Tag Archives: the sanctuary

FIRM Spotlight: The Sanctuary – Receiving Award from New America Media

the sanctuaryThe Sanctuary, an outstanding pro-migrant blog where I cross-post diaries from time to time, will be receiving an award at the upcoming National Ethnic Media Expo & Awards event June 3 -5. From Nezua, one of the founding editors at the Sanctuary:

We are happy to announce that The Sanctuary (ProMigrant.Org) will be receiving an award that, in 2006, Hillary Rodham Clinton described as “the equivalent of the “Pulitzer Prize” for journalism (including New Media of course) in ethnic media! I leave it to politicians wielding impressive phraseology for various reasons to convince you that the award is quite that important, but nonetheless. We are very proud to be recognized for the work we do at our little human rights agenda community.

A BIG Congratulations to all the great folks at the Sanctuary. You deserve it.

The Luis Ramirez Murder: A Logical Step in the Process of Establishing a Subhuman Class

we are human
The systematic dehumanization of undocumented immigrants is something that I wish I had more time to write about in this space. In the face of the rising number of hate groups and hate crimes, I think that the American public MUST take a long hard look at the language we use to describe the Other. By painting undocumented immigrants as less than human, we are complicit in the violence (and even murder) committed against them. If someone is less than human, you can treat them as such, right?
More on this later, but in the mean time, I urge everyone to read this new post up at the Sanctuary. You know that its important when the Sanctuary editors all come together to write a long and thoughtful post on a recent news item. In this case, its the injustice witnessed in the case of Luis Ramirez, whose brutal murderers (white high school kids) were recently acquitted of the crime by an all-white jury.
Originally posted at the Sanctuary:

Three things immediately shock the conscious soul upon learning about the murder of Luis Ramirez. The simple manner in which he died is the first of those.

Ramirez, a father of three, was beaten to death in the streets of Pennsylvania by as many as seven young men who were at the end of a night of drinking. The motive? Judging by the slurs heaped upon him along with the many blows to his body: apparently nothing more than being out at night while Mexican. The teens who ganged up on Ramirez came upon him walking with a young woman, reportedly his girlfriend’s sister. Obviously bringing threat, they asked him what he was doing out at that time of day. Then they set upon him. In the end it was a final hard kick to the skull which left the 25-year-old father convulsing on the concrete with fatal brain damage.

The post is lengthy, but KEEP READING!

Continue reading

Janet Napolitano set to Head DHS – Reaction Roundup

In the past week its become clear that Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) is the front-runner for the position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Napolitano has been a controversial presence in Arizona and it has been said that Obama is tapping her based on her extensive experience around immigration. So – what does this mean?

Below is a round-up of reactions to the news from:

America’s Voice , The New York Times, The Sanctuary, The Washington Post and The Immigration Policy Center Blog – Immigration Impact.

UPDATE: Obama Responds to Sanctuary, McCain Still Silent

Many of you will remember the survey that the Sanctuary sent to both presidential candidates over the summer. It asked real questions about their stance on immigration issues. For a refresher check out posts here and here. Last week, the Sanctuary finally released Obama’s answers to the survey (though they were quickly amended by the campaign). McCain has yet to respond, which thwarts the whole reason for the survey – a truthful comparison of the candidates on the issue. From the Sanctuary:

While our original intent was to present a meaningful side-by-side comparison of the policies and positions of all presidential candidates in order to better inform voters, Senator McCain’s unwillingness to answer our questions, or to go on the record with his positions on the specific details covered in the questionnaire, has made this impossible. Senator McCain’s reluctance is all the more troubling in light of the fact that his previously published positions, available on his website, appear to directly contradict those in the official platform coming out of the Republican National Convention earlier this month. This has left many of us who are concerned about immigration reform at a loss to know exactly where the Senator actually stands on vital issues.

It is worth noting that upon the Sanctuary’s release of Obama’s responses, they were immediately contacted by the campaign asking that they wait for “new, fresher responses” from the Democratic candidate.

Check out the Sanctuary’s post for the responses (and amendments) from the Obama camp.

I would love to be able to report on McCain’s responses too, but, we are still waiting…

FAIR Angry about Exposure: Help Stop the Hate!

Yesterday, the Sleuth blog at the Washington Post was the first to report that a full page ad exposing the truth about the anti-migrant group FAIR was run in political newspapers on the Hill.

A coalition of pro-immigration groups is running a full-page ad today in the Capitol Hill newspapers Roll Call and Politico to protest a lobbying blitz this week by the anti-immigration group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The ad, paid for by America’s Voice and the Service Employees International Union, among others, asks, “When Did Extreme Become Mainstream?” And it notes FAIR has been “designated as a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Since the story broke, FAIR (which has been designated as a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center) has responded to the ad. The group has officially responded with a statement that FAIR is the victim of a “smear” campaign. And also claimed that:

“this coalition of special interest groups uses inflammatory language and stock photos of individuals who have no association with FAIR to incite hatred against anyone who has the audacity to oppose their views on immigration policy.”

To see proof of the association between FAIR and the hate groups featured in the ad, check out Duke’s post at The Sanctuary.

But, as Dave Neiwert at FireDogLake notes: “It isn’t a “smear” by definition if everything that’s said is true.” He also had this to say of FAIR’s official response to the ad (which is included in the post):

Notice what’s missing: Any mention of the actual facts in the article. The only thing that’s “ugly” is the very real quotes from FAIR leaders and officials. Moreover, its listing as a hate group by the SPLC — which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “radical organization” — goes utterly unmentioned.  

Below is a video from America’s Voice exposing FAIR for what it really is…

Take action: Stop the Hate! Go to America’s Voice online for how to help.

VIDEO: Update – McCain unofficially “responds” to Survey on CNN

As I posted on Tuesday, the Sanctuary has yet to hear back from John McCain regarding the survey they sent his camp last month. Obama’s campaign officially responded to the questions that are at the center of Latino issues for the upcoming election. McCain’s, however, has yet to directly respond to the questions.

This morning, Kety Esquivel, founder of Crossleft.org, appeared on CNN for the second time to discuss the survey. CNN featured Leslie Sanchez as an unofficial mouthpiece for the McCain camp. Watch their discussion below:

From Citzen Orange:

There you have it.  It’s not directly from the mouth of John McCain but it’s clear that the McCain campaign officially responded through Leslie Sanchez.  Some of the strongest voices in the Latino blogosphere have been tossed aside because they’re like the Huffington Post. 

Sanchez suggests McCain has been paying attention to Latinos by pointing to the four Latino events he attended in the last month, but it was during those events that the idea for the questionnnaire came about.  The candidates were speaking in soundbites, not with substance.  I was in San Diego, too, and the audience didn’t look very left-of-center, to me.

It’s good to know McCain doesn’t think we’re worth his time.  It certainly tells me something about who the most pro-migrant candidate is.

Asking the tough questions. And getting no answers.

While John McCain and Barack Obama continue to earnestly court Latino voters, both candidates also continue to be vague when it comes to immigration.

As I posted yesterday, mainstream media certainly isn’t helping to further clarify either candidates’ view on immigration policy. So, last month, The Sanctuary stepped up to the plate and sent McCain and Obama a detailed survey, asking the questions that the media refuses to address. Last week, after no response, the Sanctuary re-sent the survey. They have yet to receive any answers.

Yesterday, Kety Esquivel, editor ar the Sanctuary, appeared on CNN to ask both candidates to stop the pandering and start addressing the tough questions.

Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, we are waiting…

The Truth About Postville

When Erik Camayd-Freixas, Ph.D., was called up for an interpreting job in Iowa, he had no idea that he was about to encounter one of the most trying events of his career.

Dr. Camayd-Freixas worked as an interpreter for the hundreds of detained immigrants after the largest immigration workplace raid in history, in Postville, Iowa. Because of his unique position navigating between the immigrants and the legal system they faced, Dr. Camayd-Freixas got a behind-the-scenes view of exactly how our country’s immigration policy works. He was horrified by what he witnessed.

Deeply disturbed by the broken system, Dr. Camayd-Freixas has spoken out about his experience – a rare move for an interpreter who is bound by confidentiality.

Today the New York Times published an article about the interpreter’s brave stand against what is clearly an injust immigration system.

“It is quite unusual that a legal interpreter would go to this length of writing up an essay and taking a strong stance,” said Nataly Kelly, an analyst with Common Sense Advisory, a marketing research company focused on language services.

That he has taken this strong and vocal stance, for the first time in his 23-year career as an interpreter, speaks to the gravity of what he witnessed in Postville.

Professor Camayd-Freixas said he had considered withdrawing from the assignment, but decided instead that he could play a valuable role by witnessing the proceedings and making them known.

He suggested many of the immigrants could not have knowingly committed the crimes in their pleas. “Most of the clients we interviewed did not even know what a Social Security card was or what purpose it served,” he wrote.

He said many immigrants could not distinguish between a Social Security card and a residence visa, known as a green card. They said they had purchased fake documents from smugglers in Postville, or obtained them directly from supervisors at the Agriprocessors plant. Most did not know that the original cards could belong to Americans and legal immigrants, Mr. Camayd-Freixas said.

Ms. Smith [an attorney] went repeatedly over the charges and the options available to her clients, Professor Camayd-Freixas said. He cited the reaction of one Guatemalan, Isaías Pérez Martínez: “No matter how many times his attorney explained it, he kept saying, ‘I’m illegal, I have no rights. I’m nobody in this country. Just do whatever you want with me.’

Dr. Camayd-Freixas has written a tell-all report based on his experience interpreting after the ICE Raid in Postville, Iowa. It is an eye-opening and heart-wrenching account of just how our current “enforcement only” policy works.

Everyone should read the full report, posted at the Sanctuary. It is long, but it will be worth every minute. Here are a few noteworthy excerpts:

Echoing what I think was the general feeling, one of my fellow interpreters would later exclaim: “When I saw what it was really about, my heart sank…”  Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound (only a few journalists came to court the following days, notepad in hand). Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí…), some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment.  They all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside from their nationality, which was imposed on their people in the 19th century, they too were Native Americans, in shackles. They stood out in stark racial contrast with the rest of us as they started their slow penguin march across the makeshift court. “Sad spectacle” I heard a colleague say, reading my mind. They had all waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury and accepted instead an information or simple charging document by the U.S. Attorney, hoping to be quickly deported since they had families to support back home. But it was not to be. They were criminally charged with “aggravated identity theft” and “Social Security fraud” -charges they did not understand… and, frankly, neither could I.  Everyone wondered how it would all play out.


At the local high school, only three of the 15 Latino students came back on Tuesday, while at the elementary and middle school, 120 of the 363 children were absent. In the following days the principal went around town on the school bus and gathered 70 students after convincing the parents to let them come back to school; 50 remained unaccounted for. Some American parents complained that their children were traumatized by the sudden disappearance of so many of their school friends. The principal reported the same reaction in the classrooms, saying that for the children it was as if ten of their classmates had suddenly died. Counselors were brought in. American children were having nightmares that their parents too were being taken away. The superintendant said the school district’s future was unclear: “This literally blew our town away.” In some cases both parents were picked up and small children were left behind for up to 72 hours. Typically, the mother would be released “on humanitarian grounds” with an ankle GPS monitor, pending prosecution and deportation, while the husband took first turn in serving his prison sentence. Meanwhile the mother would have no income and could not work to provide for her children. Some of the children were born in the U.S. and are American citizens. Sometimes one parent was a deportable alien while the other was not. “Hundreds of families were torn apart by this raid,” said a Catholic nun. “The humanitarian impact of this raid is obvious to anyone in Postville. The economic impact will soon be evident.”

But this was only the surface damage. Alongside the many courageous actions and expressions of humanitarian concern in the true American spirit, the news blogs were filled with snide remarks of racial prejudice and bigotry, poorly disguised beneath an empty rhetoric of misguided patriotism, not to mention the insults to anyone who publicly showed compassion, safely hurled from behind a cowardly online nickname. One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart beneath it all.


That first interview, though, took three hours. The client, a Guatemalan peasant afraid for his family, spent most of that time weeping at our table, in a corner of the crowded jailhouse visiting room. How did he come here from Guatemala? “I walked.” What? “I walked for a month and ten days until I crossed the river.” We understood immediately how desperate his family’s situation was. He crossed alone, met other immigrants, and hitched a truck ride to Dallas, then Postville, where he heard there was sure work. He slept in an apartment hallway with other immigrants until employed. He had scarcely been working a couple of months when he was arrested. Maybe he was lucky: another man who began that Monday had only been working for 20 minutes. “I just wanted to work a year or two, save, and then go back to my family, but it was not to be.” His case and that of a million others could simply be solved by a temporary work permit as part of our much overdue immigration reform. “The Good Lord knows I was just working and not doing anyone any harm.” This man, like many others, was in fact not guilty. “Knowingly” and “intent” are necessary elements of the charges, but most of the clients we interviewed did not even know what a Social Security number was or what purpose it served. This worker simply had the papers filled out for him at the plant, since he could not read or write Spanish, let alone English. But the lawyer still had to advise him that pleading guilty was in his best interest. He was unable to make a decision. “You all do and undo,” he said. “So you can do whatever you want with me.” To him we were part of the system keeping him from being deported back to his country, where his children, wife, mother, and sister depended on him. He was their sole support and did not know how they were going to make it with him in jail for 5 months. None of the “options” really mattered to him. Caught between despair and hopelessness, he just wept. He had failed his family, and was devastated. I went for some napkins, but he refused them. I offered him a cup of soda, which he superstitiously declined, saying it could be “poisoned.” His Native American spirit was broken and he could no longer think. He stared for a while at the signature page pretending to read it, although I knew he was actually praying for guidance and protection. Before he signed with a scribble, he said: “God knows you are just doing your job to support your families, and that job is to keep me from supporting mine.” There was my conflict of interest, well put by a weeping, illiterate man.

And a note from Dr. Camayd-Frexais:

“My new friends from Postville involved in the relief effort inform me that they are still dealing with a very tough humanitarian crisis. So, please, if you have any opportunity for fundraising, this is the address where donations can be sent:

St. Bridget’s Hispanic Ministry Fund
c/o Sister Mary McCauley
PO Box 369
Postville, Iowa 52162″