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Liveblogging the Netroots Nation Immigration Panel

Friday, July 18, 2008
by Man Eegee
Alright, I'm all set up and things are getting ready for the workshop: How to Win the Immigration Debate and Beat Back ICE's Emerging Police State Info on the panelists and moderator are at the link. I will be updating this post as the session goes, so hit the refresh button. I'll update it later with links and other bloggy-type stuff.

Joshua Holland of Alternet is the moderator. "Immigration, sadly, is an issue that has failed to get traction in the greater progressive blogosphere. Been relegated to ethnic media and labeled as a "pet issue". Gross human rights abuses are being committed in the country with little focus. Guantanamo Bay receives global condemnation, but right here in the US the poorest of the poor are being rounded up in a migrant gulag. Many are not charged with crimes, health care access is withheld, etc.

30 minutes to the north of Austin, the T. Don Hutto, half of the detainees are children, as young as three years old. It is a medium-security prison that has been changed very little to house families. ACLU has sued. Guards have threatened children, withheld access to recreation, etc.

Since 9/11, ICE holds more detainees a night than the Clarion has hotel guests each night. Politically, it is a big wedge issue. The question is who will it wedge? "I believe it's an issue we can win if we embrace it instead of running away, partly because our oponents have overreached." Republicans have about 40% of their base that are what he calls immigration hardliners. Tom Tancredo ads, for example have gone from subtle to overt racism.

Duke1676: glad to see so many people at the workshop, and also happy to see that there was slot given to immigration reform at this conference since there is often ambivalence about it in the progressive blogosphere.

Green cards are issued for various reasons - those who have family members already citizens, those with special skill sets, education, etc. 1.2 million cards issued last year, only 5000 were for unskilled labor. You can see the disconnect with reality. 7% cap per country, according to the system, can receive a visa. What happens is that countries with small populations end up getting preferencial treatment to larger population countries. The system is basically cobbled together from various laws that often contradict each other.

GOP tactics are very hardlined. Border Security - cameras, walls, razor wires, border patrol agents, etc. It is becoming big business for companies that haven't been making money in Iraq. Boeing, CCA, Halliburton, etc. going to the border to 'create another business' by a whole prison-for-profit system.

Switched from family to merit-system to handle incoming immigration. Shifting of demographics, which before was hemispheric and low-skilled workers, is now going to a more global look. Regarding people already here, we've seen different types of legislation that involves fines, permits, deportations, and quota systems that don't make any sense to reality.

We have to be willing to address what's happening in sender nations. Economic policies

Marisa Treviño: created a page at http://www.latinalista.net/nn with more information about what she's sharing today since the time is so short.

ICE will focus on border security and interior operations. 1000 new detention beds will be added, 2000 agents, expanding their 287g program - there are 55 police departments, with 80 pending requests for local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. While they say they don't profile, they do.

Reasonable Doubt, East Valley Tribune in Phoenix, looked at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 387g program. Recommends the read to see what's happening. The reporter did a ride-a-long with a detective and wrote about his experience. Lots of abuses with the 387g program. Nashville, TN - there was a mother who was 9 months pregnant, she went in to labor early, treated like a midlevel criminal. Shackled until right before the birth. Criminalization is growing in this country. Immigration charges are now outpacing white collar crime and drug offenses.

Hand in hand is the way ICE goes about enforcing their programs. In Laurel, MD, five agents arrived at a home, were there to arrest a mother and her daughter. The husband was legal, asked the agents what authority they had to enter his home. The response was a gun to the head. Children witnessed all of this. They are doing pre-dawn raids, dragging them out of beds, it has become traumatic. Legal citizens are also jailed and mischaracterized.

ICE is now starting to target children. They will go by schools and park their vans to send a message. It is really sending a mistrust of law enforcement and fear. We are receiving more reports of children needing psychiatric help from the trauma. Many times children, often citizens, are separated from their parents - automatically putting them in the CPS system, creating orphans.

Detention facilities - many reports of sexual abuse of female detainees. Groups trying to expose the abuse and negligence. Voices from Detention - chronicled abuses at a center in the northwest. ICE's response - it was a "work of fiction". Regarding T. Don Hutto, they changed their tune about community outrage reached a level that caused attention to their abuses of the detainees and children.

Jackie Mahendra: After the failure of comprehensive immigration reform. We are seeing in the absence of federal reform, we are seeing state and local laws being patched together that are affecting different issues. 43 states passed 182 laws concerning immigration last year - enforcement, not reform. The 287g program has taken a different form depending on where you're at in the country. In Missouri, two directives were passed - one regarding 287g which gave local cops to get training to become immigration agents. The other was to force all contractors to verify the citizen status of workers. E-Verify system is unreliable, there is a lawsuit in Illinois to stop the requirement of employers needing to use it.

Forced status check required for residents by landlords to keep undocumented migrants from being able to rent. Creates a hostile climate. In Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is charging migrant workers with smuggling laws. They are being charged for smuggling themselves. This week a lawsuit was filed against the Sheriff and his office due to racial profiling.

In Arizona, there is now talk about how to create a guest-worker program to bring workers back in to the state after they left due to hostile in environments. Economics are being affected. There are ways to integrate immigration populations.

Josh Holland: Want to talk about where the debate needs to go. Supported 'comprehensive immigration reform' in the past but having to swallow a lot of compromise that wasn't worth it. Now that there have two failed attempts, thinks we need to strive for a more progressive vision of immigration reform. Pivot Points for the GOP - focused on law enforcement, nativism/fear of outsiders. Need to work on workplace reform. We need to talk about conditions for workers.

Conservatives have taken on the thought of "anarchy" that immigrants are a de-stabling the country. Argues that it's true, but the anarchy is rather in workplaces. Private Prison system has been revived after a drop in the late 90s due to the new police state that is emerging. Our opponents don't want to address a reform of the system, they are only about law enforcement.

We need to work on backlogs, we need to better develop skill sets, we need to address economics because migrant workers get targeted in times of economic anxiety - and we are certainly in a period like that. We need to talk about how corn/agribusiness in Mexico and trade agreements like NAFTA have decimated work industries south of the border and driven migration. Take responsibility and as progressives push for worker protections, etc.

"Immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do" - not true. We need to understand that millions of Americans do the jobs side-by-side. Millions of workers are being cheated out of their wages, work in unsafe conditions, etc. and we can

Q&A - talk more about guest workers? feels like they are a form of indentured servitude

Duke: so far, in legislation, we haven't seen how there is any path to citizenship. The question is: what is a temporary job? is there such a thing? what's the purpose of a guestworker program? When we're using it to fill permanent jobs on a temporary basis, then exploitation and problems will be widespread.

Q: Highly skilled labor - aren't the companies natural allies?
Duke: H1B program is capped out at 65,000 per year - run out in the first day or so. They are being monopolized by groups and industries. There needs to be reform to tie them to reality.
Jackie: we were trying to collaborate, but it's difficult

Q: politically, why do we identify people by a crime they committed?
Josh: we have not been in the lead to frame this issue. We are trying to catch up to an organized conservative movement. There is a lot of debate on language, but we have to coordinate.

Q: how do we do public education on the brokenness of the immigration system?
Marisa: "seeing is believing" - but this debate has been so highjacked that any attempts at a middle-of-the-road approach is characterized as amnesty. We just have to keep on keep on keep on, etc.

Comment: Postville, people were forced by prosecutors to sign paperwork claiming guilty charges for criminal charges. Dept of Justice is colluding ICE for charging and increasing police state.

There is a movement afoot regarding the 14th Amendment to get rid of the birth-right provisions. That's how extreme of an opponent we're dealing with.

Comment: what's up with the Minutemen and how do we deal with them?
Duke: we have to document and expose them. Dave Neiwert mentions that he will have a piece in American Prospect soon with a six-month investigation on their finances.

More live-blogging goodness from Lisa at Long Island Wins

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