Archive for September, 2008

During a recent speech regarding the “No Child Left Behind” act, the first Hispanic Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, said, “Education is the great equalizer in a democratic society.” Unfortunately, it seems that Latinos around the country are still falling behind in terms of education, it is clear that current policies have done very little to close the achievement gap.

The state of California which has the highest Hispanic population in the United States has dismal rates of college graduation rates for Hispanics and similar trends are seen throughout the nation. As Hispanics are increasing in numbers, their high school dropout rates remain consistently higher than those of other groups, and their college completion rates are consistently lower. California is one of the top three states with the most segregated schools for Black and Latino students, Schools where children of color account for between 90 and 100 percent of the student body are four times more likely to lack the resources to prepare them for college. Only 9 percent of Latinos age 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher in California, compared to 37 percent of whites. Only a quarter of Black, Latino and American-Indian high school seniors complete the requirements for college admission, compared to 40 percent of whites and 60 percent of Asian Americans.

Latinos have extremely high drop out rates in comparison to other groups, and only a very small percentage graduate from college. In the midst of the economic crisis it seems that the education issues have been placed on the back burner this election cycle. While these issues are of grave importance, Latinos cannot afford to forget that this is an issue that particularly affects them. If these trends continue Latinos may find themselves at a disadvantage both socially and financially in the upcoming years.

New American Media


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New Reports Reveal Latinos are increasingly subject to discrimination and questioning regarding their immigration status

Hispanics have begun to see an increase in discrimination regardless of their migratory status. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, nearly one in 10 Hispanics in the United States reports that police or other authorities have stopped them in the last year and asked them about their immigration status.

The report’s co-author, Mark Lopez, characterized the 10 percent finding as “surprising,” but declined to speculate on causes because follow-up questions on the survey were not asked. Rey de los Santos, a Latino leader in Dallas, called the survey’s finding “alarming” and suggested that racial, ethnic or language profiling should be stopped unless it involves a terror suspect. “It is the only way we as U.S. citizens should tolerate that,” said Mr. de los Santos, a North Texas district director for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

In the survey, nearly one in 10 Hispanic adults–native-born U.S. citizens (8%) and immigrants (10%) alike–report that in the past year the police or other authorities have stopped them and asked them about their immigration status. Some Latinos are experiencing other difficulties because of their ethnicity. One in seven (15%) say that they have had trouble in the past year finding or keeping a job because they are Latino. One in ten (10%) report the same about finding or keeping housing.

The increase in reports of discrimination are not surprising given that without comprehensive immigration reform many local law enforcements agencies and local governments have decided to take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile on the campaign trail the issue of immigration has once again become topic of discussion among the candidates. In recent days, surrogates for both John McCain and Barack Obama have begun debating who is to blame for the failure to enact immigration reform in during this session of Congress. As reported on this blog, both campaigns have launched aggressive Spanish language ad campaigns in swing states with Latino populations. McCain claims that poison pills introduced by Obama and other Democrats killed the bill. While surrogates for Obama have denounced those claims insisting that lack of support from Republicans is what lead to the demise of the immigration reform bill. While the candidates argue over blame, it seems people are suffering the real ramifications of the inaction of our federal government.


Pew Hispanic Center

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As reported on La Plaza earlier this week, John McCain’s recent ads claim the Democrats are to blame for the failure to enact immigration reform. In his new ads, Barack Obama seeks to tie Sen. John McCain to talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The issue of immigration may not be mentioned by either candidate in many campaign stops. But the candidates are fighting a battle for Latino votes in the Spanish media. The Obama campaign has launched an aggressive Spanish language ad campaign in response to the ads released by John McCain in recent days that suggest that Barack Obama and other Senate Democrats are responsible for the collapse of last year’s bipartisan immigration reform efforts. In a conference call with reporters this morning, key Latino surrogates and Obama spokespersons announced the release of these ads and added that an aggressive tone is necessary to respond to the deceptive ads aired by John McCain.

The TV ads in Spanish seek to tie Sen. John McCain to anti-immigrant comments made by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The ads also suggest the Republican has “two faces” when it comes to his relationship with Latino voters. The new messages, airing in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, tell Latinos, “they want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with, the intolerance,” the television ad’s announcer says in Spanish as a picture of Rush Limbaugh appears onscreen with quotes of him saying, “Mexicans are stupid and unqualified” and “Shut your mouth or get out.”

“They made us feel marginalized in a country we love so much,” the ad continues. “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote and another, even worse, that continues the failed policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families.”

The companion radio ad uses the same script as above and then continues:

“Don’t forget that John McCain abandoned us rather than confront the leaders of the Republican Party. Many of us were born here, and others came to work and achieve a better life for their families — not to commit crimes or drain the system like many of John McCain’s friends claim. Let’s not be fooled by political tricks from John McCain and the Republicans. Vote so they respect us. Vote for a change.”

This Spanish language ad battle started Friday when the McCain campaign started airing a TV spot in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that laid the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the feet of Obama and his Democratic colleagues, even though he supported the bipartisan efforts to enact such reforms and voted for their final proposal last year. It continued Tuesday when the RNC bought time in Nevada for a radio ad expressing similar arguments. The Obama campaign and Hispanic and pro-immigration reform groups denounced the ads as distortions.

“I think they don’t want us to pay attention to the fact that John McCain’s message in English is different than his message in Spanish,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) during a conference call with reporters today. “If the Latino community can’t count on John McCain in the heat of an election, how can we possibly count on him when the heat is really on in the White House?” Other Latino figures on the call included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) all of whom answered questions from reporters in both English and Spanish.

The candidates continued willingness to spend money to woo Latinos is definitely a sign that the clout of Latinos has increased this election cycle. The efforts of both campaigns are concentrated in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Barack Obama is counting on Latinos to help him win in these key states. This may explain the aggressive tone and response that the campaign is taking in response to the John McCain ads. According to Federico Pena, former Clinton Transportation Secretary and key Obama surrogate, “Whenever we get a punch from Senator McCain, we’re going to counterpunch harder.” He concluded by saying “We’re not going to take any vote for granted.”

See the Ad

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While leading economists attempt to find solutions to save financial institutions, many Latinos are still struggling to stay afloat. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez(D-CA) warns that, “The foreclosures all around California neighborhoods represent just the “tip of the iceberg.”The foreclosure rate we are looking at right now equals the rate of the Great Depression.

These past few days we have seen the nation’s focus return to the economy. Major financial institutions have suffered devastating losses as a result of the sub prime mortgage crisis. While leading economists and those working for the Federal Reserve try to find solutions to ameliorate the woes suffered on Wall Street, it seems there is little mention of the regular Americans who have suffered tremendous losses of during this mortgage crisis.

For many minorities including single women, African Americans and Latinos sub prime mortgages gave them an opportunity to be able to achieve the dream of owning a home for the first time. Many others became victims of predatory lenders and real estate agents. These two factors combined have resulted in high numbers of foreclosure rates among these groups. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Center for Responsible Lending, a research organization and resource on predatory lending, about 40 percent of all sub prime loans nationwide were issued to Latino households. An estimated 5,760 Latino families are projected to lose their homes due to foreclosures this year alone.

Latino members of Congress such as Linda Sanchez (D-CA) have taken notice of how Latinos have been disproportionately affected by this crisis. At a recent National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) press conference on the foreclosure crisis within the Latino community, she stressed the importance of working harder than ever to prevent financial exploitation of low-income communities of color, particularly during these hard economic times. The U.S. unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is the highest it has been in five years, she says. The foreclosures all around California neighborhoods represent just the “tip of the iceberg,” Sanchez says. “The foreclosure rate we are looking at right now equals the rate of the Great Depression.”

The best way of combating the high foreclosure rate, Sanchez says, is combining new public policy with an education effort that would make low-income communities savvier in financial matters. Two bills recently passed by Congress, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act and the Neighborhood Stabilization Bill, which intend to address the sub prime mortgage crisis and help stabilize local communities, are steps in the right direction, but there’s no quick fix to the foreclosure crisis, Sanchez says.

There are other factors at play that contribute to why Latinos fall prey to predatory lending practices. Language access is an issue for many immigrant families, says Bea Stotzer, Chair of NALCAB’s board of directors. Important bank documents should be translated into Spanish, and stronger penalties for predatory lenders and crooked brokers need to be instituted, Stotzer says.

Linda Sanchez concluded with a statement that could help explain what many feel is a lack of empathy and concern for those losing their homes.” There is this ideological belief among some Congressmen, and I hate to say this, that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard,” Rep. Sanchez says. “Many poor people are the hardest working people in the world, and they pay more for everything, but Congress continues to pass laws that penalize them and reward more irresponsible [high powered corporations].”

New American Media

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As part of his strategy to gather Latino support in swing states John McCain released a deceptive new Spanish ad that claims that immigration reform was not achieved last year because of Democrats refusal to support it. He claims “Obama and the Democrats in Congress” stopped the bill and that it is because of them that we do not have border security, path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants or a guest worker program.

The ad says:“The press reports that their efforts were ‘poison pills’ that made immigration reform fail,” he continues. “The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.” The ad does not reveal which members of the press or publications made these claims. Their lack of disclosure leads us to believe it was not a credible source.

The ad fails to reveal that it was Republicans who voted against the bill for fear of alienating the extreme wing of their party who is staunchly anti-immigrant. It was also Republican Senators who led a filibuster to stall the bill in congress which led the bill to be killed in the senate.

Meanwhile John McCain has made clear that he no longer plans on promoting a pro-immigrant agenda as he did in the past. At the January 30, 2008 Republican debate he said that he would no longer support the bill he co-sponsored with Kennedy if it came up for a vote in the Senate. McCain now says that “we’ve got to secure the borders first” — a position at odds with his prior claim that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective.

To his credit John Mccain did vote in favor of the bill just as Barack Obama did. However, he cannot pander to Latino votes by distorting the truth about his party’s lack of support for immigrants or by failing to reveal that his official stance on this issues has changed dramatically since he became a Presidential candidate. Furthermore claiming that it was Democrats who killed immigration reform is a full distortion of the truth.

The Obama campaign responded with a statement by Senator Robert Menendez(D-NJ). In an official statement released by the campaign Menendez explained that Obama supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the “overwhelming” majority of Republicans voted against. He went on to say that it is “hypocritical and untrue” for McCain to claim otherwise.

He went on to say:

John McCain has lost his credibility when it comes to the immigration issue. Enough is enough. The man who said he would vote against his own immigration bill during the Republican presidential debates, who was unwilling to stand up to his own party when they approved an anti immigrant platform, cannot attack Democrats on immigration in Spanish, while pandering to the extreme right Tancredo wing of the Republican Party in English. If John McCain is not willing to stand up to his own party during his convention, how can we trust that he would stand up for change in the White House?”

It seems that McCain and his camp believe that it is indeed possible to pander to Latinos claiming a pro-immigrant agenda while courting those on the other side of the issue as well. Ads such as these hurt McCain’s credibility with both groups.

SF Gate

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“You’ve got to ask yourself,” Senator Obama said, “if Senator McCain won’t stand up to opponents of reform at his own convention, how can you trust him to stand up for change in Washington?”

In what has become a common occurrence this election Presidential Nominee Barack Obama appeared before a major Latino Organization in efforts to continue to expand his growing support among this voting bloc. Last Wednesday, he appeared before an audience of several hundred at the annual dinner of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington on Wednesday night and focused a portion of his 18-minute speech on issues of particular importance to the Hispanic community. He was courting the group during a week when his campaign has encountered fresh challenges from Republicans, including those posed by the addition of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to the G.O.P. ticket.

And Senator Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, did not miss an opportunity to skewer his rival, Senator John McCain, for reversing course on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal he once strongly supported. Mr. Obama noted that immigration reform was not a part of the Republican platform at the party’s convention last week, but was a priority for Democrats.

“You’ve got to ask yourself,” Senator Obama said, “if Senator McCain won’t stand up to opponents of reform at his own convention, how can you trust him to stand up for change in Washington?”

One of the biggest applause lines of the evening was Senator Obama’s reference to “12 million people living in the shadows” — undocumented immigrants — “taking immigration enforcement into their own hands.”

Senator Obama continued: “They’re counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear and demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Senator Barack Obama pledged that he would not take “a single Hispanic vote for granted” between now and November and reminded members of the key demographic group of their growing electoral influence.

Via The New York Times

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While Republican Oregon Senator, Gordon Smith publicly denounces undocumented immigrants, some question the legal status of those employed at his Oregon company…

Smith Frozen Foods in Weston, Oregon turns raw produce from the surrounding fields into ready-to-eat products. Smith Frozen Foods is owned by Gordon Smith, a United States senator from Oregon and the only Republican senator representing a West Coast state. Senator Smith has owned the plant his grandfather founded in 1919 for nearly 30 years his wife serves as the company’s chief economic officer. Senator Smith has made a reputation in Congress for being staunchly anti-immigrant.

According to Senator Smith:

“We cannot continue to absorb the flow of illegal immigrants, many of whom benefit from government services that American citizens and companies provide,” Smith wrote in a letter to constituents dated Jan. 31, 2007. “Reform is necessary, and our borders must be tightened. Anyone who wants to come to live or work in the United States must abide by our laws while paying taxes and learning the English language.”

The Portland Oregon publication, Willamette Weekly recently spent several days in Weston, and the nearby cities of Milton-Freewater and Walla Walla, Wash., where most of Smith’s employees live. WW spoke to dozens of current and former Smith workers, Latino advocates, court personnel, public defenders, educators, police administrators, church officials, social service agents and business owners and determined that some portion of Smith’s workforce comprises undocumented immigrants. Paul Apostolidis, a political science professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla who specializes in Latino affairs and labor studies, says that in the early 2000s, “according to what union organizers told me, there were plenty of undocumented workers at Smith. According to a May 23, 1988, memo from the U.S. Department of Justice obtained by WW, Bob Cortinas, who was then Smith’s personnel director, told federal investigators he was instructed by Smith’s legal department not to photocopy workers’ documents “so that it would make it harder for [immigration officials] to find errors.” The article cites countless anecdotes and testimony of individuals who claim they have knowledge that Smith Frozen Foods hires illegal immigrants. Jodi Lindquist, a manager of the Walla Walla Farm Labor Homes, a publicly supported housing development where some of Smith’s workers live says, “I can’t imagine that all of his employees are legal, historically, most of the employers around here don’t look too carefully at documents.”

On top of this there are also allegations that employees are not always treated in the best way. Lucia Avalos, 53, says she started working for Smith Frozen Foods in 1979 when she was an illegal immigrant, newly arrived from Michoacán, Mexico. She was fired after working there for nearly 25 years and expressed that workers at Smith, “are not treated like humans.”

On Aug. 14, Senator Smith told WW: “We need to support legal immigration and not incentivize illegal immigration.” A year earlier he said his company goes “the extra mile” to make sure it doesn’t hire any illegal immigrants. Yet Smith Frozen Foods president Kelly Brown appears less certain. Asked if the company employed illegal immigrants, Brown said: “I don’t know. It’s one of those things where we do the best we can do and we go forward.”

This revelation that may not be newsworthy around Weston, where most people interviewed knew, or assumed, that the agricultural processing plant hired illegal immigrants. But it can be newsworthy to voters since Senator Smith is currently in a bid for re-election in highly contested race. Senator Smith strongly opposed a bill that provided a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. It seems that while publicly he denounces illegal immigration he may be knowingly or unknowingly profiting from their labor.Senator Smith is the twelfth wealthiest member of the United States Senate and owns property in Utah, Hawaii, Maryland, and Oregon.

To add more irony to the situation, while Senator Smith clamors that immigrants must speak English, virtually all signs at Smith Frozen Foods read in English and Spanish

Willamette Weekly

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