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Weekly Diaspora: Real immigration reform in 2010

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"Is it ever ‘the right time’ to pass immigration reform and a path to legalization?” asks Maribel Hastings at New America Media. The short answer? Yes. Our national economic situation dictates that we are smart about the resources available to us all. It’s also a moral imperative to adjust our laws to protect the most vulnerable of us.

Hastings runs through the complications, campaign promises, and opportunities facing the Obama administration in regards to immigration reform. While acknowledging the nature of our government as “a complex organism,” Hastings nonetheless signs off with a warning: There are many awaiting action today, people “who voted for Democrats with the expectation that they would make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.”

This year is primed for immigration reform. Activists worldwide are pushing for a “record number of ratifications” to The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (ICRMW), as Oneworld.net reports. The ICRMW was adopted by the United Nations in 1990, and “sets standards for humane working and living conditions for migrants.” To date, 42 countries have are signatory to the ICRMW and 15 more have taken “preliminary steps to approve the convention.” While the U.S. debates reform, protecting and supporting migrants should be at the front of the list.

The Washington Independent looks back at 2009, a year in which immigration was never center stage, and yet it managed to impact every other major issue on the table, from health care reform to the economy. Daphne Eviatar profiles five individuals who shaped the immigration debate for good or bad in 2009. Characters such as the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, and commentator Lou Dobbs, formerly of CNN are included in the list, but admirable women like Dr. Dora Schriro also made the cut. Dr. Schriro’s reports on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system led directly to “a major commitment” to overhaul it.

In the light of policy and compacts, it is important to remember that there is a dark and often violent side to the immigration reform debate. Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by multiple local youth in Shanendoah, PA. The local police worked to obscure the facts of the murder and thwart justice, but their complicity and hand in the judicial process has been uncovered, as RaceWire reports.

Former Shenandoah mayor Thomas O’Neill’s description of the police department reads, essentially, as a gang felled by hubris: “If they want to help somebody, they will, If they want to hurt somebody, they’ll hurt them. There’s nothing they could do that they couldn’t get away with. That’s what they thought.”

Another incident that exposes the inadequacy of current immigration laws can be found in the case of Haitian community activist Jean Montrevil, who now faces deportation, as Democracy Now! reports. Montrevil is a working father of four, married to an American woman, a “longtime community leader,” is very involved with local immigrants rights groups and checks in with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regularly and voluntarily. During one such check in Montrevil was detained and marked for deportation.

ICE is removing a tax-paying and productive member of society for a 20 year-old drug conviction for which Montrevil did his time—11 years in prison. There is no chance of a legal appeal, though ICE has the power to defer the deportation. If it isn’t halted, Montrevil’s wife Jani will be left alone with their four children. Before 1996 immigration reforms passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton, a judge would have had discretion to consider the effect of such a deportation on the children.

Melissa del Bosque reports for the Texas Observer on the violent fallout from Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s continued drug war “on the Mexican side of the [U.S.-Mexico] border.” del Bosque notes a disturbing trend: A growing number of uninvolved people in the proximity of State- or cartel-initiated violence in Mexico are being impacted by the violence. This is an important balance to mind, as law and State forces are designed to help the populace thrive. Various sources place the death toll in Mexico between 9,000 and 13,000.

We conclude this week’s Diaspora with a big shout out to Wiretap, which is closing its doors. Wiretap was a well-written, vibrant, and relevant collection of writing by younger people. Their writing on immigration was original, provocative, and useful. We wish them well. You will be missed!

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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