Archive for ‘Reports’

November 20, 2011

11/19/2011 – Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested | 11/19/2011 | Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested.


Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011


— A season of protest in Georgia continued Friday in front of a federal immigration detention center here, as a crowd of 270 people called for the closing of the Stewart Detention Center.

The fifth annual protest, which included two arrests, sought to highlight what demonstrators claim are inhumane conditions inside the facility, as well as the plight of the inmates’ families on the outside.

“We’re here to fight for the justice of immigrants and those who are detained in Stewart,” said Arely Lara, 13, of Dalton, Ga., who said her father was held here before being deported to Mexico.

Activists marched more than a mile uphill from downtown Lumpkin to the entrance of the detention center, where they held vigil and celebrated the release of one inmate, Pedro Guzman, who was behind bars here this time a year ago.

“This place breaks you,” he said, assailing the conditions inside the detention center. “It’s basically made to break your soul.”

Guzman was joined by his family, who described the impact his incarceration had on their lives several hours away in North Carolina.

“Most do not fight because the system is not set up for justice,” said Guzman’s wife, Emily, who is five months pregnant. “It is set up to get as many immigrants out of the country as possible. Pedro is free, but so many are not.”

Prison officials have denied the claims made by the protesters. Stewart Detention Center is run by Corrections Corporation of America , the country’s largest private corrections company. “We’re mystified why these individuals would want to protest a company that saves taxpayers millions, provides safe, humane housing for detainees and helps keep communities safe,” said Steve Owen, a company spokesman.

The cold air was filled Friday with echoes of other activist movements of recent weeks. One woman wore a pin in remembrance of Troy Anthony Davis, the Georgia prisoner executed in September amid an international uproar prompted by his claims of innocence.

Others were affiliated with the Occupy movement and the SOA Watch protest taking place this weekend in Columbus.

The size of the crowd more than doubled from last year’s event when eight protesters were arrested for crossing onto the prison grounds, said Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch. One demonstrator, Chris Spicer of Chicago, was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing.

“I want to cross because we are crossing a river of love with no fear for you,” Spicer told the crowd before ducking under a yellow strip of police tape and being handcuffed.

Spicer was released this year from federal prison after serving time for trespassing onto Fort Benning at the 2010 SOA Watch protest. Flores-Maisonet, who emceed the event, was briefly taken into custody after the crowd dispersed, accused of crossing onto prison grounds when he took Spicer’s jacket.

Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones said authorities reviewed news media footage of the event and determined Flores-Maisonet was not in violation.

“We replayed the video and got that corrected,” Jones said, referring to Magistrate Judge G. Wayne Ammons’ dismissal of the charge. “The video cleared him.”

Flores-Maisonet, who was arrested for an act of civil disobedience at last year’s event, said the authorities took “a much more aggressive stance this year,” noting protesters last year were released on $250 bond, while Spicer’s bond was set Friday at $5,000.

“Rather than trying to obstruct justice,” he said, “we’re trying to obstruct injustice.”

Speakers at the protest urged the crowd to resist recent efforts by state legislators to crack down on illegal immigration. Xochitl Bervera of the Georgia Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition said federal authorities and state legislators in Alabama and Georgia “have already lost” because a growing number of people are speaking out against the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.

“You’re on your way out,” Bervera said. “A new day is coming, and we can see the sun rising over the horizon as we speak.”

Participants waved banners bearing slogans like “Brown is not a crime” and “No human being is illegal.”

A number of activists from Columbus made the 45-minute drive to join in the march. Others, like Scott M. Woods, came all the way from Phoenix, a city embroiled in its own debate over immigration.

Woods said there should be “a better way of dealing with the situation” than detention and deportation, such as more opportunities for immigrants to gain citizenship.

“I don’t believe that migrants should be incarcerated,” said Woods, who came to town for the annual SOA Watch protest in Columbus. “There are a lot of jobs that they’ll do and nobody else will.”

Lumpkin Police Chief Ronald Jackson said the event was peaceful as usual. The only change, he said, was that the crowd was asked to stay off the courthouse lawn because it just received new grass.

“We don’t have any trouble with them — anything we ask them to do they comply,” Jackson said. “Each year you can look and see it getting larger and larger, so I reckon they’re getting their message out.”

Read more:

September 29, 2011

9/29 – CNN – My encounter with anti-Latino racism –

My encounter with anti-Latino racism –

By Nick Valencia, CNN
updated 2:56 PM EST, Thu September 29, 2011
A third-generation Mexican-American, Nick Valencia says duality is reality for millions of Americans.
A third-generation Mexican-American, Nick Valencia says duality is reality for millions of Americans.

  • Nick Valencia says a woman yelled racist words at him at a concert in Atlanta
  • He’d been speaking Spanish to new acquaintances; her treatment left him speechless
  • Growing anti-Latino sentiment in U.S. is aimed at both immigrants and citizens, he says
  • Valencia: I’m third-generation Mexican-American; human, like my new friends. And I’m home

Editor’s note: Nick Valencia is a national news desk editor and former head of the CNN Spanish Desk. He has reported extensively on the drug war in Mexico for CNN. He is also the president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Soledad O’Brien reports on a Latina boxer about to face the fight of her life as she attempts to make her Olympic dream a reality. Watch “Latino In America: In Her Corner,” at 8 p.m. ET/PT Saturday, October 1.

Atlanta (CNN) — “Go home!” she yelled at me. “Why don’t you go back home to Mexico before you ruin this country like you ruined your own!”

I was standing in a crowd at the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, where I live. A few minutes earlier I’d met a group of five people who’d been standing in front of me — here from Mexico City — and I had begun speaking Spanish with them.

Atlanta has a growing Latino community, and I am actively involved. Whenever I get the chance to speak to someone in Spanish here, I introduce myself. My new acquaintances and I were talking about what a great time we were having and how remarkable the city of Atlanta was for bringing back the festival to Piedmont Park.

And that’s when I heard the yelling woman next to me. As if “go home” wasn’t clear enough, the woman — a 20-something Caucasian — repeated the words in Spanish.


I froze. I didn’t quite know what to say, and I didn’t want to believe she was talking to me or the group of people I had just met.

Nick Valencia
Nick Valencia

As a third-generation Mexican-American growing up in Los Angeles, I had never encountered such overt racism. In fact, because my family was long since assimilated, among my Latino friends I was always considered the “pocho” or “white boy” of the group. (As I write this, a part of me knows somewhere in L.A., a friend of mine will be proud to know someone actually considered me Mexican enough to yell “go home” at me.)

My Mexican friends remind me that I am American first, Mexican second and that my English is better than my Spanish.

“Yes,” I tell them. “But I can never walk into a room and be white.”

Evidently, to some the brown color of my skin means I’m not even American. My friends and family tell me what I experienced that night is a microcosm of what is happening to Latinos across the country. You don’t have to look hard to find it. In news stories, in political discourse, on talk radio, in everyday conversation it seems it has become OK to treat Latinos in a negative and antagonistic way — whether they are new immigrants or longtime Americans. The anti-immigration legislation sweeping across the United States has made this plain. People in my Latino networks say they’ve noticed the change. And now I understand what they mean.

Like many Americans whose grandparents or parents came here from somewhere else, I live at the intersection of my two cultures. I eat tacos, but I love cheeseburgers. I go salsa dancing, and listen to rock n’ roll. I speak Spanish and English, and depending on the crowd, sometimes Spanglish. I love my country and my cultural community. My duality is my reality, just like the 50 million other Latinos in the United States.

I have been luckier than many. Before this incident, the closest I’d ever come to blatant racism was in junior high. I was in the jazz band and played first trumpet. One day our jazz band teacher invited in his predecessor, a local legend who had made Eagle Rock High School’s jazz program famous in the 1980s.

The visiting instructor pointed me out and asked me to play him 16 bars of music. I did, but he quickly interrupted.

“Stop, stop, stop. I don’t want to hear any of that mariachi music. This is jazz.”

I didn’t think anything of it. Instead I felt terrible that the legend standing in front of me didn’t think I was good enough. I went home that night, and like every night, at 6:30 p.m. my family sat down for dinner to talk about our day.

“How was your day, Nicky?” my dad asked.

So I told him. Outraged, the next day he went to my principal and filed a formal complaint. The legend didn’t come back to visit the jazz program again. Weeks later we received a letter in the mail from him apologizing for his insensitive comments. My family saved the letter.

My father was hypersensitive to ethnic identity and deeply proud of his Latino heritage. The son of a naturalized immigrant from El Salvador and a Mexican mother from Texas, he grew up in Los Angeles during a time of racial tension. When I was young he would tell me stories of the race riots in his high school, violence against people of color, and awful accounts of the struggle he had to make it as a Mexican-American teen in the 1960s.

He died when I was 17 years old, but one of the phrases he implanted in my mind before he passed was a statement activist Cesar Chavez made famous:

“Si se puede” — “Yes you can.”

And now, here I was, at 28, with this stranger yelling at me to “leave.” I stood there in the middle of a damp crowd on a late Atlanta evening, not comprehending, the wind still and the vibrations of Coldplay’s “Yellow” filling the space in the air.

I didn’t say a thing.

I didn’t have to.

The crowd around us looked in amazement at this woman. Some of them spoke up to her, telling her she was wrong to talk to us like that. The group of people from Mexico City looked at her in disgust and, realizing from the look on my face that I must not be accustomed to what I was hearing, they turned toward me to offer support.

One of them, a young man, grabbed my hand and raised it high in the air.

“Estamos aqui,” he said, which translates to “We are here.”

It was the “Si se puede” moment.

The woman continued to taunt us for some minutes, but when we did not reciprocate her hatred, she stopped.

The band played a few more songs before ending the set, and the crowd dispersed across the park into the Saturday evening.

As I walked away, the woman and I locked eyes.

“I don’t think you understand who you said that to,” I told her. Thinking to myself, I am as American as you are.

“What,” she said laughing. “Are you some kind of celebrity or something?”

No. But like the Mexicans I was standing with, I am a human being. And I am home.

September 7, 2011

9/7 – AJC – Immigration enforcement panel attracts controversy |

Immigration enforcement panel attracts controversy  |

Metro Atlanta / State News 6:47 p.m. Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A powerful new panel aimed at helping curb illegal immigration in Georgia has yet to hold its first meeting but it is already attracting controversy.

The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday called on Gov. Nathan Deal to reconsider his decision to appoint anti-illegal immigration activist Phil Kent to the panel, saying Kent has a history of making “deeply disturbing” comments about immigrants. During in an interview on Wednesday, the head of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus also blasted the panel for not being more diverse. All seven of its members are white men.

Kent dismissed the ADL’s criticism, calling the organization a “left wing group.” A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on the ADL’s request concerning Kent but said the board’s members include people with different professions and viewpoints.

The Immigration Enforcement Review Board is expected to hold its first meeting and adopt its procedures before Oct. 1. It will have the power to investigate complaints that city, county and state officials are violating state immigration enforcement laws, hold hearings, subpoena documents, adopt regulations and hand out punishment.

The panel stems from Georgia’s new immigration enforcement law (House Bill 87), much of which went into effect July 1. The ADL filed court papers in June in support of efforts to halt that law. Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, named their appointments to the panel Friday.

Among the three men Deal appointed to the board is Kent, the national spokesman of Americans for Immigration Control, which supports strict enforcement of immigration laws. In a letter to Deal on Thursday, the ADL pointed to columns Kent wrote on his website ( about America becoming more multicultural.

In one column regarding estimates that minorities could overtake the white population by 2050, Kent wrote: “What will be the values and ideas of a multicultural America? What will it mean to be white after ‘whiteness’ no longer defines the cultural mainstream?” Kent also predicted “many whites ‘will flee into whiteness.’ They will move to where other fair-skinned brethren are to retain their identity — nostalgically yearning for an American authenticity where everyone speaks English.”

The ADL pointed to another column Kent wrote that quotes Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, saying, “Those in Congress and in the administration who have failed to fix our broken border have allowed the influx of 595,000 violent criminal aliens now threatening our cities, suburbs and even rural communities that are seeing the effects of the Mexican cartel-driven drug trade.”

“Mr. Kent’s fixation with maintaining white culture is deeply disturbing and his resort to fear-mongering about undocumented residents is equally abhorrent,” Bill Nigut, the ADL’s southeast regional director, wrote in his letter to Deal.

Kent on Wednesday said the ADL “opposed Georgia’s new immigration control law. They don’t like the law’s compliance panel. And they don’t like me.”

“I make no apologies for my work over the years to try to have strict enforcement of immigration laws,” Kent added.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones, a Democrat from Decatur and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, criticized the lack of minorities on Kent’s panel.

“That’s not Georgia. Georgia isn’t comprised of all white men,” Jones said of the panel’s membership. “If the governor is concerned about true immigration reform, he would have appointed some Latinos to that panel so it would have divergent viewpoints instead of [being] one-sided.”

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor, said the members include people from different backgrounds. Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager, Dallas, Ga., Mayor Boyd Austin, Colquitt County Commissioner Terry Clark, Atlanta attorney Ben Vinson, former state legislator Robert Mumford and Shawn Hanley, former candidate for the state GOP chairmanship, have been appointed.

“It was important that we appoint advocates for the law because we need people who want to enforce it,” Robinson said. “It would make no sense to appoint people who hate the law and want to undermine it.”


June 10, 2011

6/10 – – Farm labor survey results sent to Gov. Deal |

Farm labor survey results sent to Gov. Deal  |

Georgia Politics 5:26 p.m. Friday, June 10, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state Agriculture Department on Friday sent Gov. Nathan Deal the results of a farm labor survey triggered by complaints concerning Georgia’s stringent new immigration enforcement law.

A spokeswoman for the Republican governor, however, indicated Deal’s office would not publicly release the results until some time next week.

“The governor’s office received the information requested from the Agriculture Commissioner at 4:45 pm.,” said Stephanie Mayfield, a spokeswoman for Deal. “The governor would like to review the report and will be making comments about the content next week.”

Deal asked for the survey last month after farmers complained the new law is scaring migrant farmworkers away from Georgia and putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops at risk.

The Georgia Agribusiness Council – which lobbied against the law in the state Legislature – released the results of its own survey this week. Nearly half of the 132 Georgia businesses polled in that survey say they are experiencing agricultural labor shortages. And of those who reported shortages to the council, more than a third said immigrants are concerned about the state’s new anti-illegal immigration law. The council said it surveyed farmers, landscape companies and other related businesses.

Also this week, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said his agency was still measuring the extent of the state’s farm labor shortages and that it was too early to call the problem a “crisis.” The Republican commissioner said his agency has dispatched representatives to meet with farmers in South Georgia and ask them how the Labor Department could help fill any open jobs.

Asked about the impact of the state’s new immigration enforcement law, Butler said a combination of factors could be to blame for the labor shortages, including the types of jobs farmers have open and what they pay.

“One season is not enough to pass judgment,” Butler predicted. “Maybe we do have some farmers that are having a hard time hiring right now, but next year they may not because… once they have to get used to hiring legal workers maybe they will be there.”

Signed into law last month by Deal, the measure empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and punishes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants or use fake identification to get jobs here.

Several civil rights groups and others have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court to block the law from taking effect. They argue the measure is preempted by federal law and unconstitutional.

State lawmakers say they crafted the law to protect it from court challenges. Proponents argue the law is constitutional and that it will help curb illegal immigration in Georgia.

Much of the law is scheduled to start taking effect on July 1.

June 10, 2011

6/9 – WABE(Audio) – Labor shortages grip Georgia’s farms (2011-06-09)

WABE: Labor shortages grip Georgia’s farms (2011-06-09).

Nearly half of Georgia’s farm employers surveyed by an industry group are experiencing farm worker shortages.

(WABE)Nearly half of Georgia’s farm employers surveyed by an industry group are experiencing farm worker shortages. Friday, the state agriculture commissioner is due to report the findings of his own survey to the governor.

Last summer the United Farm Workers launched their nationwide “Take Our Jobs Campaign,” to connect legal residents to farm employers. Thousands of inquiries only led to a dozen people taking farm worker jobs. Comedian Stephen Colbert was one of them.

“This brief experience gave me some small understanding on why so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as seasonal migrant field worker.”

The work is physically demanding, and doesn’t pay well for the nature of the work. Since, Governor Nathan Deal enacted an immigration law last month, many farm employers are experiencing labor shortages. Deal says he’s asked the state’s Agricultural Commissioner to look into the nature of these shortages.

“What are the numbers of individuals that are needed? What kind of work are they needed for? What is the duration of the period that they’re needed for?”

The governor says he hasn’t seen federal statistics on this issue. But several states have done extensive recruitment efforts when they’ve had farm worker shortages of their own. Craig Regelbrugge with the national group, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform describes one of the most extensive campaigns. It was tried in California in the late 1990’s, when there was double digit unemployment in the region.

“There was a huge multi-county effort, again involving agencies and grower associations and what not, which was documented as successfully recruiting and placing a total of three workers.”

Farmers here are trying to fill their labor gap with local workers. Jason Berry is a manager with Blueberry Farms of Georgia in Baxley, which is two hours south of Macon. He says his current workforce is 90, much less than half of what he had last year at this time. Berry hired about two dozen unemployed local workers, and a few of them, he says, didn’t really work.

“They were basically standing out there picking, I think, 0.2 or 0.3 buckets an hour right besides people that were picking 5 and 6 buckets an hour. We had to let those people go, but by and large the rest of them quit.”

Out of the Georgians hired, Berry says, maybe two have stayed. And they are not working the fields.

June 9, 2011

6/8 – WMGT(VIDEO) – Farmers Fear New Immigration Law

Farmers Fear New Immigration Law.  (<- VIDEO)

Wednesday, June 08 2011 18:10 Brittany Gonzalez

Middle Georgia Farmers blame the tough new immigration laws for scaring away seasonal workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Farmers say many of Georgia’s money making crops like onions and peaches aren’t getting picked, and it’s costing them millions of dollars.

According to Executive Director of Georgia’s Fruits and Vegetables Association, Charles Hall, around 40% of Georgia’s migrant workforce has disappeared.

He says workers are scared of being deported.

“We’re getting this feed back from our crews and workers in Florida that don’t want to come into Georgia. They’ve heard rumors of road blocks and people being stopped for a traffic violation, and basically being deported,” says Hall.

State Representative and farm owner, Robert Dickey, says farmers are in desperate need of workers.

“If we can’t have the labor to harvest our vegetables and fruit crops they’ll just have to be grown in an other state,” says Dickey.

The workforce shortage is already impacting the state’s billion dollar agriculture business.

“If the same level of shortage of workers continues we’re estimating 25-30% of the farm gate value being left in the field, which equates to in dollars and cents to about $250 million lost in the industry,” says Hall.

The figure would be per year. Lawmakers say it’s all about revamping a failed system. “We need to make sure that those workers are validated. That they follow legal procedures and certainly that it can be done in a timely manner,” says Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black.

Dickey adds, “It’s real unfortunate Georgia had to go forward and try and says ‘enough is enough’, but it really needs to be a federal issue.”

The Georgia Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Association is currently working with the Department of Labor to get unemployed Georgians to work in the fields.

This Friday, Gary Black, will present a report to Governor Nathan Deal on the impact of the worker shortage.

June 7, 2011

6/7 – – Survey: Nearly half of Georgia farmers report labor shortages |

Survey: Nearly half of Georgia farmers report labor shortages  |


Metro Atlanta / State News 1:04 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nearly half of the 132 Georgia businesses polled in a private survey this month say they are experiencing agricultural labor shortages.

Gary Paulk of Paulk Farm in Irwin County says he is facing a shortage of workers to help with the harvest at his 60-acre blackberry farm.

Vino Wong, Gary Paulk of Paulk Farm in Irwin County says he is facing a shortage of workers to help with the harvest at his 60-acre blackberry farm.

Ismael Rodriguez, 25, was harvesting blackberries in the mid-90s temperature at Paulk Farm in Irwin County last week.

Vino Wong, Ismael Rodriguez, 25, was harvesting blackberries in the mid-90s temperature at Paulk Farm in Irwin County last week.

And of those who reported shortages to the Georgia Agribusiness Council, more than a third said immigrants are concerned about the state’s new anti-illegal immigration law.

The council started doing the survey after farmers complained the new law is scaring migrant farmworkers away from Georgia and putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops at risk. The council – which lobbied against the measure in the state Legislature — started surveying farmers, landscape companies and other related businesses last week and released the results Tuesday.

The state Agriculture Department is conducting a similar study and is expected to report its findings to Gov. Nathan Deal by Friday.

The council released its survey results a day after Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said his agency was still measuring the extent of the state’s farm labor shortages and that it was too early to call the problem a “crisis.” The Republican commissioner said his agency has dispatched representatives to meet with farmers in South Georgia and ask them how the Labor Department could help fill any open jobs.

Asked about the impact of the state’s new immigration enforcement law, Butler said a combination of factors could be to blame for the labor shortages, including the types of jobs farmers have open and what they pay.

“One season is not enough to pass judgment,” Butler predicted. “Maybe we do have some farmers that are having a hard time hiring right now, but next year they may not because… once they have to get used to hiring legal workers maybe they will be there.”

June 1, 2011

5/31 – CBSAtlanta(CNN) – ‘Tequila Party’ Aims To Increase Latino Voting Bloc – Atlanta News Story – WGCL Atlanta

‘Tequila Party’ Aims To Increase Latino Voting Bloc – Atlanta News Story – WGCL Atlanta.

POSTED: 2:47 pm EDT May 31, 2011
UPDATED: 2:47 pm EDT May 31, 2011

By now, people in the United States and elsewhere in the world are familiar with the Tea Party, but there’s a new social movement on the political block — it’s called the “Tequila Party,” and its leaders say the group is serving as a wake-up call to the Latino voting bloc.Tequila Party organizers describe their movement as a nonpartisan group that launched this year on May 5 — Cinco de Mayo, to mark the Mexican holiday. It has enlisted both Democrats and Republicans to get the more than 20 million eligible Latino voters to become “consistent primary and general election voters,” the movement’s website says.In other words, its organizers say, it is not a political party in the traditional sense. It’s more about registering to vote and then voting than supporting particular candidates.”I think first you have to understand the humor of calling it the Tequila Party. We are a culture that likes humor,” the movement’s main political consultant, Agustin “Gus” Garcia, told CNN.”We’re not Puritans. Humor is part of our politics as well. We could have called it the ‘Cafe con Leche Party.’ You have to laugh because there is no logic in racism.”In 2008, during now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s run to become president, Garcia was her national Latin co-chair. A Democrat, Garcia said he believes there is no better time for the Tequila Party movement.”There is fertile ground right now for a message like this,” he added. “We’re appealing to a large group in this nation. We’re not appealing to a minority, but to a mass of people. We’re united by culture and language.”National Tequila Party leader Belinda “Deedee” Garcia-Blase told CNN that the movement “is a platform for us to position ourselves as consistent voters.””This is not a movement in place to endorse any politician whatsoever,” she said in a phone interview from Tucson, Arizona, where the movement is based. “We’re not going to bash politicians like the Tea Party does. This is about voting and why we’re in the situation we’re in.”The goal is to influence the 2012 elections, Garcia-Blase said. The group is now in the final stages of organizing a national tour of concerts, events, dinners and rallies in 20 states that will “encourage a massive Latino ‘Get Out The Vote,'” she said.The kickoff event is June 4 in Tucson, Arizona.The U.S. Hispanic population grew 43 percent in 10 years between 2000 and 2010 — four times faster than the total U.S. population — according to figures from the 2010 census. Currently, people of Hispanic origin make up only about 9% of the eligible electorate, according the Pew Hispanic Center.Still, Hispanics were one of the most sought-after voting groups in the 2008 presidential election and were heavily concentrated in at least four battleground states in the presidential campaign — Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.”We’re one-out-of-four people entering college. We’re now becoming more obvious. We’re national now,” said Garcia, who is a Cuban-American who immigrated as a child to the United States in 1961 and now lives in Miami. “We’re no longer regional. We are reflective of a world that is changing. Latins are the neighbor next door that brings global society.”Garcia-Blase is also head of Somos Republican (We Are Republican), the largest Hispanic GOP group in the nation. She says the genesis of the Tequila Party grew out of frustration with the Obama administration’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform and legislation including the DREAM Act, Garcia-Blase says. But she is quick to clarify the movement is not “anti-Obama, but pro-social justice.”The DREAM — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — Act would offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. In December, it failed to pass the Senate during a lame-duck session of Congress.”The immigration issue is the number-one concern to Latinos right now,” Garcia-Blase says. “We’ve witnessed over 800,000 Latinos get deported. We’ve heard the cries and the pain and the suffering from families who are being forced apart. Now is a time for us to become better voters.”Garcia-Blase concedes the idea for the Tequila Party was not originally hers. She credits Fernando Romero as being the inspiration behind the movement. Romero is president of the nonpartisan Nevada group Hispanics in Politics.”The movement is important because it unites efforts from the two major parties and others who want to get involved on issues that their party is not dealing with or their party may be in disapproval of,” Romero told CNN from his office in Las Vegas. “This is a collective resolution for the Hispanic community. To this moment I have not received any negative feedback.”Romero first got involved in politics more than 30 years ago as a volunteer for now-Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign for lieutenant governor of Nevada.”The principle thing for the Tequila Party movement is border education,” Romero said. “Everything else will come through once we accomplish a good community empowerment movement that will allow us to be as effective as we can. The challenges may be that non-Hispanics may try to make an issue of this as a third-party movement. That’s a misinterpretation of what we’re trying to accomplish.”For first-generation Cuban-America Felix Castillo, 19, a rising Badson College sophomore in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and an unregistered voter, the Tequila Party movement is a good idea in principle, but he’s skeptical about its ability to succeed in accomplishing its goals.”I don’t think it’s necessary,” Castillo told CNN. “I think people my age are really hard-headed. … I really don’t think people my age are going to listen to them.””They’re going to have to do more than just concerts (to succeed),” he added.University of Washington Political Science Associate Professor Matt A. Barreto is also skeptical. He has conducted political research on Latinos for more than 15 years and is currently a pollster for Latino Decisions, an independent polling firm that began in 2007.”My impression is that it’s 99.9% driven by Republican Latinos. Everyone that I’ve talked to about it believes that to be the case. It’s more of an effort to try and get the Republican Party to take the immigration issue more seriously and to not ignore the Latino vote,” Barreto told CNN in a phone interview.”Based on history, I think they’re going to continue issuing press releases and they may hold some events surrounding immigration issues, but I’m not sure they’re currently set up with the organizational capacity to conduct massive voter registration drives,” he added.Garcia-Blase says organizers have not received any funding from Republicans for the Tequila Party and reiterated to CNN that the movement is not at all affiliated with the Republican Party.”A lot of our leaders are Democrat,” she said.Right now, Garcia-Blase says, the group has more than 55 grass-roots leaders throughout the nation working to get sponsors for the rallies, which are planned in places with a conventional Latino presence including Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, but also in non-traditional Hispanic cities like Des Moines, Iowa; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Topeka, Kansas.”We’re working with a group of pro-immigrant-minded business leaders in Florida for financing. It would cost between $5,000 and $6,000 per metropolitan city. We want to bring in a good entertainment like Shakira and Santana. If we don’t get the national acts, we’ll go local,” she said.Garcia-Blase, a sixth generation Mexican-American whose parents worked in the potato fields of Idaho when she was a child, says that for now, 100% of her focus is on the pro-Latino movement.The pro-immigration reform advocate says she plans on changing her political affiliation to independent so that she can be taken seriously by critics as a legitimate social leader.”I used to be a rah-rah Republican. To heck with that,” Garcia-Blase said. “This isn’t about politics. It’s about people. I’ve always maintained I’m a real Republican, but I’ve been called names because I defend my community and put people before party. I still get attacked for that.”

May 19, 2011

5/19 – – Settlement reached in suit against Cobb police |

Settlement reached in suit against Cobb police  |

Cobb County News 11:33 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Attorneys for a 23-year-old Latino man announced Wednesday that they have reached a settlement with Cobb County in a lawsuit against the county’s police department.

Angel Francisco Castro Torres claimed in the lawsuit that two officers stopped him without cause, beat him and then jailed him on a pretext in an effort to get him deported.

Cobb County, in a statement issued late Wednesday night, said Castro Torres received $32,500 and the lawsuit was dismissed against the county and the officers involved, and that the settlement was no admission of county liability or wrongdoing. The statement also said the FBI and county internal affairs office investigated the officers’ conduct and found no policy or criminal violations.

The civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta alleged that Castro was riding his bike on South Cobb Drive in unincorporated Smyrna on March 26, 2010, when he was stopped by Officers Jeremiah M. Lignitz and Brian J. Walraven. The lawsuit said the officers asked to see Castro’s identification and inquired about his immigration status. At some point during the stop, the lawsuit alleged, Lignitz punched Castro, breaking his nose and eye socket.

Castro was arrested on two charges of obstructing a law enforcement officer, which were later dismissed.

The police report and arrest warrants offered a different version of the incident when the man was stopped. Officers stated that they noticed Castro riding his bicycle because he was wearing unspecified “gang attire.” The officers reportedly stopped Castro when he rode his bicycle into the crosswalk in front of them, almost striking their patrol car. They stated that Castro gave his name but was evasive when questioned about his date of birth.

At one point, the police report said, Castro tried to break away from the officers, so Lignitz grabbed him and pushed him against the patrol car. Lignitz stated he struck Castro with his forearm when Castro tried to reach toward the officer’s duty belt to grab his Taser.

Castro was represented by Brian Spears as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Project, two organizations that say their goal is to put an end to a program that has resulted in the deportation of more than 6,500 illegal immigrants from the Cobb County jail. The program, known as 287(g), is a local-federal partnership that trains deputies to identify inmates who are in the country illegally and hand them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Gwinnett, Hall and Whitfield counties and the Georgia State Patrol also participate in 287(g).

“No amount of money can ever make up for the blatant violations of our client’s constitutional and civil rights or the injuries he suffered,” Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a news release. “But we hope this settlement sends a clear message that these types of abuses won’t be tolerated.”

May 12, 2011

5/11 – Cuentame (Video) – Immigrants For Sale

Cuentame – Immigrants For Sale

Cuentame has launched today this powerful animated video on the abuse by private prison corporations and how they are locking up immigrants for a profit:

Today we are also launching with partner organizations a national day of action, protesting outside Wells Fargo, CCA, GEO group and shareholder homes in New York, Los Angeles, Tucson, San Francisco, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia to protest the anti-immigration bills tied to ALEC and private prison money.

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