Archive for 2010

Immigration activists denounce quota memo

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
By Clement tan and Teresa watanabe – LA TImes

They call for the ouster of the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a top department official lamented that the pace of deportations was falling behind a goal of 400,000 annually.

Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington – A coalition of immigrant rights groups Tuesday demanded the ouster of the nation’s top immigration official, charging that underlings at Immigration and Customs Enforcement were thwarting Obama administration policy by setting a quota on deportations.

“The reality is that ICE has gone rogue and needs to be reined in with dramatic action,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Community Change. “The agency charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws is systematically deceiving the president and the American public.”

The accusations followed a weekend report in the Washington Post about a Feb. 22 memo from a top ICE official lamenting that the pace of deportations was falling behind a goal of 400,000 annually. The memo also outlined policy changes to turn around the trend.

Bhargava’s group, along with several regional activist groups, called on President Obama to replace John T. Morton, the assistant secretary in charge of ICE at the Department of Homeland Security.

The activists said the agency memo was “a clear violation” of previous statements by Morton that his agency did not set deportation quotas and diverts from the administration’s stated position that it would focus deportation efforts on undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes. READ MORE

‘Love in a Cemetery’ at the 18th St. Art Center

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The title of 18th Street Art Center’s ambitious group exhibition, “Love in a Cemetery,” comes from artist Allan Kaprow, who said, “Life in the museum is like making love in a cemetery.” Kaprow attempted to escape the museum’s sepulchral air with “happenings,” open-ended, participatory events that blurred the line between art and everyday life.

In this spirit, the exhibition presents works that take place within and outside the gallery, seeking to reevaluate the relationship between cultural institutions and the communities they serve. It succeeds, not so much in reinvigorating the gallery space, but in raising questions about how such works might best be presented within its walls.

Organized by curator Robert Sain and artist Andrea Bowers, the show is supposedly structured around a series of questions on the relationship between “cultural institutions” and “community,” both of which are ill-defined. People have scrawled various answers, ranging from glib to smart-alecky, in chalk on the walls of the gallery. Although broadly participatory, it’s the least compelling part of the show.

The rest of the pieces were created by Bowers and eight graduate students from the Public Practice Program at the Otis College of Art & Design. The students, in pairs or individually, teamed with five community organizations to create projects that would both have a positive impact on their respective communities and produce a work to be shown in the gallery.

Rodrigo Marti and Felicia Montes worked with gang intervention program Homies Unidos to develop art workshops, a panel discussion, and a poster and sticker campaign supporting the legal case of the program’s director, Alex Sanchez, who was indicted in a gang-related case in 2009. In the gallery, posters, fliers and protest signs line one of the walls and visitors can contribute to the cause by purchasing T-shirts, stickers and jewelry at a makeshift self-serve kiosk. The work successfully turns the gallery into an information and fundraising center, even if its traditional activist aesthetic — high contrast graphics, long columns of text and slapdash construction — loses some of its urgency on the gallery walls.

Less effective are the results of Rachael Filsinger and Ella Tetrault’s project with My Friend’s Place, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Hollywood. Filsinger and Tetrault ran workshops with the center’s young clients, encouraging them to record all the places they had lived or visited on conventional printed maps. Mounted on sheets of plywood, some of the maps are annotated with expressions of frustration or political conviction, but the scrawled lines and dots are often so cryptic that one can’t help feeling that the real work lies elsewhere. The maps are the byproduct of a process that hopefully has had some positive influence on its participants; it’s too bad we don’t know more about it.

Projects like these point to some of the difficulties of representing community-based work within the walls of the gallery. Should artists behave more like documentarians? Or should activism and art remain separate? On the other hand, is it enough to simply move the signs, T-shirts and stickers indoors?

Jamie Crooke’s partnership with the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic provides one possible answer. Crooke walked the streets around the clinic pushing a cart selling health-related items–bandages, apples, wheat grass seed, Emergen-C packets — in exchange for a dollar or a bit of conversation. In addition to examining the cart itself, gallery visitors can watch a video and flip through a photo book documenting the project. The cart also features a price list including the above mentioned items as well as the cost of one year of employer-provided health insurance (about $13,000) and the annual compensation of United Health Group’s CEO (more than $9 million). With this sly, humorous gesture, the piece makes its critical point about inequities in healthcare spending, whether one sees it on the street or in the gallery.

It’s impossible to ascertain whether Crooke’s project had a greater impact than the rest; she simply presented it more thoughtfully. It is more than enough to go out and help others or fight injustice, but communicating that accomplishment — giving one’s vision a life beyond the immediate moment — is where the institution, whether a museum, an archive or, ahem, a newspaper, plays a role. Yes, the museum is often a mausoleum, housing the remnants of more vital activity, but how else will the rest of us know what happened?

18th Street Arts Center, 1639 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 453-3711, through March 26. Closed Saturday and Sunday. www.18thstreet .org

Dignity Not Detentions

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Los Angeles advocates launch \'Dignity not Detention\' campaign in tandem with events around US

‘Removal Process’ For Immigrants Riddled With Staggering Problems

Friday, February 26th, 2010

By Beth Werlin

A new study by the American Bar Association confirms what many advocates already feared: Our country’s removal process fails to offer even a glimmer of due process.

For over a year, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration and the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP engaged in a comprehensive review of the current removal process. The law firm poured over hundreds of articles, reports, legislative materials, and other documents, and interviewed scores of participants in the system, including lawyers, judges, advocacy groups, and academics. This study led them to conclude what many immigrants, their families, and immigration lawyers and advocates already knew and what many others suspected: the removal system is severely flawed and fails to afford fair process to all noncitizens facing deportation from the United States. The study details many of the deficiencies in the current system and makes a strong case for systemic reform.

The 71-page executive summary reveals staggering numbers and facts. For example:

  • Between 1996 and 2008, the number of people removed per year grew from just over 69,000 to over 356,000. This tremendous increase, however, has not been met with commensurate resources.
  • Immigration judges completed on average 1,243 cases per year. (In comparison, Veterans Law Judges decide about 729 cases per year (of which only 178 involve hearings) and Social Security Administration administrative law judges decide about 544 cases per year.) Given the overwhelming case load and the lack of adequate support staff, immigration judges primarily issue oral decisions, meaning that decisions are made without sufficient time to conduct legal research and analyze complex legal and factual issues.
  • Although “[t]here is strong evidence that representation affects the outcome of immigration proceedings,” in 2008, 57% of people in removal proceedings were not represented. Of those in detention, 84% were forced to proceed without lawyers. Not only are many people unable to afford counsel, but remote detention facilities, short visiting hours, restrictive phone access, and transfers all have a devastating effect on a noncitizen’s ability to retain counsel and maintain an attorney-client relationship. READ MORE…

ICE Numbers Reveal Need for Revised Definition of ‘Criminal’

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Immigration Impact/ by Travis Packer

ICE claims it is beginning to detain more criminal immigrants, but the numbers aren’t so black and white when you examine how it defines criminality.

A new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released last week reveals that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is beginning to detain more criminal immigrants as opposed to non-criminal immigrants, which is in line with ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton’s stated goal.

The numbers, however, aren’t so black and white when you examine how ICE defines criminality. ICE currently classifies “criminals” as persons found guilty of minor violations of law such as traffic offenses, disorderly conduct, as well as immigrations violations such as illegal entry. While the report, which covers the first three months of Fiscal Year 2010, hints that the growing proportion of criminal detainees is the result of revised detention policies under the Obama administration, the report begs the questions of who we’re locking up, why and at what expense.

During the first quarter of FY 2010, 43 percent of detainees had a criminal record, compared to only 27 percent in FY 2009, according to the TRAC report. From 2005 to 2009, the percentage of detainees with a criminal record declined from 40 percent to 27 percent before the recent uptick.

The goal of ICE programs such as Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien Program is to detain “high risk criminal aliens” who have committed serious offenses. But what about immigrants who have never been convicted of a serious crime? Read More…

Black Immigrants Rights Group Dispels Misconceptions

Monday, January 25th, 2010

By Andres Caballero, New America Media.

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Black Alliance for Just Immigration — a key player in immigrant rights advocacy and education — inaugurated their new office in downtown Oakland, starting off the year with an open house event attended activists and community leaders.

Unlike similar organizations, BAJI’s work extends beyond pushing for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. They believe in a long-term solution that brings forth information and dialogue on race, globalization and social justice among African Americans.

“No matter what legislation passes, it wont settle the issue of immigrant rights: it may or may not help us develop a social movement. We need to understand that whatever happens with immigration legislation, the struggle continues even after the battle is won or lost,” said BAJI Director Gerald Lenoir.

Their focus lies on directly addressing the root of the problem: misinformation among the African-American community and a general lack of knowledge regarding the international economic policies directly linked to immigration. Read more…

Alex Sanchez Wins Bail

Friday, January 15th, 2010

By Tom Hayden, The Nation

LOS ANGELES. Jan. 13. U.S. Judge Manuel Real granted Alex Sanchez bail after a closed ninety-minute session with law enforcement and civic officials today. The former gang member and founder of Homies Unidos is expected to be freed in ten days after posting $2 million property and sureties.

Sanchez still faces conspiracy charges with 23 others rounded up by the FBI in a government blitz using federal racketeering laws against alleged Mara Salvatrucha (MS) members. The trial is scheduled for October in Los Angeles.

A beaming Oscar Sanchez, the younger brother of Alex Sanchez, praised the ruling by Real, which he said “underlines the judge’s finding that Alex is not a danger to the community nor a flight risk. We believe he is in fact a great asset to communities like ours across the country.”

Supporters of Sanchez, organized as, were jubilant in many cities where pressure campaigns have been mounted. The decision was seen as a victory for gang intervention workers, many of whom have attended the LA proceedings since June.  Read more…

Police Chief Beck says Intervention is the Solution

Friday, January 15th, 2010

By Dennis Romero – LA Weekly

Police Cheif Beck calls intervention “the primary thing” that “will eventually be the solution to gang violence that gets exported out of L.A.”

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck was asked if one of the reasons gang crime was low in the city because gang members are getting too old to get down. He didn’t think so, telling a town-hall gathering of listeners of KPCC (89.3 FM) that “gang membership is not down — gang violence is down.”

Beck said police were targeting trouble-makers, not necessarily gangs themselves. And he gave an endorsement for the city’s new, $200,000 gang intervention training academy. He called intervention “the primary thing” that “will eventually be the solution to gang violence that gets exported out of L.A.”

Beck made the comments on-air Thursday on Patt Morrison’s “Ask The Chief” segment, which aired before a live audience.

Beck is banking on gang intervention in part because he has a limited number of officers, and the city budget doesn’t seem to bode well for an increase in the number of badges at the department. Also, the state has been ordered to release 40,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding. A plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to meet the federal order was recently approved, but it’s not clear when the convicts will reach the streets.

Experts believe that many of those released will end up in Los Angeles County, and that many are gang members. Beck has said if the community does not reintegrate them in a constructive way, gangs will take them in in a more-destructive way.

The Health Care Battle May Soon Be Over: Next Up? Immigration.

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

By Seth Hoy, Immigration Impact.

As the Washington Post editorial and numerous Immigration Policy Center fact sheets point out, distributing health care costs across a broader pool of people actually lowers the overall costs for everyone.

As Congress continues to broker the specifics of health care legislation, some reports cite key Democrats as allegedly holding out their support of the bill contingent on a solid White House promise that a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be addressed this year — a reform bill that would provide health care coverage options to all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants on an earned path to citizenship.

According to a recent Talking Points Memo article, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) — which threatened to block the health care bill back in November if restrictive language prohibiting illegal immigrants from accessing the public health insurance exchange wasn’t changed — is now allegedly willing to pledge their support as long as they have President Obama’s promise that a forthcoming immigration bill will include health care coverage for undocumented immigrants. CHC recently disputed this claim, but held that it still “opposes provisions in the Senate health care bill that would negatively impact immigrants.”

Currently, the House health care bill allows undocumented immigrants to purchase insurance on the exchange with their own money. The Senate bill, however, does not. It’s also important to note the neither the House nor the Senate health care bill subsidizes insurance for undocumented immigrants.  Read more…

Immigration Reform Will Ease Economic Decline

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

By Esther M. Gentile, New America Media

“It cannot be in any way justified to try to oppose immigration reform on the basis of an economic argument.”

WASHINGTON–A new study by a leading academic researcher contends that legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over a 10-year period, generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, increase wages and consumer spending, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The study, “Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” was conducted by Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Hinojosa presented the findings during a telephonic press conference moderated by Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

“Number one … legalization produces an immediate economic impact, based on what we’ve known happens in previous legalizations. The reason is because legalization empowers workers immediately to become much more committed and integrated into the economy,” Hinojosa said. Read more…