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: http://hrw.org/reports/2007/us0707/

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, www.galeriadelaraza.org

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