Isabel Mejia was 17 years old when she arrived in the United States from El Salvador, having fled her home country for reasons even the most hardened immigration opponent might have trouble dismissing. Some local gang members had decided to conscript her as the “gang’s girlfriend” — to force her into a life of sexual slavery. At home, the situation was no better: She had been a victim of domestic sexual violence. Faced with rape, death or flight, she chose to flee.
Today, Isabel (not her real name), now 18, lives in a small apartment in Southern California with her aunt. Her respite is only temporary. After crossing over the Mexican border into Texas, she had been captured by Border Patrol agents and held in a Houston detention facility before being released into her aunt’s care. Some time in the next few months, she will go before an immigration judge and, with the assistance of a pro bono attorney,
The U.S. prison population has grown more than 700 percent between 1970 and 2009. We’re locking people up left and right, including thousands of non-violent immigrants whose only crime is crossing the border without documentation. They are now trapped in private prisons with no voice.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just released the jaw-dropping findings of its investigation into the shadowy system of privately run Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons used to hold immigrants. Here, thousands of immigrants serve lengthy prison sentences where they are exposed to abysmal conditions.
Private prisons have a lot to gain from the incarceration of immigrants. Their business model revolves around imprisoning people for profits, siphoning tax dollars away from public goods and into shareholders’ pockets. For locked-up immigrants, however, it means being isolated from family and the outside world.
Until ACLU’s blockbuster investigation, CAR facilities have operated in the shadows,
Imagine a Mexican father telling his child that he’s leaving for America. He probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time explaining the complicated economic and political relationship between Mexico and the U.S., nor would he spend a lot of time explaining how difficult and dangerous the journey to el norte would be.
It would be a simple explanation, in all likelihood: “I have to go north to find work to earn money for my family.”
The children’s story Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh starts with a statement much like that. Like so many Mexican workers, Pancho Rabbit’s father decides go to north because of lack of work at home – “The rains did not come and the crops would not grow.”
Papá Rabbit, along with companions including Señor Ram and Señor Rooster, leave at the beginning of the story. The story is told from the point of view of Papá Rabbit’s family,
Myth One: Immigration reform will strain already overburdened government safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finds that immigration reform will actually reduce the budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Why is that? Because while they seek citizenship, undocumented workers will be required to pay into Social Security and Medicare even though they won’t be eligible for them.
They’re also younger on average than the typical worker, so even when they’re citizens they’ll be paying into Social Security and Medicare far longer.
Myth Two: New immigrants take away jobs from native-born Americans.
Christian Torres worked as a cook in the Pomona College dining hall for more than six years. Torres and 16 of his co-workers were fired from Pomona College for not re-verifying their work eligibility after the college asked for documents, which were requested while he was leading an effort to organize to form a union. Torres and his brother came to the United States while still teenagers to join their mother and father who were already in the U.S. He supports the movement to create a common-sense immigration process. Although Torres was fired from Pomona, he continues to support his co-workers in their struggle for better working conditions at the college.
Torres, along with a diverse coalition of families, immigrant rights, labor, faith, business, students and elected leaders, sent a clear message last Friday about California’s leadership role in making immigration reform with a path to citizenship possible.
“There are more opportunities to build a stable future in this country,”
In October of 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Dream Act—which allows undocumented but high-achieving immigrant students to receive state funds to help pay for college. It was a monumental victory for tolerance and the culmination of a long fight—Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly vetoed similar measures during his tenure in the California governor’s office.
Come November 6, however, that fight could begin all over again if California’s Proposition 32 passes. The initiative will outlaw the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes, crippling union political activity and empowering the measure’s billionaire backers to impose their political will on the state. While state unions passionately fought for the California Dream Act’s passage, they were opposed by politicians with ties to Prop. 32’s backers. Though they might not be rabid with anti-immigrant bile, Prop. 32’s moneymen have no problem funneling money to politicians who are.