Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

From Discarded Belongings to Border Art

The migrant pathways near the Arizona border are covered with empty tuna cans, clothes and lost toothbrushes. Most Americans only know of the migrants’ stories through news coverage or the heated political discussion on immigration policy, but people living at the border have a much closer relationship to the stories. Several artists are collecting the items left behind on the trails and transforming them into sculptures and multimedia installations. The artists hope to make the migrants’ stories more personal for viewers—and maybe even, generate sympathy.

Alicia Fernandez contributed reporting to this story, which was produced in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists.

We have posted several of Alicia’s photos below. You can also check out Alicia’s beautiful multimedia version of this story, published in El Diario de Juárez.

Arizona Dreamers Five Years Later

Dulce Matuz started a new life as an undocumented American in Arizona when she was 15 years old. She was a star student, participated on the robotics team in high school and got into the engineering program at Arizona State University. In 2006, Arizona passed Proposition 300, which stripped undocumented students of in-state tuition for school and forced a lot of undocumented students to drop out of school. Dulce had a choice: self-deport or stay and fight. She chose the latter. Dulce co-founded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition to fight for immigrant rights while Arizona was in the process of enacting some of the nation’s strictest anti-immigration laws. Maria Hinojosa recently met up with Matuz in Phoenix to talk about what’s happening with Arizona politics around immigration today, five years after Arizona passed its controversial “show me your papers law,” SB 1070.

Photo by Marlon Bishop/Latino USA

Boarders Crossing Borders

Kelvin, Rene, Kevin, and Eliseo are four skaters who came up in the same small community in El Salvador. Skating is their passion but it was not easy to live the skater lifestyle in El Salvador. Local gangs would target the skaters because for many, skating was an alternative to gang life and therefore a threat to the gang’s power. When a group of skaters ended up in the hospital after being attacked by a gang in March, the four guys decided to leave El Salvador and try to make it to their dream city: Los Angeles.

Levi Vonk, a Fulbright scholar living in Mexico, met the guys while they were traveling through Mexico and helps us tell their story crossing Central America.

Here is the link to Levi’s article for Rolling Stone on the skater crew.

Photo via Levi Vonk

Gallup’s Latest Immigration Poll May Surprise You

Earlier today, Gallup released the latest results of an ongoing poll about immigration—a topic GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush described as a “wedge issue” during last week’s Republican debate.

Bush’s “wedge issue” characterization is not that far off, if you take into account what Gallup shared as part of its Minority Rights and Relations survey. Here is the topline:

“The U.S. public demonstrates no clear preference on what U.S. immigration levels should be. On this contentious issue, 40% say levels should remain where they are, but only slightly fewer (34%) advocate a decrease in the stream of immigrants. One-quarter of the country prefers an increase in immigration levels, the sole response of the three to see a general increase in support over the past 15 years.”

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If you look back to the beginning of when this poll started, the push for less immigration peaked at 58% in 2002 a few months after the 9/11 attacks. Support for more immigration was only at about 8% around the same time. Why the changes 13 years later?

Could it be that this country has is getting more and more Latino? More from Gallup:

“Preferences for changes in immigration levels vary considerably by the respondents’ race or ethnicity. Hispanics —half of whom say they are immigrants themselves— are most likely to say immigration levels should be increased (36%), while non-Hispanic whites offer the least amount of support for that proposition (21%). Blacks fall in between the two, at 30%. Despite these differences, the overall trend is similar for all three groups. Support for allowing increased immigration levels hit a low ebb for all races/ethnicities in the years immediately after 9/11, and climbed to new or nearly new highs in 2015.”

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Nonetheless, does this mean that immigration and the politics surrounding this very contentious topic will begin to show some signs of alignment? It is too early to tell, but a Pew poll from late spring would suggest that the “wedge issue” will still remain a “wedge issue” for the 2016 elections, especially when the topic of immigration focuses on the issue of the country’s undocumented population. A few things to note about the Pew findings:

“…most Americans (72%) continue to say undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in the country legally, if certain requirements are met.”

“About half (51%) say immigrants today strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents, while 41% say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care. The share saying that immigrants strengthen the country has declined six percentage points since last year.”

“A majority of Republicans (56%) support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. At the same time, far more Republicans say immigrants are a burden on the country (63%) than say they strengthen the country (27%).”

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So the question remains: where does this country stand on immigration? Depending on who you support and how the immigration picture is presented, this “wedge issue” is just as partisan as it has ever been.

What do you think of the Gallup and Pew polls? Tweet me @julito77 with your thoughts or add your comments below.

Main photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. Charts via Gallup and Pew.

Undocumented Home Owners Face Risky Options

A 2009 Pew Hispanic Center study shows that a third of undocumented immigrants own their own houses. Some bought their homes with cash, so-called mattress money saved up over the years. But for others, without that kind of savings, options for home mortgage financing are scarce. President Obama’s immigration overhaul is unlikely to change that. That means many immigrants resort to informal arrangements with risky consequences. Northwest Public Radio’s Rowan Moore Gerety reports from Yakima, Washington.

Photo courtesy of Rowan Moore Gerety 

The GOP response to executive action on immigration

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn President Obama’s executive action on immigration to grant temporary relief to an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said that with his actions, the President had “chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms.” While incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Congress would consider options to limit the President’s actions. But a survey on the eve of the President’s announcement by the polling firm Latino Decisions, has found that Latino registered voters were overwhelmingly in favor of the President’s actions. The poll confirms previous findings on the issue of immigration and the Latino vote. The poll was commissioned by Presente.org and other immigrant rights groups. In this segment, see how reactions from prominent Latino Republicans square with the findings on these polls on the Latino vote.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 

Damien Cave: On The Way North

Interstate 35 cuts right through the nation’s heartland. New York Times reporter Damien Cave travelled the length of the highway to find out how immigration is affecting the interior states of the U.S.

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Cave, Damien .jpg Damien Cave became a correspondent for The New York Times’ Mexico City bureau in January 2011. He is based in Mexico City where he covers Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Previously, Mr. Cave had been chief of The Times’ Miami bureau since March 2008.  Before that, Mr. Cave served as a correspondent for The Times’ Baghdad bureau from July 2006 to December 2007. Since joining The Times in 2004, Mr. Cave has covered a wide range of topics, including military recruiting, New York City government and New Jersey politics. Before coming to The Times, he was a staff writer and editor at Rolling Stone and Salon.com. A graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and Boston College, Mr. Cave grew up in Worcester, Mass.

 

 

Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Notarios: Immigration Help That Hurts

Immigration paperwork can be really confusing – endless pages of forms, lawyer fees, and legalese.

Undocumented immigrants with limited English – and in many cases low education levels – face tougher obstacles when navigating the immigration system.

There are a lot of people out there trying to take advantage of all the confusion – and make a quick buck in the process. They are often known as notarios.

Angela Fernandez works toward helping the public solve immigration issues. She’s the director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a nonprofit in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Fernandez said the process can be long and daunting for new immigrants applying for citizenship.

For every organization like hers that offers free, quality help, said Fernandez, there are many more that prey on immigrants.

“We know that well over fifty percent of individuals that come through here have had some sort of interaction with an individual who has promised them legal status but they weren’t able to help them with it,” says Fernandez.

Immigration fraud has many faces. There are the dramatic stories of big-time scams – immigrants cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars. But more commonly, it takes the much more banal form of work done poorly by people who aren’t licensed.

“If you make a mistake on your taxes – the worst that can happen is you have to pay a fine. When you make a mistake in any kind of immigration application, you can be torn from your family and your community,” Fernandez says.

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Notarios advertise their services all along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

All over immigrant enclaves such as this one there are signs, banners and flyers offering help with immigration. They often advertise as a “notario público” – Spanish for “notary public.”

Valeria Treves runs a non-profit in Queens called New Immigrant Community Empowerment, or NICE for short. She said that in Latin America a notario público is actually a very high end attorney.

“Many Latin American immigrants actually confuse notary public for  notarios publicos, and there are notarios out there that take advantage of that confusion and misrepresent themselves as lawyers,” Treves says.

By law, notarios cannot provide legal advice. A study from NICE titled “Dreams and Schemers” found that over 20 percent of the notarios in Queens advertised legal services. It also found that these businesses are required to post signs that state “not an attorney.” Treves says that business aren’t displaying those signs.

There are a few things notarios are allowed to do. For example, they can procure documents for immigrants, set up appointments, and they are allowed to help fill out immigration form with answers given by the clients. “But it’s a very fine line between filling out a form and giving people advice,” says Treves.

A VISIT FOR THE NOTARIO

We visited one notario in Washington Heights named Jay Mercado. He runs a business called “New Age Multi Services.”

Mercado said it’s true that a lot of notarios are scammers – they overcharge for simple services, or promise they can get work authorization for people who are not eligible for it. But he said he’s one of the good guys, doing honest work, and that in most cases, the forms are easy to fill out correctly.

“Like everything—once you learn the procedure, it’s like changing your car oil – you learn the steps and it’s boom boom boom,” Mercado says.

But sometimes, it’s more like “boom, boom… oops we messed up your papers.”

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Immigrants receive legal help at a Queens non-profit called New Immigrant Community Empowerment (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

“THEY TOOK ADVANTAGE OF HIM”

Recently, Juan Ramirez’ father – a long time legal permanent resident – decided to apply for citizenship. A social worker referred his father to a storefront church in Upper Manhattan that runs an immigration service on the side.

“They took advantage of him,” Ramirez says. “They filled out his applications poorly and they charged him $125 for it. A lot of questions were left blank, a lot of questions were answered incorrectly.”

Most gravely – Juan’s father had some legal problems years ago that the preparer who submitted his application didn’t include. It put his application in jeopardy.

“There are no guarantees and my father got a guarantee… and it could have ended badly. My father could be deported, he could be in removal, my father could have gotten his citizenship – it doesn’t matter. They got their $125 and that’s the bottom line for them,” Ramirez said.

When Juan Ramirez tried to follow-up on his father’s case, his questions were avoided and phone calls went un-returned.

Ramirez’ father should have been referred to a lawyer. Despite the evasive behavior, the church may not have done anything against the law. It was legal for the church to fill out his father’s forms, so long as they didn’t give any guidance.

“And that’s part of the problem,” says Valeria Treves of NICE. She thinks unlicensed people shouldn’t be able to do this delicate work. But as long as they can, they will.

“We live in a capitalist society and people will extract a dollar anyway they can, and this is identified as something people really want, they really want papers, so you’ll find providers to provide that. Some that are legitimate, and some that are not legitimate,” says Treves.

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Notarios in New York City often are located in close proximity with actual law offices, heightening the confusion for immigrants looking for professional legal help. (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

“A HOLE IN THE SYSTEM”

Immigrant advocates are split on the issue. Some want to train the notarios to do better; others want to shut them down completely.

Last week, the New York State assembly passed a bill creating new regulations for notarios – forcing them to provide clear contracts and offer no-questions-asked refunds, for example. The bill also establishes “notario fraud” as a crime. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it into law soon.

But Angela Fernandez from the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights said the problem goes deeper than anything the courts can solve. She said it’s systemic.

“There are very few resources that can guide people through regularizing their status. So, because we don’t have those resources it’s very easy for these storefronts to pop up,”  says Fernandez.

She said funding from the city for organizations like hers has gone down over the years. Most immigrants simply can’t afford to go to a lawyer, and there’s just not enough free help to go around. So, the notarios fill the vacuum.

Despite these challenges, immigrants do their best to figure out how to navigate the immigration maze. Back at the waiting room at Fernandez’ Washington Heights offices, about a dozen people wait to speak with trained paralegals. Gustavo, who declined to give his last name because of his status, says his grandmother warned him about notarios after she was scammed twice.

 “Take it slow, talk to different people,” Gustavo said. “And don’t rush into anything.”

Cover photo by Marlon Bishop

Additional reporting and production assistance by Sarah Rocha

Are Latinos Saving Nebraska’s Economy?

Dan Mulhall owns a plant nursery and landscaping firm. He employs about 200 seasonal employees, who usually work for nine months a year. Mulhall says he’s tried to comply with immigration law, applying for temporary work visas for his workers. But the visas run out quickly and it’s hard to find all the workers he needs among Nebraska’s residents. So two years ago, an immigration audit found more than forty of his workers were not authorized to work in the US and he had to fire them. The workers went to work for a local competitor.

“I won’t begrudge the guys or gals for doing that,” says Mulhall. “I’m glad they didn’t have to leave. It’s just the system doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t work.”

Nebraska’s Latino population has increased rapidly in the past two decades. There are not near 200,000 Latinos, roughly more than ten percent the total state population. Most of the growth comes from native-born Latinos, but also from immigration from other US states.

“Nebraska is a state that desperately loses population,” says Lourdes Gouveia, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “If it was not for immigration it would’ve lost population the last two censuses.”

Like other studies on immigration economics in the United States, several studies from the University of Nebraska show that Latino immigration has had a positive impact on the state’s economy. “The data is incontrovertible: immigrants contribute two and a half billion plus a year to production to the state,” says Goveia. “They generate nearly 20,000 jobs and they pay taxes a little above of what they receive in benefits.” The studies, however, do not distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants.

A big example of the Latino immigrants’ impact on the economy is the state’s meatpacking industry. During the 1970s, the sector’s unions were busted. The wages plummeted, the benefits and pensions disappeared and the jobs stopped being attractive to locals. So in the 1980s, industry leaders revamped the sector, moving factories to the countryside into towns like Fremont and Lexington in Nebraska. To find the new workforce, they turned to Latino immigrants in California, Texas, and soon they even moved south of the border.

The industry’s new reality is that the cattlemen and meatpacking factory owners would struggle to fill the jobs without the new Latino workforce. 

Opponents of immigration turn to the Federation for American Immigration Reform – FAIR – for numbers against immigration. FAIR believes this incoming undocumented immigrant workforce is actually hurting the state’s economy, and that it’s the cause of declining wages and the quality of jobs. Their studies say that business owners pocket the profits while American taxpayers are left to pick up the check for healthcare and school for the incoming undocumented Latino immigrants.  

“What we are doing is creating a subsidized labor pool for a lot of industries,” says Ira Mehlman, FAIR spokesperson. “These are not mom and pop shops. And it’s another form of subsidy.”

FAIR advocates for a return to high-paying jobs in sectors of the economy. And they want reforms and law enforcement that will make undocumented workers leave on their own. “If you make it clear to people that even if you can get into the United States illegally, you’re not going to get a job because the government is out there policing the labor force, the jobs are going to dry up,” says Mehlman.

The University of Nebraska’s studies find that the foreign-born workforce in the state put more money in through income, gas and sales taxes than they take in social services. It’s also unlikely that wages will hike in the near future, attracting more of the native-born workforce. But what is certain is that the new immigrant workforce has become vital to many of Nebraska’s key industries.

Even as Nebraska’s Latino population grows, the state will remain predominantly white, even in 2060 when Latinos become 25 percent of the population. Lourdes Goveia says that the new Latino workforce is the new reality of the state, and that the immigrants have become an easy target for political electioneering from outside the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images 

Hunger Strike At Immigration Detention Center

Living conditions at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state are alarmingly bad. Detainees eat rotten food and can go through long stretches of solitary confinement, with little to no communication with the outside world. The center is run like, or maybe even worse than, a prison.

Recently over 1,000 of the detainees, mostly Latino undocumented immigrants, have organized the only way they could — with a hunger strike to protest the living conditions. Reporter Ryan Katz goes inside the detention center to find out how and why these detainees have risked their health and their lives to be heard.

 

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KatzRyan Katz is a writer and radio journalist based in Portland, Oregon. His work has centered on topics ranging from trends in political advertisements to post-9/11 Islamophobia. He currently works at Pagatim FM.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of reporter. 

 

 

“Deportation Orphans” In Oregon

This story is a heart-rending depiction of what a family goes through when a mother is deported. We meet kids not unlike most any kids you’d meet, with one exception: their mother lives hundreds of miles away. It’s forced them to grow up faster, and left them in the care of their grandmother, who is undocumented. There are enough children living like this now that there’s a term for them: deportation orphans.

 

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A Mother Of “Deportation Orphans”

We hear the story of Liliana Ramos, a deportee living in Tijuana, Mexico. Her children live hundreds of miles away in Oregon. She’s as involved as she can be, calling to remind them to wear scarves and hats when it’s cold out. But she’s had to start over in a strange town and join a community of mothers who can’t sleep at night for worrying about their children. She moved to Mexico 2 years ago after her deportation.

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JordanaGustafsonJordana Gustafson is a freelance reporter based in Oregon. She began her radio career at WBUR in Boston and has reported and produced for numerous outlets, including NPR, Marketplace and This American Life. Jordana graduated from Connecticut College. She was a member of the WUNC-Chapel Hill team that won the 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Broadcast News Award for the series Understanding Poverty. In 2010, she and her colleagues were awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for their documentary series, The Arab World’s Demographic Dilemma. Jordana is a 2013 immigration reporting fellow with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. She speaks fluent Spanish, and she recently rode her bike from Slovenia to Spain. She was born and raised in Ojai, California.

#1418 – A Latino History Of The U.S.

Before you head out for a Cinco de Mayo margarita, take a trip around the country with host Maria Hinojosa to learn about Latino history. Hear about the patriotic celebrations of Laredo, Texas andthe first colony in the US—it’s not where you think it is. Also: could Zorro be the first American superhero? A high school class in East LA learns about the Chicano movement. And just where did the term “Hispanic” come from?

Feature photo courtesy of Mimictrash

What Is “Reasonable Distance”?

The border patrol is best known for working in the Southwest. But regulations authorize them to operate within a “reasonable distance” of 100 miles of any border–creating a zone the ACLU claims is a  “Constitution Free Zone.” We hear from people who experience border patrol checkpoints and complain of harassment and racial profiling. And on the flip side, we hear from a border patrol agent about the difficulties of balancing enforcement with community policing.

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Check out additional information about Constitution Free Zones here.

Feature Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

 

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ACValdezA.C. Valdez is Latino USA’s Senior Producer. A.C. Valdez comes to Latino USA by way of public radio shows like America Abroad, The Diane Rehm Show, WAMU-FM’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and Tell Me More. He’s worked with reporters from around the world, coordinated performances with groups like The Noisettes, and done in-depth work on the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. A native of Washington, D.C., A.C. Is a graduate of Emerson College.

 

 

 

Dream Nine: Lulú In Detention

Maria Hinojosa went to the University of Illinois in Chicago for a long, deep conversation with Lulú Martínez. She is one of the Dream Nine, the group of undocumented activists voluntarily detained after re-entering the US from Mexico in 2013. The young Chicana activist talks about her two weeks in a detention center, her activism and the meaning of citizenship.  Watch the extended interview, where Lulú talks about the intersections of her queer and undocumented identities, her struggle to create a civil rights movement that doesn’t exclude anyone and her activist work in Chicago.


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Lulú Martínez is an undocumented queer Chicana from Mexico City and a student at UIC in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of IL at Chicago. She is also a member of the Fearless Undocumented Alliance (FUA). She immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and brother at the age of three. She helped co-found the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), a Chicago-based undocumented youth-led organization. She is currently organizing the third Bring Them Home campaign in which 150 families will turn themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ask for re-entry into the U.S. to be reunited with their families.

 

Photo of the Dream Nine (from left to right): Luis Leon Lopez (Marion, North Carolina), Maria Inés Peniche (Boston, Massachusetts), Adriana Diaz (Phoenix, Arizona), Lulú Martínez (Chicago, Illinois), Ceferino Santiago (Lexington, Kentucky), Marco Saavedra (New York, New York), Lizbeth Mateo (Los Angeles, California), Claudia Amaro (Wichita, Kansas); courtesy of photographer Steve Pavey on Flickr

 

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