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This Land: A Natural Treasure That May End Up Without a Country

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  • abeltranjurisdr@aol.com
    in this email: (1) New York Times - San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants (2) AlterNet - Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusiv e Immigration Language (3)
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7 8:17 PM
      in this email:

      (1)
      New York Times - San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants

      (2)
      AlterNet - Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusiv e Immigration Language

      (3)
      NYTimes.com: A Natural Treasure That May End Up Without a Country

      (4)
      Seattle Times - Life 10 months after being deported to Mexico...

      (5)
      Brideless in Provo: Immigration bureaucracy keeps elderly newlyweds apart
      http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/261477/17/

      (6)
      Chertoff: Failure of immigration reform led to extreme measures
      http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/connecticut/ny-bc-ct--homelandsecurity0407apr07,0,7354004.story

      (7)
      Judge puts English only on voter forms
      http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080404/NEWS10/804040386/-1/SPORTS0808

      (8)
      Nebraska warns of fake licenses being sold to illegal immigrants
      http://www.statesman.com/search/content/gen/ap/NE_Illegal_Licenses.html

      (9)
      Washington Post [AP] - Vermont College Welcomes Refugees
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/07/AR2008040700393.html?referrer=emailarticle

      ====================================


      The New York Times

      April 6, 2008
      San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants

      By JESSE McKINLEY

      SAN FRANCISCO — The city of San Francisco has started an advertising
      push with a very specific target market: illegal immigrants. And while
      the advertisements will come in a bundle of languages — English,
      Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese — they all carry the same
      message: you are safe here.

      In what may be the first such campaign of its kind, the city plans to
      publish multilanguage brochures and fill the airwaves with
      advertisements relaying assurance that San Francisco will not report
      them to federal immigration authorities.

      Mayor Gavin Newsom said the campaign was simply an amplification of a
      longstanding position of not cooperating with immigration raids or
      other enforcement. The city passed a so-called sanctuary ordinance in
      1989.

      Still, Mr. Newsom said, it never hurts to advertise. "It's one thing
      to have a policy on paper," he said. "It's another to communicate it
      directly to people who could be impacted."

      The television and radio campaign will tell immigrants they have "safe
      access" to public services, including schools, health clinics and —
      perhaps most importantly — the police, something that local law
      enforcement officials say is a chronic problem in émigré communities.

      "It is a trademark of a criminal predator to convince victims that
      because of the victims' immigration status that they — not the
      predator — will be treated as the criminal," said Kamala Harris, the
      city's district attorney. "We want to remove that tool from the
      criminal's tool belt."

      Ms. Harris said particular problems in immigrant communities include
      human trafficking, fraud and elder abuse, which she said was widely
      underreported.

      San Francisco is not alone in its sanctuary status; New York, Detroit
      and Washington have policies that discourage the police from enforcing
      immigration law. Nevertheless, the campaign's announcement prompted a
      round of eye-rolling among anti-immigration forces in California and
      Washington, many of whom are still galled by the city's 2007 decision
      to grant identification cards to anyone who could prove residence,
      regardless of legal status.

      "I guess it's what you expect from San Francisco," said Ira Mehlman of
      the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, which
      lobbies for stronger immigration enforcement. "But now, not only are
      they helping people break the law of the federal government, they are
      advertising it. I don't know of any other city actually looking for
      illegal immigrants."

      Rick Oltman, national media director for Californians for Population
      Stabilization in Santa Barbara, said the campaign could actually be a
      boon for other Bay Area cities if it drew illegal immigrants out of
      those communities and into San Francisco.

      "The only people who are the losers here are the people of San
      Francisco who are going to hate the way the city looks in two or five
      years, when the illegal immigrant population grows massively," said
      Mr. Oltman, who said such populations had a negative effect on crime,
      education, health and the environment.

      But Mr. Newsom said his advertising campaign was less a hard sell than
      a hard look at the reality of immigration policy.

      "We're not arguing against common-sense reforms," he said. "We're not
      arguing against reforms at all. But in lieu of that, we're doing the
      best we can to say if they see a crime report it, and if they have a
      child educate them."

      Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

      http://www.nytimes. com/2008/ 04/06/us/ 06immig.html


      =======================================
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Life after an illegal immigrant is sent home
      Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004330685_mexicoana06m.html

      By Lornet Turnbull
      Seattle Times staff reporter



      MEXICO CITY -- Ana Reyes walks briskly through a crowded neighborhood here, out
      of place among the provocatively dressed women of the night soliciting work in
      the middle of the day.

      The 41-year-old mother of four slips through the entrance of a clothing store,
      its racks thick with the latest fashion, a sign on the door indicating the shop
      is hiring female assistants.

      She approaches the manager about the job but is told it's only for women 20 to
      30 years old.

      Manager Maria Inez elaborates when prompted: "A younger girl will be able to
      bring more male customers into the store. She's too old."

      Ten months after she was picked up by immigration officers in an early-morning
      raid of her Burien home and soon deported to Mexico, Reyes -- jobless and broke
      -- struggles to eke out the barest existence in the dirt-poor barrios of one of
      the world's biggest and most crowded cities.

      After nearly two decades picking hops and fruit in Eastern Washington and
      cleaning hotel rooms near Seattle, she was among more than 870,000 Mexicans the
      U.S. government expelled from the country last year.

      For all the attention illegal immigrants get in the U.S. -- from those who
      believe they're a drain on social services to advocates who say they do the jobs
      Americans won't -- little is known about what happens to them after they're
      ushered by U.S. immigration authorities through revolving doors into Mexico's
      border towns.

      Once there, they get little help from their government. Many stay, others try to
      get back to their hometowns. For the most part no one tracks them -- not their
      government, or the U.S., or their advocacy groups in the states. They become
      largely forgotten -- along with the U.S.-born children they sometimes take with
      them.

      Reyes' two adult sons, Christian and Carlos Quiroz, whom she and her
      then-husband had brought illegally into the U.S. as little boys, were also
      returned to Mexico last year.

      And with no family in the U.S., Reyes' two American daughters, Julie Quiroz, now
      13, and Sharise Hernandez, 6, have also joined her here.

      Now, unable to find work in a city she left 18 years ago, Reyes shuffles between
      the cramped homes of a brother and a sister in neighborhoods so unsafe her
      children aren't allowed outside to play.

      Neither daughter is in school.

      The older one longs for her life in Seattle, saying that on the rare occasion
      she gets close enough to the hotels that cater to tourists here, she strains to
      hear Americans speak. "I always think that if I had the courage I'd go up and
      talk to them," Julie said.

      For her mother, small things, like the Starbucks white-chocolate mocha her son
      sometimes buys her, remind her of their old life. And some days she thinks of
      little else but how to get it back.

      "It's ugly here," Reyes said, sitting in her sister's living room, her children
      and other family members around her.

      "I never wanted to come back here to live. I wanted to stay and watch my
      daughters go to school and graduate, have the kind of life I didn't have."

      Fuel for economy

      The engine of the American service economy runs on the labor of many of the 12
      million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

      Many had fled poverty in small towns across Mexico and Latin America, becoming
      the cheap labor that builds houses, cleans hotel rooms and tends gardens in the
      U.S.

      In recent years, stepped-up immigration enforcement increasingly has led to
      their arrests in work-site raids, on routine traffic stops, when immigration
      officers sweep through jails and prisons or, in cases such as Reyes', when they
      show up at the front door.

      "This country simply can't absorb them all," said Neil Clark, Seattle-based
      field-office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, pointing out
      the U.S. already admits about 1 million legal immigrants a year.

      "People have got to demand changes in their home countries if they want to make
      things better," he said. "Coming to the U.S. is not the solution to Mexico's
      problems."

      Neither, it seems, is deportation.

      For Mexico, the return of illegal immigrants is a double punch: The economy
      loses the deportees' share of some $24 billion that Mexicans abroad send home
      each year. And back in the small towns they fled, deportees compete for what few
      low-paying jobs exist.

      "Sometimes they leave with much fanfare and dreams of getting the family out of
      poverty -- only to be sent back home, their deportation seen as a failure," said
      Erica Dahl-Bredine, country manager for Catholic Relief Services Mexico, based
      in Tucson, Ariz.

      So many don't go back home but instead remain in border towns such as Tijuana
      and Juárez -- sometimes because they don't have money for a bus ticket home
      but mostly because they're waiting for a chance to re-enter the U.S.

      It's what Reyes might have done last July if she'd had the money to pay a
      smuggler to help her return to the U.S. Instead, she returned to her family in
      Mexico City, buying time while she figures out a way to get back to Seattle.

      She'd first come to the attention of U.S. immigration authorities in 1998 when
      she got into a fight with another woman on a street in the Eastern Washington
      town of Sunnyside, violating a restraining order.

      In 2003, an immigration judge granted her a chance to leave the U.S.
      voluntarily, saying her daughters were young enough that they could adjust to
      life in Mexico. She appealed and lost, but never left, she said, because she
      kept hoping changes in U.S. immigration laws would allow her to stay legally.

      She was asleep the morning 10 months ago when a team of Immigration and Customs
      Enforcement officers knocked on the door of her apartment, her name on their
      fugitive list for that day.

      Among those inside, besides her two daughters, were her younger son, Carlos; her
      boyfriend and the father of her younger daughter, Arturo Hernandez; and her
      brother-in-law Luis Hernandez. The men were all returned to Mexico. Reyes' older
      son was living in Tacoma and deported several months later.

      Later, Reyes would remark that if deported, she would not bring her daughters to
      Mexico because she would not be staying long.

      She couldn't have known how bad things would get for her here.

      Mexico City as home

      The metropolitan area of Mexico City is the second-largest in the world --
      teeming with congestion, pollution and poverty. The divide between rich and poor
      is vast.

      It is, in so many ways, removed from the green landscape and fresh air of
      Western Washington, where Reyes lived in an apartment complex and worked as a
      hotel maid for nearly half her years in the U.S. On good days, she earned about
      $70 a day, her boyfriend about twice that.

      Much of what the family had was left behind in the Burien apartment: a
      microwave, beds, tables, other furniture. "Everything that I worked really hard
      for," Reyes said.

      Now, in Mexico, home is sometimes her brother's third-floor, two-bedroom
      apartment near the historic center of the city, where drug dealers and
      prostitutes hug grimy street corners, conducting business in full view of the
      police.

      Mostly, it's her sister Patricia Reyes' cramped two-bedroom house in Arboledas,
      a poor neighborhood that is part of the city's stubborn march toward the
      mountains surrounding it.

      The house is like many others throughout the city, joined to those on either
      side, with the street as its front yard.

      Her family lives like many in Mexico's large cities, doubling and sometimes
      tripling up under the same roof. Up to 10 family members sometimes share her
      sister's home. Reyes sleeps on a mattress on the floor, a wooden bar braced at
      the front door to keep rats from scurrying inside.

      She is often depressed, her family said.

      "We're been back and forth, back and forth," Reyes said. "It's the hardest thing
      because I had my own place up there, my own car, my own money. I have nothing
      here."

      Looking for work

      Reyes' age, long absence from Mexico and lack of a high-school diploma help
      explain why the hotels, restaurants and stores where she seeks work aren't
      calling her back.

      "I tried the hotel jobs and even when I tell them how much experience I have, I
      still don't get called," she said. "They say that someone younger will produce
      more than me."

      Susanna Noguez, who works in the protection department in the Mexican consulate
      office in Seattle, said, "If she has the intention of finding any kind of work,
      it's not easy, but it's not impossible."

      In this city, getting work also depends on whom you know.

      Reyes' 68-year-old father slowly shakes his head when asked if he can use his
      position as a former government worker to help.

      "Before, when I was younger, there was lots of work here -- enough for
      everybody," Luis Reyes said. "Now everything has gotten more corrupt ... ."

      "The people I can call, they're all retired, like me. They can't help."

      So five evenings a week, Reyes does what many of her generation here do to make
      a living -- she peddles on the street.

      She and sister Patricia roll a food cart up a dusty street to sell quesadillas
      for 70 cents, gorditas for 90 cents. On a good night they can clear $20. On this
      particular one, they had three customers.

      One was 28-year-old Santo Lopez, who had been deported from the U.S. only a few
      months earlier. He had lived for four years in Hope, Ark., he said, holding down
      jobs in a mechanic shop and at a warehouse.

      He's found a food-processing job here that pays $80 for a six-day week but says
      he could make that same amount in two or three hours in the states.

      "I hear they are now jailing people they catch trying to cross the border," he
      said. "If things get much worse for me here, I might consider just that. Life in
      detention in the states might be better than it is here."

      Lopez bought three quesadillas.

      On evenings like these, unsold inventory becomes the family's meal. At the end
      of every day, everyone in the family pools what money they made that day.

      "And that's how we survive," Reyes said. "It's not the life I imagined for my
      kids."

      But many who oppose the presence of illegal immigrants in the U.S. say it's
      right to deport them and that the hard realities of life across the border are
      Mexico's to resolve.

      "Maybe if the Mexican government was half as concerned about its people in
      Mexico, so many of them would not be trying to get out," said Ira Mehlman,
      spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform.

      How it began

      Reyes grew up in a relatively poor neighborhood near central Mexico City, one of
      four children.

      She didn't finish high school but attended a trade school, where she was trained
      as a secretary and later got work with the government.

      She married young and had her first child at 18 and her second child four years
      later.

      In the late 1980s, her husband followed the wave of Mexicans going north for
      jobs in the fruit farms in Washington and California.

      He crossed illegally and settled in Eastern Washington; she followed in 1990,
      walking three hours with a smuggler whom her husband had paid $1,000.

      She said she was apprehended by U.S. border authorities and promised a work
      permit, Social Security number and legal status if she would testify against the
      coyote.

      But the smuggler ended up admitting to the charges and the deal for the green
      card was off, though Reyes was granted what most illegal immigrants covet -- a
      valid Social Security number and a work permit, which would expire a few months
      later.

      The couple settled outside Yakima in Sunnyside, where they worked in the hops
      fields, then picked apples and cherries.

      About a year later, they sent for their boys, 7 and 3 at the time, paying a
      coyote to guide the children through the desert.

      But authorities stopped the boys and the smuggler. The children, now grown,
      speak of spending days in foster homes, separated from one other and afraid,
      before their father came from Washington and all three crossed with a coyote.

      Reyes' relationship with her husband grew strained, and in the winter of 1998,
      he moved without the family to Western Washington.

      With no money, she and her children were evicted from their Sunnyside apartment.
      They moved in with Arturo Hernandez, who was renting a small trailer in the same
      town.

      Together, in 2001, they followed other Mexican fruit pickers to the
      construction, restaurant and hotel jobs in and around Seattle. Reyes landed a
      job at SeaTac Crest Motor Inn, where Manager Karl Singh calls her a "really hard
      and honest worker."

      "We still miss her," he said.

      Plotting their return

      Soon after she was deported, Reyes, the girls and her younger son went to live
      with Hernandez and his family in a small town outside Aguascalientes, some 300
      miles northwest of Mexico City.

      It is here they sometimes return when they need to give her brother and sister
      some space. When they arrive, the two-bedroom house Hernandez shares with his
      extended family comes alive. Reyes and the kids say they feel safer here. There
      are other children for the girls to play with and they can walk the few blocks
      to the neighborhood store.

      Hernandez, who had been employed by a Tacoma boat builder for $20 an hour, now
      starts his days tending his father's horses and goats. He's not found a job
      because all seem to require the high-school diploma he doesn't have.

      He had gone to the U.S. when he was 16, making enough to send money back to his
      aging parents every two weeks.

      "Now I'm back and there's nothing here," he said. "My parents have to help me
      because I have no money."

      His mother said she was apprehensive when he left. "He was still a boy," Maria
      Pilar said. "I prayed that he would be fine."

      When his mother first learned he was being deported, she was at once happy
      because she would be seeing him again and devastated by what she knew were dim
      prospects.

      So he and Reyes, along with her grown sons, haven't stopped plotting ways to get
      back to Seattle.

      She thinks her only chance of doing that legally is years away and hinges on
      daughter Julie, whom she thinks can petition for her when she turns 21.

      But it's not that simple: Because Reyes lived illegally in the states for 17
      years, she faces a 10-year bar to legal entry. So Julie would have to be 23 and
      have a home established in the U.S. before she could petition for her mother to
      join her.

      Reyes and Hernandez are considering an offer from an Edmonds real-estate
      investor who learned of their circumstances and has offered to help them
      relocate to Juarez. The girls could stay with a family in El Paso, Texas,
      and attend school there during the week. But the idea of seeing her mother only
      on weekends worries Julie.

      A few months ago, it was a different plan -- to cross illegally with a group of
      people who had been deported from Phoenix.

      Then they heard that a cold front had passed through the desert, leaving four
      people dead of exposure. And they found out that U.S. immigration authorities
      are now jailing -- not just catching and releasing -- those caught sneaking
      across the border.

      So that plan, at least for now, is on hold.

      Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@...


      ======================================================================
      http://www.seattletimes.com
      ======================================================================

      Copyright (c) 2007 The Seattle Times Company

      www.seattletimes.com
      ================================================================

      The New York Times


      US   | April 7, 2008
      This Land:  A Natural Treasure That May End Up Without a Country
      By DAN BARRY
      The Sabal Palm Audubon Center in Brownsville, Tex., home to rare birds and other wildlife, may end up on the Mexico side of a planned border fence.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/us/07land.html
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      This Land

      A Natural Treasure That May End Up Without a Country

      BROWNSVILLE, Tex.

      At the very bottom of this country, where the Rio Grande loops up and down as if determined to thwart territorial imperatives, there sits a natural wonderland called the Sabal Palm Audubon Center. Rare birds of impossible colors dart about the rustling jungle, while snakes slink, tortoises dawdle and the occasional ocelot grants a rare sighting.

      After decades of reclamation and preservation, and after millions of public and private dollars spent, this has become a vital place in one of the nation’s very poorest cities. Beyond the busloads of gawking schoolchildren, the center also attracts birders from around the world to spend money the color of their beloved olive sparrow in local restaurants and hotels.

      But if you yearn to hear the clattering call of the chachalaca at Sabal Palm, your travel plans perhaps should factor in the Fence. Yes, the Fence: that ever-encroaching cross between the Berlin Wall and Christo’s Gates (Artist: Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, with funding provided by the United States of America).

      The guardians of Sabal Palm fear, and with good reason, that in trying to keep out illegal immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security will soon be erecting the border fence just north of the bird sanctuary, effectively trimming this natural treasure from the rest of the country and probably forcing its closure. In other words, they say, a very thoughtful gift of about 550 acres to Mexico.

      And this may be a gift that keeps on giving. Conservationists and landowners worry that the Fence will also cut across a river-hugging wildlife corridor that stretches over several Texas counties, painstakingly restored and maintained by, among others, the federal government.

      Nailing down Homeland Security’s plans is like trying to spot the elusive ocelot. When asked whether the agency intends to build the Fence north of the sanctuary, its chief spokesman, Russ Knocke, said: “I can’t rule that out, but I cannot also definitely tell you that that will be the case.”

      He said the agency had adjusted its plans in the past to address environmental issues whenever possible (although it announced last week that it would bypass environmental reviews to expedite construction of the Fence). For example, he said, a stretch of the Fence in the Arizona desert includes crevices for an endangered lizard — crevices “too small for a human being to get through and large enough for the lizard.”

      Mr. Knocke said the agency would continue to listen to advice and complaints from the public, but he emphasized its desire “to move quickly,” given its Congressional mandate to install fencing and other security measures along the southern border by the end of the year.

      So when will the National Audubon Society learn whether its Sabal Palm sanctuary winds up south of the new border? “I couldn’t tell you a specific date,” Mr. Knocke said. “But there should be no uncertainty about how quickly we want to move.”

      Put yourself, then, in the dusty shoes of Jimmy Paz, 66, the weathered manager of Sabal Palm. At the moment he is sitting at a picnic bench outside the modest visitors center, trying to speak above some chattering chachalacas feeding on grapefruit rinds. Now and then he interrupts himself to point out the iridescent brilliance of a green jay, or to ask passing birders where they are from.

      Montana, a few say. California, say others.

      Mr. Paz, a native of not just Brownsville but “beautiful Brownsville,” knows the area and its rhythms. He says the Fence would create a twilight zone out of a swath of distinctive American soil, disrupt and damage wildlife and have the opposite of the intended effect: it will be the birders and other tourists — not the illegal immigrants — who stop coming. It may also put him out of a job.

      “It would be like putting a fence around Central Park,” he said.

      Mr. Paz remembers cycling as a boy to the “palm jungle” along the Rio to re-enact scenes from the Tarzan movies he had just seen at the Queen Theatre in downtown beautiful Brownsville. After a decade in the Army, he returned to hold a series of jobs, including police officer and windshield repairman, while the Audubon Society acquired parcels of that jungle to create a sanctuary to be called Sabal Palm, after the stocky palm trees of the Rio Grande valley.

      Ten years ago he became manager of the very property where he once imitated Johnny Weissmuller — property that sits roughly between a bio-diverse preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy of Texas and a swath of land restored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Combined, Eden.

      Mr. Paz has come to know those who frequent this sanctuary: the buff-bellied hummingbirds, the long-billed thrashers, the ever-prowling Border Patrol agents, the river-wet visitors from Mexico, passing through. Driving the grounds in his pickup truck, he points to a telltale inflatable tube, discarded at river’s edge.

      A decade ago, he says, federal agents intercepted hundreds of illegal immigrants a month on Sabal Palm grounds. But as border security increased, and as patterns changed, the number of interceptions dropped dramatically. Now, he says, not even 20 a month are caught, with very few carrying contraband like marijuana.

      Yes, until recently life was peaceful at Sabal Palm. The schoolchildren and birders would come in. Mr. Paz and his assistant, Cecilia Farrell, would collect the small fee, sell handbooks, maintain the grounds. Come 5 o’clock, they would leave the sanctuary in the care of a wiry night watchman who has lived on the property for nearly a half-century. His name is Ernie Ortiz, he is 82, and he packs a .38.

      What’s more, the relationship between the Border Patrol and Sabal Palm was quite friendly. Border Patrol sensors are in the sanctuary’s soil, in its mesquite trees, everywhere. And when Sabal Palm staged a hawk watch, the Border Patrol provided a portable tower for spotting nothing more than birds.

      But now Sabal Palm lives from rumor to rumor, gleaned mostly from Mr. Paz’s chats with border agents and a proposed map contained in a draft report by the federal government. There will be a fence along the levee. A fence along the levee with a gate. A fence along the levee with a gate, and Sabal Palm will have a key.

      None of these eases the concerns that Anne Brown, the executive director of Audubon Texas, has about insurance, city services — the sanctuary’s very existence. “Do we check passports?” she asks. “Since the fence becomes the new border, what are we? Are we in Mexico?”

      Homeland Security says it will reveal its plans for Brownsville very soon. Until then, the likes of Mr. Paz carry on, unsure of the very ground they stand on.

      Online: Jimmy Paz, manager of the Sabal Palm Audubon Center, talks about the center’s history and its endangered future, nytimes.com/thisland.

      Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/us/07land.html

      ===========================================================================


      http://www.alternet .org

      ------------ --------- --------- -------
      Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusive Immigration Language
      http://www.alternet .org/rights/ 81275

      Describing immigrants in dehumanizing terms like "illegals" turns
      immigrant
      women into targets for sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers to rapists.
      ------------ --------- --------- -------

      ============ ========= ========= ========= ========= ========= =========

      AlterNet

      Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusiv
      e Immigration Language

      By Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
      Posted on April 7, 2008, Printed on April 7, 2008

      http://www.alternet .org/story/ 81275/

      In all the furor over rising immigration rates in the U.S. -- often
      disguised as concern over "illegal" immigration -- one story in
      particular demonstrates that contrary to scare stories about the
      effect of immigration on this country, the reality is that this
      country is often a scary and oppressive place for immigrants. And
      immigrant women, having drawn the double whammy card, are especially
      vulnerable. A 22-year-old immigrant from Colombia exposed her
      immigration agent using the threat of deportation to rape her, using
      her cell phone to tape the assault. Unfortunately, as is all too
      common with these sorts of stories, most reports describe the event as
      sex, even while making it clear that the sex is question was coerced,
      and should be more accurately described as rape.

      The story has hooks most likely because it's about how a common crime
      -- sexual blackmail against immigrants and other women marginalized in
      society -- became more difficult to hide and ignore because of new
      technologies. But despite the dubious reasons why this story hit the
      mainstream news, the activist community can still seize this
      opportunity to make two very important points: 1) Immigration is a
      feminist issue and 2) The distinctions between "legal" and "illegal"
      immigrants is red herring to distract from the fact that it's
      immigrants, full stop, who face oppression under a tidal wave of
      anti-immigration sentiment.

      This woman's story demonstrates the way that the cut-and-dry
      distinctions between illegal and legal immigrants touted by the Lou
      Dobbses of the world tend to turn shades of gray when examined
      closely. Or actually, shades of paperwork. The rape victim entered the
      U.S. legally on a tourist visa and overstayed, but managed to enter
      the system to get her green card by marrying a citizen, which all but
      the worst mouth-breathers accept as a legitimate way to get a green
      card. Her story shows why it's front-loaded and racist to describe a
      human being as "illegal," especially when her illegal actions were
      misdemeanors such that they didn't even raise the ire of the law when
      she got her paperwork in order. I've managed to drive a car before
      after letting my inspection lapse, and then got the ticket
      straightened out by renewing my inspection sticker, an equivalent
      crime. No one describes my very being as illegal, though. Though rape,
      on the other hand, is not a minor crime and is earth-shattering enough
      that it's acceptable to describe the people who commit that crimes as
      "rapists," I suspect that rapists get called by that moniker less
      often than immigrants without their paperwork in order get called
      "illegals."

      Words like "illegals" dehumanize immigrants, whether or not they have
      their paperwork in order, and that dehumanization makes immigrant
      women juicy targets for assorted sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers
      to wife beaters to rapists, as this woman's story shows. One Honduran
      immigrant faced charges after trying to self-abort with an ulcer
      medication, an attempt that failed to induce abortion, but was linked
      to her giving birth to a premature infant who passed away. The same
      article notes that a 22-year-old Mexican immigrant living in South
      Carolina was put in jail for inducing her own abortion with the
      medication at home. That immigrant women often resort to self-abortion
      should surprise no one. Not only is safe, legal abortion financially
      daunting for a number of women, the atmosphere of dehumanization of
      immigrants makes many women understandably eager to reduce their
      encounters with authority figures of any type, including doctors.

      Green card manipulation isn't just a trick practiced by immigration
      officials wanting to control and dominate women, either. According to
      the Family Violence Prevention Fund (PDF), many domestic abusers use
      threats about immigration status to keep women in relationships with
      them. Whether married to citizens or non-citizens, the quasi-legal
      status assigned to immigrants means that many victims of domestic
      violence fear seeking help; consequently, the rates of domestic
      violence are significantly higher for immigrant women than women at
      large. Congress stepped in to create the International Marriage
      Brokers Regulation Act, which gives immigrant women the right to leave
      abusive marriages without being deported. It also requires that men
      who go through "marriage broker" services to disclose their domestic
      violence histories to potential brides.

      If you ever want to despair of the human condition, Google the term
      "IMBRA" -- the vast majority of the results returned are authored by
      men outraged at these entirely reasonable measures that keep men from
      beating their immigrant wives and using green cards as leverage to
      perpetuate the violence. Strangely, few of these websites argue that
      men should be given the direct right to beat women, but it's hard to
      imagine what other worldview they could be operating under, when they
      think that it should be perfectly legal for a man to threaten his wife
      with deportation if she leaves him after a round of beating. If you
      are under the incorrect impression that sexism is dead and feminism
      isn't needed anymore, I recommend listening to the howls of men who
      think the government owes them the right to treat immigrant women like
      a population available for their punching bag and sexual assault
      needs. That goes double for you if you've ever sneered at the term
      "intersections of oppression," because I can't think of a better
      example myself.

      Amanda Marcotte co-writes the popular blog Pandagon.

      © 2008 RH Reality Check All rights reserved.

      View this story online at: http://www.alternet .org/story/ 81275/
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