NDLON in the News

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A White House Immigration Meeting without Immigrants?

Today, the President held a White House meeting on Immigration Reform In response, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said,

“While we appreciate the President’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent. We’re greatly disappointed that the meeting didn’t include more voices of immigrants at the table, including representatives of directly affected communities especially the people in the state of Arizona and Georgia where there is a modern day human rights crisis. If the President genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the se communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.”…


Immigration law uncertainty hangs over Hispanic neighborhoods

Source: East Valley Tribune
updated 4/18/2011 12:46:11 PM ET

Adan Gallegos stands with a crowd of day laborers waiting on job offers in front of the Circle K convenience store in Chandler’s “Little Sonora” neighborhood.

On this day, there are about a dozen men alongside him near the corner store at 295 S. Arizona Ave. — which fronts the neighborhood of small apartments and mobile home parks where residents say at least 90 percent of the people are from the Mexican state of Sonora.

“The crowd waiting out here used to be bigger, ” says Gallegos, 38, who has lived in the neighborhood south of downtown Chandler for about 20 years. “Not anymore.”

“I used to watch the news about SB 1070. I think it was to scare people out of town. A lot of the people I used to see, I don’t see anymore. They either moved out of state or back to Mexico.”

It’s been one year since Senate Bill 1070 was passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. The state’s controversial undocumented immigration bill — which makes it a crime for Mexican nationals to live in Arizona — sparked cheers from many, and fury from others. Debates about SB 1070 took place from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. Opponents marched. Supporters tried to strike up copycat bills in other communities. Entertainers, businesses and even community leaders in other states cried foul and called for boycotts.

Since then, legal experts on both sides have fought over the measure. But while much of the teeth of the new law is still tied up in court, the bill’s impact can be felt in communities like Little Sonora. Whether completely because of SB 1070 or the combination of Arizona’s 9 percent unemployment and scarcity of jobs, people have left.

The Centre De Trabajo — Day Labor Center — sits behind the Free Methodist Church on Arizona Avenue, across the street from the Circle K. From the church, Rev. Jose Gonzalez can see the crowd of men hoping for employment. Last year, he said, the crowd of men on the corner was about double.

“Things are slowly picking back up,” Gonzalez said. “This year has been a little better, but we still don’t see the number of people here that we used to.”

Gallegos said that’s because the economy is bad and it’s still difficult to get a job.

“There’s been a lot of changes. The neighborhood is different now,” Gallegos said. “When I go to Mexican businesses and grocery stores, there’s barely any Hispanic people anymore. They’re scared.”

A year after the bill was signed, the Hispanic community is “uncertain,” with some debating whether to stay as the school year comes to an end, said Mesa Unified School District community liaison Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo.

“The hysteria died down, but it’s been replaced by this continual uncertainty,” she said. “Mesa has great heart and community connections. To see that level of uncertainty is disheartening because it’s not what community should be about.”

When classes began last August, Mesa leaders were surprised to find that about 2,400 students did not return to their schools.

At the time, some of the blame was put on the fears felt by the community because of SB 1070.

As the district looks to next year, an even sharper decline is predicted — about 2,800 students. But there are other factors at play: foreclosures, jobs losses and pay cuts.

“We really work at making that personal contact with family. It goes beyond this issue. It’s just exasperated,” Villanueva-Saucedo said.

Businesses have felt the loss of people — and their dollars — as well.

“Since 2007, we’ve lost about 75 percent of our business,” said Nino Mihilli, 30, who works at the Mama Mia Market, his family’s business at 731 S. Arizona Ave. “These laws have added fuel to the fire and have chased businesses and people out of the state. It is killing the economy on all levels and chasing away the purchasing power of the state.

“If we did not own the property, we would’ve closed our business a long time ago,” Mihilli added. “We started losing business after the E-Verify law was passed in the summer of 2007. Then it was Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s raids. It was just blow after blow after blow.”

Mihilli’s family is Italian and moved to Arizona from Detroit about 20 years ago, seeking better jobs and more opportunities. He received a degree in business management from Arizona State University and also runs an insurance company. In the 10 years the market has been in business, it has expanded from 1,200 square feet to 6,000, Mihilli said.

“We’ve grown with Chandler and the neighborhood, and then it all came tumbling down,” he said. “Not so long ago, people couldn’t find a place to live in the neighborhood. Now, go to any trailer park or apartment complex — everything is available.”

In fact, Mihilli has written a screenplay, “The Mexican Dream,” taking what he calls a reverse approach to immigration — Americans are the immigrants and find themselves in the roles of the Mexicans, Mihilli said.

“The ethnic community is a very simple community,” he said. “The majority of all nationalities are here for a proper cause, mostly to work. This country was built on immigrants, and I don’t think that Arizona’s leadership is consistent in recognizing that.”

In west Mesa, where roadside Mexican restaurants dot Main Street, Luis Mesqueda has owned Adrian’s No. 2 Mexican Restaurant at 1011 W. Main for 15 years. He didn’t think he was going to make it past his 14th year because of looming implications from SB 1070 and customers moving out of state.

“I’ve lost more than 50 percent of my business,” Mesqueda said. “The government? Phfffft! This is worse now, and it’s not going to change, but we’re hanging in there. It can’t get any worse. We’re there now.”

The debate that SB 1070 stirred crosses cultures, political standing and residency status. Opinions about the end result of the legislation — and how many people left Arizona because of it — will likely do the same.

“People want to isolate the issue, but there are so many things tied to it,” Villanueva-Saucedo said. “It can’t be just pigeonholed to that. … So many other factors are going on in our community: the housing crunch, the economy issues. People have to go where they can find jobs.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com


The Battle of Arizona… In California

Californians took a turn against the Arizonification of immigration policy and took a step toward standards we expect and the oversight we deserve when the state passed the TRUST Act out of its assembly’s public safety committee this week.

The modest bill meant to improve public safety, foster transparency, and protect civil rights following the botched expansion of the Se Communities program, now makes California a national focal point for the next phase of the battles over Arizona-style immigration policies that would convert police into enforcers of our nation’s broken, and unjust, immigration laws.


Newly Disclosed Documents Reveal ICE Deliberately Misled California Officials about S-Comm to Stem Opposition

(Los Angeles) Today, advocates in California made public hundreds of emails between federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and California officials regarding the “activation” of California’s cities and counties in ICE’s controversial “Se Communities” (S-Comm) program, which ensnares local police in federal immigration enforcement efforts. The documents were obtained by the National Day Laborer Organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigrant Justice Clinic through Freedom of Information Act litigation.
The emails reveal a federal agency in state of disarray, and a chorus of questions and complaints from California cities and counties wary of thrusting their police into the role of immigration enforcers.
“The domino effect is starting,” wrote an unidentified ICE official on May 25, 2010.(1) Questions about S-Comm were rolling in after strong opposition from San Francisco and Santa Clara County. Marin County’s Juvenile Probation Office was “quite agitated about [S-Comm] being ‘forced’ on them.”(2) San Mateo and Riverside County were requesting clarification on how they could opt-out of the program.(3) Sonoma County representatives were “upset” about receiving misleading information from ICE.(4) The ICE official frantically sought “messaging that can help . . . keep them on board.”(5)
“The ‘messaging’ ICE settled on, the emails show, centered on deliberately misleading California officials – from county sheriffs to Congressional representatives – about S-Comm’s voluntary nature, and about what ‘opting out’ of the program entailed,” explains Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Information provided to Santa Clara County in May 2010 was approved over the phone, rather than in writing, to “give[] them plausible deniability if this Santa Clara thing goes south.”(6) Top-level ICE officers provided vastly different definitions of opt out to concerned California officials, some of which were purposely crafted to be misleading.(7) An FBI employee observing the process noted, “It amazes me that we are all in the same room and he thinks this [opt out messaging] is consistent.”(8)
Confusion about S-Comm went beyond the feasibility of opting out. “The emails also reveal confusion about the legal authority for the program and its true focus” says Angela Chan, Staff Attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. Despite concerns raised by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown as early as September 2010 about whether S-Comm was picking up minor offenders and traffic violators, ICE publicly insisted that S-comm focused on deporting convicted criminals.(9)
ICE officials also scrambled to identify legal authority for the program. In early presentations to the California Department of Justice, they apparently relied on a section of Proposition 187 that had been struck down by California Courts as unconstitutional.(10) In fact, later emails clarify, “There is no legislation that makes [Se Communities] mandatory.”(11)
The Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act (“TRUST ACT”), currently scheduled to be heard in the public safety committee of the California Assembly on April 26th, aims to fix the ways that S-Comm’s misleading focus, over-broad reach and lack of transparency have eroded trust between police and immigrant communities and sparked considerable open government concerns. The TRUST Act would honor the right of local governments to opt out of the troubled S-Comm program. The Act also sets basic safeguards for those that do participate in the program to protect against racial profiling, protect the rights of children and domestic violence survivors, and upholds the right to a day in court by only reporting for deportation individuals convicted, not merely accused, of crimes.
Documents Can Be Found at http://bit.ly/scomm-foia-ca
1. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0003246.
2. Id.
3. Id.; ICE FOIA 10-2674.0007167.
4. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0003815.
5. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0003246.
6. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0007174.
7. Compare 10-2674.0007229 (S-Comm Director David Venturella’s deliberately misleading definition of opt out for San Francisco Sheriff Hennessey) with 10-2674.0005151 (S-Comm Deputy Director Marc Rapp’s contrary definition of opt out, given to Congressional representatives the same week).
8. FBI SC 1726.
9. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0007228; 10-2674.0006127-6128.
10. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0007308.
11. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0005568. …


Call For Raises For Dallas Minimum Wage Sanitation Workers

BJ Austin, stuff KERA News (2011-04-05) | Source: KERA

Listen Now

(KERA)Dallas civil rights and union activists marked the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King yesterday evening with a rally for Dallas sanitation workers. KERA’s BJ Austin reports.

Call For Raises For Dallas Minimum Wage Sanitation Workers

Union Workers Join Rally For Dallas Sanitation Workers Pay Raise

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had gone to Memphis 43 years ago to show support for striking city sanitation workers. Dallas rally organizer Peter Johnson says the call for a living wage for Dallas sanitation workers is a fitting way to honor Dr. King.

James Fortenberry, with the United Labor Union, Local 100, says Dallas sanitation workers make just above minimum wage and have no benefits. He says that’s not adequate to support one person, much less a family.

Fortenberry: I just went to the VA Hospital today to visit a sanitation worker, diagnosed with throat cancer. Thank God he’s a Vietnam Veteran.

Mary Nix, head of Dallas Sanitation, says the city has used contract “day” labor on the back of garbage trucks for more than a decade. The only requirement is that the contractor meet or exceed the federal minimum wage.

Nix: We are paying the contractor 9.72 cents an hour, which includes that employee’s pay plus the overhead on worker’s comp.

Nix says contracting out garbage pickup helps keeps sanitation fees low. But she says there’s another reason the city council has been reluctant to require pay raises in the contract with AllTemps1. She says it’s difficult to raise contract day labor pay when full time employees at the city are taking pay cuts.

Nix: It’s very difficult to find a way to trim the cost of the budget for permanent employees who taken cuts over the last two years, and look at the day laborers who their federal wages have been increasing over the past three years.

But City Council member Angela Hunt says paying sanitation workers a “living wage” is the right thing to do.

Hunt: The amount that we’d have to increase the sanitation fee by is very minimal to make up for the cost of paying these guys what we should be paying them for the hard work that they do for the citizens of Dallas.

Peter Johnson says Dallas is the only major city whose sanitation workers are at minimum wage levels and have no benefits. Council member Hunt says maybe that will change with a new Mayor who’ll take office in June – as work begins on next year’s budget.

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Iowa should crack down on wage thieves

4:16 PM, Apr. 1, online 2011 | Source: DesMoinesRegister.com

Few crimes are more contemptible than wage theft.

When an employer stiffs a worker of promised wages, the employer is not just stealing money from the worker. The employer has stolen hours of someone else’s life.

It is all the more despicable because victims tend to be poor and powerless. They are often day laborers, young people or immigrants who have no means of forcing employers to pay what they promised.

Imagine yourself at the bottom rungs of the labor ladder. You jump at the chance for a few days’ work that might at least pay the rent, but at the end of the week there is no pay. The wages you have been promised are refused, or the check you have been given bounces.

You have no leverage to force the employer to pay. You might complain to the state Labor Department, but it’s your word against the employer’s. Besides, the one investigator assigned to wage theft has a huge backlog of cases. It will be months before you see any redress, if ever. In the meantime, the rent is still unpaid and the children still need to eat.

Of all the crimes perpetrated against the poor, wage theft is among the most cruel.

The activist group Citizens for Community Improvement has shown a spotlight on wage theft in Iowa, uncovering what is either an alarming increase in wage theft or an increase in reporting of the crime. Either way, it is unacceptable.

Wage theft is a crime that simply should not exist. No one in Iowa should be able to get away with stealing another person’s labor.

The Iowa Senate passed a bill intended to make it easier prove the case when workers have been cheated, but the bill appears doomed in the House. The legislation would require employers to maintain documentation of people they hire and wages promised. It would also prohibit reprisals against whistle blowers who support the claims of the cheated workers.

Leaders in the House of Representatives have taken the position that the legislation would impose too much paperwork on good employers in order to catch a few bad ones.

That’s no surprise. The business-friendly House naturally is more solicitous of employers than it is of impoverished workers.

Fine. In an atmosphere where the lawmakers are falling all over themselves to do anything the business lobby wants, it is too much to expect that a new paperwork burden would be imposed on business.

But those who object to the paperwork burden should feel an obligation to come up with other ways for desperate workers to recover wages owed them. If they don’t like paperwork, then what other way of stopping wage theft do they propose?

At the least, the state should allocate sufficient resources so that every wage complaint can be promptly investigated. Perhaps, too, the penalty for wage theft, a $500 fine, should be increased by an order of magnitude.

The state should make it unmistakably clear that any employer who intentionally cheats workers forfeits the right to run a business in Iowa. Perhaps, since they have stolen someone else’s time, they should serve time themselves, in jail.