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Weekly Immigration Wire: Binghamton shootings impact all sides of debate

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by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

Last Friday, 13 people were killed at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York. The event shocked the nation and was "the worst mass shooting in the United States since the 2007 massacre at the Virginia Tech college," as New America Media reports. Because the violence erupted at an immigrant service center, the immigrant community has been especially affected, and immigration opponents are predictably using the tragedy to justify, or at least voice, their vitriol toward the undocumented population.

The impact of the Binghamton shootings on the U.S. immigrant community, already aggravated by ICE raids that funnel them into an abusive system, evokes multiple concerns. One is of further violence. But a grim possibility has also emerged: Immigrant activists who want to become integrated members of U.S. society might stop patronizing the places that can help them do just that, as Public News Service reports. Facilities like the American Civic Association provide many services for the immigrant community, one of which is improving their English. It's hard enough for those with a limited grasp on a new language to navigate life in a new country. If immigrants fear the places that help them learn, it only makes their lives harder.

When issues like immigration become politicized, nothing is off-limits. Even the national census is "morphing from sociological project into a political one," according to RaceWire's Michelle Chen. Conservatives fear losing votes and political power to regions where "illegals" are counted as a part of the census (As if they didn't lose the Latino vote all on their own in 2008). Civil rights and immigrant advocates fear a worse miscount this year of the Latino population than 2000's 3 per cent under count.

Erin Rosa reports on possible census-count solutions for the Colorado Independent. Rosa writes of “Ya es hora! Hagase contar!" (It’s time! Make yourself count!), an "unprecedented media campaign" that encourages Latinos to participate in the census.

The Colorado Independent has a few interesting articles on immigration this week. In Bush Admin’s Environment Waivers Remain Intact at Border, a contrast is drawn between President Obama's recent speech in Germany about walls "between races and tribes" being "the walls we must tear down" with the controversial construction of a border wall in southern stated. Construction proceeds, despite President Obama's professed philosophy. And in Senate kills immigrant in-state tuition bill, Wendy Norris writes about Colorado's legislative "companion to the federal DREAM Act" that would have provided college tuition equity to undocumented Colorado high school graduates was lost on a 18-16 vote." One Democrat explained her vote against the bill as a practical one: Because children of immigrants are at risk for deportation, the bill is "at odds" with federal law.

This type of legislative deadlock doesn't escape Ezra Klein of the American Prospect, who comments on Senator John Mccain's "testy" rejoinder to a number of Hispanic business leaders who questioned when reform would come. "Where the reformers will turn," Klein asks. In 1986, a particular alignment of politicians enabled the last major reforms in immigration law to pass—a configuration of forces not currently in place.

So, who will reform immigration? It's an important question. The terrain is dangerous because there is no clear consensus or policy to rely on. In the legal gaps that this absence creates, questionable legislative bridges spring up, like agreement 287(g), which enlists local law in enforcing federal immigration violations. The most famous symbol of 287(g) is, of course, Sheriff Arpaio, who has left an entire community "terrified and afraid to call the police."

“We’re dealing with a climate of hate, people don’t understand they’re being moved by people who hate,” says Phoenix attorney Danny Ortega. “Then you’ve got the Joe Arpaio’s of the world making it politically popular to hate.”

The power that can be leveraged by law and political agenda is vast and must be closely monitored. Immigrants, especially women of these communities, have long been a target of such iniquities. National Radio Project reports on yet another instance in a long line of oppressive reproductive health policies that target women of color and the immigrant community.

Going back to RaceWire, Michelle Chen follows up on President Obama's Aunt Zeituni's fight for citizenship, and how anti-immigrant groups have fixed upon her case as a high-profile example of how immigrants "game the system." The article outlines precisely how ludicrous this stance is.

Finally, make sure to check out In These Times' thoughtful review of the new "immigration/baseball drama" Sugar, by Brooklyn-based filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. Reviewer Brandon Harris writes that "Sugar's experiences reveal the labors of all immigrants who struggle to adjust to the harsh realities of American life on the margins."

That phrase could apply to many today. And to many who paved the way for us today. It is a story we must not forget.


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration.

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