Friday, October 31, 2008

Many Faces of FAIR

The oldest and largest anti-immigration organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, formed in 1979 by John Tanton, has time and again formed affiliate groups to expand the anti-immigration constituency and attract new media attention to its cause.
These affiliates – criticized as “front groups” by such pro-immigration organizations as the Center for New Community – have included such groups as Coalition for a Secure Drivers License, 9-11 Families for a Secure America, United to Secure America Coalition, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, and Coalition for the Future American Worker.
Two of the more recent FAIR-sponsored groups are You Don’t Speak for Me and Choose Black America.
In its 2006 annual report, FAIR described the creation of these two ethnic/racial groups:
“These two affiliate groups that FAIR helped form in 2006 will provide important voices in the immigration debate as it continues in the years to come. These organizations also provide strong evidence to refute the racially and ethnically charged accusations made by the open immigration lobby and provide evidence that the fight for immigration reform is supported by a not only the vast majority of Americans, but also encompasses a broad and diverse cross-section of our population.”
The immigration debate continues as the immigration crackdown intensifies. But now that the issue is no longer prominent in the political debate or in Congress, the front groups established by FAIR in May 2006 have fallen silent. But it’s likely that as soon as the issue is raised by the new Congress and administration, these FAIR affiliates will once again start issuing media releases and organizing anti-immigration protests to attract media attention. You Don’t Speak for Me On May 1, 2006, the day millions of illegal immigrants and their supporters took to the streets to call for legalization, FAIR launched a new affiliate, You Don’t Speak for Me. As FAIR explained: “In the early months of 2006, as the illegal alien rights demonstrations spread across the nation, FAIR was increasingly approached by American Hispanics, who like most Americans were offended by what they saw in the streets, seeking some avenue to express their own opposition to the demands and tactics of the illegal alien rights lobby. Even more than other Americans, these Hispanic citizens felt the need to assert that the people in the streets did not speak for them.” YDSFM claims to be a “coalition of Americans of Hispanic descent who believe that this nation must enforce its immigration laws in order to protect the security and interest of all citizens.” It says it is “a group of concerned Americans of Hispanic/Latino heritage, some first or second generation, others recent legal immigrants, who believe illegal immigration harms America and a guest worker amnesty will do the same.” Although the organization does list a number of individuals who are members, including a few who are also associated with FAIR, it does not mention any other Hispanic organizations that are part of this “coalition.”
To establish the coalition, FAIR drew from its own associates. YDSFM’s chairman is Al Rodriquez, a retired army colonel is a member of FAIR’s advisory board. Another FAIR advisor Peter Nunez also identifies with YDSFM. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “In March 2008, FAIR blended the two organizations even more by announcing that Rosanna Pulido, Illinois YDSFM spokeswoman and former state director of the Illinois Minuteman Project, had become a Field Representative for FAIR.”
The last activity listed on its website was a rally in Newark, NJ featuring anti-immigration leader Cong. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), founder of the Immigration Reform Caucus. "All across the country, local officials have adopted policies that bar police from inquiring or acting on information about immigration status and innocent people are paying for this sort of political pandering with their lives," charged Al Rodriguez at the rally protesting sanctuary policies and police practices that did not check the immigration status of criminals.
At an anti-immigrant rally in Pennsylvania, YDSFM’s Vice Chairman Carmen Morales, said that she “can’t believe we’re still fighting the invasion.” Speaking on behalf of YDSFM, Morales explained that “we, do not, in any way or form, agree with the Mexican invasion…We are facing a political invasion from the country of Mexico, who [sic] claims that the entire Southwestern US belongs to Mexico, and they want to take it back without firing a shot, but by simply getting political clout in Washington.” YDSFM echoes the fear-mongering rhetoric favored by other factions of the anti-immigrant movement. In an ad placed in Roll Call and paid for by FAIR, it encouraged other Latinos to fight back against the illegal “invasion”: “Don’t let illegal aliens be rewarded for breaking our laws. America is a great country and it deserves to be respected. Let’s fight this invasion together today. Tomorrow may be too late.” Two months after the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill was defeated, YDSFM’s website became inactive, as has the organization. On its website, YDSFME gives no information about funding or sponsorship. However, the group lists Ira Mehlman as its contact person. Mehlman is the press director of FAIR.
(Next post: Analysis about FAIR’s “Choose Black America” – whatever that means!) See the TransBorder Profiles: NumbersUSA, Center for Immigration Studies, Immigration Reform Caucus, and others.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

State of Immigration, According to Chertoff

Citing “record-breaking” numbers of “removals,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week, in his “State of Immigration” address, said that DHS has “laid out” the path and the tools of immigration. It’s up to the next administration, he said, to “continue the job of securing the borders and get it done.”
Named DHS chief in 2005 by President Bush, Chertoff has vigorously pursued the post-Sept. 11 immigration crackdown with a $15 billion annual budget dedicated to immigration enforcement.
In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization and new worker programs, Chertoff has implemented an enforcement-only immigration policy that has won the support of immigration restrictionists. He has put immigrants on call that their papers best be in order or that risk imprisonment and deportation.
Despite a wave of lawsuits, investigative reports criticizing DHS detention practices, and protests by immigrant advocates, Chertoff has forged ahead with the controversial border fence, the large-scale jailing of illegal immigrants, and programs to enforce immigration law at the workplace.
But unlike immigration restrictionists who are cheer-leading the immigrant crackdown, Chertoff says that the enforcement-only policy is not sufficient and unsustainable. As he has in the past, Chertoff used the State of Immigration address to call for the introduction of a new temporary workers program.
Chertoff is a conservative jurist associated with the right-wing Federalist Society who was the chief counterterrorism prosecutor under former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Michelle Malkin, a crusader against immigrant rights and author of Invasion: How America Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores and In Defense of Internment, enthusiastically greeted the appointment of Chertoff as DHS chief in 2005, writing: “A look at Chertoff’s strong, aggressive record and statements on homeland security shows that Chertoff supports the kind of hard-headed, threat-profiling measures and immigration enforcement opposed by the anti-profiling zealots.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Welcome to Obamaland!

Right-wing commentator and author Pat Buchanan is raising the specter of a Democratic administration and Congress opening the southern border and granting “swift amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens.”
In a new column, Buchanan warns of the policy agenda that the Democrats will implement in “Obama’s First 100 Days.” Author of the anti-immigration book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, Buchanan predicts that “triumvirate of Obama-Pelosi-Reid” will, among other things, do the following:
* “Swift amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens and a drive to make them citizens and register them, as in the Bill Clinton years. This will mean that Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona will soon move out of reach for GOP presidential candidates, as has California."
* “Border security will go on the backburner, and America will have a virtual open border with a Mexico of 110 million.”
* “Universal health insurance will be enacted, covering legal and illegal immigrants, providing another powerful magnet for the world to come to America, if necessary by breaching her borders.”
Six days before the election, Buchanan’s fear-mongering offers a sign of the type of right-wing attack the Democrats will face if they show any sign of backing away from the immigrant crackdown that the Bush administration has unleashed over the past few years. "Welcome to Obamaland," writes Buchanan.
(Fact check: The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States is falling, down from 12.1 million in 2007 to 11.6 million 2008, according to Pew Hispanic Center. Pelosi said last week: "Maybe there never is a path to citizenship if you came here illegally," Pelosi said. "I would hope that there could be, but maybe there isn't." Senator Obama voted for the 700-milie border fence as part of the Secure Border Initiative.)

Immigration Drops by 40%

A new study by the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) estimates that migration by undocumented Mexicans has dropped by 40% along the border because of the economic downturn in the United States. In a news report about the study, El Diario in Juárez noted that the investigators found that migration through the Juárez region has dropped by 50%. Apparently, U.S. border security measures in the urban area dissuade many Mexicans from trying to cross in the urban area. COLEF investigator Rodolfo Rubio Salas said that an estimated 700,000 Mexican tried to cross the border illegally in 2007, dropping to 500,000 in 2008. According to Rubio, declining migration has been evident for more than a year but the decrease has been dramatic in the past few months.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reversing South-North Immigration

It’s time to look south when thinking about immigration. It’s likely that in the coming couple of years more Mexican immigrants will be heading south, not north. That’s because the number of deportations is steadily increasing. What’s more, many Mexicans (and Central Americans) are themselves deciding to return home. The deteriorating U.S. economy and the ongoing immigrant crackdown are wearing down the determination of many immigrants to make their permanent homes in the United States. As yet, there are few hard numbers on this reverse flow of immigrants. And it is unknown whether it’s the economy or the crackdown that is causing most of the returning immigrants to abandon the United States. Estimates vary greatly for the projected number of returning immigrants. The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA, or CEPAL in Spanish) warned this week of the likely return of 2-3 million immigrants in the next few years. ECLA’s executive secretary Alicia Bárcena explained that the agency’s projection was based on conclusions about the U.S. economy, particularly the hard-hit construction industry. “We are facing a very uncertain situation,” she said, “With respect to the return of immigrants, these numbers of between two and three million is because the calculation was done from the United States,” noting how difficult it is to study illegal immigrants. Luz María de la Mora, head of the economic relations department of Mexico’s ministry of foreign relations, called ECLA’s estimates “reasonable numbers.” Mexican government estimates, however, run much lower. Mexico’s labor secretary Javier Lozano estimates that 200,000 Mexican immigrants will return to Mexico, and the government of Mexico City recently projected that 20,000-30,000 will return to the city in the coming year. Senator Silvano Aureoles predicts that Mexico can expect 800,000 returning immigrants between this November and February 2009. In a new study the Pew Hispanic Center reports that the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States appears to have declined. It estimates that the population dropped from 12.4 million in 2007 to 11.9 million in April 2008. Furthermore, it estimates that inflows of unauthorized immigrants averaged 800,000 a year from 2000 to 2004, but fell to 500,000 a year from 2005 to 2008 with a decreasing year-to-year trend. While immigration flows traditionally respond to economic trends, the new politics of the immigration crackdown since 2001 have made it increasingly difficult to cross illegally into the United States and increasingly difficult to live here. Forced returns have risen dramatically since 2005 when the immigrant crackdown began in earnest. DHS repatriated 349,041 immigrants in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That’s a 20% jump over the previous year. This increase occurs at a time when apprehensions of illegal border crossers has dropped dramatically – about 18% down from last year, and 39% from 2005. In 2005, immigration authorities arrested 1.2 million immigrants while 724,000 were arrested in fiscal 2008. A decline in apprehensions indicates that fewer immigrants are attempting to cross illegally into the United States. If immigration flows over the past several years were equal, one would expect a higher rate of arrests in the past couple of years given increased border security, including several thousand more agents patrolling the border. Tough times in the United States do not, of course, mean that illegal immigrants will automatically return home. As economic conditions worsen in the United States, they are also eroding south of the U.S. border. In the past, illegal immigrants crossed back and forth into the United States to work temporary jobs and to return to Mexico to visit family. But with increased border enforcement, crossing illegally has become more difficult and much more expensive. As a result, unauthorized immigrants who cross back into Mexico probably know that they are going back for good. Only when the U.S. economy picks up will we get a good indication of how effective new U.S. border control efforts really are. Meanwhile, DHS chief Michael Chertoff hopes that the new administration continues on the enforcement regimen that he has started. When asked by a reporter about declining immigration flows related to the stagnating economy, Chertoff said:
“We can make real good use of this time to continue to build the border protection that we need and the enforcement that we need. Each year, assuming we continue along the path we have charted, it is going to be harder and harder and harder for people to cross the border.
“I think we can actually lock in the progress that we have made, if we continue to keep the pace up over the next year or two, so that if economic conditions change down the road, although the incentives to come in may increase somewhat, the deterrents will have really increased because we will have more fence, more border patrol, more technology, more enforcement...”

Latin Americanists Advise Obama to Follow Good Neighbor Precedent

Anticipating a democratic victory in the November 4 presidential elections, 368 academics specializing in Latin America recently sent a letter urging Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama to become a partner, rather than an adversary, concerning changes already under way in Latin America. The signers expressed their hope that an Obama administration will embrace the opportunity to inaugurate a new period of hemispheric understanding and collaboration for the welfare of the entire Hemisphere. The letter, whose signatories included the current president of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) and twelve LASA past presidents, noted: “Latin Americans have often viewed the United States not as a friend but as an oppressor, the guarantor of an international economic system that works against them, rather than for them-- the very antithesis of hope and change. The Bush Administration has made matters much worse, and U.S. prestige in the region is now at a historic low. Washington's tendency to fight against hope and change has been especially prominent in recent U.S. responses to the democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. “While anti-American feelings run deep, history demonstrates that these feelings can change. In the 1930s, after two decades of conflict with the region, the United States swore off intervention and adopted a Good Neighbor Policy. Not coincidentally, it was the most harmonious time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. In the 1940s, nearly every country in the region became our ally in World War Two. It can happen again.” Concerning immigration and drug policy, the scholars advised Obama: “The way to manage immigration is not by building a giant wall, but rather, the United States should support more equitable economic development in Mexico and Central America and, indeed, throughout the region. In addition, the U.S. must reconsider drug control policies that have simply not worked and have been part of the problem of political violence, especially in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.” Most of those signing are members of the Latin American Studies Association, the largest and most influential professional association of its kind in the world. See Global Good Neighbor Initiative, a project of the Americas Policy Program of CIP.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drug Czar Sees"Terrorist Criminals" in U.S. and Mexico

U.S. drug czar John Walters took the Bush administration’s macho drug war message to Mexico last week, calling the drug cartels battling the Mexican government and fighting each other for dominance “terrorist criminals.”
"They have a choice: Come in and face justice, or die," Walters said of the drug gangs.
Who believes that?
At a time when the U.S. State Department is warning U.S. tourists that they are taking their lives in their hands if they venture into drug war-torn northern Mexico, when the U.S. consulate in Mexico has come under fire by narcos, and when the number of gruesome gangland executions keeps increasing.
In Mexico, where police are uniformly corrupt and the military notorious ineffective, there is no institutional justice. Criminals, whether narcos or common criminals, operate with impunity. When it comes to dying, it’s the police not the drug gangs who are dying.
In Mexico, the drug war is mostly a government show, not a credible commitment to public safety. The army routinely issues media releases about public burnings of confiscated marijuana. Meanwhile, news about government success in obstructing trafficking in dangerous and more profitable illegal drugs is rare.
For the U.S. government, the drug war is largely a righteous moral crusade led by ideologues like Walters, who has a long history of leadership in right-wing organizations. For Walter, drugs are evil, whether medical marijuana or crack. Prior to his Mexico visit, Walters spoke out against a medical marijuana law in Michigan.
Reacting to rising public sentiment in favor of using marijuana as a medical treatment for cancer and other patients, Walters in 2003 said that medical marijuana made no more sense than “medical crack.”
Walters also apparently sees little difference between the narcos in Mexico, who are responsible to more than 3000 murders this year, and marijuana farmers in California. Last years Walters called northern California marijuana growers “violent criminal terrorists.”
As the U.S. government maintains its enforcement-first approach to the illegal drug problem, other governments are deciding that the drug war should not be taken to drug users.
Commenting on Mexico’s recent proposal to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, that this “is consistent with the broader trend throughout Western Europe, Canada, and other parts of Latin America to stop treating drug use and possession as a criminal problem. But it contrasts sharply with [the approach taken in] the United States [the U.S. government] should think twice before criticizing a foreign government for its drug policy, much less holding out the U.S. as a model. Looking to the U.S. as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid South Africa for how to deal with race."
Walters will likely be gone from the president’s National Office on Drug Policy in a few months. Among the important questions facing the new president will be whether to end the failed drug war model and adopt a new drug policy based on treatment and legalization.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Immigrant Supply and Demand

Political imperatives – protecting the homeland and enforcing the “rule of law” – are seeking to prevail over prevailing over the forces of supply and demand in the transborder labor market. Although the immigrant labor market persists, the increased risks for both employer and worker, along with the recessionary economy, appear to be exercising downward pressure on supply and demand. But the immigrant crackdown has invigorated other market forces. The criminalizing of illegal immigrants and the end of the practice of “catch and release” for non-Mexicans picked up along the border have sparked a demand for prison beds for immigrants. Eager to cash in on the immigrant crackdown, private prison firms and local governments are rushing to supply Homeland Security and the Justice Department with the prisons needed to house the hundreds of thousands of immigrants captured by ICE and Border Patrol agents. In the prison industry, bed is a euphemism for a place behind bars. Even President Bush talks the prison bed language when discussing immigration policy. When visiting the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas in 2006 to promote the immigrant crackdown, the president said: “Beds are our number one priority.”
At the insistence of immigration restrictionists like Cong. Tom Tancredo (R –Col.), the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 contained an authorization for 40,000 prison beds for ICE detainees – double what was then available.
DHS says it can guarantee the availability of a bed for any immigrant in its care. At the onset of the immigration crackdown two years ago, ICE dubbed its promise to find a detention center or prison bed for all arrested immigrants "Operation Reservation Guaranteed." That operation has been subsumed into ICE's Detention Operations Coordination Center. The Justice Department has a similar initiative to ensure that the U.S. Marshals Service has beds available for detainees—about 180,000 a year, of whom more than 30% are held on immigration charges.
Most of the prison beds contracted by ICE and DOJ’s Office of Federal Detention Trustee are with local governments; ICE has more than 300 intergovernmental agreements with county and city governments to hold immigrants, while DOJ has some 1200 such agreements. In many cases, particularly with contracts for hundreds of prison beds, the local government then subcontracts with a private prison company to operate the facility.
Prison beds translate into per diem payments from the federal government that are well above the hotel room rates in the remote rural communities where most of these immigrant prisons are located. With these per diems running from $70 to $95 for each immigrant imprisoned, local governments and private firms are rushing to expand existing facilities or to create new ones.
Earlier this year Cong. Tancredo, a leading immigration restrictionist, encouraged the town council of Aurora, Colorado to approve a 400-bed planned expansion for an immigration prison owned by GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corp.), the world’s second largest prison company. "Does anyone think we don't have 1,100 illegal aliens in the area?” he said, “I don't think that there's much to worry about. If there are 1,500 beds available I guarantee you they will be used." Despite opposition from local activists who spoke out against the immigration crackdown and the immigrant detention industry, the expansion is underway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Anti-Immigration Forces Ready for Battle

After the June 2007 defeat of comprehensive immigration reform, immigration restrictionists didn’t rest. By drumming up grassroots opposition to the compromise immigration bill in the Senate, the Washington restrictionist institutes – NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Center for Immigration Studies – succeeded is pressuring Republican and Democratic representatives to stop the reform bill. What is more, they succeeded in getting the Bush Administration to implement a tough enforcement-first response to illegal immigration. Seeing that the Bush administration enthusiastically adopting the enforcement-first policy, the restrictionists then unified around an “attrition through enforcement” strategy, and the White House, Congress, and many local government largely followed their lead as deportations, immigration raids, and border security initiatives picked up pace. While triumphant, they didn’t just lay back and celebrate. Instead, strengthened by a large jump in memberships and new media attention, they kept pushing their anti-immigration agenda. When Democrats attempted to slip through a small immigration reform bill called the Dream Act, they again mobilized their legions of anti-immigration stalwarts around the country. And when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attempted to respond to agribusiness pressure for an agricultural guestworker program in late 2007, the resticiontist mobilized again, persuading the bill sponsors to drop the proposed Ag Jobs bill. What lies ahead? Already the restrictionists are anticipating that the country may lose its enthusiasm for “attrition through enforcement” as its emotional and financial toll adds up. Rather than pull back, the restrictionists are expanding their demands with new arguments against not just illegal immigration but also legal immigration. In response to the economic downturn and increased enforcement, incoming flows of illegal immigrants have slowed, but the number of legal immigrants has held steady -- and restrictionists are already arguing that that level is far too high.
All three groups are also working in lock-step in a new campaign to reach environmentalists and environmentally focused citizens with a message about the environmental costs of immigration. And they are set to oppose any new initiative by the new administration to legalize unauthorized immigrations.
“The stepped-up enforcement of the past year may peel off some enforcement-first voters and congressmen who are willing to be persuaded that the enforcement is now happening, and is adequate, to move ahead with the amnesty,” observed Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes enforcement-first policies. The Bush White House, he added, “sees this enforcement push as building credibility for the next administration to have an amnesty.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Immigration Reform Becoming Harder Sell

A new Zogby opinion survey for Inter-American Dialogue appears to show a hardening of citizen opinion about immigration reform that includes a path for citizenship. Immigrant advocates have long argued that the U.S. public overwhelmingly supports legalization, but slightly more than half of likely voters (52%) said they oppose a new path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. who are in the country illegally, while only 39% said they favor the development of a path to citizenship. A new path to citizenship is supported by 64% of Democrats, but just 17% of Republicans and 34% of independents. But when asked if they would support a path to citizenship if conditions and penalties were imposed, support increased. Sixty-seven percent would support a path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally if they pay taxes, pay a penalty and learn English. Most (53%) also support expanding temporary worker programs for migrants as a way to fill jobs that are not being taken by American workers. According to the survey, 58% of likely voters support strengthening or expanding a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico as the best way to stop illegal immigration -- 86% of McCain supporters support the a border fence while only 28% of Obama supporters said the same.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hispanic Grassroots Organization Shill for Corporate America

The vision of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity for America is what it and other Republican institutes call an “Ownership Society” – a code for a society shaped solely by free-market economics. As HAPI notes, one of its leading goals is to “impact legislation on issues of importance such as: Trade, Financial Literacy, Education, Immigration, and other issues falling under the ‘Ownership Society’ umbrella.”
HAPI says that “supports ownership society tenets vital for asset creation, and ensuring access to affordable housing. Research validates the connection between housing stability as a cornerstone to family stability.” According to HAPI, “Free and Fair trade and believes it fosters economic benefits to U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers.” HAPI says it was “a key advocate and major player supporting and voicing the Pro-Business and Hispanic Pro- CAFTA positions and a leading advocate for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement currently pending before Congress. Other than its Sept. 16, 2008 media release, “Setting the Record Straight on the Candidates’ Immigration Positions,” HAPI has little to say about immigration on its website. Its “Immigration Policy Paper” has been removed from its website. As part of its summary of its policy position, HAPI has one paragraph that includes a mention of immigration: “HAPI supports strong national security measures without jeopardizing the U.S. economy. HAPI advocates for a balance that will accommodate both critical interests. A vital component of legislation should include a guest worker program that is realistic to deploy.” To guide it toward its goal of creating an ownership society, HAPI counts on its corporate board, whose members are: Bank of America,BellSouth, Ford, AT&T, AIG (American International Group), Information Technology Industry Council. Goldman, Sachs & Co., Altria Group, Inc., American Petroleum Institute, IBC Bank, Case New Holland, DCI Group, Coca-Cola Companies, R.J. Reynolds, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Association of Realtors. (As the financial sector crumbles and the U.S. Treasury intervenes, HAPI may find it still more difficult in convincing Latinos of the virtues of the “ownership society,” especially with the likes of the now largely government-owned AIG on board.) HAPI is part of BIPAC network. Formed in 1963, the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee is a corporate political action committee focused on electing Republicans. HAPI’s web pages for policy issues and action alerts are actually web pages maintained by Bipac. According to Bipac, “THE PROSPERITY PROJECT drives your organization’s grassroots strategy. You will use your Prosperity Project Web site to educate your employees and/or members about candidates, workplace issues and elections, and help them register to vote, find their polling place, and communicate with their elected officials about issues that matter to them, and your industry.” Bipac’s Prosperity Project, which has been described as a coalition of 170 corporations (The Hill, August 6, 2003), formed during the 2000 election cycle to counter the Democratic Party’s voter-mobilization efforts. As described on the Democracy 21 website, the Prosperity Project helps corporations and business associations focus on their own “stock-owning, non-unionized business employees” and also on shareholders to support free-market and ownership society candidates. Companies, for example, may include information about business-friendly candidates with paychecks in the months before the 2004 election (Roll Call, July 9, 2003). According to the National Journal, “The BIPAC Prosperity Project has been both creative and effective in using the Internet to enable its member companies and trade associations to get their pro-business message to millions. The eight-year-old Prosperity Project and its 27 state affiliates give BIPAC (the Business Industry Political Action Committee) members and their partners the technology to create their own grassroots action Web sites that employees can use to get politically involved.” HAPI used the Bipac model “grassroots strategy” to spread is own message of prosperity politics to Latinos, using Bipac’s web platform and mimicking its prosperity framing. Using prosperity to frame free-market political agendas is common among conservative organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, which like Bipac serves as a model for HAPI. According to former labor secretary Robert R. Reich, “The radcons' [radical conservatives] arguments are organized around three themes: morality, prosperity, and patriotism.”
Writing in the May 2004 issue of the American Prospect magazine, Reich stated: “The radcon version of prosperity rewards the rich, gives almost nothing to the middle class, and penalizes the poor. It is based on a market-fundamentalist faith that has deep roots in American history.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Anti-Immigration Forces Want

Given the proven success of the Center for Immigration Studies and other restrictionist groups in advancing their policy goals over the past several years, it’s worth laying out CIS director Mark Krikorian’s recommendations to stem both illegal and legal immigration. As part of his self-identified “attrition through enforcement” strategy for unauthorized immigrations, Krikorian recommends seven policy initiatives: * End illegal aliens’ access to jobs. * Secure identification. * Ensure that the IRS cooperates with immigration enforcement. * Increase cooperation between federal immigration authorities and state and local authorities. * Reduce visa overstays. * Double deportation of ordinary, noncriminal aliens. * Pass state and local laws to discourage illegal settlement. With all of these recommendations being implemented to some degree, Krikorian argues that it is now time to tackle the legal side of “mass immigration.” The CIS executive director says that rather than shaving off the current annual immigration of nearly one million foreigners, the government should practice a type of “zero-based budgeting” whereby there is a defensible rationale for allowing entry to each new immigrant. As such, he calls for a major overhaul of family-based immigration, skills-based immigration, and humanitarian immigration.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hispanic Coalition Backs Big Oil

The Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute is a routine supporter of energy corporations and free trade agreements. It is closely associated with Texans for Electric Choice, which is an electric industry public relations organization that opposes energy regulation. Other backers of Texans for Electric Choice include the Texas Association of Business and Americans for Prosperity.A Texas Observer online report by Forrest Wilder on June 11, 2008 on inked HAPI to another fossil fuel coalition called Power Across Texas. “The group’s Web site warns ominously of “pending power shortages, the potential of rolling blackouts and the traumas associated with lack of energy supply” and calls for “environmentally sound approaches for ensuring reliable power at the lowest possible price for all Texans.” “But Power Across Texas’ allies aren’t exactly typical tree-huggers. It’s backed by the Clean Coal Technology Foundation of Texas, a group tied to Big Coal; the right-wing, anti-environment Americans for Prosperity; the Republican-oriented Hispanic Alliance for Progress; the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas; Jupiter Power Company, L.P.; and Cyclone BioEnergy LLC.” Through the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee, HAPI is circulating its own “Take Action” letter to congress on energy issues. As usual with its advocacy, HAPI appeals directly to Hispanic constituencies, beginning the letter: “As a Hispanic American consumer, I am concerned about continually rising energy costs, and realize that the cost of energy is related directly to supply.” According to HAPI, “Currently, the U.S has access to an abundant supply of domestic oil and natural gas which government has deemed “off limits” for production. Given the extreme pressure consumers are feeling in their pocketbooks related to energy costs, now is the time for Congress to release the hold on those areas…including the moratorium on the Outer Continental shelf. “It’s no wonder, then, that the powerful American Petroleum Institute has seen fit to join HAPI’s corporate board. See TransBorder Profile -- Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Free Trade is an Hispanic Cause Says Alliance

The Austin-based Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity has released action alerts supporting the Central America Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
According to HAPI, the proposed FTA with Colombia will “bolster the efforts of President Uribe and the Colombian people as they continue to collaborate with the United States in the fight against those forces seeking to destabilize the region through drugs and terror.” Taking issue with critics who oppose the FTA because of Colombia’s human rights abuses, HAPI says “that arguments about violence committed against labor organizers have been condemned in the national media as exaggerated and blind to the extraordinary and successful efforts of the Uribe administration to reduce violent crime and provide security to union officials.”
HAPI recommends that Latinos send this letter to their congressional representatives: “As a Hispanic American, I am keenly aware of both the benefits and challenges of America’s diplomatic and trade relationship with Latin America. This agreement will promote the long sought and elusive concept of “fair trade” and propose a win-win scenario for businesses and workers on both sides of the border. I ask that you bring the Colombian Fair Trade Agreement up for a vote this year in 2008 without any further delay. “
The web address of this Take Action initiative is: That's because HAPI is closely tied to the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee or Bipac, a corporate coalition that promotes a free-market, free trade agenda in Washington. (Note the address and spelling of Colombia.)
In May 2005 HAPI joined with the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade to promote the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic. The institute organized a Washington, DC conference at the Organization of American States in support of the free trade agreement.
According to HAPI’s Manuel Lujan, “Hispanic Americans are united to these countries by language and similarities in culture, as well as by the increased opportunities in commerce. Passage of DR-CAFTA will better prepare these developing countries to compete in the global economy.”
The Hispanic Trade Alliance for Free, organized by the National Foreign Trade Council and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, stated: “DR-CAFTA was and continues to be an issue of great importance to Hispanic Americans who share strong familial, cultural, language and important economic ties with Central America.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Funding for Immigration Crackdown

Immigration flows into the United States are slowing, but the Department of Homeland Security’s budget for immigration enforcement and border control keeps rising. Congress approved a $40 billion DHS budget for 2009, including increased funds for more border patrol agents, expanded programs to track down criminal and “fugitive” aliens, and for the border fence. The new budget allocates $775 million for fencing along the border with Mexico, includes more funding for detention facilities for arrested immigrants, and gives DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement nearly $254 million more than the president had requested. According to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center, between 2000 and 2005, about 800,000 illegal immigrants entered the U.S. each year. But between the years of 2005 and 2008, an average of 500,000 entered annually, with a year-to-year slowdown. Meanwhile, as DHS continues to follow the lead of the immigration restrictionists in implementing an “Attrition Through Enforcement” immigration policy, immigration advocates are altering their message to emphasize the need for tough enforcement measures. This was seen in the “get right with the law” and “required” language seen in the Democratic Party’s immigration platform. It is also evident in the positions of immigrant advocate groups like National Immigration Forum and America’s Voice who are increasingly framing their policy positions in terms of enforcement and “rule of law.” Commenting on the approval of the 2009 DHS budget, Mary Giovagnoli, an advocacy director at the National Immigration Forum, said, “The more attention we spend on people who are really trying to make a living, is less attention that we’re spending on people who are criminals or don’t merit the right to be here.” “We need to make immigrant communities feel comfortable enough to come forward so that we can root out the ones who engage in criminal activity or who are making immigrant communities unsafe,” Giovagnoli said. With new congressional backing, DHS will certainly continue its various operations – such as Operation Community Shield or Operation Fugitive Teams – aimed at rooting illegal immigrants out of American communities. With new funding and with expanded public support for the crackdown on immigrant criminals and fugitives, immigration raids are likely to increase this year. “We have been committed and have fought for immigration reforms, some of which have failed” said Laura Keehner, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “But we are forced to enforce the laws that are on the books and carry out the wishes of the American people to protect our border.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

Immigration Advocates on the Defense

After having suffered major setbacks at the hands of restrictionists, immigration advocates are attempting to regroup and plot new strategies to advance liberal immigration reform in the next administration. America’s Voice and National Council of La Raza, as well as some unions, are attempting to discredit the restrictionist institutes by citing their connections with nativist and white supremacist groups and individuals, including John Tanton, considered the godfather of restrictionism.
Many immigration advocates call FAIR a “hate group,” following the lead of the Southern Poverty Law Center. As part of its “We Can Stop the Hate” campaign, National Council of La Raza is calling the directors of FAIR and NumbersUSA – Dan Stein and Roy Beck – “suspect spokespeople,” grouping them with the leaders of the Minuteman movement. While Senator Obama and other Democratic Party leaders variously promise that they will push comprehensive immigration reform within the first year or first term of the new administration, the prospects for a liberal immigration reform that would include legalization are not auspicious. With an economy in a tailspin, restrictionist attempts to link an immigration crackdown with a populist economic message have more traction. And even those who reject the anti-immigrant campaign are less likely to stand behind a pro-immigration agenda or protest immigration raids when their own economic future is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the divisions within the pro-immigrant camp over such issues as border security, temporary worker programs, and the enforcement campaign of the Department of Homeland Security are still present. While the anti-immigration forces are united around “attrition through enforcement” and the government’s ambitious “border security initiative,” immigration advocates are still split, dispirited, and worn down by the unrelenting crackdown.
Even the likely change of political parties in the White House will not likely substantially change the political equation, as more Democrats in Congress have adopted the “rule of law” and “border security” policy frameworks of the restrictionists.

Immigration Strategies

Immigration restrictionists left the mid-2007 immigration showdown in triumphant. But in the wake of their victory in blocking immigration reform, the leading restrictionist voices haven’t been triumphalist. Instead of sitting back, they have kept hammering. Strengthened by a large jump in memberships and new media attention, they kept pushing their anti-immigration agenda. When Democrats attempted to slip through a small immigration reform bill called the Dream Act, they again mobilized their legions of anti-immigration stalwarts around the country. And when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attempted to respond to agribusiness pressure for an agricultural guestworker program in late 2007, the restrictiontist mobilized again, persuading the bill sponsors to drop the proposed Ag Jobs bill. Already the restrictionists are anticipating that some in Congress may lose its enthusiasm for “attrition through enforcement” as its emotional and financial toll adds up.
And they are set to oppose any new initiative by the new administration to legalize unauthorized immigrations. “The stepped-up enforcement of the past year may peel off some enforcement-first voters and congressmen who are willing to be persuaded that the enforcement is now happening, and is adequate, to move ahead with the amnesty,” observed Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes enforcement-first policies. The Bush White House, he added, “sees this enforcement push as building credibility for the next administration to have an amnesty.” Restrictionists are determined to defend their gains against any attempt to reintroduce legalization legislation or to rein in the ongoing crackdown on immigrants. At the same time, the restrictionists are reaching out to new constituencies and expanding their policy agenda to include a new emphasis on slashing legal immigration. Krikoiran’s new book, The Case Against Immigration – Both Legal and Illegal, is a timely reminder that the restrictionists have a grand agenda that extends far beyond the immigrant crackdown. While the book proposes the same type of immigration reform supported by the three DC-based institutes, it does make a startling new case against immigrants. In a recent interview with National Review online, CIS’ Krikorian said, “It’s a mistake to think of legal and illegal immigration as distinct phenomena. They come from the same places through the same means, often in the same families and even the same people (shifting back and forth between being legal and illegal), and have the same impact on society.” Krikorian does, however, say the illegal immigrants, unlike legal immigrants, “remain morally culpable for their misdeeds.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mexicans Heading Home

The rural areas of the poorest states in Mexico, notably Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, and Zacatecas, have been depopulated over the past couple of decades by a massive emigration to the United States. Now, as the U.S. economy sinks and immigration controls tighten, many of those who hoped for a better life on the “other side” of the border are heading home. Mexico’s safety valve is experiencing a reverse flow for the first time since the 1950s when the U.S. ended the Bracero Program. Gabriel Hernández García, the Oaxacan state director of the national campesino organization Antorcha Campesino, says various communities of the Mixteca region of the state are experiencing a massive return of immigrants. The communities of the Tlaxiaco area are being hit particularly hard by this reverse diaspora. According to Hernández, the situation requires an emergency response plan but the phenomenon has the federal and state government totally unprepared. He said that the campo has been totally forgotten by the government, which caused thousands of fellow campesinos to emigrate but now the flow north has reversed itself – not because there is more opportunity in Oaxaca but simply because an increasing number of Oaxacan immigrants are no longer able to pay the rent or buy food in the United States. Compounding the crisis of this massive return of destitute immigrants is the continuing fall in remittances to these villages – creating crisis conditions in the Mixteca. The return of thousands of unemployed will likely intensify the tense political situation in Oaxaca, which has been rocked by protests and government crackdowns over the past few years.
Photo: Protest march in Oaxaca against PRI government.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mexico's Triple Immigration Whammy

Over the last couple of decades, Mexico has doubly benefited from having the United States as its northern neighbor. The United States serves as an escape valve for Mexico’s legions of unemployed and as a font of foreign exchange flowing from Mexico’s emigrants.
But pressure is now building in Mexico. The escape valve is breaking down, and the font of remittances is no longer gushing.
Over the past several decades especially the United States has provided an outlet for Mexico’s poor, unemployed, and disenfranchised. Since the mid-1990s nearly 500,000 Mexicans annually have found economic haven north of the border.
This relief has been coupled with an ever-rising return flow of remittances from the Mexican-born population in the United States has risen. In 2007 remittances to Mexico jumped 15% to nearly $24 billion – making remittances the second largest source of foreign exchange after oil exports.
But this year Mexico has been hit with a triple immigration whammy. Fewer Mexicans are attempting the illegal journey north, more are returning home, and remittances are plummeting. Any one of these trends is a threat to Mexico’s stability. Together, they may be the gathering of the perfect storm – one that may hit Mexico with its full force in 2009.
Greater Regional Labor Market
Mexico’s labor market is greater than itself. It is a transnational market that has reached deeper and deeper in the United States, extending in recent years beyond such gateway cities as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York into regions previously unaffected by south-north immigration such as the Carolinas and the rural Midwest.
To keep up with the rate of its increasing workforce, Mexico must provide an estimated 1.2 million new jobs every year. But even in the best of times, the national labor market falls far short. Last year the economy expanded by 3.3%, but it created only 300,000 new jobs – a 900,000 shortfall in new jobs.
Fortunately, Mexico’s transnational market has absorbed much of its surplus workforce. One of seven Mexican workers has sought and generally found work in the United States. It’s been an expanding market until recently. From being a market almost exclusively male and centered in agriculture a half-century ago, the country’s transnational market grew to include the industrial and service sectors. And from being largely a market for seasonal labor, it expanded to become a source for millions of permanent and semi-permanent jobs for Mexican women as well as men.
In years past, the shortfall between jobs created and the number of Mexicans entering the national workforce has been cushioned by the large numbers leaving the country. Those who stayed behind and without employment eked out a living on the edges of the formal economy, selling goods and services in the streets (including a frightening rise in those young men and women have become part of the illegal drug economy).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gonzales Allegiance and Social Security Position Erode Credibility of Hispanic Alliance

The credibility of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, a self-described conservative organization of Hispanics, is quickly eroding.
Alberto Gonzales, one of its heroes and a winner of its American Dream award, is under investigation by Congress for, among other things, using political criteria to hire and fire attorneys while he served as U.S. attorney general.
The HAPI website features the following quote from Alberto Gonzales: “When I talk to people around the country I sometimes tell them that within the Hispanic community there is a shared hope for an opportunity to succeed. 'Just give me a chance to prove myself' -- that is a common prayer for those in my community."
In March 2007, HAPI issued a media release in support of the beleaguered Gonzales. “On behalf of the nearly 20,000 members of the HAP Institute, we write to reject calls for the resignation of Attorney General Al Gonzales, and offer our full support for his long-term service to our President, our country, and the Hispanic community.”
“Attorney General Gonzales has achieved what few other Hispanics have been able to accomplish. He is a role model for the entire Hispanic community and his success proves to our children that they too can realize their dreams. General Gonzales should not be used as a scapegoat by those who are against the policies of the current Administration. The Hispanic community will not tolerate partisan politics, with the end result being to sacrifice one of its most respected, and productive members.”
According to RightWing Watch, “As part of the "National Coalition To End Judicial Filibusters," HAPI— in conjunction with the Committee for Justice, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and others— supported the use of the so-called "nuclear option" to eliminate Senator's ability to filibuster against President George W. Bush's right-wing judicial nominees.”
HAPI is a member of the anti-union, corporate-sponsored Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which “is a coalition of workers, employers, associations and organizations who are fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised private ballot when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union. We are opposed to the so-called Employee Free Choice Act because it would strip Americans of that right and replace it with a system where your vote is no longer private, and it is made public to your employer, the union organizers and your co-workers.”
"We believe,” the coalition stated, “the only way to guarantee worker protection from coercion and intimidation is through the continued use of a federally supervised private ballot election so that personal decisions about whether to join a union remain private.”Hopi’s corporate and anti-worker orientation was also evident in its role in organizing the “Hispanic Safety and Health Summit” in July 2004.
The summit was denounced by the Coalition for Hispanic Worker Safety, which included Hispanic groups such as National Council of La Raze and Casa de Maryland as well as the AFL-CIO and numerous unions. Immigrant advocates noted that the only Hispanic organizations listed as conference sponsors or participants are the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a group that calls itself the “Hispanic Alliance for Progress.”
“The latter organization’s only known activities have been promoting the Bush administration’s immigration plan,” said the coalition.In their letter to OSHA, members of the Coalition for Hispanic Worker Safety noted that the conference was organized with virtually no input from major Hispanic advocacy organizations or grassroots worker groups.
“This is clearly not a serious effort to address the epidemic of workplace injuries and illnesses suffered by our community,” said Jayesh Rathod, staff attorney of CASA of Maryland. Planners chose not to invite groups like ours because they knew we would raise serious concerns about the administration’s dismantling of workplace safety rules,” Rathod added.
Not deterred, HAPI organized another Hispanic health conference in July 2008, which featured speakers from food processing and health corporations such as Tyson’s Foods and Hispanic-owned Care Alternative. HAPI’s Leslie Sanchez was the master of ceremonies.
Also, according to RightWing Watch, HAPI is a member of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, “an organization formed to promote Social Security reforms proposed by President George W. Bush such as personal retirement accounts.”Its “American Dream” award has gone to such Republican stars as U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico).