Author Archives: rachelfirm

What does Disney have in common with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?

Give up? They both want to escalate efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Today, immigration reform saw a welcome two steps forward. First, a press conference today marked over 100 co-sponsors for the CIR ASAP bill, introduced last fall by Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).  At the press conference, members of Congress reaffirmed and intensified their commitment to passing immigration reform.

Much of the message was framed around the passage of SB 1070 in Arizona and the copycat laws that are springing up around the country. Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Barbara Lee spoke out against the racial profiling law:

We must act now. We cant afford to wait any longer. Arizona reminds us of that. We wont let people divide us anymore. (via ClinicLegal)

Representative Luis Gutierrez, who introduced the legislation, drove home the urgency of the moment:

“The legislative clock is ticking,” stressed Gutierrez. “We know people are getting deported at the highest rate in modern history.”

Guttierez said the need for Congress to pass his plan is critical, especially with only one month to go before many provisions within the recently signed Arizona immigration law start to take effect. He called the Arizona law a call to action, and said a pragmatic solution must be found for what he referred to as a “broken system.” The Illinois Democrat added that he wants something passed before Congress recesses in August.

At the same time that members of Congress were escalating their push for immigration reform this year, some unlikely allies were publicly declaring their support for the measure. CEO’s of major corporations like Hewlett Packard, News Corp and Disney have joined forces with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Mayor Bloomberg:

“I can’t think of any ways to destroy this country quite as direct and impactful as our immigration policy. We educate the best and the brightest, and then we don’t give them a green card.”

“It’s our great strength as a nation, and it’s also critical for continued economic growth,” Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “To remain competitive in the 21st century, we need effective immigration reform that invites people to contribute to our shared success by building their own American dream.”

Tragedy on the border

By guest blogger, Mary Moreno.

The loss of life is always tragic, though sometimes necessary and unavoidable. The loss of a young life when completely unnecessary and completely avoidable is about as tragic as it gets.

Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca, 15, was a high school student in Juarez, the border town directly across the river from El Paso, the youngest child in a family of 5 and a good student. On Monday, Sergio was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who thought it was appropriate to respond to rocks thrown at him by shooting his gun several times at a group of kids where the rocks were coming from. Sergio was shot in the head. The agent was not injured.

According to various news sources Sergio and a group of teens had tried to cross the border at a dry aqueduct adjacent to the international bridge. The teens were spotted by the Border Patrol, which was really inevitable considering the sheer quantity of agents guarding our border. The agents chased the kids and managed to capture two. The others continued running to the Mexican side of the border. From there, they threw rocks at the agents.

According to a witness:

The teens were playing a kind of “cat-and-mouse game,” said Bobbie McDow, 52, a U.S. national who said she witnessed the shooting from the middle of the bridge where she was standing. The teenagers, Ms. McDow said, appeared to be trying to make it to the U.S. side and quickly back to Mexico without being caught by officials, a pattern that Ms. McDow said she has noticed.

One of the youths—not the young Mr. Hernández—had thrown rocks at the border patrol agents, Ms. McDow said, but she stressed that the agent’s “life wasn’t under threat.”

Ms. McDow’s husband, Raul Flores, 52, a Mexican national, also said he witnessed the incident. Mr. Flores said the teenager who was shot had stepped out from behind a pillar on the Mexican side of the border with his hands in the air. The agent and the teenager “had four seconds to look at each other” before the young man was shot, first in the shoulder and then in the head, he said.

The details provided by these witnesses are incredibly disturbing. In what world is ok to respond to a group of teenagers throwing rocks by shooting indiscriminately into that group not knowing who your target is, not knowing if your bullet will strike an innocent?

The most recent update by the Associated Press unveils even more disturbing news:

Hernandez was found 20 feet (six meters) into Mexico, and an autopsy revealed that the fatal shot was fired at a relatively close range, according to Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office. Mexican authorities said a .40 caliber shell casing was found near the body, suggesting that the Border Patrol agent might have crossed into Mexico to shoot the boy.

In my previous career, I spent 7 years on the cop beat in Texas, including more than two spent on the border where I also covered Border Patrol. One of the most maddening aspects of reporting on any federal agency is the inaccessibility to information. If this had been done by a local police officer, we would by now at least know his name and some of the officer’s history. With Border Patrol, it might be a long while before the details of this death are known.

Nothing about this story makes sense, and everything about it makes me nauseous. Why would a trained officer shoot a gun at a group of people? Why would a trained officer not know how to diffuse rock throwers without resorting to deadly force? The El Paso area is flooded with immigration agents. Why not call for back up?

Even if the worst allegations made against this boy were true – that he was trying to cross illegally, that he threw rocks at the agent – none justify the result.  I would like to know the history of this Border Patrol agent. Is he one of the recent hires, hires made during a historic expansion of Border Patrol? Was he properly vetted and trained? Or was this vetting and training process compromised by the need to rush bodies to the border to quash unfounded fears about border violence?

Recently, I had a conversation with a staffer of a border congressman about the 1,200 National Guard troops President Obama is trying to deploy to the border. This congressman’s office had applauded the move. I asked the staffer why they had approved of it when the border already has some of the lowest crime rates in the country and is saturated with border agents. The staffer said it couldn’t hurt.

This incident shows that it can and will hurt. If Border Patrol agents who are trained to keep a border brimming with civilian and business traffic flowing and safe, what kind of response will we get from soldiers who are trained to kill?

The outrage to this killing is just gaining steam. Amnesty International joined the Mexican government in calling for a quick and transparent investigation:

“This shooting across the border appears to have been a grossly disproportionate response and flies in the face of international standards which compel police to use firearms only as a last resort, in response to an immediate, deadly threat that cannot be contained through lesser means,” said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement Wednesday on the organization’s website.

In El Paso, dozens of residents protested, calling for a complete investigation:

“We want also for Border Patrol to clarify what are the protocols for use of lethal force against immigrants, but more than anything we’re asking for justice and accountability on this incident,” said Fernando Garcia with the Border Network for Human Rights.

Of course, not everyone is concerned about the use of lethal force in response to rock throwing. The National Border Patrol Council under the moniker BPunion tweeted:  “Don’t bring rocks to a gunfight. Border Patrol agents shoot two illegal aliens assaulting them.” The tweet was in response to Saturday’s shooting of two men who were throwing rocks at agents near Tucson. The men were hospitalized with what were described as non-life threatening injuries. The agents were not hurt. (The tweet was pulled down on Tuesday)

Of course the tweeter at the union has a habit of making glib comments about very serious life-and-death incidents. About the man border agents tasered to death, he tweeted: “He had meth in his system and chose to fight an agent. In the BP you don’t get one bean you get the whole burrito!” Wow. Racist much?

Nothing can be done to bring Sergio back, but we should take this opportunity to reexamine how we patrol the border and the use of lethal force. Preventing future deaths would help us heal from this tragedy.

Today Obama meets with Brewer. Will leadership ensue?

By guest blogger, Elisabeth Lesser.

Today, Governor Jan Brewer will meet with President Obama regarding border security and Arizona’s SB 1070. This will be the first meeting between Governor Brewer and the President since the Governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, and the tone set tomorrow by the President will send a clear message about his priorities and agenda in the face of such blatant disregard for social justice and basic civil rights.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, released the following statement regarding the meeting:

“We don’t expect much from a governor who’s clearly more interested in winning a primary election than she is in protecting her state. She’s firmly dug her partisan heels into the Arizona sand, and will only use the meeting with the President as a platform for even more political grandstanding.”

I’d like to add that there are plenty of good reasons why Governor Brewer doesn’t inspire confidence. She stands beside Sarah Palin in the ranks of smug, uber-conservative female politicians. Asked by CNN how she would respond if the Department of Justice attempted to challenge SB 1070, Brewer responded firmly:

“We’ll meet you in court… I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

And even when confronted with proof that her reasons for enacting SB 1070, namely increased crime, are not true, she dismisses the facts and sticks to her misrepresentations.

Back to Bhargava’s statement:

“But from the President we do expect action. He should immediately cancel the 287 g and Secure Communities programs that opened the door to the racist, divisive law Brewer signed last month. By ending local law enforcement’s role in immigration law, the President will leave no doubt that immigration law is solely the federal government’s purview.  The President must also call for an immediate moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration is enacted, thus making a statement that hardworking men and women will not be separated from their families simply because Republicans have chosen to continue obstructing progress.”

Fortunately, the fight against the startlingly discriminatory Arizona law has been flooding national headlines. Yesterday, nonviolent civil disobedience in New York reached a pinnacle as 56 protesters were arrested, the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience that has led to the arrests of people in DC, LA, Chicago and Seattle. And in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the Arizona boycott. CCC pledged to join this boycott on May 6th, and you can learn more about why you too should join us here.

As we watch the immigration debate rekindle in full force and Arizona strips its residents of  adequate civil liberties, it is clear that the people of this country are up in arms, and that the federal government needs to act. Let’s hope the President has heard the united voices against SB 1070 and will finally deliver on his campaign promise to actively reform our nation’s broken immigration system, once and for all.

TOMORROW: DC vigil to protest SB 1070

Jeff's Memory Card 100
Today, we saw the worst of our country signed into law in Arizona. Today, we mourn the loss of dignity. As President Obama said, the new law in Arizona threatens:

…to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.

If you’re in DC come to Dupont Circle tomorrow night, Saturday April 24th at 8pm. Bring candles, friends and family.

We will holding vigil in solidarity with the community in Phoenix, AZ – where a vigil will be held at 5pm MST.

Be ready to call for justice.

See you there.

Power to the people of Arizona

AZ amazing

With only minutes to go until Governor Jan Brewer’s announcement on SB 1070 in Arizona, thousands of people are gathered in Phoenix to call for justice.

The activism and energy being seen right now is further proof that we are fighting the good fight, the right fight, the fight of the people.

We are with you in spirit. And no matter what, la lucha sigue.

And justice for all: Students fight SB 1070 in Arizona


I’ve been getting reports from the ground in Phoenix, Arizona, where thousands of people are gathered to call for the veto of SB 1070. The community is truly coming together around this effort.

Earlier today, nearly one thousand local high school and college students walked out of their classes in protest of the bill that would mandate racial profiling in the state of Arizona.

Dozens of Phoenix police officers escorted more than 1,000 Maryvale and Trevor Browne High School students along their route to the Capitol. (via KTAR.com)

The students, chanting U-S-A  and carrying American flags, are those caught in the cross-fire of this impending bill. Many of these students represent mixed-status families, who could potentially be torn apart if SB 1070 were to pass.

Activists from as far away as Southern California have arrived on the scene, to stand with the protestors in front of Governor Jan Brewer’s office at the capitol. Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, arrived on the scene just as the student protestors were filing into the capitol square.

I am blessed to be surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of high school and college students in Arizona. Powerful and gutsy young people walked out of their classes to be here. We arrived as they arrived. We chanted, we marched and now in a circle of unity they share their testimonies as immigrants and children of immigrants. They led an impromptu pledge of allegiance led by a student in uniform. They screamed when they finished ” and justce for all”! Things have to change and they will!

And justice for all. We are with you in spirit.

(picture via NAKASEC)

Arizona Students walk out in protest of SB 1070

Arizona students walk out of class in protest of SB 1070

In the ongoing vigil to veto SB 1070 in Phoenix, Arizona, today, more than 500 students walked out of a local h igh school in protest of the impending bill.

Two of the students from Metro Tech High School, Diana Antunez and Miguel Vasquez had this to say:

” We walked out for our family, we don’t want SB 1070 to pass. It would affect more than half of my family who would be in risk of getting deported and I would be left alone in this country as a minor.”

Diana was born in Phoenix. Her parents parents immigrated to the city 18 years ago and have been working hard to provide for their families ever since, despite not being eligible for citizenship.

“I get very emotional to see all of the people gathering together for the same cause, to do what’s right for Arizona and veto SB1070”.

Miguel has never been a part of of a movement like this and believes that by leaving school he will be able to affect the governor’s decision. He wished he could meet the governor face-to-face to be able to make the case for his own family.

Both Diana and Miguel say tomorrow they will not be going to school as a show of protest against SB 1070. They hope to show Governor Brewer that the current situation is keeping them from obtaining a proper education because they live in constant fear. Fear of having their parents taken away. Fear that their younger siblings will be left abandoned.

“If the governor sees that by signing this bill she will be keeping students from school hopefully she will veto it so students can continue to get an education and live normal lives like our classmates”.

The students plan on keeping from school until SB 1070 is vetoed.

Stand with them – ask Governor Brewer to veto SB 1070>>