Archive for August, 2011

August 27, 2011

8/26 – GPB – Ga. Farmers Planting Less Food

Ga. Farmers Planting Less Food.

Fri., August 26, 2011 1:08pm (EDT)

By Melissa Stiers

ATLANTA  —

(photo by Christine Johnstone via Creative Commons)

The new state immigration law has some Georgia farmers planting less food for the fall harvest. They’re worried about a worker shortage.

Some farmers couldn’t get all their crops out of the ground last harvest because they didn’t have enough people to pick them.

They blame the state’s immigration law that went into effect this summer allowing police to check the citizenship status of people investigated for other crimes.

Even though a federal judge has temporarily blocked that provision, farmers say the law still scares immigrant workers away, so they’re scaling back on planting.

Brent Brinkley sells watering equipment to farmers at United Irrigation Supply.

“Well what we’ve seen is after the problems that occurred in the Spring, several of our farmers had acreage that they were unable to have harvested,” says Brinkley. “They’ve cut back somewhat dramatically. I’d say anywhere from 20 to 50 percent on fall plantings.”

Brinkley says his sales from produce growers has dropped one third.

August 23, 2011

8/23 – SPLC – Nativist Leader Calls for ‘Violent’ Acts to Save ‘White America’ | Hatewatch | Southern Poverty Law Center

Nativist Leader Calls for ‘Violent’ Acts to Save ‘White America’ | Hatewatch | Southern Poverty Law Center.

Nativist Leader Calls for ‘Violent’ Acts to Save ‘White America’

Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino, Extremist Propaganda by Leah Nelson on August 23, 2011

While much of the political rhetoric on the right these days is laden with violent imagery and gun-based metaphors, outright calls for political violence remain relatively rare. But in the wake of President Obama’s executive order last week that sharply limits deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants, that is changing.

Yesterday, speaking with far-right radio host Janet Mefferd, William Gheen, the leader of the nativist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), said that legal political activity may no longer be sufficient to protect America from immigrants — in particular, he made it clear, from non-white immigrants. Gheen, who in the past tried to appear a moderate on the nativist scene, wrote that in order to save “white America,” it will be necessary to engage in “extra-political activities that I can’t really talk about because they’re all illegal and violent.”

“If you’re looking for a peaceful, political recourse, there really isn’t one,” he said.

Such rhetoric marks a sharp rightward lurch for Gheen, who has often been quoted on immigration matters by mainstream news organizations, including The New York Times, which quoted him as a legitimate commentator on the issue just two weeks ago. Last May, Gheen pulled ALIPAC out of rallies backing Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, after hearing that their organizers were connected to racist skinheads and neo-Nazis. “The neo-Nazi connections and this disaster they have cooked up in Arizona … puts our issue at risk,” he proclaimed, excoriating the organizers for making a “huge” and “terrible” mistake.

After Minuteman American Defense leader Shawna Forde was accused of the slaying of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Pima County, Ariz., Gheen warned his followers to have nothing to do with Minuteman groups. (Forde and two co-conspirators were found guilty this year. Forde was sentenced to death.)

Newfound racial radicalism aside, however, Gheen is no stranger to more garden-variety bigotry and fear-mongering. He has accused Mexican immigrants of carrying infectious diseases and plotting to take over the Southwest. In April 2010, he targeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), claiming that the 56-year-old bachelor is gay and saying he should come out to avoid being blackmailed into working with Democrats on immigration reform. In July 2010, Gheen told revisionist “historian” David Barton that LGBT people secretly want to import undocumented immigrants as a way of “replacing many core Americans and American values,” part of an overall “war” against Americans.

Gheen’s hysteria has seemed to amplify of late. A few months ago, he launched an “impeach Obama” campaign, accusing the president of treason. He urged his followers to “demand” action from their representatives and followed up with a threat: “If Congress does not respond by July 15, ALIPAC will move to call for public protests across the nation calling for the ouster of this authoritarian regime.” He has since sent out numerous dire warnings about the inevitable misery that will follow if Obama remains in office.

Yesterday, Gheen went one further, announcing that ALIPAC will henceforth refer to the president as “Dictator Barack Obama.” He also accused the Department of Homeland Security of spying on ordinary Americans’ everyday activities, and of “putting out videos and propaganda telegraphing what I believe to be a conflict with White America they’re preparing for after they get another 10 or 15 million people in the country to back them up.”

Gheen wasn’t the only one fretting about a looming Obama-led race war. Discussing the prospects of various Republican presidential candidates, Glenn Beck on Aug. 11 predicted that if Obama loses next year’s election, the administration would try to destroy America on its way out the door. “I firmly believe race riots are on the way,” he said.

August 23, 2011

8/22 – New York Times – U.S. Issues New Deportation Policy’s First Reprieves – NYTimes.com

U.S. Issues New Deportation Policy’s First Reprieves – NYTimes.com.

U.S. Issues New Deportation Policy’s First Reprieves

Jason Henry for The New York Times

In Florida, Manuel Guerra, center, has been fighting deportation for five years. His case was among the first suspended.

The call came in the morning to the lawyer representing Manuel Guerra, an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in Florida who had been caught in a tortuous and seemingly failing five-year court fight against deportation.

With the news early Thursday that federal immigration authorities had canceled his deportation, Mr. Guerra became one of the first illegal immigrants in the country to see results from a policy the Obama administration unveiled in Washington that day. It could lead to the suspension in coming months of deportation proceedings against tens of thousands of immigrants.

Administration officials and immigrant advocates said Monday that the plan offered the first real possibility since President Obama took office — promising immigrants and Latinos he would overhaul the law to bring illegal immigrants into the system — for large numbers of those immigrants to be spared from detention and deportation.

For Mr. Guerra, who said he wants to remain in the United States to study to become a Roman Catholic priest, the news “was like something from above, from heaven. I don’t want to go back to Mexico,” he said, “and I’ve been fighting this for five years.”

A working group from the Homeland Security and Justice Departments met Friday to initiate a review of about 300,000 deportation cases currently before the immigration courts. Under the policy, immigration authorities will use powers of prosecutorial discretion in existing law to suspend the deportations of most immigrants who, although they have committed immigration violations (which generally are civil offenses), have not been convicted of crimes.

In particular, officials will look to halt deportations of longtime residents with clean police records who came here illegally when they were children, or are close family of military service members, or are parents or spouses of American citizens.

“This is a great first step,” said Hector E. Sanchez, a Hispanic labor leader who oversees immigration policy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of the country’s major Latino groups. “We really need to see action on a common-sense approach to immigration and not just promises.”

Mr. Obama had been facing increasingly vocal protests from disappointed Latino and immigrant groups after he made no progress in Congress on his immigration overhaul agenda, and enforcement authorities set a modern record for deportations, with nearly 800,000 foreigners removed in the past two years.

Homeland Security officials said Monday that their goal is to quickly identify noncriminals on swollen immigration court dockets and close those cases, clearing the way for speedier removals of gang members, drug traffickers or foreigners who repeatedly return after being deported. Wait times for a hearing in immigration courts can now be as long as 18 months.

A senior Homeland Security official said that deportations would be canceled case by case. While many immigrants in those cases will be eligible for work permits, he said, employment authorization will come only after a separate process.

The immigrants will remain in a sort of legal limbo, not vulnerable to deportation but with no positive immigration status, which can be conferred only by Congress.

But White House officials and Congressional Democrats said they expected the measures would lead to relief during the coming year for virtually all young illegal immigrants facing deportation who might have won legal status under a bill called the Dream Act. A proposal to benefit illegal immigrant high school graduates who came to the country before they were 16, it failed in the Senate last year.

Mr. Guerra, now 27 and living in Indiantown, Fla., is one of those immigrants. He said he came to this country to escape a violent gang in Mexico. His lawyer, Richard A. Hujber, said Mr. Guerra’s efforts to straighten out his legal status went wrong because they were originally mishandled by an accountant claiming falsely to be a lawyer.

In recent years, even though he was undocumented, Mr. Guerra has been a Florida leader of the illegal immigrant student movement, helping to organize a protest walk by four students to Washington and a mock university held by students wearing mortarboards on Capitol Hill.

“That was so big to me, all these students organizing a school so we could go without our papers,” Mr. Guerra said. If he can obtain a work permit, he and Mr. Hujber said, he could be legally eligible for the first time to apply for financial aid that would allow him to continue his religious studies.

The administration’s announcement also had an immediate impact on a case in Denver, where an immigration judge on Friday postponed the deportation of Sujey Pando, a lesbian from Mexico legally married in Iowa to an American from Colorado, Violeta Pando. Although federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages, administration officials said they would consider same-sex spouses as “family” in their review of deportation cases.

The judge, Mimi Tsankov, cited the flux in laws and policies affecting same-sex cases in delaying a decision on Sujey Pando’s deportation at least until January, said Lavi Soloway, a lawyer for the couple.

Some Latino Democrats who have been deeply critical of Mr. Obama on immigration issues praised the policy shift.

“This is the Barack Obama I have been waiting for, that Latino and immigrant voters helped put in office to fight for sensible immigration policies,” said Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, a Latino leader on immigration issues who has been arrested twice in protests in front of the White House.

However, the announcement appeared to signal an end to efforts by the White House to court some of its Republican opponents, with administration officials acknowledging those efforts have failed and there is little chance for broad immigration legislation to pass before elections next year.

Republican leaders reacted to Mr. Obama’s new policy by stepping up their rejection of his approach. Representative Peter T. King of New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said the president was making “a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country,” which he called “totally unacceptable.”

August 22, 2011

8/22/2011 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Georgia Undocumented Youth Determined to Graduate Despite Board of Regents Ban

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Georgina Perez 678-389-1226

gaundocumentedyouthalliance@gmail.com


Georgia Undocumented Youth Determined to Graduate Despite Board of Regents Ban

Undocumented students will hold a graduation ceremony against the Board of Regents ban at University of Georgia


Athens, Georgia— Today, Undocumented youth from Athens will conduct a graduation ceremony of resistance as a protest against the Board of Regents’ decision to ban academically qualified students from attending Georgia’s top 5 public universities solely based on their immigration status. “I , just as many other students, was always told that I had potential, and with education I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up,” said Alejandro Galeana, a junior from Cedar Shoals High School, “and now, I am having to fight for my rights to be allowed to receive higher education,”

 

WHAT:              Undocumented youth stage graduation of resistance

WHO:               Undocumented Youth from around the state of Georgia

WHEN:             Tuesday, August 23rd at 12:00pm at the University of GA “Arch”

WHERE:           In front of the “Arch” – Corner of College and Broad

 

“I am having to fight for my education now, and Failure is NOT an option,” Galeano stated, and understanding the issue within his society Alejandro goes on, “This is the Athens community, not the Athens-white, Athens-black or Athens-anything. It is Athens, and all the people here are equal. Once you start targeting a certain subgroup, such as the immigrant community, it becomes racism and prejudice”

 

Tuesday’s action is in the spirit of supporting youth like Galeano, whose dreams and hard work are being shattered by the BOR ban

 

In addition to the rally, GUYA will be announcing its support of Freedom University, a local project that will offer a rigorous college-level course to all academically qualified students regardless of immigration status or socio-economic background, without fees or tuition. One of the scholars involved in the project, Dr. Pamela Voekel, states that “The Regents ban contravenes this country’s most cherished values of liberty and justices for all. Freedom University is designed to serve the students adversely affected by the Board of Regent’s misguided ban.”

 

Freedom University is governed by a advisory board consisting nationally recognized scholars including Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz, representing growing educators voice on the issue of immigration.

###

Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) is an Undocumented Youth-led organization which seeks dignity and justice for its immigrant youth community in the state of Georgia. GUYA believes all persons should have equal access to education and a life free from persecution regardless of their legal status


Georgina Perez

August 21, 2011

8/22 – San Francisco Sentinel » Blog Archives » Tensions rise as Latinos feel under siege in America’s deep south

San Francisco Sentinel » Blog Archives » Tensions rise as Latinos feel under siege in America’s deep south.

20 August 2011

As illegal workers flee the threat of police checks,
southerners are uniting to fight the laws dividing communities and killing economies which rely on immigrants to thrive

tensions-1
Estimates show the shortage of immigrant labour has left so many crops
unpicked that it has cost $1bn
Photo By Ric Francis

By Paul Harris
The Observer

The mobile home that Nancy Lugo and her two children live in might not seem like much to many people.

It sits off a dirt road, by a slow-moving creek, on the outskirts of the tiny Georgia town of Uvalda. It is surrounded by thick forest and fields full of the local speciality: Vidalia onions.

But for Lugo, 34, it is a symbol of a better life in America. Here in Georgia, far from her native Mexico, Lugo has a solid job, sends her kids to school and loves the rhythm of rural life. “It is peaceful. I am happy here,” she said.

The patch of land she bought for her trailer was vacant before she came. But she dug a well and sank septic tanks, carving a home from the wilderness in a grand American tradition. She got a job. She paid her taxes.

Now it is all under threat.

For Lugo is an illegal immigrant in the deep south. In the midst of general anti-immigrant sentiment, several southern states have passed strict anti-illegal immigrant laws that critics say raises the prospect of a new Jim Crow era – the time when segregation was law –across a vast swath of the old Confederacy.

They will ostracise and terrorise a vulnerable Hispanic minority with few legal rights, encouraging them to leave or disappear further into the shadows.

In Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, new laws have been signed that represent the toughest crackdown on illegal immigrants – the vast majority of whom are Hispanics – in America. They give the police sweeping new powers and require them, and employers, to check people’s immigration status. In Alabama, they even make helping illegal immigrants, by giving them a lift in a car or shelter in a home, into a serious crime. For many, the laws echo the deep south’s painful history of segregation, sending out a message to people of a different colour: you are not wanted here.

“That is exactly right,” said Andrew Turner, a lawyer with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Centre. “We view it within the context of the history of the deep south. It is using the law to push out and marginalise an ethnic minority.”

The new laws’ defenders deny that. They are merely enforcing the law, they say. Their problem is not with immigrants, but with those who came to America illegally. They say the laws are colour-blind and aimed at making sure everyone obeys the same rules and does not cheat the system.

Yet illegal immigrants have become a fundamental part of the American system. Huge swaths of the economy rely on the cheap labour they provide.

From construction to agriculture, to restaurants to gardening, to childrearing, hotels and home help, illegal immigrants are a major driver of the US economy. They may have no papers, but that does not stop them paying taxes, buying homes and raising children who, if born in the US, are American citizens. It has also – as happened during the civil rights era – put these southern states in direct conflict with the federal government. Last week, the White House moved to suspend many deportations of illegal immigrants without criminal records, putting it at odds with the new, harsher state laws.

Which is why Lugo is speaking out. Though illegal, she is angry at feeling suddenly hated by a society she has contributed to. She has two kids and a hard, low-paying job in a factory that makes US army equipment. When Georgia passed its law she was laid off by a manager fearful of prosecution. Yet, within a month, she was rehired. No one had wanted her work. But suddenly it showed how vulnerable her new life was.

“You fear that if you look Latino then they will stop you and send you home. But I have to stay here for my kids. I don’t know how, but I will stay. I am afraid. But more than that I am angry,” she said. She repeated the word like a mantra: “Angry. Angry. Angry.”

Someone else who is angry is Paul Bridges, mayor of Uvalda. “I don’t believe the state should tell me who can get in my car or that I should ask to see their papers before they come to my house,” he said, sitting in the new city hall of the community of 500 souls.

Later, driving around the sleepy town on a day when temperatures topped 100F (38C) and the air felt like treacle, Bridges pointed out where Uvalda’s Hispanic population lives. He knows everyone and showed where abandoned houses had been fixed up by a Hispanic family or vacant lots transformed into homes. Aside from being racially tolerant, Bridges is self-interested: new homes equal more taxes for his city budget. “There is also lots of mixed status here. In one house you could have a citizen, an undocumented person, and someone with a work visa,” he said.

But across the southern states that have passed new laws, Hispanic people are leaving. In Uvalda several families have upped sticks, either selling homes or shuttering them. It is the same in Alabama. Maria Santiago, 23, is a child minder in Birmingham, the state’s largest city. She has been in the US for 11 years, her son is a US citizen, but she is illegal. “A lot of our neighbours have left. They have lost their jobs. Every week people go back to Mexico,” she said.

In Alabama, that is no wonder. It has passed the harshest anti-illegal immigrant law in America. It allows police to check people’s immigration status on traffic stops. It makes it a crime to transport or to rent property to people known to be illegal. Alabama church leaders have complained that it criminalises performing marriages, baptisms or simply giving people lifts to church if they involve an illegal immigrant.

Other states have not gone quite so far. The Georgia law had similar harsh provisions suspended by the local courts, although the state has appealed against the decision and could get them re-instated. South Carolina contents itself with more efforts at having police check people’s status and forcing employers to make more stringent checks.

But, critics say, the impact is the same across the region. Concerned parents are afraid to register their children in schools. Many Hispanics are worried to drive, out of a fear that they will be stopped. By involving the police in immigration enforcement, Hispanic activists say crimes will go unreported as people will not come forward in case their immigration status is checked. That has huge implications for tackling domestic abuse, gang violence or any crime that a Hispanic person might witness.

Isabel Rubio, director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, described it in colourful southern terms: “Getting a Hispanic witness is going to be like pulling teeth from a lizard’s mouth.”

Theoretically, some Hica activities could even become unlawful. In a back office near a dilapidated-looking mall in suburban Birmingham, Hica recently hosted a women’s meeting. Everyone was illegal. But they – like most people who come to Hica – are taking English lessons, and getting legal help and advice on coping with domestic abuse.

Rubio shook her head at the potential impact of the law. “It’s a huge step backwards. After all the progress that has been made in terms of race, and then his happens. Where do I begin?” she said.

Then she produced a copy of the law and pointed out a shocking segment. In the text there is an exemption for domestic service, meaning that anyone with an illegal immigrant maid is not defined as an “employer” under the law. It was a grim reminder of old social realities. “It’s Alabama,” said Rubio. “It means you can still have your Latina household help.”

Back in Uvalda, Howard Morris’s business is not so lucky. Leaning on a tractor with his forearms coated in Georgia mud and sweat pouring down his face from the late-afternoon heat, Morris is worried. He owns 40 acres of onion fields, but fears no one will harvest his crops.

“The people that we normally hire are just not here,” he said. That is bad news for somewhere like Uvalda, which is reliant on agriculture.

Morris knows that if the Hispanics who have left do not come back, there will be trouble. “The crop could rot in the ground,” he said. That concerns Bridges, the mayor. “If we can’t harvest, it will decimate this community,” he said.

The problem is not unique to Uvalda. The Georgia Agribusiness Council estimates the labour shortage has left so many crops unpicked and rotting that it has cost $1bn. The industry currently has 30% fewer workers than it needs and, contrary to accusations that illegals take American jobs, no one is stepping in.

Nor is it just agriculture. The Georgia restaurant trade is in convulsions as staff flee. Karen Bremer, head of the Georgia Restaurant Association, says a quarter of her members’ businesses are struggling with too few staff. “The damage has been done. The bad news has already gone through the communities,” she said.

From an economic standpoint, passing such stringent laws has been a dramatic own goal. Recently a violent tornado tore through the Alabama city of Tuscaloosa, wreaking havoc and devastation. But the exodus of Hispanics from Alabama has been so great that building firms say they will struggle to employ enough people for rebuilding. Indeed, Tuscaloosa’s Hispanic soccer league saw a third of its teams disbanded in a week.

This is the paradox: the political backlash has come as Hispanics, and illegals, have become an integral economic and demographic part of the south. The region, outside Florida, has traditionally had only a small Hispanic community but now – fuelled by illegal immigration – it is rapidly growing. The Pew Hispanic Centre estimated that Georgia had an illegal population of some 425,000, most from Hispanic countries. The same study showed Alabama had a population of 125,000 illegal immigrants and has seen its Hispanic population jump 145% in a decade. That is a major ethnic shift in a region whose very history is riven with struggles over race, economic exploitation and southern identity.

But a fightback for a Hispanic place in the deep south has begun. One of the more dramatic moments happened when a car pulled up outside Georgia’s state Capitol in Atlanta recently. Out got the frail figure of Salvador Zamora, a Hispanic activist. Zamora has been on hunger strike since 1 July, when Georgia’s law came into effect. In that time he has shed more than 2st 2lb (13.6kg).

He was so weak that he sat in a wheelchair as he was taken into the building to hand over a protest letter to Georgia governor Nathan Deal. “I want these laws to change. I am not worried about me. I am worried about other people. I will do this as long as it takes,” Zamora told the Observer.

Zamora, who was accompanied by leading Atlanta church figures who were black, white and Hispanic, conducted his protest in the vein of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. That was no accident. Across the south, other activists and groups are taking that lead by combining street protest and activism with legal challenges in the courts.

Demonstrations and candlelit vigils have been held in Alabama and Georgia. In Atlanta, thousands of protesters marched through the streets in one of the biggest demonstrations since the civil rights era. In another action, six young students revealed their illegal status and were arrested for a sit-down protest. One was Dulce Guerrero, 18. She was born in Mexico but has lived in America since she was two. She is a high-flying student with excellent grades. But Georgia’s new law – which threatens her with deportation – has been a radicalising event. She had no regrets about her time in jail.

“It was time to take action,” she said “I am American in everything but papers. I speak better English than I do Spanish. I don’t remember life in Mexico.”

Many others have spoken out. Church leaders have joined forces with lawyers and business groups and police officials. Suits have been filed attempting to get the law overturned. The federal government has weighed in via the courts, as it did in Arizona when that state attempted a similar act. In general, like many illegals themselves, most opponents want a “path to citizenship” or a work scheme for people already here.

Among them are people like Bridges, who is far from a typical liberal campaigner. He is a proud southerner and Republican who has little time for President Obama. But he joined a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union; a conservative bête noire. “I dislike the ACLU but I find myself on the same side. It is shocking to me,” he joked.

But he insisted the new law was the work of politicians ignorant of new economic and social realities. “The vast majority of Georgians are not racist. Things have truly changed here,” he added.

The outcome of the battle remains to be seen. People like Guerrero say they will not stop fighting their new Jim Crow. She recalled the feeling of handcuffs being put on her. She remembered her happiness at the policemen who said they sympathised as much as anger at those who did not. And she swore to keep fighting. “That was only the beginning,” she said.

THE HISPANIC INFLUENCE ON AMERICA

1769

King Carlos III of Spain orders expeditions from ‘New Spain’ (Mexico) to establish settlements under the Catholic church, Franciscan friars establish Mission San Diego to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans.

1824

After becoming independent from Spain in 1821, Mexico publishes its first constitution, under which Texas, New Mexico and California are listed as ‘frontier provinces’.

1850

California is ceded to the United States by Mexico in 1848 at the end of a two-year war, pictured right, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Following the 1849 gold rush, California officially becomes the 31st state admitted to the Union on 9 September, 1850.

1904

The US establishes the first ‘border patrol’ charged with stopping workers entering the country from Mexico along the border stretching from El Paso, Texas, to California.

1910

The Mexican revolution sees an influx of thousands of Mexican immigrants into the US, many eventually settling across the American south-west to work in various services and industries.

1921

The United States immigration act establishes a quota system for the first time in the country’s history, restricting the entry of European immigrants. Initial attempts to also restrict immigration from Mexico are blocked by American farmers, resulting in Hispanic workers becoming a major component of the US agricultural labour force.

1932

President Herbert Hoover successfully nominates Benjamin Nathan Cardozo – a major influence on American common law – to the supreme court, making him the first Latino judge named to the highest court in the US.

1954

Thousands of Hispanic nationals, including many legal immigrants, are deported by ‘Operation Wetback’, a US immigration and naturalisation programme designed to deter and expel illegal immigrants from the US. The same year, the supreme court rules Hispanics have equal protection under the 14th amendment.

1959

Cuban-American immigration increases dramatically in the years following the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to power, pictured left. The 1965 Cuban adjustment act gives them unprecedented special preference and almost guaranteed access to the United States.

1968

‘Chicano’ (people of Mexican descent) students across Los Angeles stage walk-outs from their schools to protest against unequal treatment. After three weeks the school board bows to the student body’s demands, including being allowed to speak Spanish in the classroom.

1994

A state-wide referendum in California sees voters approve proposition 187, which denies illegal immigrants benefits including public education, healthcare and other social services. The proposition was overturned four years later when US district court judge Mariana Pfaelzer ruled it unconstitutional.

2003

The latest US census numbers show the Hispanic community to be the nation’s largest minority group.

2010

Arizona governor Jan Brewer signs a tough new law requiring police to question the immigration status of any person, stopped for a legitimate reason, whom they suspect to be illegally in America. Critics, including President Obama, fear the law will lead to harassment of legal immigrants. Parts of the law were blocked by a federal judge on July 29, the day before it was to take effect, leading to ongoing appeals.

August 18, 2011

8/18 – WSB (AP) – Top Ga. Schools Check Immigration Students’ Status – News Story – WSB Atlanta

Top Ga. Schools Check Immigration Students’ Status – News Story – WSB Atlanta.

Georgia’s five most competitive state colleges and universities are checking students’ immigration status before enrolling them in fall semester classes.The checks are part of a new policy adopted by the Board of Regents last fall to ensure that illegal immigrants don’t take the place of citizens and those here legally. It bars any school that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the prior two years from accepting illegal immigrants.One of the more than 10,000 students granted preliminary acceptance has been stopped from enrolling due to immigration status, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. That case was at Georgia State University.The other four schools affected by the policy are Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia College & State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.

August 18, 2011

8/18 – Huffington Post – New Policy On Deportations Allows Some Non-Criminal Undocumented Immigrants To Stay

New Policy On Deportations Allows Some Non-Criminal Undocumented Immigrants To Stay.

Obama

First Posted: 8/18/11 03:11 PM ET Updated: 8/18/11 07:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Thursday it will do a case-by-case review of deportations, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States indefinitely and apply for work permits.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will send a letter on Thursday to Senate members who had asked for details on how the agency would prioritize its immigration enforcement. The policy change is meant as a framework to help prevent non-priority undocumented immigrants from “clogging the system,” senior administration officials said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

First, the agency will look at its pending immigration cases and close the low-priority cases, so immigration courts can focus on the most serious ones, administration officials said. The low-priority cases can be reopened if circumstances require. Next, guidance will be given to immigration enforcement agents to help them better detect serious criminals and other high-priority undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants whose cases are closed will be allowed to apply for work permits, but will not be given them automatically, officials said.

The move was perhaps meant to combat harsh criticism from Latino groups and immigration reform advocates, who have rebuked President Obama for continuing to deport undocumented people at record rates, while at the same time insisting he supports immigration reform.

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly said its deportation policies focus on the “worst of the worst,” immigrant rights groups say enforcement agents still net a large number of non-criminal undocumented people.

The administration had earlier attempted to defend its record on Tuesday, with a blog post meant to “set the record straight” on the Secure Communities enforcement program.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote that more than half of all removals are of people with criminal records. Among non-criminals, most of those removed were apprehended crossing the border, had recently arrived in the United States or had been previously deported, she wrote.

“Those statistics matter,” Munoz wrote. “While we have more work to do, the statistics demonstrate that the strategy DHS put in place is working.”

The administration earlier tried to clarify its immigration enforcement policies in a June memo, which specifically recommended prosecutorial discretion. That memo cited the possibility of considering whether a person under removal proceedings would otherwise be eligible for the DREAM Act, an un-passed bill that would allow some undocumented young people to gain legal status in exchange for two years of college or military service.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the key supporters of the DREAM Act, applauded the administration’s decision Thursday.

“The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students,” Durbin said. “These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember.

Durbin pledged to “closely monitor DHS” to ensure the new policy would be implemented.

But increased discretion on the part of administration prosecutors may not be enough to please advocacy groups, many of which argue the administration should abolish certain enforcement programs altogether.

“In order to fulfill its promises, the administration must end policies like Secure Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, in an email statement. “The administration has pursued policies that are sowing fear and devastation among immigrant communities, and it must reverse course to stop the Arizonification of the country,” he added, referencing Arizona’s strict immigration enforcement policies.

August 16, 2011

8/16 – AP – Georgia rally protests of ICE fingerprint program – Beaumont Enterprise

Georgia rally protests of ICE fingerprint program – Beaumont Enterprise.

ATLANTA (AP) — Chanting and waving signs, about a dozen people on Tuesday protested a program that gives federal immigration authorities access to fingerprints, which could lead to more deportations.

The demonstration in Atlanta was one of several planned at Democratic Party offices around the country as part of a national day of action. The groups are calling for an end the Secure Communities program which allows the FBI to share fingerprints with Homeland Security to identify illegal immigrants accused of crimes. Local law enforcement agencies routinely send fingerprints to the FBI for criminal background checks when an individual is arrested.

Organizers in Atlanta want President Barack Obama to keep his promises of comprehensive immigration reform.

“President Obama must hear from Georgia Democrats what it is like as the country is facing a hateful crisis over failed immigration policies and broken promises,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, which organized the demonstration.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said the Secure Communities program simplifies information-sharing between local and federal law enforcement agencies and is meant to identify illegal immigrants accused of committing crimes.

Opponents say it can lead to the detention of illegal immigrants arrested during the investigation of minor violations and erodes their trust in police. They have also criticized the administration for giving the impression that local governments could choose whether to participate when the program is actually mandatory.

ICE is currently running the program in 44 states and plans to achieve nationwide coverage in 2013. It’s in place in 43 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Georgia’s seven Republican congressmen have been pushing ICE to roll out the program more quickly in the state, saying Georgia should be a priority because of its relatively high estimated number of illegal immigrants.

Georgia Democratic Party officials welcomed the demonstrators Tuesday and said they’d pass on a petition bearing 439 signatures collected in the state to the president.

“I wish there was more we could do at the state level,” state Democratic Party Chairman Michael Berlon said. “This is really a federal issue but we’ll make sure that we pass this on.”

Berlon pointed out that state Democrats are planning a “Hope and Unity rally” next week, in part to express dissatisfaction with a law cracking down on illegal immigration signed this year by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Most parts of that law entered into effect July 1, but two parts were blocked by a federal judge until a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality can be settled. The state on Monday appealed that ruling.

Rallies to call for an end to Secure Communities were also planned Tuesday at Democratic Party offices in Chicago, Houston, Boston, Miami and Charlotte, N.C.

August 12, 2011

8/11 – LA Times – Legal taxis ferry illegal immigrants to work in Georgia – latimes.com

Legal taxis ferry illegal immigrants to work in Georgia – latimes.com.

New Latino South

A crackdown in Gainesville means driving without a license can lead to deportation, so many use a ‘taxista’ — or simply move away.

Carlos Santiago, 19, pays Diaz the taxi fare as he arrives at a Gainesville restaurant where he's a dishwasher and cook. The says the daily $8 round-trip expense is a big bite out of his $8.50-an-hour wages. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Carlos Santiago, 19, pays Diaz the taxi fare as he arrives at a Gainesville restaurant where he’s a dishwasher and cook. The says the daily $8 round-trip expense is a big bite out of his $8.50-an-hour wages. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

August 11, 2011

Reporting from Gainesville, Ga. — Jose Luis Diaz maneuvered his big green-and-white taxi through the predawn darkness, windows shut to the crowing of roosters and the stench of the chicken plants, toward the home of Mateo, an illegal immigrant waiting to be chauffeured to work.

For Mateo — a stocky, tattooed employee of a tree-trimming service — the ride was no luxury. It was a necessity.

The New Latino South

The Latino population in the South has grown dramatically over the last decade. This is one in a series of occasional stories chronicling the live of Latinos in a changing region.

Interactive: Changing Latino population in Gainesville

Photos: Robust taxi culture in rural Georgia

More in the series:

Guatemalan man with a U.S. family is threatened with deportation

Fewer hands in the fields

“Buenos días,” Diaz said as Mateo hopped into the back seat. Under a carport, a chained puppy strained in their direction.

Mateo wasn’t exactly chatty this early in the day. No matter: Diaz knew where to take him. He was a regular.

In recent years, illegal immigrants caught driving without a license in Gainesville, a city of 34,000, have found themselves on a fast track to deportation because of the county sheriff’s participation in a federal immigration crackdown program known as 287(g), which lets officials check the immigration status of suspects booked into the county jail.

When the program was introduced three years ago, Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic visited Latino churches and community groups and told them the best way not to be targeted was to avoid breaking the law.

“We specifically talked about, ‘If you don’t have a driver’s license, don’t drive,’ “ Chief Deputy Jeff Strickland recalled.

They listened — one reason for the improbably robust taxi culture here, a kind of capitalist work-around for a city that has seen its Latino population swell from 8% to 42% in the last two decades. Gainesville’s eight taxi companies, all Latino-owned, operate 177 licensed cabs. By comparison, Hinesville, a similar-size Georgia city that is 8% Latino, has four taxis.

Occasionally, the Gainesville cabs will pick up a drunk or a non-Latino; one company lists a separate “American Service Yellow Taxi” and answers its phone in English. But mostly they are in the business of offering safety and opportunity to people who crave both.

Entrepreneurs like Diaz, a 41-year-old U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, have created an odd kind of American success story: His Fiesta Cab Co., with its 31 licensed cars, is a perfectly legitimate business that serves a mostly illegitimate clientele.

Day and night, his cabs zoom past Gainesville’s churches and small factories and fast-food joints. They shuttle illegal grandmothers to supermarkets, illegal mothers and children to doctor’s visits, and illegal workers to jobs, many of them in the polleras, or chicken plants, that earned this city the nickname Poultry Capital of the World.

The Wal-Mart even features a covered taxi stand, marked Parada de Taxi.

But these days, taxistas like Diaz wonder whether their boom time may be coming to an end. A sweeping new Georgia immigration law, signed in May by Gov. Nathan Deal, has sent many of their customers fleeing to other states or their home countries.

Those who remain, like Mateo, are waiting to see how their reception in this former Ku Klux Klan stronghold — always a complex mixture of suspicion and indifference, hostility and gracious welcome — might change as the illegal immigration crackdown intensifies across the South.

Family and friends bid farewell to those leaving Gainesville, Georgia, on the bus to the Mexico border. It's a daily occurence for illegal immigrants who feel the pressure of Georgia's tough new immigration laws and decide to leave the country on their own. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Family and friends bid farewell to those leaving Gainesville, Georgia, on the bus to the Mexico border. It’s a daily occurence for illegal immigrants who feel the pressure of Georgia’s tough new immigration laws and decide to leave the country on their own. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

After 20 years of immigration, Gainesville’s Latino presence can feel both overwhelming and tenuous. Gainesville High School is 51% Latino; its counselors offer a college resource guide for illegal immigrant students. The Longstreet Society, dedicated to the study of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, who was a Gainesville resident, offers free classes in English as a second language.

But there are almost no Latino-owned businesses on the handsome town square, arranged around a Confederate memorial that reads “Dedicated to Southern Convictions, Consecrated to Southern Valor.” The supermercados and taco stands lie south of downtown, on a motley stretch of Atlanta Highway.

Last month, an hour south of here, a federal judge in Atlanta temporarily blocked portions of the new law, including a provision giving police greater enforcement powers, and another making it a crime to knowingly transport illegal immigrants. Among other things, the law outlaws the use of fake IDs to secure employment and requires all but the smallest companies use the federal system called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires.

Residents say the simple fact of its passage appears to be thinning out the Latino population here — though too recently to be reflected in census numbers — along with the moribund economy and the 287(g) program, which has sent nearly 3,200 people to federal authorities for potential deportation, according to Homeland Security Department figures.

Mateo, 30, does not wish to add to that number. Like most passengers, he declined to give his last name for fear of authorities. He said he had been in Gainesville a dozen years and supports a wife and two children here.

Diaz pulled the cab in front of a darkened strip mall. From here, Mateo’s tree-trimming company was supposed to pick him up and shuttle him to his work site.

“Cuantos son?” Mateo asked. How much?

“Quatro dólares,” Diaz said — the standard fare. Mateo handed him a five, and Diaz returned a dollar.

He didn’t expect a tip. He never does. He knows these people can’t afford it.

Diaz headed off to an attractive apartment complex operated by the Paces Foundation, a nonprofit group that offers subsidized housing for the poor.

A man and woman emerged with their 9-year-old daughter. The parents had their lunches packed, the woman’s hair tucked under a plastic cap.

More regulars. No need to ask their destination. The polleras.

Wearing the factory required rubber boots, chicken processing workers arrive by taxis at the start of their morning shift. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Wearing the factory required rubber boots, chicken processing workers arrive by taxis at the start of their morning shift. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Diaz is a serious, sturdily built man with a full black beard who, on this July day, was turned out in a starched dress shirt and a creased pair of khakis. He is a former Mexican army sergeant who moved to Indiana 15 years ago, legally, lured by a brother who was already there. Diaz’s first job was in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant.

Three years later, the brother had moved to booming Gainesville. Diaz went to see for himself, and what he saw was opportunity: After all, he had spent a year driving a taxi in Mexico City. Soon he was driving for a company called El Palmar. Then he launched his own company, with two cars to start.

Five of his siblings have gravitated here, part of an epochal demographic shift. Gainesville was 85% white as late as the 1980s. Some locals can remember even earlier times, when the historically black neighborhood was known, at least to some, as “Niggertown.”

Newspaper accounts from the 1980s describe Latinos complaining about police harassment. In 1989, nearly 300 Ku Klux Klan members rallied on the streets of Gainesville to protest the Latino workers who, they claimed, were taking jobs from locals.

But that same rally drew more than 1,500 counter-protesters.

Like the South more generally, Gainesville appeared to be moving away from the old defining hatreds. Some of that, said local activist Alan Shope, had to do with the fact that locals were doing pretty well for themselves.

And as the old, American-born cab company owners moved on or died out, Diaz, like other Latino owners, expanded.

The profits from Fiesta Cab Co. have allowed Diaz to purchase a suburban ranch house for his American-born wife and their three boys. It has allowed him to give alms to people like two Guatemalan sisters whose husbands were recently deported after a traffic stop.

It has helped him invest in other businesses, such as Mama Ruth’s Kitchen, a down-home Southern cafe he purchased and now operates with his brothers. It offers tostadas de tinga alongside the ham biscuits.

“Well, I mean, each restaurant you go into in Gainesville — Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Roadhouse — who do you think is cooking?” he said.

The Paces Foundation apartment complex receded in Diaz’s rearview mirror. “I lost a lot of customers from these apartments,” he said. “They just disappeared about a month ago.”

The woman with the plastic cap was named Laura, her husband Jorge Luis. Diaz stopped to let them drop off their daughter, Dayan, at a baby-sitter’s apartment.

Laura said they were illegal immigrants who had been in Gainesville for 13 years. Now they were thinking of moving on.

“We have a plan,” she said. “To go somewhere where there’s less racism” — maybe Chicago or New York.

Diaz dropped them off. A call came in on the dispatch line. “Fiesta, buenos días,” he said. “A donde?” Where to?

When the new law was signed, eight of his drivers left the state. They were all legal residents — each taxista must file a driver’s license with the city — but Diaz said they typically had family members who were not.

The cab company owners, meanwhile, wondered whether their drivers could be prosecuted for transporting illegal immigrants. In June, Diaz and his competitors met with Debbie Jones, the city marshal. Not to worry, she told them. She had consulted with the state police chiefs’ association.

“You don’t want taxi drivers checking the legal status of people,” Jones said later. “I told them this is intended for people knowingly transporting people into the state to work — like the coyotes.”

Jose Luis Diaz nears the end of his 13-hour workday at his cab company in Gainesville, Georgia. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Jose Luis Diaz nears the end of his 13-hour workday at his cab company in Gainesville, Georgia. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

In Diaz’s office he keeps a photo of himself posing with Jones and a few of her staffers, all white. They are good people, Diaz said, and fair. Sometimes he grills them carne asada.

But he is never without a palm-sized “black box” device, called a Glonex Driving Recorder, which makes a video record of his driving habits and stores them on a micro-SD card. Extra insurance, he said. It would allow him, for example, to prove he wasn’t speeding.

“The problem here is, if you’re Latino and you’re legal, you still worry,” he said.

If something happens, he added, “The police still think it’s your fault.”

Diaz entered a subdivision and stopped in front of a vinyl-sided home, simple but handsome, with a generous porch.

“Nice house,” he said. It would not be the last nice one he visited today: Before the recession, he noted, Latinos here prospered, particularly the men in construction. Now, he said, many of them are back at the polleras.

A woman named Lorena emerged, attractive, in her 20s, dressed in a pink T-shirt that said “BUILT FORD TOUGH.” She was illegal, she said, and headed to her chicken plant shift. She said she worried that the law would force her to go back to Durango — part of Mexico’s notorious Golden Triangle drug-producing region — with her two young girls, both born in Georgia.

“Mostly, I’m worried about them,” she said. “Because Mexico is so bad.”

He dropped her between two chicken factories, Coleman Natural Foods and Prime Pak Foods, their parking lots and walkways bustling with workers in yellow rubber boots just off the night shift, and fresh hands like Lorena.

“You see, there are only Latinos,” Diaz said. “No Anglos, no Africans working here.”

Lorena handed him a five. It was almost 7 a.m. Diaz counted seven cabs here, from Uni Taxi, Taxi El Dorado, and from Fiesta.

That afternoon, Diaz spent a few hours answering the phone at his dispatch office inside his sister’s quinceanera and party supply store, Fiesta Latina, on Atlanta Highway, across the street from Mama Ruth’s.

Then it was back on the road, giving rides to Rebecca from Jalisco, who works at a tax prep office; and Eneyda, the cute 18-year-old with the Valley Girl lilt going to her job at the mall. Eventually, he picked up Felipa Costilla, his first legal resident.

She was born in Houston. She just doesn’t like to drive.

When she first moved here, she liked how Georgia felt. Black and white would wave when you walked down the road, and talk to you when you stopped.

“But here lately it’s just like Mexicans are no good, Mexicans are just here for problems,” she said. “You can feel the vibes.” In restaurants, she said, “People turn around and look at you, like, ‘What are these Mexicans doing here, eating the same food as us?’ “

Diaz collected his $4. Then he was back down Atlanta Highway, cruising past the Yuriria Supermarket, where the big bus stops on its way to the Mexican border. A family had gathered in the parking lot with a stack of large suitcases.

Diaz suspected they were leaving for good. But he was too busy to pull over and check. A couple on Catalina Drive had called for a ride to the laundromat.

Soon, four large loads of dirty clothes were being stuffed into the taxicab’s trunk.

Into the back: a newborn, strapped into a car seat.

richard.fausset@latimes.com

August 10, 2011

8/9 – WSB (Video) Man Stops Eating In Protest Of Immigration Law – News Story – WSB Atlanta

Man Stops Eating In Protest Of Immigration Law – News Story – WSB Atlanta.

A local man is vowing not to eat until Gov. Nathan Deal meets with him.Tuesday marks the 40th day of Salvador Zamora’s hunger strike. He stopped eating on July 1, the same day HB 87 went into effect.HB 87 is Georgia’s new immigration law that places restrictions on illegal immigrants.So far, Zamora has lost 30 pounds. Zamora told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield that he wants to talk to the governor about the law and hand delivered a letter requesting a meeting.”These laws are not good not only for the immigrant community, but are not go for Georgia,” he said.Zamora is so weak that he now uses a wheelchair to get around.”I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about my people,” said Zamora.”We need also to show him this is bad for the people and this puts a lot of pressure and fear in people and they are running away and hiding,” he continued.Deal’s office confirmed that it received Zamora’s letter.A representative told Channel 2 that the governor’s Office of Constituent Letters will respond to Zamora.It is unclear if the governor will meet with Zamora.Zamora told Byfield that he is willing to strike for as long as it takes.

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