Category Archives: Resources

Museums launch town halls: Past and Present meet to discuss immigration

hull house

Jane Addams Hull House Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

Yesterday, museums across the country launched a new town hall dialogue program about immigration. “Face to face: immigration Then and Now” offers communities a chance to discuss immigration outside of specific policy measures and the fierce political debates that the issue typically inspires. Most importantly, the discussions are placed in a historical context, with exhibits relating to the history of immigration to the United States at each museum.

The American consciousness is often quick to forget and therefore the history of immigration in this country often ignored. For example, the many voices that are quick to scream that “my relatives came here the legal way” would do well to visit the New York museum site at Ellis Island. As the New York Times covers today, this museums gives the perspective of a Chinese immigrant who came to the United States during the “Chinese Exclusion Act” which placed restrictions solely on people trying to emigrate from China. From the NY Times:

The law was expanded in 1892 with a measure that required all Chinese to register with the government and subjected them to deportation unless they proved legal residency, which required the testimony of at least one white witness.

In a comment that reflected the tone in Congress, one senator asserted that the government had the right “to set apart for them, as we have for the Indians, a territory or reservation, where they should not break out to contaminate our people.”

Hmm… does this ring a bell? I’m thinking of a current political “pundit” warning of a wave of leprosy from those pesky illegals coming to take over our country.

But, I digress.

The Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC.

The Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC.

I think that the museum town halls are a creative and positive step forward in encouraging a real dialogue about immigration. Below is a list of the first four museums that participated in the launch of the program yesterday at the Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago, IL.

I am personally pleased to see a city like Charlotte (of my home state North Carolina) included in this debate. Charlotte has seen a huge influx of Latino immigrants in recent years – something that has been a source of both tension and positive growth.

I will be interested to follow the story of what comes out of these dialogues. The most important point is that this program is helping to humanize the debate and bring it home for people in a way that often policy debates cannot – and that is powerful.

For more information, visit the Sites of Consciousness website.

VIDEO: Congress, can you hear me now?

Thanks to Will Coley for this great video on how to sign up for the Cell Phone Action Network:

Under Siege: Low-wage Latino Workers Face Injustice in the South

tomatoworkerThe Southern Poverty Law Center released a report detailing the injustice and abuse facing low-wage Latino workers in the South. I grew up in the South and I can attest to the fact that the Latino population in my region is booming. Many of these folks have arrived to escape harsh and impoverished conditions and have, instead, found injustice at every turn.

In Tennessee, a young mother is arrested and jailed when she asks to be paid for her work in a cheese factory.

In Alabama, a migrant bean picker sees his life savings confiscated by police during a traffic stop.

In Georgia, a rapist goes unpunished because his 13-year-old victim is undocumented.

These are just a few examples of the injustices that confront Latino immigrants as they struggle to gain a foothold in the South.

The report finds that in Southern states Latinos are cheated out of wages, subjected to inhumane conditions, subjected to wide-spread racial profiling and are regularly harassed by law enforcement.

For this report, Southern Poverty Law Center researchers surveyed 500 low-income Latinos — including legal residents, undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens — at five locations in the South to take the pulse of a community that is being increasingly driven into the shadows by a sweeping anti-immigration movement. We found a population under siege and living in fear — fear of the police, fear of the government and fear of criminals who prey on immigrants because of their vulnerability.

To read the full report, click here.

VIDEO: A Surprise Visit

Breakthrough has just released a new video. It is a heartbreaking example of how good people can be victimized by a broken system. Check it out below:

Resource: Immigration in the New Administration Symposium Webcasts

Last month, Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law Center for Immigrant Rights held an immigration symposium titled “Immigration in a New Administration”. You can check out webcasts of all the presentations from the conference. Subjects include:

Report Makes Clear the Dysfunction of DHS

dhsYesterday, the New York Times featured a report recently released by the Migration Policy Institute. The report finds that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration policy is, well, broken. (Tell us something we don’t know!)

An immigration policy group said Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration mission has been undermined by wasteful spending along the southern border, law enforcement efforts that focused on snaring illegal workers rather than high-risk criminals, and an often hostile bureaucracy that discourages people eligible for legal entry from playing by the rules.

The report also discusses 36 steps that President Obama can take to improve immigration policy, without enacting legslation.  While things like Presidential directives, such as stopping raids on workplaces and homes, would be a welcome change in policy, they should only serve as interim measures until fully Comphrehensive Reform is reached. As Paco Fabian at America’s Voice posted today,

To not do so would mean taking a portrait of dysfunction and turning it into a legacy.

Immigrants and Crime: Separating Fact from Fiction

detention1The myth of “immigrant criminality” is a persistent one, despite research and evidence to the contrary. The Immigration Policy Center recently released a report, breaking down the myth and separating the facts from the fiction of this so-called link between immigrants and crime. IPC took to their blog to analyze two recent stories in the media that have worked to perpetuate the myth.

The perennially hot, and inflammatory, question of whether or not immigration is related to crime has yielded front-page stories in both the Washington Post and New York Times over the past two days.  In different ways, each of these stories highlights the extent to which the myth of a supposed link between crime and immigration has long been based on emotion rather than fact. Although study upon study over the past century has demonstrated that immigration is not associated with more crime, the “myth of immigrant criminality”persists.

IPC’s report, “From Anecdotes to Evidence: Setting the Record Straights on Immigrants and Crime” further dispels the myth that immigrants are criminals. Among many other findings, the report states:

Although the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2004, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 35.1 percent during this time and the property crime rate fell by 25.0 percent.1 The decline in crime rates was not just national, but also occurred in border cities and other cities with large immigrant populations such as San Diego, El Paso, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami.

Be sure to check out the full report here.

Who says Immigration wasn’t an Election Issue?

America’s Voice has published a detailed analysis of the immigration ads used during the 2008 election year. The conclusion? Using immigration as a wedge issue was a colossal failure. 

Check out the full report here. And be sure to visit the site to vote for the worst anti-immigrant ad of 2008. Deciding which is the worst will be a tough call – there are so many awful ones to choose from.

I think that my personal favorite was the ad that Elizabeth Dole produced to demonize her opponent in North Carolina, Kay Hagan. According to America’s Voice.

While Hagan embraced some of the same immigration enforcement policies as Dole, according to her campaign web site she also supported a “practical solution that is fair to taxpayers and addresses the problem at its roots: by strengthening the borders, enforcing and upgrading laws that crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, and eliminating the shadow economy that drives down wages and working conditions. If North Carolina’s farmers and seasonal businesses are having trouble finding the help they need, Kay would support the reform of guest-worker programs to ensure farmers and businesses are able to meet their needs legally and stay competitive while protecting American workers’ jobs.” 

Sounds entirely sensible to me. And yet, Liddy Dole ran the advertisement below, painting Hagan as an enemy of the American People.

As you might expect, Dole lost. More proof that Americans want a common sense approach to immigration that doesn’t rely on hateful and hyperbolic rhetoric.

“Go get it did”: Realizing the Promise

After Rev. Timothy McDonald charged us to “go get it did”, everyone is slowly making their way to the buses outside.

Since I was tasked with covering this event from an immigration angle, it’s interesting how the topic was often listed as one of the challenges facing American communities. Many speakers mentioned immigrant rights alongside access to health care, economic opportunity, the worsening economy, etc. When I did some video interviews before the event, I noticed how many participants, even US citizens with no recent immigrants in their families, saw the issue much the same way: as one of many challenges to address. And maybe that’s the point: as a “community value”, immigration is central to what the United States is about. Now if we can just tackle how to overhaul our current system and make it work for all of us…

What an inspiring event! and maybe a little the daunting because of all the  work we have ahead us. (Whew!)

Get fired up!

– Will Coley, guest blogger, signing off (and rolling up my sleeves)

UPDATE: The Guatemala – Postville Connection

Many of the more than 300 workers arrested in Postville raid this past May were immigrants from Guatemala. On Saturday, the Des Moines Register ran a great piece exploring the connection of Guatemalan immigrants and the town of Postville.

The main focus of the article is the abject poverty faced by many Gautemalans, poverty that leaves them with few options for survival. I had the privelege of working with rural Guatemalan communities a few years ago, and almost everyone I came in contact with had been, or knew someone who was, in the United States (or “el Norte”). Many Americans cannot begin to comprehend the level of poverty these communities face.


Guatemalans say the flow of humanity from their homeland will continue unless conditions improve in their country. Consider what everyday Guatemalans face:

Wages aren’t keeping pace with the fast-rising cost of food. The country has the highest birthrate in Latin America, and some of the worst crime. Schooling is inadequate or unavailable. The government is a democracy, but it is still trying to regain trust after a 36-year civil war that devastated many rural areas and left more than 200,000 dead or missing. Most of the country’s wealth is controlled by a small percentage of rich families, leaving few opportunities for ambitious young people.

Continue reading