Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Flinches on Immigration

March 24, 2009

Obama Flinches on Immigration

In a little-noticed act of political faintheartedness, the Obama administration has pulled back from nominating Thomas Saenz, a highly regarded civil-rights lawyer and counsel to the mayor of Los Angeles, to run the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Mr. Saenz, the former top litigator in Los Angeles for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or Maldef, was privately offered the job in January. The floating of his name led to fierce outbursts from anti-immigrant groups and blogs, which detest him for being so good at what he does.

He was a leader of the successful fight to block California’s Proposition 187, an unconstitutional effort to deny social services and schooling to illegal immigrants. He has defended Latino day laborers who were targets of misguided local crackdowns, from illegal police stings to unconstitutional anti-solicitation ordinances. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily slimed Mr. Saenz by calling him “an open-borders extremist” and said Maldef wanted to give California back to Mexico.

None of it was true, but it was apparently too much for the White House. Mr. Saenz was ditched in favor of Maryland’s labor secretary, Thomas Perez, who has a solid record but is not as closely tied to immigrant rights.

Immigrant advocates are stuck with the sinking feeling that Mr. Obama’s supposed enthusiasm for immigration reform will wilt under pressure and heat. Representative Luis GutiĆ©rrez of Illinois, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, found it sadly unsurprising that a lawyer could be rejected for the nation’s top civil-rights job because he had stood up for civil rights. “In what other position do you find that your life experience, your educational knowledge and commitment to an issue actually hurts you?” he asked.

Mr. Obama may have avoided a nasty fight this time. But if he is ever going to win the battle to put 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, he will to have to confront and dismantle the core restrictionist argument: that being an illegal immigrant is an unpardonable crime, one that strips away fundamental protections and forgives all manner of indecent treatment.

The Constitution’s bedrock protections do not apply to just the native-born. The suffering that illegal immigrants endure — from raids to workplace exploitation to mistreatment in detention — is a civil-rights crisis. It cannot be left to fester while we wait for the big immigration bill that may or may not arrive under this president.

Mr. Saenz would have been an ideal candidate to reaffirm values that have been lost in the poisoned immigration debate, had Mr. Obama dared to nominate him.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Diverse organizations demonstrate for TPS for Haiti on March 20, 2009 outside Federal Plaza, New York

Photos by Michelle Karshan

Demo for TPS March 20, 2009, Federal Plaza, NY

Demonstration for TPS in front of Federal Plaza, New York, March 20, 2009

NAACP Action Alert Kit for TPS for Haiti

NAACP Action Alert Kit for TPS for Haiti

(includes summary of issue, list of suggested actions to take. summary of the message to get across, and a sample letter to President Obama)

Friday, March 20, 2009

President of US Conference of Catholic Bishops for TPS for Haitians

Office of the President
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington DC 20017-1194

Cardinal Francis George, OMI
Archibishop of Chicago

May 19, 2009

Honorable Barack Obama

United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of the United States, I write to ask you to designate the country of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of eighteen months. The United States Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB) has a long history of serving the Haitian community, both in the United States and in Haiti, and has first-hand knowledge of the great humanitarian challenges facing the Haitian people.

As you know, a designation of TPS permits nationals of a designated nation living in the United States to reside here legally and qualify for work authorization. A designation of TPS is based upon a determination that armed conflict, political unrest, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions exist in a nation and that the return of that country’s nationals would further destabilize the nation and potentially bring harm to those returned.

Haiti meets the standard for TPS because it has experienced political tumult, four natural disasters, and severe food shortages in the last year, not to mention the devastation of Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. In April 2008, starving citizens took to the streets to protest rising food prices, causing political instability.

In August and September 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna passed through Haiti, causing severe damage and the death of close to 700 persons. Massive flooding from the storms has destroyed homes, crops, roads, and bridges, and largely rendered areas like Gonaives inaccessible to relief workers. Over 90 percent of Haiti has been impacted. Tens of thousands have been displaced, and the fate of thousands more is unknown. More than 300,000 children have been affected.

In addition, the conditions in Haiti are at least as bad, if not worse, than those in nations which recently received an extension of TPS. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced late last year that it was extending TPS for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras because of “lingering effects” from the earthquakes in 2001 and from Hurricane Mitch in 2004. These effects included destroyed roads and bridges, high unemployment, and incomplete international development efforts.

We agree wholeheartedly with DHS’ decision to extend TPS to these countries. However, if “lingering effects” in these countries merit a grant of TPS, then so do the conditions in Haiti, where multiple disasters this year have left immediate and devastating effects.

Some observers argue that granting TPS to Haiti would cause a massive “boatlift” that would bring thousands of Haitians to the United States. In our view, this argument holds little merit, since TPS is only available to Haitian nationals already in the United States at the time of the designation. No such boatlift occurred in 1997, when President Clinton granted Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to Haiti, or in subsequent years when Haiti experienced increased political violence and civil unrest. Additionally, few Haitian water craft currently exist, having been destroyed by the recent storms.

Another consideration is that designating TPS to Haiti would allow Haitian nationals already in the United States to work and send much-needed remittances back to their poverty-stricken homeland. The Inter-American Development Bank reports that Haitians abroad sent close to $1.83 billion home in 2007, which equals about 35% of the country’s gross domestic product. It is critical that this life-blood of the fragile Haitian economy be sustained.

Mr. President, by any measure, the conditions in Haiti meet the statutory requirements for TPS. There has been “substantial disruption” in living conditions and Haiti is “unable to handle adequately” the return of its citizens abroad. Extending this mantle of protection to struggling Haiti is a just, compassionate, and concrete step the United States can take toward alleviating the human suffering of the Haitian people.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NAACP Urges TPS for Haitian Refugees

NAACP Urges President Obama to Grant Temporary Safe Haven to Haitian Refugees Already In The U.S.

March 19, 2009 (from NAACP website)
The Issue:

Temporary protected status (TPS) grants temporary protection from deportation to nationals of a country in which environmental or political events have occurred which make it temporarily unsafe to deport them or when armed conflict poses a serious threat to public safety. TPS has been granted to nationals of many countries including those of Nicaragua and Honduras in 1999 following Hurricane Mitch, and of El Salvador in 2001 following severe earthquakes.

Recent devastating environmental disasters from which Haiti has not recovered, continuing violence, and unstable political conditions pose a serious threat at this time to the personal safety of anyone forcibly repatriated to Haiti. Last year's storms and hurricanes killed hundreds and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Fifteen percent of Haiti's already fragile economy was destroyed, the equivalent of eight to ten Hurricane Katrinas hitting the United States in the same month. Haitian deportees face hunger, homelessness, and grave threats to their security. The Haitian government's ability to provide basic governmental services--clean water, education, passable road and basic healthcare--has been severely compromised by the natural disasters and food crisis in 2008. Repatriating Haitians exposes them to these dangerous conditions, while imposing an additional burden on government resources that are already stretched too thin.

Furthermore, granting TPS to Haitian refugees would help Haiti recover, as Haitians in the United States could obtain work permits and would increase the already significant flow of remittances to their family and friends back home. Haitians who receive that aid are more likely to stay and rebuild Haiti. Many depend on those remittances for their very survival. That flow of dollars is among the best foreign aid that the United States can provide, and it costs taxpayers nothing. Strengthening Haiti’s economy will be the only sure way to ensure that more Haitians will not risk their lives on a perilous oversea journey to the United States. Granting Haitians TPS would also directly assist Haiti's nascent democracy in its efforts to recover from these conditions, stabilize the country's economy, rebuild its political and economic institutions, and provide a future of hope for Haiti's people. TPS would be extended only to those Haitians currently residing in the United States, so any concerns about a mass exodus to the US are unfounded.

Haiti is the hemispheres oldest democracy, and has always had a special relationship to the United States. Haitian immigrants have long contributed to America’s diverse and vibrant culture. The current plight of Haitians in their homeland clearly qualifies them for TPS here in the United States, and thus the NAACP strongly urges President Obama to grant TPS to Haitian refugees. Furthermore, the NAACP strongly supports legislation introduced by Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) to grant TPS to Haitians (H.R. 144).

Cynthia McKinney on Obama boycott of Durban conference


San Francisco Bayview

Despite Obama boycott, Black Caucus should attend Durban racism conference

March 17, 2009 In Africa and the World |

And now that I am as completely in the middle of the marsh as I was as completely in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea when my boat was rammed by the Israelis, let me make an observation about one aspect of marshes. I have witnessed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the Savannah, Georgia, marshland. And the most beautiful rainbows. Being away from the glass and concrete can give one a better perspective.

by Cynthia McKinney

...This morning, I sent the following message to the White House:

“Mr. President, it was with great disappointment that I read of your decision to pull out of Durban II. Even the Bush administration, under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, provided some funding for the United Nations effort and sent staff to support the Congressional delegation that attended the conference. I was there. I was head of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force that negotiated Congressional and administration engagement on this issue. There is still time for the U.S. to participate. Your decision is not irrevocable. I would encourage you to please reconsider this decision and not only attend the conference, but also provide funding to ensure its success.”

Dignity will not come without first an acknowledgment of the truth: With truth we can have justice; and with justice we can have peace; and it is only with peace that we can truly have dignity.

I implore the members of the Congressional Black Caucus to spearhead the participation of the United States in the United Nation’s World Conference Against Racism: to boldly go where we have gone before. Dr. King reminded us that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” On this issue, President Obama has shown us his measure. I hope that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Caucus can show us, oh, so much more.

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