Monday, December 03, 2007

Anti-Immigrant Rage Dehumanizes the Undocumented

New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Nov 30, 2007

Editor's Note: The CNN/You Tube Debate earlier this week showed what a hot-button topic that immigration was -- with Republican candidates vying over who has the harshest measures concerning undocumented immigrants. But a closer look at the rising numbers of hate crimes reported against immigrants shows the deadly effects of anti-immigrant rhetoric, writes NAM contributor Roberto Lovato.

The focus of this week’s Republican debate on immigration makes one thing clear: We have entered the age of selective humanity. In other words, some humans are more human than others. Nowhere in the debate talk of “illegal aliens” and “sanctuary mansions” or who or what is “American” was there any notion that the undocumented were humans.

As a result, much of the “debate” around immigration has been and continues to be defined by the rage of the anti-immigrant right, a right that champions and humanizes those that shoot and jail migrants instead of focusing on the migrants themselves – who are stripped of anything beyond the parasitic, criminal image that makes for “fiery” television head-butting. Such a climate does not look at the violence and abuse suffered by migrants. It does not ascribe humanity to them.

The media of just one week yields many examples of how undocumented immigrants suffer through things that no politician or pundit is talking about. For example, the Arizona Republic reported this week about a dramatic rise in the number of undocumented who are kidnapped at gunpoint, held for ransom, tortured and even killed; an analysis of the FBI hate crime statistics by the Southern Poverty Law Center found an estimated 35 percent increase in hate crimes against those perceived to be undocumented including cases like that of a Cuban man killed at an improvised roadblock and that of man sodomized with a patio umbrella pole; in Greensboro, Ga., last week, Police Officer Brent Gulley was caught stealing cash from Latinos pulled over for numerous alleged offenses while in Tucson another undocumented man was shot by authorities under questionable circumstances; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Broward county is investigating an immigration agent who was transporting a 39-year-old mother for deportation to Jamaica and allegedly raped her in his home in what authorities say is the second such incident in the past month.

And to no one’s surprise, Lou Dobbs and the anti-migrant echo chamber exercised their right to selective humanity and regularly and completely ignore these stories and, instead, focus on faux-hero stories like that of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Ramos and Compean became a cause celebre of the anti-immigrant set after being convicted for firing 15 bullets at a suspected drug dealer and then trying to cover up the evidence. Those who watch Dobbs' show are saturated with weekly reports about the families of Ramos and Compean and other humanizing stories. These same viewers – and most Americans – haven't an inkling of the deepening abyss of violence and hate aimed at immigrants.

It's no coincidence that such incidents come in a climate of increasing racial and economic tension as seen, for example, in the current rise in hate crimes. Sadly, crimes against immigrants go largely unreported not only because of the fear in the immigrant community. As the former president of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, I learned that migration status is not included as a category in most hate crime data-gathering and statistics. So, while the FBI report is helpful, it likely captures little of the official and un-official crimes against those vilified daily on CNN news and debates and in state legislatures.

Some of us are old enough to remember when the politics of selective humanity around immigration started back in the 90s, when the contemporary politics of immigration were first shaped in California. At that time, many Democrats and their allies pointed to polls showing that “moral arguments around immigration don't work with the voters.” In other words, pollsters were telling them that humanity and humanizing the issue wouldn't win elections against the immigration wedge-deploying Republicans. Today, we've reached a point in which, not only are “moral” or “humane” immigration policies taboo, but one in which even Democrats like Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) are co-sponsoring punitive, enforcement only policies like the SAVE Act (Secure America through Verification Enforcement). Some of the same Democratic politicos, pollsters and strategists who told us that “moral arguments around immigration don't work with the voters” are economically richer and more politically powerful. Until both parties recognize the humanity of immigrants, the barrage of horrific stories about crimes directed at this population will continue.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Maya-Kaqchiquel Poet and Indigenous Right Advocate

please let pass information of this great event to

A Celebration: Envisioning the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (part I)

Poet and Indigenous Right Advocate

Calixta Gabriel Xiquin


Whitsett Room,
Sierra Hall, Room 451

October 31

Time: Noon-2:00pm

Calixta Gabriel Xiquín was born in the state of
Chimaltenango and speaks Maya Kaqchikel. She fled to
the United States after three of her brothers were
kidnapped and murdered, and she stayed in the United
States from 1981 to 1988. She has an undergraduate
degree in Social Work from the University of Rafael
Landívar and has published her poetry in many
anthologies in Guatemala. Her first book of poems was
entitled Hueso de la tierra and was published in 1996.

The poetry included here is from her collection
Tejiendo los sucesos en el tiempo/Weaving Events in
Time, with English translation by Susan G. Rascón and
Suzanne M. Strugalla. It was published in 2002 by Yax
te' Foundation and its first printing sold out in

Sponsored by: College of Humanities Academic
Programming, Central American Studies Program,
Chicana/o Studies Department, CASAS, CAUSA, Associated
Students, and Colectivo Contacto Ancestral.

Alicia Ivonne Estrada, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Central American Studies Program
California State University, Northridge

18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8246

Phone: (818) 677-2736
Fax: (818) 677-7578

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writing Central American Poets into History

Celebrando los antepasados y el futuro!

Spoken Word Poetry with EPICENTRO POETS
Thursday NOV 1, 2007
Multicultural Center (near bookstore across from Psychology building)
@ CSU Long Beach

Hugo Nelson Chavez, Maya Chinchilla, Mario Escobar, Jessica Grande,
GusTavo Guerra Vásquez, Karina Oliva-Alvarado
and special guests

* donations accepted for upcoming anthology*

For more information:
Karina (626) 340-6970 or
Jayne Howell (562) 985-5192 jhowell AT csulb DOT edu

*Park in Lot 17 in meters or buy a parking permit at the visitor parking booth*

Sponsored by the program in Latin American Studies,
Department of Chicano/Latino Studies and Department of Sociology

Monday, October 15, 2007

Quique Aviles

heard about this poet when I was in DC where salvadorans are the dominant Latino group...yup you heard what I said...

El Salvador at-a-glance

By Quique Aviles

El Salvador at-a-glance

Area: the size of Massachusetts

Population: Not much left

Language: War, blood, broken English, Spanish

Customs: Survival, dance, birthday parties, funerals

Major exports: Coffee, sugar, city builders, busboys, waiters, poets

El Salvador
little question mark
midget with a gun in his hand
belly button of the world

The only country in the world
know for eating its national flower

Little question mark that begins to itch

You were supposed to clean carpets
not ask for time out and dialogue

You were supposed to follow instructions
given in the English language
not go to the garden and write a song

It has been said that pain has the ability to travel

El Salvador’s major cities:
San Salvador
San Miguel
Santa Ana
Los Angeles
San Wachinton, DC

It has been said that pain does not know how to
pose for a green card picture

It has been said that truth has the ability to happen
in the strangest moments
in the strangest cities
under the strangest circumstances

El Salvador in Wachinton
little question mark
little east of the border
migrant earthquake
wet back volcano
banana eating
tortilla making
mustache holder
funny dressing

forever happy
forever sad
forever Wachintonian Salvadorean.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cyber Chapina Travels

New blogs posted

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Central American Cacus @ Latino Congresso


October 5th-9th, 2007
Los Angeles, California
Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings- Many of you all participated in last years National Latino Congreso and were present at the “Central Americans in the US and Central America: A Status Report Workshop.” Last year, it was resolved that Central American community members would use the National Latino Congreso to further discuss issues relevant to our community at future Congreso meetings. We hope to build on last year’s gathering by engaging distinct sectors of the Central American community in developing plans related to our community for public policy, advocacy, legislative and electoral strategies for the next year. We invite you to participate in this important day of discussion. Please note: in order to submit resolutions, your organization must be a Convener, Co-Convener, or a registered organization. (Resolutions deadline this Friday September 28th).

The National Latino Congreso 2007 will have a Central American Caucus on Saturday October 6th, at 8am. at the Downtown Sheraton in Los Angeles, CA. We are still seeking Sponsors for the Caucus, so if your organization is interested please contact me at the info below.
Please take a moment to check out our website www.latinocongreso. org. I invite you to endorse and register! Please join us in downtown Los Angeles for this important event.


Miguel Perla
Coordinator, National Latino Congreso 2007
2914 N. Main Street, 1st Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Phone: (323) 222-2217
Fax: (323) 222-2011
Cell: 415-279-9759
mperla@wcvi. org
www.latinocongreso. org

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Of organized truth, the Jena6, and immigrant rights

From Echolandia and Youth Media Council:

Published on: September 22, 2007
Published by: karlos schmieder

We've been kicking around a quote at the YMC office since the POWER 10th Anniversary, em(Power)ed. Minister Christopher Mohamed, the keynote, came real.

He said, "Truth is essential, but it is, of itself, insufficient. Because disorganized truth can be overcome by an organized lie.”

I mean, he said a bunch of other deep shit.

This quote really struck a cord at YMC.

I thought a lot about it as I watched the Jena 6 coverage on CNN.

I have to say, the demonstration was beautiful. I wish I had gotten it together to get there.

Yet I heard CNN anchors gush all day that it was "the biggest civil rights demonstration in a generation."

Just so we're clear. The Jena6 demos WERE NOT the biggest civil rights demonstrations in a generation. The biggest were, of course, the May 1st marches for the civil rights of immigrants the past couple of years.

Now, the question isn't which were bigger. The question is how we connect these movements.

Race and civil rights are once again becoming central to the political debate in the United States. Unequal justice is a familiar theme.

Whether it's the immigration debate, Katrina, Jena6, education, health care...whatever.

And we've seen these major diverse and different gatherings of marginalized peoples.

* The May 1st demonstrations
* The United States Social Forum, and all the regional forums leading into it
* Jena 6

Yet none have truly been connected. Yes, there's been an effort. It's not as if people aren't doing stuff. The US Social Forum was an attempt at that, no doubt. There are folks connecting as a result. The Jena6 could've been helped by the forum happening in the South. But to say these movements are truly connected, or even "organized" in the traditional sense, would be foolish. (There's this viral thing to the way these events have manifested that we haven't figured out yet either.)

Folks have pointed out that it would have been great to see the crowds in Jena be more diverse. Same could be said for the May 1st demos.

And this just ain't a black/brown thing. It's about the inequalities and lack of opportunities for all our communities. It's about poor and working white folks and Native Americans too. It's about our Filipino sisters and brothers. It's about all of us. Civil and human rights at the center of the debate in this country is an opportunity to connect our movements, struggles and, yes, victories.

At the em(Power)ed event, Minister Mohamed quoted Frederick Douglas and Louis Farrakhan. "Power concedes nothing without demand," was the quote from Douglas. Mohamed pointed out that Farrakhan said power doesn't concede demand with out more power to back up that demand.
So that's my question. How do we organize our truth and power into collective demands that benefit us all? How do we really become a movement? Ok two questions...and even more than that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Desde El Epicentro

"An Anthology of U.S. Central American Poetry and Art"
Introduction to forthcoming book:

This anthology is about creating a home for those who have lost their home, who were taken from their home, who had it stolen, who decided it was time to leave and for those who carry their home in their heart and need a place to rest. It is about recovering, documenting and making our own histories and demanding their rightful place among cultural, political and literary movements. We give our testimony to resurrect memory, inspire action, to laugh loudly and to heal old wounds.

We are often asked why we want to distinguish ourselves as Central Americans. Why not just join in or blend into other cultural and political movements that have more established visibility and community support? Many of us are a part of community spaces where we work as a part of or in solidarity with communities of color, queer folks, immigrants, and educators. But we feel the need to create a space for our own U.S. Central American voices, which are still rarely heard. Ours are the voices that many of us wish we had heard more of growing up so we didn't feel so alone and invisible in our multicultural/multi-lingual realities.

This book also comes from finding solidarity and a home in the group EpiCentroAmerica that has since found its home in cyberspace. Founded in 2000 by Raquel Gutierrez and Marlon Morales, the group Epicentro or EpiCentroAmerica doesn't exist as it once did; meeting to workshop writings, organize events and perform as a collective. But our vital passion for doing creative work, the need to hear each other's voices and the desire to inspire new voices remains.

This anthology, an often talked about dream in Epicentro, is my contribution to cultivation of new spaces for Central American voices, the kind of voices that we have always wanted to hear; the conscious and empowered voices of compañeras/os who are immigrants, workers, students, mothers, fathers, children of borderlands and solidarity movements.

I hope you are moved to support this book and later published versions. The book will fulfill its goal if you find what you are looking for in it or if it inspires you to create what you want to see in the world.

Maya Chinchilla

Monday, September 10, 2007

Central American-American Studies Reader

Central American-American Studies Reader. Comparative and interdisciplinary papers sought for forthcoming anthology, to be edited by Arturo Arias and Claudia Milian, on cultural productions and representations of Central American-Americans in U.S. popular culture and/or mappings of U.S. Latinidad. Areas of exploration include:The relationship between Chicano, Latino, and Central American-American identities; Central American-American contributions to Latinidad; literary and media depictions of Central American migrations, cultural adaptation, and inter-ethnic relations; revolution and civil war as markers of Central American-American subjectivities; alienation in the U.S. metropolis and marginalization in U.S. Latino communities; Central American-Americans and the Mexico-Guatemala and U.S.-Mexico borderlands; cultural treatments of the trafficking of Central American labor in sexual and domestic industries; Central American-American re-indigenization of the U.S. landscape. Se nd 20-page, double-spaced papers, including references, by December 2007 to: Claudia Milian, Duke University, 205 Language Center, Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708-0257 and/or Arturo Arias at arturo_arias AT mail.utexas. edu.
Claudia Milian
Duke University
205 Language Center
Box 90257
Durham, NC 27708-0257
Email: claudia.milian AT

Sunday, September 09, 2007

HIGHWAYS' 3RD ANNUAL:Latino Works Festival

From Jessica Grande:
Please come out and support this saturday....I will be dancing with Erika Elizondo and other marvelous people...
Highways Performance Space and Gallery
@ the 18th Street Arts Center
1651 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Show Information
(310) 315-1459

Saturday, September 15 @ 8:30pm
A globe-trotting blend of dance and music featuring:

Erika Elizondo performing a collaborative piece with members of the dance companies L'Esprit D'Afrique, PAWS, and El Tambor. This work is an exploration into the energy of Ochun as a vessel of divine rhythm. Ochun is the Yoruban-derived, Afro-Cuban deity associated with sensuality, sweetness, fluidity and fertility. Elizando translates the deities sacred, ceremonial movement into its contemporary manifestations in the rhythms of Iyesa and rumba.

The Blankenship Ballet Company of Venice and Artistic Director Bertha Suarez Blankenship present two new works: "Liberdad!," featuring the world premiere of the new dance form "Capobale" (the blending of the Brazilian Martial Art for Capoeira with the Cuban Ballet Arts, resulting in a synergistic combustion of new work), featuring performance and music by Gustavo Calvas + choreography by Blankenship + Kimberly Mullen. Also feratured is "Metamorphosis," an abstract depiction of the evolution and metamorphosis of man and life, choreographed by Blankenship and Ramon Ramos Alayo after Narciso Medina.

The ABC Project combines the sacred and secular dance practices of Afro-Brazilian/Cuban performing arts in the new collaborative work "Yla � Divine Mortals," which explores the mortal conflict in achieving immortality through divine intervention. The work climaxes with a celebration of life in the experimental form of Samba Reggae, a Brazilian Carnavale dance. Choreographed by Kimberly Mullen, Dani Lunn, and Gustavo Caldas.

The Saturday night after-party is a Tribute to Celia Cruz, with her music played deep into the night. Featured will be music by Eddie Resto's Grupo Mundillo and Super DJ Ralph Montero ; vintage videos of "The Queen of Salsa"; and Celia Cruz impersonator Nahomy and her Divas. Come dip into our azucar-drenched mojitos (Cuba's National Drink), relax, and dance off the week. This event is hosted by Salsa*Arte* Sabor, an events producer whose mission is to host inclusive gay and lesbian Latin dance, art, and cultural events.

Globalization and the Fight for Central America

Globalization and the Fight for Central America:
Costa Rica Inc. and Beyond
(un evento bilingüe)

Saturday, September 15 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Guest speaker from Costa Rica:
Fabián Pacheco Rodriguez
The President of FECON & the son of former Costa Rican
President Abel Pacheco

Event Location:
The Women's Building
3543 18th St. (between Valencia and Guerrero)
San Francisco

Requested donation of $5.00
(everyone is welcome--no one turned away for lack of funds)

Globalize This! in conjunction with the Costa Rican Federation for the
Conservation of the Environment (FECON), will be hosting a special
event, co-sponsored by CISPES, which will look at the consequences of
free trade agreements on the Americas with a focus on Central America,
specifically Costa Rica. We will review contemporary struggles of
across the American continents against the ratification of the Central
America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Fabián will be discussing FECON's involvement in Bloque Verde and the
Costa Rican movement to defeat CAFTA in the upcoming referendum on
October 7, 2007. Fabián will be coming to us direct from Costa Rica
fresh off the front lines of this historic vote, which is the first
that any population has had the opportunity to vote on a free trade

The event will include a screening of segments of two documentaries,
"Fourth World War" and "Costa Rica Inc," and will include a
discussion of strategies for people in the U.S. to work in solidarity
with our comadres and compadres in Central America.

For more information, contact us at:


Globalización y la lucha por Centroamérica:
Costa Rica S.A. y los Demás

Sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2pm a 4pm

Orador especial de Costa Rica:
Fabián Pacheco Rodriguez
Actual presidente de FECON e hijo del ex-presidente de Costa
Rica, Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella

Sitio del Evento:
El Edificio de las Mujeres (The Women's Building)
3543 18th St. (entre Valencia y Guerrero)
San Franscisco

Se solicita una donación de $5 a la entrada pero no es obligatoria

Globalize This!, en conjunto con la Federación Costarricense para la
Conservación del Ambiente (FECON), serán los anfitriones de este
especial, con el fin de ver las consecuencias de los Tratados de libre
Comercio en las Américas, con un enfoque en Centroamérica, y Costa
en específico. Vamos a exponer las luchas contemporáneas de los
del continente americano, en contra de la ratificación del Tratado de
Libre Comercio EE.UU., Centroamérica y República Dominicana.

Tendremos la presencia del Sr. Fabián Pacheco Rodriguez, orador
actual presidente de FECON, e hijo del expresidente de Costa Rica, Dr.
Abel Pacheco de la Espriella.

Fabián discutirá la participación de FECON en el Bloque Verde, y el
movimiento costarricense para rechazar el TLC- EE.UU. en el referendo
del 7 de octubre de 2007. Fabián llegará directo desde Costa Rica,
ha estado en el frente de lucha de esta votación histórica, la cual,
representa la primera vez en que un país, tenga la oportunidad de
y decidir sobre un tratado de libre comercio.

El evento incluirá la proyección de algunos segmentos de dos
documentales: "Fourth World War" y "Costa Rica S.A." . Seguidamente,
se realizará la charla y discusión de estrategias para que la gente
los Estados Unidos, pueda trabajar en solidaridad con nuestros hermanos
en Centroamérica.

Para más información, contáctenos por email:

Guatemala electing new president

Article from BBC News:

The presidential vote is expected to go to second round
Guatemalans are voting in presidential and parliamentary elections after one of the bloodiest campaigns in the country's history.

More than 50 candidates, activists and their relatives have been murdered in the run-up to the elections.

The two main presidential contenders are Alvaro Colom, a centre-left businessman, and a former general, Otto Perez Molina.

They have vowed to fight crime and reduce poverty.

Mr Colom, who is running for the presidency for the third time in a row, has promised to overhaul the security forces and the judicial system, which many criticise for being slow, corrupt and inefficient.

Otto Perez Molina of the Patriotic Party addresses supporters
Otto Perez Molina says he will bring back the death penalty
Mr Perez Molina has pledged to increase the size of the police force by 50% and revive the death penalty.

Of the 14 presidential candidates, Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu is the best-known internationally, but she trails far behind the front-runners.

Alejandro Giammattei, from President Oscar Berger's party, is also trailing in the polls.

None of the candidates is expected to win the 50% support needed to win outright, and a second round run-off is expected on 4 November.

(click link for more)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mestiza Academic

Check out this educated salvi powerhouse and her blog:

Mestiza Academic

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Epicentro Anthology

Special K and I are working hard on editing the first copy of our anthology of Central American Poets of the diaspora. It will feature poetic works from Jessica Grande, Leyda Garcia, Leisy Abrego, Marlon Morales, Gustavo Guerra Vasquez, Karina Oliva Alvarado, Maya Chinchilla, Johnny Chavarria, Janssen Chavaria, Anayvette Martinez, Ana Miranda, Mario Escobar. The final book project will take time to raise money but in the meantime a chap book version will be availible and events will follow. Its been a long time coming and it is beautiful to finally see this project come together after so many years. I hope it will be an inspiration to all the folks both young and old who need to see themselves represented on the page with the powerful stories it will contain and also lead to other projects. SALU!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Deportation Devastating Families

Source: The Associated Press
Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7/18/2007 8:55 am - WASHINGTON -- An estimated 1.6 million children and spouses have been separated from family members forced to leave the country under toughened 1996 immigration laws, a human rights group said Wednesday.

WASHINGTON -- An estimated 1.6 million children and spouses have been separated from family members forced to leave the country under toughened 1996 immigration laws, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The separations have taken a toll on families who have sold homes, lost jobs, lost businesses or been thrown into financial turmoil, Human Rights Watch said in a new report.

The widespread impact on American families has been truly devastating, said Alison Parker, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

In 1996, Congress toughened immigration laws making immigrants, legal and illegal, deportable according to an expanded list of "aggravated felonies."

Congress made the law retroactive even to those who had served their sentences, and also eliminated hearings in which judges could consider an immigrant's family, community roots, military service or possible persecution in his or her native country.

Since this law was passed, 672,593 immigrants have been deported for crimes, according to statistics cited in the report from Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Homeland Security Department. Human Rights Watch used those numbers and Census data on foreign-born households to estimate how many family members were left behind in the U.S.

According to statistics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE), 64.6 percent of immigrants deported in 2005 had been convicted of nonviolent offenses. An additional 20.9 percent were deported for crimes involving violence against people, and 14.7 percent were deported for "other" crimes.

ICE has not released similar statistics for previous years.

"How do you explain to a child that her father has been sent thousands of miles away and can never come home simply because he forged a check?" Parker said.

The statistics don't show the full picture, said Kelly Nantel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman. "A non-violent offense like drugs can contribute to violence of society."

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement immigrants who violate the law forfeit their right to be in the U.S.

Steve Camorata, Center for Immigration Studies research director, said family members can leave with the deported immigrants. "Children constantly bear the consequences of their parents' poor decisions," he added.

Chiara, who did not want her last name used, said she and her two children tried to live where her husband was deported on a six-year-old misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. He served three days.

"We became homeless for quite a while. I was out of work when they deported him because I needed back surgery," said Chiara, who is a waitress.

Two immigrants ordered deported, Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz, have filed a complaint against the U.S. government with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. A hearing is scheduled Friday.

The commission enforces human rights treaties that apply in the Americas.


On the Net: Human Rights Watch report:

Immigration law trumps love

Aug. 19, 2007
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Immigration law trumps love

When U.S. citizens marry illegal immigrants, someone gets left out

Isaias Sosa, a U.S. citizen, holds his daughter, 4-year-old Aliyah, and a photo that includes his wife Nancy at his Las Vegas home. Nancy is living in Mexico after being barred from re-entering the United States for a decade because she had lived in the country illegally.
Photo by John Locher.

When Isaias Sosa first met the woman who would become his wife, he didn't think to ask about her immigration status.

Instead, he thought about how pretty her eyes were.

"They're tiny, like our daughter's are now," he said recently while looking at a photo of Nancy Sosa at his east Las Vegas home. "When she laughs, they kind of disappear."

When Sosa found out, months later, that Nancy was living illegally in the United States, he was already head over heels. It wouldn't have mattered, anyway. "For me, love doesn't matter what situation you're in," he said.

But the Sosas soon realized that love doesn't trump U.S. immigration laws.

The couple, who married five years ago, are now living nearly 2,000 miles apart because of those laws. Their 4-year-old daughter, Aliyah, is sometimes handed off between parents just south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

And, like many other families of mixed-immigration status who are in similar situations, the Sosas' future together is uncertain.

"It's been really, really hard. We don't want to be apart," Sosa, 24, said not long before his latest trip with Aliyah to Tijuana, where they were scheduled to meet Nancy, also 24.

But Sosa doesn't see much choice.

In 2006, Nancy was officially barred from re-entering the United States for a decade. If she does come back and is caught, she could be deported and never be able to legally re-enter the country.

She and Sosa, a U.S. citizen, had decided she should get legal status for the sake of their daughter, also a U.S. citizen.

"A lawyer told us she had to leave or could be deported," Sosa said. "We decided she should leave on her own. It would be better to do it now than later."

The couple believed since they were married and had a daughter together, Nancy would be able to come back to Las Vegas soon enough.

So in 2005, Nancy, who had been brought by her parents to the United States as a teenager, moved back to her central Mexican hometown of Toluca.

Sosa sometimes regrets they tried to make things right. "We didn't think this would happen," he said. "We were trying to do something good, but it's just been a whole lot of bad."

Current immigration law requires a person to make a lawful entry into the United States in order to adjust to legal permanent resident status.

Someone who entered the United States illegally would have to leave the country and then come back.

The problem Nancy and others encounter is they are barred from re-entering the United States for certain lengths of time because they lived illegally in the country.

It doesn't matter whether the person is married to a U.S. citizen, has American children, or has lived in the United States for years.

Those who stayed in the United States illegally for less than a year can be barred from re-entering for three years. Those who stayed more than a year can be barred for 10.

It wasn't always that way. At one time, those who had entered the country illegally but could come up with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident "sponsor" -- a spouse, family member or employer -- could pay a fine and get legal status. But that option only applied to those who filed for legal status before April 2001.

There are a few exceptions to the "really complicated" immigration laws that bar certain people from re-entering the United States, said Marie Sebrechts, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.

If someone can prove their absence from the United States will result in "extreme hardship" for a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, such as a spouse, parent or child, they could be granted a waiver though a U.S. consulate in Mexico.

The waivers are given on a case-by-case basis, Sebrechts said. She wouldn't give an example of who might qualify for a waiver.

Immigration attorneys say the waivers have become harder and harder to get in recent years. They're not sure why, but some attribute the difficulty to growing anti-illegal immigrant sentiment in the United States.

Some say applying for such waivers is akin to playing "Mexican roulette."

"But it really could be any country," said attorney Vicenta Montoya. "They (the waivers) are not being granted or are being granted arbitrarily."

Immigration attorneys say the odds of being granted a hardship waiver are best if applicants can prove they need to be in the United States to care for a seriously ill American citizen spouse or relative. But even that isn't guaranteed.

"It depends on who (which immigration official) you see on that particular day," Montoya said. "It depends on whether you get a harsh person or an easy person."

Since 2001, "thousands upon tens of thousands of people have no mechanism" to get legal status, said Jerry Stuchiner, an immigration attorney.

Stuchiner has gone so far as to recommend that his clients remain in the United States, even illegally, rather than risk being barred from returning.

"Most choose to go, against my better judgment, because they don't want to be illegal," he said.

Montoya said the arbitrariness with which waivers are granted leaves her with no clear way to tell whether clients might be granted a waiver or might instead be exiled outside the United States for up to 10 years.

"You are talking about families who are being separated," Montoya said. "We're talking about U.S. citizens who are directly impacted. Citizens who can't understand why they have to be separated" from their loved ones.

Montoya is trying to help those who are in similar situations by lobbying for a change in the law. She's hoping to persuade lawmakers to amend a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act to renew the previous option of allowing those who are illegally in the country and who have a sponsor to pay a fine to adjust their status.

Montoya has contacted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other legislators about the issue.

Reid is supportive of Montoya's idea, said his spokesman, Jon Summers.

"He's supportive of any legislation that fixes our broken immigration system and brings 12 million people out of the shadows," Summers said.

Despite ongoing, tense national immigration reform debates, Montoya thinks she has a good chance of eventually getting the law changed.

"They just need to move it to the present time," she said. "This could have an effect on a million people who are relatives of citizens and who are really afraid of going to their home countries."

It's a hope Isaias Sosa shares. His wife applied for a waiver at the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico, in late 2005, with the idea that being separated from her and their daughter equated to an "extreme hardship" for Sosa. Nine months later, she was told her waiver had been denied, and that she was not allowed to re-enter the United States for 10 years.

Through an attorney, the couple is appealing that decision.

In the meantime, whenever he has enough money and time off from his job as a bellman in a local casino, Sosa is able to spend a week or two with his wife and daughter in Mexico.

He has managed to see his wife about every six months and send $600 a month to support her and Aliyah. Meanwhile, he worries.

"Mexico's not safe," he said. "Every day I'm wondering whether they are OK. It scares me."

Sosa also worries that immigration reform might make things even harder for his family.

"As I watch that stuff on the news, it scares me. It could ruin everything for us."

He says Aliyah also is having a difficult time with the separation.

"She's always crying for her mom when she's here and for me when she's there," he said. "I don't think it's good for her."

When asked whether he and Nancy ever thought about her returning to the United States illegally, he nods.

"It drives a lot of people to do things illegally, because it's separating families."

Sosa hasn't accepted the idea that Nancy may be stuck in Mexico for years.

If that does happen, he'll consider moving there. But, he said, it would be difficult to support his family in Mexico.

The possibility is something he never imagined he'd face.

"My wife is a good person, and we're trying to be a family. I never thought dealing with immigration laws would be part of my life."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ALARMA! Aug 25th & 26th


conceived and performed by
Eric Aviles, Maya Chinchilla, Milta Ortiz, Gerardo Perez, Marc David
Pinate, Yadira de la Riva and Nicolas Valdez.

WHERE: Galería de la Raza, 2857 24th Street @ Bryant, San Francisco

WHEN: Saturday, August 25 & Sunday, August 26 @ 8:00 p.m.

TICKETS: $8 Students & Galeria Members; $10 General Admission

INFO: (415) 826-8009,

Galeria de la Raza proudly presents the world premier of Alarma!
A postmodern myth for the apocalyptic times we find ourselves in, Alarma!is a multidiscipline, hybrid performance blending elements of movement, spoken word, sound and video to explore the issue of immigration in the shadow of Western consumerism.

Commissioned by Galeria de la Raza as part of its Picturing Immigration Project – a year-long exposition of art exhibitions, film screenings and performances inspired by the 2006 May Day immigrant's rights marches around the country –
Alarma! uses non-linear narrative techniques combined with powerful imagery and text to go beyond the mainstream media rhetoric and reveal the underlying relationships between rich and poor, compassion and hate, us and them, love and fear which lie at the heart of the immigration debate.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Social Programs to Combat Gangs Seen as More Effective Than Police

Area Officials Advocate Mix of Prevention and Enforcement

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; B03
When it comes to fighting gangs, there's the New York City approach, and there's the Los Angeles approach, according to the Justice Policy Institute. And one statistic dramatizes the difference:
Two years ago, Los Angeles police reported 11,402 gang-related crimes; New York police, 520.
In a report being issued today, "Gang Wars," the Washington-based institute says it found overwhelming evidence that cities such as New York and suburbs and rural areas that use extensive social resources -- job training, mentoring, after-school activities, recreational programs -- make significant dents in gang violence. Areas that rely heavily on police enforcement, such as Los Angeles, have far less impact.
The institute analyzed dozens of academic reports on combating gangs and conducted research on the best ways to reduce gang violence. The report does not discuss gangs in the Washington area or its suburbs, partly because extensive investigations have not been performed in the region.
"Nobody we talked to thought that D.C. had a real gang problem," said Kevin Pranis, one of the report's authors. "Which is good news."
Institute officials say they hope the report will persuade legislators, in Washington and across the country, to allocate more money to proven social programs that target illegal gang behavior and less for large-scale arrest-and-imprison initiatives that often show short-term gains but make gang problems worse.
Officials in the District and its suburbs often stress the importance of both prevention and enforcement. In 2003, then-D.C. police chief Charles H. Ramsey launched the Gang Intervention Partnership Unit, working with schools, neighborhood groups and resident activists to reduce violence.
An independent report issued last year, looking at the unit's effects on the city's Latino population, gave a resounding endorsement: The number of Latino gang-related homicides in the city dropped from 21 between 1999 and 2003 to zero between 2003 and 2006.
"Suppression [enforcement] alone, that doesn't work," said Sgt. Juan Aguilar of the D.C. police. "That's only a Band-Aid. You've got to get to the root of the problem. It's social."
Similar sentiments were expressed by officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties, who said their police departments work closely with a variety of social service providers. In 2005, after a spate of gang violence in Northern Virginia, Fairfax launched a Coordinating Council on Gang Prevention and required several county service providers to participate.
Last year, Arlington launched its "Attention to Prevention" initiative to provide mentoring, leadership training and tutoring for youths. Police spokesman John Lisle said, "It's clear to us, to reduce the impact of gangs, it's not just a matter of locking people up."
The Justice Policy Institute describes itself as a think tank dedicated to ending society's reliance on incarceration and promoting effective solutions to social problems.
Statistics show that youth crime in the United States is at its lowest levels in 30 years and that gangs are responsible for a relatively small share of crime. In addition, according to a national Justice Department survey of police departments, gang membership declined from 850,000 in 1996 to 760,000 in 2004.
But occasional outbursts of violence prompt the media and politicians to seek immediate answers, said the report's authors, Pranis and Judith Greene.
"And it's more about politics than it is about serious efforts to do something," Greene said yesterday. "It's frustrating to see officials come forward with money for mass arrests, when the money is so sorely needed in programs that are tried and true and can really work."
In New York, the use of social programs to prevent gangs started in the 1950s, and the programs have continued to receive funding throughout the cycles of gang activity, the new report says. Street-level social workers, gang intervention programs and job training have been used for decades. "New York really doesn't have a chronic gang problem," said Greene, a New York resident.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, "retains the dubious honor of being the gang capital of the world," the report says. A 25-year anti-gang effort has cost taxpayers billions of dollars but has resulted in six times as many gangs and twice the number of gang members, because Los Angeles has not adequately funded social programs, the report says.
"There are very little services," said Luis J. Rodriguez, a former Los Angeles gang member who is a member of that city's Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development. He said the city has 61 gang intervention workers to handle about 40,000 gang members.
"We need substantial, root-based work, ways for people to get out of gangs," Rodriguez said. "But there are no jobs, rehabilitation or treatment, and schools and services do not work with gang kids."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Justice for Immigrants ACTION ALERT


Background. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) will be offering the DREAM Act as an amendment to H.R. 1585, the Department of Defense authorization bill, sometime this week. The DREAM Act would provide a path to permanent residence for young men and women brought to the country as undocumented children if they graduate high school and enter college or military service. This would help tens of thousands of minors who otherwise would have no future for themselves in America.

U.S. Bishops' Position. The U.S. Catholic bishops have long advocated for legal status for minors who entered the country as undocumented children. They do not know the country in which they were born and these children have lived the majority of their lives in the United States, attending American schools. Our nation should invest in these talented young persons for the future.

Message to Senators. Please vote in FAVOR of the Durbin-Hagel-Lugar DREAM Act amendment to H.R. 1585, the Department of Defense authorization bill.

Contact your Senators at 202-224-3121 as soon as possible and go to for a list of talking points or to send a letter through the interactive section of our website.

Thank You,

The Justice for Immigrants Campaign

Dream Act

Talking Points:
The DREAM Act would:

? Provide a six-year path to residence and eventual citizenship to individuals brought to the U.S. as children at least five years ago.
? The DREAM Act is not an "amnesty," as opponents will say, because its beneficiaries were brought to the U.S. as undocumented children.
? The DREAM Act is good policy because it encourages these minors to remain in school or serve in the military and would allow them to contribute their talents to our nation in the years ahead.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Immigration Movement Should Learn from Civil Rights Movement

New America Media, News Analysis + Commentary, Toni Holness and Rich Stolz, Posted: Jul 12, 2007

Editor’s Note: Immigration reform suffered a major defeat in the Senate recently but some immigration rights advocates are looking to the civil rights movement for hope and inspiration. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of the nation's leading immigrant rights advocates. Toni Holness is with the Center for Community Change and Rich Stolz is with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

As the immigrant rights movement struggles and encounters the political maneuvering of the U.S. Congress, the civil rights movement, its history and lessons, figures prominently. Perhaps the first and most important lesson of the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is the length of time it took for that movement to win a resounding legislative victory – it took a decade after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision for Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This clearly proves that endurance matters. The African-American civil rights movement survived, and continues to this day. It also birthed a number of progressive movements, including today’s immigrant rights movement.

This year the immigrant rights movement has already experienced a gut wrenching debate that included a number of painful concessions and the defeat – at least for now – of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate. Over forty years ago activists and lawmakers rallied around an issue just as hotly debated as today’s comprehensive immigration reform: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As is the case in any legislation in Congress, ultimately there will be compromise, and enactment can only be assured through a bi-partisan agreement among Republicans and Democrats. Against this pragmatic backdrop, the civil rights movement brought its grassroots power, and the moral authority of its cause illustrated by the leadership of the faith community. These tactics safeguarded the bill’s eventual journey through the House and Senate.

Similar to 1964, America is home to a largely disenfranchised population whose dreams of integration, education and self-sustainability are being negotiated by distant lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Recent immigration enforcement raids underscore that the policing force of the government targets these vulnerable communities and their children. Back then, state and local police aimed their force at children who dared to enter whites-only establishments. Unsurprisingly, today’s targeted population is also, generally speaking, an economically disadvantaged one led by minority communities.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in voting, employment, and public services; it was a landmark bill that would change the nation for future generations. The fight then is reminiscent of the reforms that today’s movement hopes to secure for immigrants – undocumented and documented alike. The political maneuvering of that era is also strikingly familiar to the maneuvering facing immigrant rights activists today – it raises the question, “How can a bill needed by so many survive the obstacle course created for it by a vocal and angry minority in Congress?”

The 1964 bill, endorsed by then-President Johnson, overcame a number of obstacles on its way through both the House and Senate in the last few months before its enactment. Initially introduced in the House Judiciary Committee, the bill was later referred to the House Rules Committee whose chairman, Representative Judge Smith, D-Virg., threatened to deny it a hearing. Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition of representatives, including a conservative Midwesterner, Clarence Brown, R-Ohio, was able to challenge the authority of Chairman Smith. But to avoid a showdown that he would lose, Smith finally allowed the bill to pass through the Rules Committee.

On the House floor, rabbis, priests and other religious leaders made a public statement of the faith community’s support for the bill and became moral watchdogs, reminding representatives that they would be held accountable for their role in the debate. Despite overwhelming support for the bill, Smith made a final attempt to prevent the bill from passing. Knowing that the bill’s supporters had not yet established a unified opinion regarding women’s rights, he amended the bill to include making employment discrimination based on sex illegal. Although jolted by this amendment, the bill’s supporters defiantly accepted it and the bill passed through the House on Feb. 10, 1964 with a 290 to 130 vote.

In the Senate, the bill faced opposition from Southern Democrats. To compensate for this loss in support, the bill’s proponents appealed to Republican senators. Also recognizing that Southerners dominated the Judiciary Committee, the Senate voted to place the bill on the Senate calendar, instead of referring it to the Judiciary Committee. Hubert Humphrey D-Minn., who was managing the bill, looked to Sen. Dirksen, R-Ill., to garner the remaining 20 Republican votes that were needed to get the bill passed. To entice Dirksen’s support for the bill, Humphrey compromised on a single issue; they agreed that the government would only sue in cases involving a pattern or practice of discrimination.

Toward the beginning of the 1964 debate, Sen. Dirksen, in an attempt to rally support for the Act, declared, "I come of immigrant German stock. My mother stood on Ellis Island as a child of 17, with a tag around her neck directing that she be sent to Pekin, Illinois. Our family had opportunities in Illinois, and the essence of what we're trying to do in the civil rights bill is to see that others have opportunities in this country." Today these words resonate with the many undocumented immigrants whose plight will be determined by Congress’s decisions.

When the Senate debate began, the Southerners—led by Richard Russell, D-Georgia, staged their expected filibusters, a familiar tactic they had used to weaken previous civil rights bills. With the recommendation of then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, the bill’s advocates were determined to outlast the Southern filibuster, and they did. On June 10, 1964, sixty Senators voted to shut off debate and on June 19 the Senate passed the civil rights bill with a 73-27 vote. On July 2, 1964, the House-Senate conference committee voted to accept the Senate version of the bill. During that same day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the East Room of the White House.

Today, Congress faces an important test. Despite the Senate's failure to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform and the angry anti-immigrant and nativist posturing that dominated the debate, Congress has an obligation to take up this issue once more. To fail to make progress on any bill this year represents a victory for America at its worst. Forty years from today, which politicians will be remembered for their courage, and which will be remembered for obstructing a movement towards justice? Millions of immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members should not have to wait. What matters most now is that despite our losses in the Senate, the immigrant rights movement will continue, and that in this case as in the past, justice will prevail.

Monday, July 09, 2007

books on central america

Thanks to everyone who sent recommendations and syllabi for an
introductory course on Central America

General history:

A Brief History of Central America by Hector Perez-Brignoli

Inside the Volcano by Frederick Weaver

Central America: A Nation Divided by Ralph Lee Woodward

Tommie Sue Montgomery �Revolution in El Salvador�

Jeffery M. Paige �Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of
Democracy in Central America�

Political Economy/ Inequality

Between Earthquakes and Volcanos by Carlos Vilas

Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transforamtion and Political
Conflict in Central America by Charles Brockett

Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion and Change by
John Booth, et al

Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in
Hondurasa nd the US by John Soluri

Don't be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart by Elvia

Panama's Poor: Victims, Agents, and History Makers by Gloria Rudolf


The El Mozote Massacre by Leigh Binford

One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta

Blood of Brothers by Stephen Kinzer

Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in
Guatemala by Daniel Wilkinson

Paradise in Ashes by Beatriz Manz


Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador by
Virginia Tilley

Shipwrecked Identities: Navigating Race on Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast
by Baron Pineda

Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an Afro-Nicaraguan
Community by Edmund Gordon

Mas Que un Indio: Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in
Guatemala by Charles Hale

A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala by
Diane Nelson

I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying: Race, Place, and
Discrimination in a Costa Rican High School by Karen Stocker

Ethnicity at Work by Philippe Bourgois

Gender in Post-Revolutionary Central America

After the Revolution: Gender and Democracy in El Salvador, Nicaragua
and Guatemala by Ilja Luciak

After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal
Nicaragua by Florence Babb

Life is Hard by Roger Lancaster

>From Revolution to the Maquiladora: Gender, Labor, and Globalization
by Jennfer Bickham-Mendez

Hear My Testimony" Maria Teresa Tula Human Rights Activist of El
Salvador by Lynn Stephen

Country under my Skin by Giocconda Belli


N. Hamilton and N. Stoltz Chinchilla, Seeking Community:
Salvadorans and Guatemalan in Los Angeles

Beth Baker Cristales, Salvadoran Migration to Southern

Cecilia Menjivar, Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in
America, California, 2000

Sarah Mahler, American Dreaming: Immigrant Life on the
Margins, Princeton, 1995

Susan Bibler Coutin, Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran
Immigrants' Struggle for U.S. Residency

Terry A. Repak, Waiting on Washington: Central American
Workers in the Nation's Capital

Jacqueline Maria Hagan, Deciding to Be Legal: A Maya
Community in Houston

Nancy J. Wellmeier, Ritual Identity and the Mayan Diaspora,
Garland Publishers, 1998.

Allan Burns, Maya in Exile: Guatemalans in Florida, Temple,

Norita Vlach, The Flight of the Quetzal: Guatemalan
Refugee Families in the United States

Andrew Morrison and Rachel A. May, Escape from Terror:
Violence and Migration in Post-Revolutionary Guatemala

Dianne Walta Hart, Undocumented in L.A.: An Immigrant's
Story, Scholarly Resources, 1997

Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Domestica: Immigrant Workers
Cleaning and Caring in the Shadow of Affluence. U of California Press,

The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

Voices from Exile by Victory Montejo

Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America by Walter has an "expiration date" in that it's a 1993 book, but
it's very good and thorough.

On Nicaragua, we've just reissued Stephen Kinzer's Blood of Brothers
(available from Harvard University Press). Also, by the same author,
Bitter Fruit, also available from Harvard University Press-on Guatemala.
Both books are written in journalistic style, although academically
substantial, and work very well with undergraduates.

The most wonderful read is:

The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War by Greg

Disappeared, A Journalist Silenced, by June Erlick

Edelman, Marc. Peasants Against Globalization: Rural Social Movements
in Costa Rica. Stanford University Press, 1999.

Green, Linda. Fear as a Way of Life: Mayan Widows in Rural Guatemala.
Columbia University Press, 1999.

Lauria-Santiago, Aldo, and Aviva Chomsky, eds. Identity and Struggle
at the Margins of the Nation-State: The Laboring Peoples of Central
America and the Hispanic Caribbean. Duke University Press, 1998.

Robinson, William I. Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social
Change, and Globalization. Verso, 2003, chaps. 3-5.

Nick Cullathers. Secret History: The CIA's Classified Account of Its
Operations in Guatemala 1952-1954

Well-received. Primary source documents are the basis of
this book,

Epica. Ten Plagues of Globalization

Students with little or no background found this helpful.
Others found it too simple.

Juan Gonzalez. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

A good study of recent immigrants.

Other novels/stories ... Jacinta Escudos, "Pequeña biografía de un
indeseable" is very pointed short story about the life of contemporary
street criminal in urban Ctrl Am; it may be available in transl. Sergio
Ramirez has good short stories on imperialism, political repression, and
such in his collection in English Charles Atlas También Muere ("To
Jackie with All Our Heart" is a particularly good choice on elite

Claribel Alegría has novels & testimonial lit on the 1930s and 1980s
uprisings/wars in El Salv (in English) -- Ashes from Izalco and They'll
Never Catch Me Alive are well-known. For colonial snapshots in fiction,
I like Tatiana Lobo's Assault on Paradise (much, much more nuanced
than the title suggests). For a sexual/political romp through the last 30
years in Nicaragua, you can't get a much better read than Gioconda
Belli's The Country Under My Skin, her memoir of the Nica Rev.

Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba
(2002, Penn State University Press)

Feminism and the Legacy of Revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas
(2004, Ohio Univerity Press)

Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right (co-edited with Victoria
Gonzalez, 2001, Penn State) 6 of the 10 chapters are on Nicaragua, El
Salvador and/or Guatemala

Gould, Jeffrey L. To Lead as Equals: Rural Protest and Political
Consciousness in Chinandega, Nicaragua, 1912-1979. Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1990.

Gould, Jeffrey L. To Die in This Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth
of Mestizaje, 1880-1965. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Dore, Elizabeth. Myths of Modernity: Peonage and Patriarchy in
Nicaragua. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. [Also, Dore has a number of
excellent articles on gender and class in late-19th century Nicaragua
that might be good to use instead of her monograph. See, in particular,
Dore, Elizabeth. "Patriarchy from Above, Patriarchy from Below: Debt
Peonage on Nicaraguan Coffee Estates, 1870-1930." In The Global Coffee
Economy in Africa, Asia and Latin America, 1500-1989, edited by William
Gervace Clarence-Smith and Steven Topik, 209-35. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2003.]

Schroeder, Michael J. "Horse Thieves to Rebels to Dogs: Political Gang
Violence and the State in the Western Segovias, Nicaragua, in the Time
of Sandino, 1926-1934." Journal of Latin American Studies 28 (1996):

Schroeder, Michael J. "The Sandino Rebellion Revisited: Civil War,
Imperialism, Popular Nationalism, and State Formation Muddied Up Together
in the Segovias of Nicaragua, 1926-1934." In Close Encounters of Empire:
Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, edited
by Gilbert M. Joseph, Catherine C. LeGrand, and Ricardo D. Salvatore,
208-68. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Gobat, Michel. Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua Under U.S.
Imperial Rule. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.

Hooker, Juliet. "'Beloved Enemies': Race and Official Mestizo
Nationalism in Nicaragua." Latin American Research Review 40, no. 3 (October
2005): 14-39.

Charlip, Julie A. Cultivating Coffee: The Farmers of Carazo, Nicaragua,
1880-1930. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Talk Shows Influence Immigration Debate

Talk Shows Influence Immigration Debate
NY TIMES: June 23, 2007, Filed at 10:20 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Immigration has supplanted Iraq as the leading issue on television and radio talk shows, complicating the prospects of a Senate bill desperately wanted by President Bush.

Conservative talk radio's impact on the immigration debate reached new heights last week, with one host effectively writing an amendment for when the Senate returns to the imperiled bill this week.

National talk show hosts have spent months denouncing the bill as providing amnesty for illegal immigrants. Some top Republicans who support the legislation have defied the broadcast pundits. Others GOP lawmakers have tried to placate them, even to the point of accepting their ideas for amendments.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the key conservative negotiator behind the compromise bill, told reporters Friday that California-based radio host Hugh Hewitt ''had several ideas'' that ''we are trying to include'' in amendments to be offered in an upcoming series of crucial votes.

Hewitt, a conservative who has criticized many aspects of the bill, had Kyl as a guest on Thursday and asked: ''Does the bill provide for any separate treatment of aliens, illegal aliens from countries of special concern?''

Kyl replied: ''It's going to, as a result of your lobbying efforts to me.''

People seeking entry the U.S. from countries that the U.S. has designated as state sponsors of terrorism will get a higher level of scrutiny, Kyl said Friday.

Other Bush allies have tried more confrontational approaches to the talk hosts, sometimes with bruising results.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., told reporters last week, ''Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.'' Some hosts, he added, do not know what is in the lengthy bill.

The comments incensed conservative talk show hosts who generally had supported Lott over the years.

Lott is ''upset that the American people got right into the middle of the conversation over the problem with illegal aliens and it didn't turn out all that well for the pro-amnesty forces,'' Atlanta-based talk show host Neal Boortz wrote on his Web site.

''If Trent Lott and his other buddies up on the Hill aren't listening to 'talk,' then what are they listening to? The answer is either their wallet or their legacy.''

Radio host Rush Limbaugh asked his audience: ''What are we going to do about Mississippi Senator Trent Lott?''

Lott's treatment contrasted sharply with that given to Kyl. In a column posted on his Web site, Hewitt called Kyl ''perhaps the single most effective and principled conservative in the United States Senate.''

The immigration bill would tighten borders and workplace enforcement, create a guest worker program and provide ways to legal status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The legislation faces showdown votes this coming week that lawmakers on all sides agree will be close.

If the measure fails, talk radio and TV -- where CNN's Lou Dobbs has been especially critical -- will deserve substantial credit, academics and politicians say.

''Talk radio and talk TV are most effective when there's an immediate action pending,'' said Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania, who is an authority on media and politics. ''It's a classic instance of mobilization with all the pieces in place and it's sure to have an effect.''

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a leading opponent of the bill, said in an interview that ''talk radio has had a significant impact on this issue.''

A frequent guest of Dobbs, Hewitt and other conservative hosts discussing immigration, Sessions said, ''I think people have learned more from talk radio than from reading the newspapers.''

As for Lott, Sessions said: ''I can't imagine what Trent was thinking. Maybe his mouth was moving and his brain was in neutral.''

Michael Harrison, editor of the talk show industry magazine Talkers, said immigration has replaced the Iraq war as the most discussed topic and has led many conservative hosts to show more loyalty to the anti-amnesty issue than to the Republican Party.

''I think talk radio should be credited with possibly saving the American people from George Bush's immigration bill,'' Harrison said, adding that he and his magazine are nonpartisan.

Some Republicans who recently announced their opposition to the bill said constituent concerns were their main reason. But they acknowledged the intensity of talk radio hostility in their states.

''Neal Boortz, he popped us pretty good,'' said Lindsay Mabry, a spokeswoman for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who shifted from qualified support to opposition to the bill in recent days. She said Chambliss consulted with Boortz on immigration even though the senator was not an on-air guest during the debate.


On the Net:

Information on the bill, S. 1348, can be found at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Immigrations update-Senate debates again June 26th

IMMGRATION UPDATE: On Tuesday June 26th the Senate will vote to invoke cloture on a Motion to Proceed to consider S. 1639 the Immigration Reform Bill. If 60 senators vote to invoke cloture, the Senate will then begin debate on the bill.

If we move to the debate of the immigration reform bill, we will consider about 24 amendments, with up to 12 amendments from Democratic Senators and 12 amendments from Republican Senators. Below is a tentative list of the 24 amendments. Some of the language in the amendments may alter.

I will send updates as I receive more information. I hope you all have a great weekend and I will be in touch soon.

Democratic Amendments

* Dodd-Menendez S.A. 1199: would increase the annual cap on green cards for parents and extend the parent visitor visa.
* Webb S.A. 1313: Community ties for Z visas
* Baucus-Tester S.A. 1236: would strike all reference to REAL ID.
* Sanders-Grassley S.A. 1332: prohibits companies that have announced mass lay-offs from receiving any new visas, unless these companies could prove that overall employment at their companies would not be reduced by these lay-offs.
* Byrd-Gregg-Cochran S.A. 1344: adds a $500 fee to obtain immigration benefits under Title VI and sets aside the revenues collected in order to fund border and interior enforcement.
* Menendez-Obama-Feingold S.A. 1317: increases family points in merit system
* Brown S.A. 1340: requires that before employers can be approved to employ Y-1 workers, they must have listed the specific job opportunity with the state employment service agency.
* McCaskill S.A. 1468: increases ban on federal contracts, grants or cooperative agreements to employers who are repeat violators of hiring immigrants who are not authorized to work
* Levin-Brownback S.A.1486: gives access to Iraqis to apply for refugee status under existing U.S. law.
* Leahy S.A. 1386: protect scholars who have been persecuted in their home countries on account of their beliefs, scholarship, or identity.
* Schumer: provides for tamper-proof biometric social security cards
* Boxer S.A. 1198: reduces Y visa cap by number of Y workers who overstay

Republican Amendments

* Alexander S.A. 1161: requires DHS and the Department of State to notify a foreign embassy when one of their nationals has become a U.S. citizen
* Bond S.A. 1255: prohibits green cards for Z holders
* Coleman S.A. 1473: outlaws state and local policies that prevent public officials — including police and health and safety workers (except for emergency medical assistance)—from inquiring about the immigration status of those they serve if there is “probable cause” to believe the individual being questioned is undocumented.
* Domenici S.A. 1335/1258: increases Federal judgeships
* Ensign S.A. 1490: redetermines work history for current beneficiaries of social security depending on their citizenship status
* Graham S.A. 1465: enforcement. Still being drafted.
* Grassley-Baucus-Obama S.A. 1441: strikes and replaces Title III on employer enforcement
* Hutchinson S.A. 1440: changes the “touchback” requirement from the time of applying for adjustment of status, as it currently stands in the Senate proposed bill, to the time of applying for the Z visa. Increases the number of individuals required to touchback
* Thune S.A. 1174: prevents undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from getting any kind of legal status until all triggers have been met.
* Chambliss S.A. 1318: Totalization agreements
* Isakson S.A. 1282: Preemption/Home Depot
* Graham: Criminal penalties/mandatory minimums for overstays

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants it to Come Back?

By David Bacon
Oakland, CA 6/9/07

Within hours of the Senate vote to kill its comprehensive immigration
reform bill, the lobbyist for software giant Oracle Corp. had already
declared that Silicon Valley's proposal for more guest workers was
still alive. "We don't think it's dead," Robert Hoffman told the San
Francisco Chronicle. Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to
move more high tech jobs out of the country if electronics
corporations didn't get more contract migrant labor. Other corporate
spokespeople also announced they were looking for ways to revive the
Senate bill in which they'd invested so much political capital.

Immigrant communities and union activists had been in the streets for
months, trying to stop the same bill. In San Francisco alone, seven
were arrested in the office of Senator Diane Feinstein, during the
recess that preceded the June 7 vote. Dozens more debated the
senator in front of her home the morning after the arrests. Around
the country, similar demonstrations did what they could to kill the
bill. The National Day Labor Organizing Network called it a "cynical
and mean-spirited effort of those Senators that seek to poison the
immigration reform debate yet again," and warned, "we are fearful
that an insufficient Senate bill cannot be adequately repaired in the
House of Representatives or in a conference session."

It was no surprise that many greeted the (perhaps temporary) death of
comprehensive immigration reform as a necessary move to protect
immigrants themselves. These groups saw in the bill a threat of more
contract labor programs, more enforcement and raids, greater
militarization of the border and erosion of basic due process rights.
Filipinos for Affirmative Action, voicing a criticism common in Asian
American and Latino communities, said the bill "moved away from
permanent, family-based immigration toward a temporary employment

As debate in the Senate proceeded, even the bill's promise of
legalization for the nation's 12 million undocumented residents
proved so restrictive that only a small percentage eventually would
have qualified. Migrants without status would have had to place
their families in jeopardy just to apply.

After the vote in the Senate defeating cloture, killing the bill at
least for the moment, John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, declared it
"plagued by anti-family, anti-worker provisions," and called it "
doomed at the onset. The bill abandoned long-standing U.S. policy
favoring the reunification of families and failed to protect workers'
most basic rights."

Despite the fact that the bill was brokered by the Bush
administration, many of its proponents were not Republicans, but
liberal Democrats, most prominently Senator Edward Kennedy.
Supporting it was a network of lobbyists referred to in the press as
"immigration advocates," large employers, and conservative think
tanks. For two years this alliance advocated a strategy of trading
legalization of undocumented immigrants for increased immigration
enforcement and guest worker programs. The National Immigration
Forum and the DC umbrella group it initiated, the Coalition for
Comprehensive Immigration Reform, were key players in this strategy.
Behind them was the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which
brought together over 40 of the largest corporate trade and
manufacturing associations in the country, under the aegis of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. EWIC head John Gay, also head of the
National Restaurant Association, chairs the NIF board.

These Washington groups supported all the compromise bills embodying
the legalization/enforcement/guest worker tradeoff, beginning with
the original Kennedy/McCain bill in 2005. The same argument was used
to justify them all: "It's not possible to get legalization without
including more enforcement and guest worker programs." While the
groups occasionally disagreed with individual provisions of the
proposals that followed, they not only agreed with the basic
structure and architecture of these bills, but became their ardent
advocates in meetings around the country.

As the proposals moved through negotiations with the administration
and Congressional Republicans, legalization schemes became more
restrictive, enforcement provisions more ferocious, and contract
labor schemes more extensive. Yet the recently defeated Senate
compromise was greeted as a "good starting point." Even at the end,
the DC groups called on immigrant communities to urge defeat of "bad"
amendments to it, while continuing to urge Senators to support the
comprehensive immigration reform, or tradeoff, framework.

While Congress considered this series of proposals, the Bush
administration embarked on a series of highly publicized immigration
raids and workplace firings, to put pressure on immigrant communities
and unions to accept its reform program. The bills themselves called
for giving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of
the Department of Homeland Security, more enforcement authority to
conduct these raids. The administration, for instance, proposed that
employers be required to fire any worker whose Social Security number
didn't match the agency's database. Although Bush never actually
issued this regulation, and the bills obviously hadn't passed, ICE
and employers began using it as the basis for enforcement actions.

Workers at the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, California, were fired
after they tried to enforce the city's living wage ordinance. At the
Smithfield pork plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, hundreds were
fired, and many then deported, during the hardest-fought union
organizing drive in years. Similar raids and firings swept the
country, as the administration set ICE loose on immigrant
communities, implementing the very language in the comprehensive
reform bills. Beltway lobbying groups often expressed alarm over the
raids, but didn't withdraw their support for bills that would have
made such raids more widespread.

After coordinated raids at Swift meatpacking plants in November, in
which over a thousand workers were picked up for deportation,
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters the
enforcement actions would show Congress the need for "stronger border
security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker
program.'' Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow
businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise
satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a
regulated program." Within weeks of Chertoff's statement, the
Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report, "Close to Slavery,"
which provided exhaustive documentation that current guest worker
programs, like those the administration proposed, systematically
violated workers' rights. Abuse in H-2 programs was so extensive,
and government enforcement of existing labor protections so
completely absent, that SPLC called them "fundamentally flawed."

The SPLC and other exposes gave guest worker programs such a bad
reputation that DC-based groups took pains to disassociate themselves
from the term. The bills they supported would "break the mold," they
claimed, by creating contract labor programs that wouldn't exploit
workers. They invented new terms: "essential worker" or "new
worker" plans. Behind the semantic fog, however, the bills preserved
the two crucial characteristics of all employment-based guest worker
schemes: new migrants could only come if recruited by an employer or
labor contractor, and people had to remain employed to stay.
Migrants losing a job and unable to find another within a short time
would be deported.

To justify contract labor programs, the DC coalition asserted
constantly that U.S. corporations face dire labor shortages. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, estimates the May, 2007
unemployment rate at 4.5%, and says over 7 million workers were
unemployed in 2006. Most unions believe these are serious
undercounts. Unemployment in African American and Chicano
communities is much higher, over double digits even during economic

Yet instead of raising wage and benefits to attract workers, or
paying more taxes to improve education and training in working class
communities, employers held that only huge guest worker programs
could meet their labor needs. In an joint oped piece for, Thomas Donahue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
and Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International
Union (one of two unions that supported the tradeoff bills) stated
that "we need legislation that will create a carefully monitored
essential worker program," and called it "a system that provides U.S.
businesses with the workers it needs."

Meanwhile, legalization proposals in the same tradeoff bills were
presented as the payoff for immigrant communities. Yet many of the
legalization schemes threatened to disqualify immigrants guilty of
document fraud. ICE now says this includes anyone who's given a
false SS number to get a job, something almost all undocumented
workers have done. Other proposals would have imposed employment
requirements, imposed high fines difficult for most working families
to pay, and required people to take an undetermined amount of time
off work to return to their home countries to apply for readmittance,
with no guarantee they could pass a host of bureaucratic checks.
Most proposals would have had people wait at least a decade before
they could get a green card for permanent legal residence (not
citizenship). Legalization programs wouldn't even take effect until
the U.S. gained "operational control" of the border, leaving the door
open for years of increased enforcement with no change at all in the
status of the undocumented.

Many organizations outside DC did not support this approach to
immigration reform. Instead they called for a positive agenda
focusing on human and workplace rights, legal status and equality.
They proposed reforms that didn't criminalize migration, work or the
border itself, and that instead protected families and communities.
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights urged that "we
work for a different "starting point" for immigration reform that
protects the rights of all immigrant families, workers and

The beltway lobbying strategy started by asking what employers and a
Republican administration would be willing to accept. Groups like
NDLON, however, proposed building a popular movement to change the
political terrain in Washington, like the civil rights movement of
the 1960s. Responding to lobbyists who called the Senate bill the
only chance to reform immigration law for years, NDLON said "We know
the struggle for justice and immigration reform requires a long view
of history, and we will not be pressured into accepting an
insufficient compromise simply for sake of political expediency. We
owe it to this and future generations to pass a bill that we can all
be proud of."

"The best way to guarantee the rights and wages of all workers in
this country," added the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney, "is to give every
immigrant the opportunity to become a citizen, with all the rights
and duties that entails. At the same time, Congress must revise our
immigration system so that in the face of labor shortages, future
foreign workers may enter this country not as dispensable units of
production but as permanent residents with the same rights and
protections as all other U.S. workers."

Basic differences have divided the immigrant rights and labor
movements, not just over tactics and strategy, but also over goals.
Should immigrant rights groups and unions support increased
enforcement? Should they allow employers to recruit hundreds of
thousands of workers a year, on visas which condition their right to
stay in the US on continued employment? Should temporary or contract
labor programs be the condition under which the undocumented are
allowed to stay?

This division, between Washington-based organizations, and grassroots
coalitions outside the beltway, has existed for over a decade. In
1996 many community-based coalitions around the country withdrew from
the National Immigration Forum when it insisted it was not possible
to save the rights of undocumented immigrants in the Clinton-backed
immigration bill. The DC-based strategy tacitly called for saving
the rights of legal immigrants by telling Congress that while the
country needed to do something about illegal immigration, legal
residents shouldn't be punished in the same bill. The strategy
failed, and according to Filipinos for Affirmative Action, "the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act
undermined the basic rights of all immigrants, denied their right to
due process, and expanded the reasons for detention and deportation."
The starting point for immigration reform should be instead an
agreement that "all immigrants have a right to be treated equally,
with full legal, employment, human and civil rights."

Today's disagreements are similar. They are in part over strategy
and tactics, but also raise a deeper issue: Should U.S. immigration
policy become a labor supply system for corporations, or should it
support families and communities? In the mainstream press, this
question gets little coverage because the framework proposed in
Congress so heavily sets the media agenda. Anger over exclusion from
the debate provoked the Mexican American Political Association to
declare that "We are totally opposed to the off-handed declarations
made by compromising individual Latino television commentators or
organizations that advocate - NOTHING IS WORSE [than failure to pass
an immigration bill]. In fact, NOTHING WILL BE WORSE [than the
proposed Senate legislation] in terms of the millions of individuals
and families who will be criminalized in perpetuity."

Moving from an effort to defeat anti-immigrant legislation to an
agenda that can win more progressive reforms requires an open debate
over those disagreements. As Silicon Valley and other employer
groups move to bring the Senate bill back, that discussion is more
urgent than ever.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Now is the time

Justice for Immigrants ACTION ALERT

Contact your Senators

Return to Immigration Reform


On Thursday, June 7, the U.S. Senate failed to invoke cloture (close off debate) on S. 1348, the Senate compromise immigration reform bill, 45-50 (with 60 votes needed to achieve cloture). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked Senators to vote NO on cloture. The Committee on Migration of the USCCB decided to take this position because on the night previous, Senators adopted an amendment to weaken the legalization program by removing confidentiality provisions and defeated an amendment which improved family reunification in the bill.

The removal of the confidentiality protection in the Z-visa legalization program means that applicants for the program are at risk of deportation if their application is denied, for whatever reason. The confidentiality protection ensures that an applicant to the program cannot be deported because of information given in their application regarding their immigration status. The Committee on Migration views this protection as essential to a workable program, because otherwise eligible participants will not come forward.

Another amendment, offered by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), would have moved the backlog reduction date on family reunification up to January 1. 2007. This amendment was blocked by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on a budget point of order and Senator Kyl offered another amendment which, in the view of the USCCB, harms certain families.

For those Senators who opposed cloture, consistent with the USCCB position, it is important to note that USCCB still supports the bill moving forward, provided that the confidentiality provisions and family reunification areas are improved.

It is our view that the bill will come back to the Senate floor before July 4th and that we will have the opportunity to fix these two amendments.


Please contact your Senators today and even everyday now with the following message:

You may

call your Senators local or national office.

call the general number and ask for your senators office 202-224-3121.

send a message through our website at:

Thank you,

The Justice for Immigrants Campaign

Immigrants are not lawbreakers

Thanks: Elvira Arellano

Date: Jun 14, 2007 10:54 PM


Dear Mr. Dobbs,

You say we are lawbreakers, but I say we know what it means to live under the yoke of a broken law.

You say you want to live in a nation of laws but how much more do we who have suffered under this broken immigration law long to live in a place truly governed by laws. In fact it is only our obedience to God’s law, which is never broken, which sustains us and our families.

The President says we must pay fines and wait in line while those who have employed us for their profit and those who have lived off of our taxes and benefited from our labor owe nothing – and we are willing to accept this because we long for a nation that lives up to its promise, a nation where everyone is equal under the law.

The “Grand Compromise” is not amnesty for us but it is amnesty for those who have benefited from our labor and our taxes and our purchasing power. I notice for instance that you have not refused advertising from Menards and Comcast although millions of dollars from undocumented families are accepted in their stores.

Out of the darkness of this broken law and this broken system, we join with the great majority of people that want to live in the light of a nation restored to its promise

And yet you would keep us in the shadows and the whole nation in darkness. You spread hate and fear. You would close your doors to your neighbors, to those who pick and prepare and serve your food and replace the brotherhood of democracy with the poison of selfishness and racism.

Today we appeal to the nation to reject the poison of fear mongering and the deceitfulness of hate and division. We are in the labor pains of giving birth to something new and whole. Don’t let the enemies of love and of families abort this delivery. I am not a criminal. I am not a terrorist. I am a mother of a U.S. citizen child. He is not an anchor. He is a child of God and a U.S. citizen.

Let us fix the broken law and be again a nation of laws.

Let us turn our ears away from the darkness of division and walk in the light of reconciliation while our moment is here.


Elvira Arellano

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A mother's plight revives the sanctuary movement

This is a really great article from the LA Times about the new sanctuary movement. Check it out.

Refusing to leave her U.S.-born son, an illegal immigrant from Mexico takes refuge in a Chicago church and leads a new crusade.
By Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writer
June 2, 2007

Sanctuary, in antiquity the practice of providing refuge in a sacred place, has been revived in a rather dramatic fashion by an undocumented Mexican cleaning woman trying to evade deportation by holing up in a Chicago church.

Elvira Arellano, 32, said she invoked the ancient right of sanctuary in a desperate effort to avoid being separated from her 7-year-old son, Saul, an American citizen.

That was nine months and 18 days ago. Since then, her act of civil disobedience has helped spark a new sanctuary movement and transformed her into a leader in the effort to create a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Exactly how Arellano's case will end remains to be seen. In the meantime, her maneuver has focused renewed attention on a concept used through the ages to hold back the force of government.

In a telephone interview, Arellano said in Spanish, "I never planned for this.

"When the order for deportation came down, I was desperate," she said, "I remembered how Joseph and Mary were given sanctuary. I asked my church for sanctuary, and they agreed."

Arellano became a focus of international attention when, from the safe haven of the little church, she began dispatching high-profile rebukes of immigration authorities.

One of her first letters posted on the Internet said, "If Homeland Security chooses to send its agents on the Holy Ground to arrest me, then I will know that God wants me to be an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current policy of the government."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities issued a brief comment: "ICE has the authority to arrest illegal aliens in all locales and prioritizes its enforcement efforts based on investigative leads and intelligence."

In the distant past, the practice of religious sanctuary was common throughout the world.

In antiquity, cities and surrounding territories were dotted with religious sanctuaries surrounded by walls or border stones separating the abode of the divine from the world of human struggle, the sacred from the profane, the holy space within from the reach of local laws.

Fugitives of every stripe found refuge in certain sacred shrines of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. Ancient Hebrews had "cities of refuge" described in the Bible's books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Numbers 35:9 through 11 of the King James Bible reads, in part: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan, then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you."

These cities essentially were a way to prevent vigilante action against someone who had accidentally killed another person. But the refuge wasn't indefinite. The refugee was allowed to stay until he could face proper judgment by the community.

In the 4th century, Christian churches in Europe were considered sanctuaries. The practice continued through the Middle Ages as a check on vengeance during a time of social tumult.

"Around the 10th century, Catholic bishops instituted 'The Truce of God' as part of an effort to put a damper on the violence that was tearing society apart," said Daniel McGuire, professor of theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "The idea was that you could go into a church and be safe from the killing going on all over the place."

Felons who sought sanctuary in 13th century England could stay up to 40 days or, before that deadline, agree to leave the kingdom. If they stayed beyond 40 days, they risked being forced out of sanctuary by starvation.

In the 15th century, several parliamentary petitions sought to restrict the right of sanctuary in England. In the next century, King Henry VIII reduced the number of sanctuaries by about half.

Starting around 1750, various countries began abolishing sanctuary as civil judicial systems arose to try those accused of crimes. It took about 100 years for sanctuary to disappear.

Today, the right of sanctuary has no legal standing in the United States. Nonetheless, it was invoked in the early 1980s to prevent thousands of Central American refugees from being deported. Supporters believed federal officers were less likely to barge into a church and drag out undocumented people than to enter a home or a workplace.