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Let's set aside for a moment the overt racism that brought cheers of approval for Newt Gingrich during his exchange with Juan Williams at last Monday's latest installment of the Republican Clown Show.

Yes, Newt's doubling down on his "Black children would be better served learning something more suited to their station in life... like mopping floors" moment was jaw droppingly ignorant, and racist  ... but should we expect any more from a man who has characterized the President as a food stamp peddling, Kenyan anti-colonialist?  Newt staked out his ground as far as race is concerned a long time ago and has firmly planted himself in the Antebellum South he so reveres.

But lying just beneath the surface of the Historian and Chief's racially charged comment was another right-wing philosophy as pernicious and persistent... a disdain and disrespect for those who earn their living with their hands, the strength of their backs, or the sweat of their brows.

While much of the focus on just how out of touch Republicans are with average working people has been aimed at Willard Romney and his numerous gaffs and missteps in attempting to relate to "regular folks," Newt has chosen to run with a familiar and frequent right-wing theme... "your job is so insignificant, a child could replace you."    

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Sat Aug 14, 2010 at 10:02 AM PDT

Time to take the ball and go home?

by Duke1676

Back in the summer of 2008, when the heady promise of hope and change was still fresh and unspoiled by the realities of political expediency and power, candidate, Barack  Obama sat down and answered some questions about immigration issues for the editors of The Sanctuary.

While many of his responses were the kind of predictable boilerplate we've come to expect from those running for office,  a quick glance back allows us to see just how little his promises and pronouncements actually meant.

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For years, all we've heard from those opposed to immigration and immigration reform is that until the government could prove that it was "serious" about border security and enforcement, no meaningful discussion of immigration reform was going to take place.  The mantra of "we can't reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can't control immigration unless we control our borders" has been the guiding principle behind every obstructionist attempt to derail systematic reform. And attempts to appease restrictionists, by adopting "enforcement first" policies" have become the accepted framework from which all discussions were forced to start.

But most of those working for positive change have known all along that "enforcement first" is just a catch-22. It's an ever-moving target that was never intended to be reached. The ultimate goal of those opposed to reform has never been to "control" immigration...but rather to end it.

Yet despite these obvious facts, both the Bush and Obama administrations dived head first into the enforcement waters.

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There are numerous reasons why it would be wise for Washington to address the nation's failed immigration policies sooner rather than later and finally fix a system that no one on either end of the political spectrum believes is either functioning properly or serving the best interests of the people . Even though studies show that reforming immigration would be a boost to the economy at a time when it could surely use one, and human rights issues make reforming the system a moral imperative, many still believe that it's an issue too politically hot to handle.

Since nothing yet has provided the requisite motivation to those in Washington to move forward and tackle reform, it's time to start to look at it through a prism they can understand: Pure Machiavellian political calculation.

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The most common explanation that comes from the right for the current failure of the immigration system is of course lack of enforcement.  They claim the problem would be easily solved if only we spent more time, money, and effort locking up or deporting unauthorized immigrants, or patrolling thousands of miles of border to keep them out.  They couple this with an argument against providing a normalization of status for 12 million undocumented immigrants based the failure of the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

They have taken these two ideas and tied them into nice package to form the foundation of their narrative in opposition to immigration reform. A narrative that essentially says; "You can't reform immigration unless the borders are totally secure...and you can't have an  'amnesty' because we tried that before and it only opened the floodgates to more 'illegal' immigration by rewarding lawbreakers."

This simple narrative has allowed them dominate debate and set the parameters of how CIR has been crafted in all past attempts, with a heavy reliance on enforcement and border security, restrictive guest worker programs, and in return, some limited normalization of status for some the undocumented population.

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While everyone in Washington has been banging heads over health care reform, the economy and jobs, quietly behind the scenes Democrats have been working on attacking another hot button issue...immigration reform. And while rumors of whether reform has any chance of seeing the light of day abound, coalitions are being built, political alliances formed, and legislative agendas explored.

Leading the push in the Senate, where the powers that be have decided the battle should begin, is Chuck Schumer.  In recent months he's called together leaders from all the stakeholders in the debate to get a lay of the land. Labor, business, immigrant rights activists, representatives of faith organizations ... all have weighed in and expressed their wants and concerns.

Schumer's also been looking for a couple of "republican champions" to help him nurse the bill through the Senate. With McCain abdicating his previous leadership role, due in no small part to his wish to save his political hide in what could be a very tenacious battle for re-election, all eyes have turned to McCain fan-boy, Lindsey Graham.  

Obviously, Schumers looking to put together a big tent.

But apparently that "big tent" just got a little bigger ...ridiculously bigger

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Over the past ten days much has been written about Haiti's troubled past, the ramifications and causes of it's crushing poverty and political instability, and the historical role many nations have played in perpetuating it's suffering.

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Like dogs salivating to the sound of a dinner bell, it didn’t take long for the forces of the status quo to weigh in on the new immigration bill unveiled yesterday by Rep. Luis Gutierrez(D-IL) with their usual reflexive reactions

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Yesterday, thousands of immigration reform advocates converged on Washington to demand that Congress and the Administration live up to their promises to take up reform, and repair our broken immigration system.  And while news of this gathering of pro-reform advocates was overshadowed by the events surrounding the health care debate, it should be remembered that both of these causes are part and parcel of the greater struggle for change that brought so many together last November in the hope of setting a new agenda for the 21st century.

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(From the diaries -- kos)

On Tuesday Oct 13th, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus led by Rep. Luis Gutierrez(Il-D), will be joined in Washington by 2,500 representatives of labor, immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups, and faith-based communities from across the country to unveil what is being touted as a list fundamental principles behind a new progressive, comprehensive immigration bill to be introduced before the end of the month.

"I am overwhelmed by the support of immigrant, faith-based and community-based organizations in urging me to introduce comprehensive immigration legislation. I look forward to joining them on Tuesday so that I can share with them more specifically the key principles that will form the basis of such a bill," said Rep. Gutierrez.

"We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it," continued Rep. Gutierrez. "Saying immigration is a priority for this Administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action, and the longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation we debate will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform."

"We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you; but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship.  We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our workforce by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows."

"I believe the support base for this kind of compassionate and comprehensive legislation is strong and far reaching, and I believe the votes are there to pass it. I have always said that immigration reform will not be easy; but it is time we had a workable plan working its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream."

We have yet to see Rep Gutierrez's recommendations, but after years of controversy and partisan fighting, we are still no closer to any meaningful new national immigration policy than we were over eight years ago when President Bush first claimed he would make it a top priority upon taking office. Much of the blame for this situation clearly rests on the shoulders of the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party, who chose political expediency and a divisive brand of slash and burn political theater over the responsible execution of their duties.

But, there have also been divisions within the Democratic Party that have helped stall the effort. While generally stating support for some sort of "comprehensive reform," there has been little consensus on exactly what that reform should entail.

We’ve seen numerous compromise bills, intended to find a “sweet spot” that would appease all parties, go down in flames after concessions were made to restrictionists to accept their far-right policies as a prerequisite to even bringing the issue to the table, only later to find that no matter how many concessions were made, or how restrictive or punitive the legislation ...they were never satisfied.

In the absence of meaningful reform, undocumented immigrants still daily traverse the borders risking their lives, and sometimes losing them, in order to find work and security in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been incarcerated in order to line the pockets of a growing private prison system rife with abuse and neglect, or to appease the shrill voices of those who look to draconian enforcement as the sole means of regulating the flow of migration.

Billions of dollars more have been squandered in a time of economic instability on failed attempts to seal the borders with walls and technology purchased from the same companies that willingly emptied our national coffers for the last eight years in the “war on terror” both here and abroad. ... all because of our reliance on the failed “enforcement only” policies of the past.

Additionally, the divisive and racially charged rhetoric surrounding the debate has fostered a growing culture of hate that has led to increased violence aimed at immigrant and ethnic communities.

Given this situation, the need to address immigration reform is pressing.

But in order for any reform legislation to be effective, and more importantly, be a permanent solution that will stand the test of time, we must end the failed policies of the past that rely solely on enforcement and deterrence. Instead we should work towards a flexible immigration system that can be responsive to all the push and pull factors that drive migration globally.

A properly formulated and functioning immigration system should not only address the labor and economic needs of the US, but also the forces in sender nations that drive migration globally, whether they be economic, political, social, or humanitarian in nature. It should protect all workers, both native-born and immigrant from exploitation, and end policies that foster an underground economy that makes "criminals" out of millions of hard working people both native and foreign born.

Unlike the past, we should judge future legislation and policy not by how successful it will be at apprehending, deporting, or incarcerating migrants ... but rather on how little apprehension, deportation and incarceration would be necessary.

With that said, what follows are twenty-five principles that should be included in any truly progressive immigration reform legislation ...


  1. End policies that rely only on enforcement and deterrence as the sole means of regulating migration.
  2. Address the root causes of immigration, and change US policy so that it doesn't foster and produce conditions that force hundreds of thousands of people each year to leave their countries of origin in order to simply survive.
  3. Tie all current and future trade, military, and foreign aid agreements to not only worker protections both here and abroad, but also to their ability to foster economic progress and social justice for the working class and poor in sender nations.
  4. Formulate a reasonable, humane, fair and practical method for determining the levels of immigration going forward. Establish an independent commission free from the pressures of political expediency and business interests to review all the pertinent data and set admission numbers based on labor, economic, social, and humanitarian needs.
  5. Provide a path to legalization for all current undocumented immigrants living and working in the US, free of restrictions based on  country of origin, economic status, education, length of residency, or any other “merit based” criteria.
  6. Secure the borders by first ensuring that the vast majority of new immigrants have the ability and opportunity to legally enter the country through legal ports of entry by increasing the availability and equitable distribution of green cards. This would curtail the flow of migration through illegal channels. Only after that, should enforcement begin to ensure compliance, or any work to physically secure the border take place.
  7. Increase the focus on enforcement of all labor and employment laws. Increase penalties on employers who engage in unfair or illegal labor practices. Increase funding for government oversight and inspection.
  8. Opposition to a "temporary guest worker" program on the grounds that it provides no benefit to the American people or the immigrants themselves. It only provides big business with a disposable work force, and prevents immigrants from becoming a viable force in the workplace or full fledged members of society.
  9. Foster an immigration policy that strengthens the middle and working class through encouraging unionization, increased naturalization, and immigrant participation in the electoral process.
  10. Include the language of the DREAM Act that would allow children and young adults brought here as children, and raised in the US, a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education or community service. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. At the end of the long process, the young person can have the chance to become an American citizen or legal residency by completing their educations and contributing to society.
  11. Included the language of the Uniting American Families Act that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain permanent residency.
  12. Include the language of the AgJobs bill that seeks to relieve chronic farm labor shortages by supplying undocumented migrant agricultural workers a legal opportunity to enter the county and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship. It also bolsters labor rights and protects workers from exploitation.
  13. Repeal the sections of the 1996 law that redefined vast numbers of crimes as deportable offense when committed by immigrants. Imposing harsh penalties--often permanent exile--on  immigrants for minor criminal convictions like shoplifting or possession of marijuana.
  14. End permanent detention of all migrants for immigration violations not related to violent crimes.
  15. Simplify the immigration system by eliminating and condensing the hundreds of various visa classes into a smaller, more manageable, classification system that allows for not only easier navigation of the system, but better analysis of current immigration needs.
  16. End policies and programs that rely upon state and local law enforcement agencies to usurp the role of the federal government and engage in the enforcement of federal immigrations codes.
  17. Bring U.S. immigration law in line with international human rights law by reforming asylum and refugee law and strengthening protections for children, crime victims, and victims of human trafficking
  18. Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.
  19. Make family reunification simpler by expanding the “immediate family” classification to reflect the cultural realities of many non-western or traditional societies from which immigrants come.
  20. Allow immigration judges the discretion to treat cases on an individual basis and make decisions based on the specific the circumstances and outcomes of the case.
  21. Make punishments of immigration crimes commensurate with comparable crimes in other areas of the law. A misdemeanor or civil violation of immigration law should not carry with it a punishment that would be comparable to a felony in a criminal case.
  22. End, or raise, the per-country cap that favors smaller nations with fewer immigrant applicants over larger developing nations and those countries that have long traditional ties to the US.
  23. Update the Registry Date in Sec 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to reflect the historical pattern of periodic updating. Current date should be updated to 1996.
  24. Eliminate 'crimes involving moral turpitude,' an amorphous legal holdover from Jim Crow
  25. Recognize that immigration is a vital part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant America. It is what has set this nation apart from all others since its inspection. To close our borders to new immigrants is to cut off the lifeblood that has always made this nation grow and prosper.

Any legislation that claims to be truly progressive, pro-migrant, and in the best interests of immigrant communities, should incorporate these principles to be not only effective long term, but practical, and most importantly humane.


Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 06:45 AM PDT

Words Do Matter Mr. Obama

by Duke1676

During the last ten minutes of President Obama's address to Congress on health care reform Wednesday, we witnessed perhaps one of the most stirring defenses of liberalism we've heard in years from any politician. Evoking the words and memory of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Obama demonstrated once again the substantial oratory skills that helped put him in office. As a rhetorical exercise, his closing remarks were about as pitch perfect as it gets.  

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Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:46 PM PDT

Demand Justice for Julio Maldonado

by Duke1676

This past Wednesday, police in Patchogue NY were once again called to investigate another hate crime. This time it was at a small church directly across the street from where Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero had been brutally stabbed to death by a roving gang of racist youths last November. A window of the Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion had been  broken and notes with messages like "Hispanics don't rule, whites do" were strewn across the alter.

Ironically, this happened on the same day that the Southern Poverty Law Center was in town to announce the release of a detailed report documenting the nativist hate and culture of violence that had been festering in Long Island's Suffolk County for years.

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