Weekly Immigration Wire: Trapped Behind a Mesh of Broken Law


As we are days away from ushering in a new president, hopes are high that relief can be had in federal immigration law. Yet, the Bush administration has made last minute changes to immigration law, reminding us once more of the incompetence in which we have been living for eight years. New America Media’s highlights the gross willful negligence that is Bush’s trademark in Immigration Contradiction. Attorney General Michael Mukasey determined that those [immigrants] tried in immigration courts had no right to challenge the outcome of their cases based on their lawyers’ performance. At the same time, the attorney general defended the policy of not guaranteeing legal representation to those appearing before immigration judges since these are civil cases and the Constitution does not consider this right under such circumstances.

 In short, those detained for immigration violations are treated as criminal when it comes to invading their privacy by obtaining their genetic material. Yet, their cases are considered civil when arguing that they have no right to counsel. When we answer genuine human need and national crisis with antics like this, we are in serious danger of losing our national soul. Or maybe just faith in our government. After all, as Feministing.com reports in Unions Win at North Carolina Plant, the workers seem to have retained both their souls and their faith, if only in each other: When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food’s huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, union organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a “nuclear bomb.” The day after, people were so scared that most of the plant’s 5,000 employees didn’t show up for work. The lines where they kill and cut apart 32,000 hogs every day were motionless. “Workers think it’s happening because people were getting organized,” said Vargas at the time. If you do harbor hope that more people will wake up to the critical need for humane immigration reform, it can be daunting to read through too much of the mainstream reporting on the issue. Everyday, the undocumented are met with legal manipulation and sly criminalization. And many media outlets focus on punishment and sensationalize fear and danger. And of course, the ABC network is craven enough to make a reality show out of it. New America Media reports on the new television show called “Homeland Security USA and the Facebook Group called “Take ‘Homeland Security USA’ reality show off the Air!” that rose up to protest the show. (Disclosure: I belong to this group.) And Raj Jayadev doesn’t mince words in Homeland Security Show Misses the Real Drama. The program “Homeland Security USA” fails because it only shows part of the reality. Why not give a camera to a family crossing the border, to capture the horror of being chased down in the desert, surviving only through the desperation of an imagined American life? Or a workplace raid at a meatpacking plant in the Midwest, where workers flee agents who are armed like they are entering a war zone? Why not go to Eloy, Ariz., where sprung up out of the dirt in the middle of nowhere, like a mirage, is one the largest detention centers in the country –where detainees ask for deportation because the conditions are subhuman, and elderly men die of dehydration? […] While the program clearly shows the enormity and omnipresence of the mega-security agency, all this does is beg the more interesting question: How do ordinary civilians stay out of their clutches? How does an undocumented immigrant carve out an American life – work, go to school, build a family, plant roots – all while this multi-million dollar machinery called Homeland Security is stalking them every moment of the day?

 Drama is with the rebels, not the empire. In Wiretap online magazine’s Advocating for an Identity, we get a closer look at one of these “rebels.” If you are imagining a wild-eyed Zapatista behind a bandanna, I’ll have to disappoint. For most of Stephanie’s 22 years, she had no idea that she fit into the often-despised category of “Illegal.” Coming up on her eighteenth birthday, Stephanie pestered her mom to go with her to the DMV to finally get her California ID as an adult. For the first 18 years of her life, Stephanie had no idea she was in the United States illegally, and she finally found out as she stood at the brink of adulthood. In the same article, 25-yea-old Tam Tran pleads for the public to understand the importance of passing the DREAM Act: “Without the DREAM Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my state of immigration limbo,” Tran said in her testimony. “I’ll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country where I’ve always considered myself an American.” She also talked about her experiences as an undocumented student a few months later in an October 2007 USA Today article. Later that month at work, Tran received a collect call from her mother. Her family had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And that is the very fear that is haunting Yolanda Guevera, a United States citizen and member of the Army Reserve. You see, her husband is undocumented. In Deployed And Deported — Immigration law hurts military families, New America Media reports on Yolanda’s predicament. Guevara is a rear detachment commander for her Army Reserve unit, which has already been deployed to Kuwait. It’s a matter of time before she would have to leave her husband and three children in North Carolina to join her unit. […] “He works part time but whenever I have to go out … he’s there for me,” Yolanda says. “I don’t think I could be in the military without him.” […] When Guevara explained her situation to the immigration officer, the response was less than helpful. “I told him, ‘My unit is going to be deployed, so I’m afraid— what if I’m gone and I’m stationed over in Iraq or Kuwait, and my husband’s [status] expires?’” she says. “What’s going to happen to my kids?” She says the officer responded, “You worry about that when that happens.” Without the dreams, hard work, risks, and ingenuity of immigrants, we would not be here. I know I would not. Nor would so many of our massive institutions of commerce, which began as nothing more than a humble and small business. It is as if we get comfortable and forget our own histories. The tales of struggle and dreaming and working and persecution—is this not America? Are these not our stories? Would we throw our own past into prison? Let us hope for real change and more than that, let us keep working and fighting for it. This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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