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Weekly Immigration Wire: DIY immigration reform

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Many immigration reform activists feel stymied and frustrated by the Obama Administration’s approach to immigration. Because the administration has not clearly denounced the racially-based violence and sentiment fueled by groups like FAIR and pundits like Lou Dobbs, it appears to be ignoring the individuals in need and siding with the powerful players, like the detention industry, or grossly negligent lawmen like Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

So what can an advocate, activist, or even a conscientious citizen do to make a difference during this period of government inaction? Have hope and take action yourself! As Eric Ward of Alternet writes in“Seven Days to Beat Anti-Immigrant Bigotry,” “You can take a bite out of bigotry in less than five minutes a day!”

Ward’s essay helps replace a potentially overwhelming sense of frustration with concrete, attainable and clearly defined actions. He put it together because a friend wrote him in sheer frustration, and asked him what she could do—without having a whole lot of time on her hands. She works 60 hours a week as a florist, but was determined nonetheless: “I don’t want these bigots to have the last word.”

The Washington Independent’s Daphne Eviatar reports that 521 different civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter urging the President to “immediately terminate” the infamous 287(g) program, which deputizes local police to carry out federal immigration duties. The program is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice for racial profiling and civil rights violations. This is great news! As we reported in the August 20th Wire, only a few voices were speaking out against postponing immigration reform. Now there are many.

RaceWire reports on the coalition of “immigrant, racial justice and civil rights advocacy groups” that have signed on to the letter, and describes the 287(g) program as a “disturbing hallmark of the Bush administration’s law-and-order approach.” Michelle Chen describes ground zero for 287(g)’s implementation—Arizona’s Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is at the helm—as a “warzone.”

The letter is a “gauntlet” and a “long overdue test” for the Obama adminstration. Activists and advocates need a sign, Chen writes, that the White House is serious about immigration reform, and not just further incarceration and penalty.

Advocacy groups aren’t the only ones uniting in this struggle, as Alternet makes clear in “Asian Americans Mobilize for Immigration Reform.” Something is different about this moment. “For the first time in the nation’s history,” writes Vivian Po, “Asian American and Pacific Islander [API] groups came together this week to call for comprehensive immigration reform.”

While immigration is often focused on Latinos, “Asian Americans also want to activate their network and become involved,” said Tuyet Duong, senior staff attorney of Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). The campaign used new media such as text-messaging campaigns and Asian American blogs, attracting many younger voters. “This week’s series of collective actions is the beginning of a larger movement for immigration reform,” say API immigrant rights groups.

Last week’s Wire touched on the overlap between health care and immigration reform. One in threeLatinos are uninsured, as New America Media’s Odette Keeley reports. Keeley speaks with Pilar Marrero, Political Editor for La Opinion about “the scapegoating of undocumented immigrants during the health care [debate]” and “the possible ramifications of these attacks on the debate for immigration reform.” Of special note are some practical tips for those who have undocumented family members and experience a medical emergency.

While we are discussing physical injury and the uninsured, we should dwell on The Dark Side of Dairies,” at High Country News. It may as well have been titled “Got Justice?” Rebecca Clarren reports on an immigrant worker who was kicked by a cow while at work, and now has a steel plate in his face. “Gustavo,” a husband and father of three, is afraid to use his own name, but gives a first hand account of the dangers and dark side of helping the U.S. dairy system move.

Unprotected and invisible, the majority of the Western United States’ nearly 50,000 dairy workers are undocumented. But even though workers are killed by “tractor accidents, suffocated by falling hay bales, crushed by charging cows and bulls and asphyxiated by gases from manure lagoons and corn silage,” as Marc Schenker, director of the Western Center for Agricultural Safety and Health puts it, “If you’re undocumented, you won’t complain.”

How can a nation profit and subsist upon the efforts of workers who suffer like this? It’s a skewed, postcolonialist view that lets one group of people profit off the pain of others.

And the U.S. isn’t alone. The American Prospect’s “Chicken Little Goes to Europe” clearly delineates that frame of mind. Stephen Holmes offers a rejoinder to the fears some in Europe have about the growing Muslim population within their borders. The fearmongering there mirrors anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. Simply replace “Muslim” with “Mexican.” Scapegoating immigrants change the culture to which they contribute is not a new phenomenon. Neither, however, is the ability to rise above these base reflexes and give voice and action to our better natures.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check outEconomy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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