, bridge a divide from which so much pain is born.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.