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The Two Faces of Obama on Immigration

How can President Obama continue to portray himself as the champion of immigration reform to Latino voters, while at the same time deporting more people than any other president in United States history? Two significant announcements this month offer a glimpse into an administration that appears to be playing both sides of a bitter debate over immigration reform.

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Rights center may be moving

BY TAMMY GRUBB, check tammy.grubb1@yahoo.com | Source: ChapelHillNews.com

CARRBORO – The Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center may have found a new home around the corner from its old neighborhood.The center put a three-bedroom, brick ranch house at 107 Barnes St. under contract Dec. 23 for $155,000, director Judith Blau said. County records show the 1,075-square-foot house was built in 1970 and is owned by Dorothy and Bernard Atwater. It is valued at $138,363.

They still need to close on the house, but after the goes through, Blau said they might improve the gravel driveway and build another room.

Interim Town Manager Matt Efird said the group first must seek a home occupation permit or some type of rezoning. The exact requirements will depend on the information center officials submit, possibly by early spring, he said.

Blau and center community organizer David Rigby said they couldn’t have found the home so quickly without the local NAACP and its president the Rev. Robert Campbell, Community Realty agent Bronwyn Merritt, Carrboro town officials and members of Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

The Abbey Court Homeowners Association voted Dec. 1 to give the center until March to move out of the two units it owns in the Jones Ferry Road complex.

Management officials said it had tried to work out liability concerns for more than a year. The center also violated homeowners association rules by serving “a public and commercial use” for large numbers of non-residents, they said.

Occupy protesters marched a few days later to protest the decision and support the center and Abbey Court residents, many of them Latino or Burmese refugees.

Rigby said Tar Heel Companies, which runs Abbey Court, contacted them after the march to suggest filing a petition to have the lease extended to May.

Day laborer center

Rigby said the move will allow the center to operate more effectively and make it clear that the services are for anyone who needs help. The house is near Royal Park Apartments and convenient for low-income residents in the surrounding neighborhoods and at Abbey Court Condominiums, Ridgewood Apartments and Carolina Apartments, Blau said.

The house also has room for a long-awaited day laborer center where people can wait in a safe place out of the elements; learn computer, ESL and other job skills; and get help with employment problems. Blau said they will ask the town for a sign at Jones Ferry and Davie roads, where the workers now wait for jobs, to direct employers to the new center.

The house is next to Wilkinson Supply Co., the former Mellott company property and a large tract owned by VAC Limited Partnership, a real estate company based in Richmond, Va. Two doors down, Waymond Ingram said he thinks the center will be a good fit.

Ingram has lived on Barnes Street since 2005 and watched the neighborhood grow more youthful as the longtime, older residents moved out. There used to be a lot of problems, but it’s starting to clean up a little, he said. While not too familiar with the center’s work, he said it might give young people a more positive way to spend their time.

The new center will serve various needs throughout the day, Blau said. From early morning to mid-afternoon, day laborers will come to find work. As they leave, children will arrive for after-school programs, and evenings and weekends, adults and children can take advantage of classes and other activities. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room for the soccer program, she said.

Beto Rodriguez, the center’s computer lab director, will live there, and Rigby will be on site to resolve any issues, register employers and build community bridges.

Fighting wage fraud

The employer registration program will fight the growing problem of wage fraud and other abuses, Rigby said. While most employers are “honorable,” a few hire the men and refuse to pay them later – at least two or three cases every week, he and Blau said.

Of course, some employers may choose to stop hiring day laborers if asked to register or if the center seeks out stolen wages, Rigby said. The day laborers understand that and are OK with it, because they need the money to support their families and those jobs don’t pay anyway, he said.

Rigby said they want the workers to be invested in the center. They are now drafting a code of conduct that will, among other things, prohibit drinking and people loitering outside. Many also have specialized skills that they can teach others, he said.

Rigby said he hopes the changes created there will ripple into the community.

“I have the highest hopes for this center that over the next two, five and 10 years … that we can do good things for the community around us and … for under-represented and under-privileged people,” he said.

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Farmworkers in El Paso Glum About 2012

January 1, 2012 | Source: Fox News Latino

Farmworkers in El Paso Glum About 2012

Close to 70 agricultural day laborers arrive every day at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos (Border Farmworker Center) in El Paso in hopes of being hired to harvest nuts and red chilis, but with little hope at all for next year.

Around 1:00 a.m. the farmworkers gather in the street hoping that the overseers or farm owners will soon show up to hire them.

“The harvest season is almost over, which is why the overseers can pick and choose the workers they want. They always prefer the youngest and strongest,” Mexican laborer Roberto Miranda told Efe.

Once in the fields, he said, they put what they pick in baskets and get paid 80 cents for each basket they fill.

“After eight hours of work without anything to eat, they give me between $25 and $30. But some days I only earn $10,” Miranda said.

Many of his fellow farmworkers also complain about the meager pay they get for toiling in the fields, but are universally afraid to say anything about it in public.

Even in temperatures hovering around 40 F (4 C), the men remain in the street hoping to land some work in the fields.

They say the reason many of them sleep outside the Centro is so they can be at the head of the line for a day’s work.

“The Centro Agricola offers all of them a roof over their heads where they can shelter from the winter cold,” Alicia Marentes, director of social services for the non-profit organization, said.

Marentes said that when their day’s work is over, the farmworkers go to the Centro where they can shower and stretch out on air beds or blankets arranged on the floor.

The laborers receive a daily meal from the Centro, as well as legal counsel, English classes and other basic services.

“We have a television for their entertainment while they’re waiting for sunrise,” the director said.

Though most of these day laborers come from Mexico, all have legal documents for working in the United States.

“Every day we pass through an immigrant registration checkpoint. The officials get on our bus and check our papers in great detail,” said another farmworker who asked not to be identified.

“The next harvest season is in June – so how are we going to survive until our work starts up again?” Mario López, another of the workers waiting in line to be chosen by the overseers, said disconsolately.

Lopez said that for each day in the fields he earns $30, but that he has to pay $7 to the driver who takes him to work, and if he s a burrito to eat and a bottle of water, the money he has left to send back to his kids in Mexico is minimal.

“The future of farmworkers in the United States gets gloomier every day,” he said. “We have to ask God to lend us a helping hand so we can survive.”

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