Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SnagFilms + Valley of Tears

A few days ago I received a much welcomed email from Richard Matson of SnagFilms.  In his email Richard  brought my attention to the documentary film "Valley of Tears".  The film is about the lives of Mexican-American migrant farm workers in Raymondville, Texas.  In 1979, an onion strike broke out in Raymondville in which workers sought higher pay, but equal rights and representation.

The film uses footage of how farm labor organizers where deemed "agitators" by the farm owners and how local authorities colluded with famers to bring crimnal charges and incarcerate both striking farm workers and their organizers, effectively engaged in union busting.   

The film is a complex story spanning over 20 years in the continued struggle by Mexican-Americans in their fight for what is right.  It's a bitter tale of the constant fight for equal access to education, just labor rights and bears witness to many of the struggles that many Mexican-Americans and all migrants still face today. 

Raymondville today remains a separate and unequal society where mostly White farm owners live in prim houses while the Mexican-American community continues their economic struggles and experiences one of the highest drop out rates amongst the Hispanic and Latino students.  A reminder of the constant stuggle faced by a large segment of the Mexican-American and Latino immigrant communities to attain both an education and fair wages. 

In what some would term as "adding-insult-to-injury" Raymondville has become home to one of the largest  "immigrant detention centers", a $65 million jail which was built by the Management Training Corporation.  The jail will house some 2000 detainees at a cost of $78.00 a night per bed.

The town itself has not grown much.  As of the 2000 census, it had less than 10,000 people, including 86.63% of the population being Hispanic or Latino, with 36.2% of the total population living below the poverty line.

SnagFilms 300+ Film Collection

SnagFilms' has a 300+ collection the independent films on a multitude of topics.  The site is a must for any would be "Filmanthropist".  If as a "Philantropist" one donates money money, goods, time or effort to to support a charitable cause, then by supporting any of the many independent films hosted at SnagFilms would make you a Fimanthropist! 

The range of topics is quite broad and includes; international, health, history, womens issues, as well as life & culture.  Spend a bit of time browsing the collection of films on the site, you are sure to find an independent film that is sure to catch your attention.

A film that captured my attention was "Sentenced Home" a story about obscure provisions of a 1996 Immigration Law that has been responsible for the deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants.  Although the law was aimed at mostly illegal immigrants the law has also snared many Permananet Legal Residents who comitted low level drug related and theft crimes which led to them being stripped of their legal status and eligible for deportation. 

The film documents how many immigrants convicted of certain crimes, including shoplifting found themselves being deported to countries that they were often unfamiliar with and often did not even speak the language.

My next blog post

I've started to write my next a blog post and it will be on Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the documentary film "Sentenced Home". 

It's a post about how the largely obscure provisions of the Act would lead to deportation of thousands of non-violent illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents.

A blog post about how the Act would come to be called a "cruel and harsh" law by U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).  The cruelty and harshness of the law would later be featured in a episode of "This American Life".  The host of This American Life, Ira Glass narrates the "Away from Home" episode in which Jose William Huezo Soriano is deported to El Salvador. 

In fact the author of the legislation, the now former Congressman Bill McCollum (R-FL) would actually go as far and introduce an amendment to the law in an effor to repeal some of the harshest provisions of the law  he worked so hard to pass, yet those same provisions largely exist today.    

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LPGA to Golfers: Learn English...or Else!

(Via International Herald Tribune)

English is the de-facto official language of the United States. It's also the preferred language that business has emraced accross the world. The fact is that few could argue with the opportunities and benefits that are confered upon those individuals who effectively converse and attain proficiency with the English language.

Todays sports figures and celebreties are quick to attempt to converse in English when interviewed. They would gladly pursue their attempts if our media representatives were not too eager to have interpreters step in and facilitate (speed up) the interview, most interpreters fail to convey the true message or words they interpret because they mistakenly resort to "consecutive" which requires that the interpreter render the source-language message after the source-language speaker has paused, instead of using "simultaneous" interpretation in which the interpreter immediately speaks the message in the target language while listening to it in the source language.

So why is the LPGA so concerned about it's golfers ability to "converse" in English. Well it appears that the sucess of the LPGA, a golf organization is preidcated on it's ability to convince corporations to underwrite a tournament. The LPGA is betting that corporations would prefer to speak with professional golfers in English and has taken measures to increase the ability of its players to converse in English by 2009. (From IHT)

Concerned about its appeal to sponsors, the U.S. women's professional golf tour, which in recent years has been dominated by players born outside the United States, has warned its members that they must become conversant in English by 2009 or face suspension.

Perhaps the LPGA's efforts would get better reception from it's players and create less controversy with their proposed suspensions, if they just encouraged their players to speak more English.

It's a lesson that English Only proponents in the United States could also adopt. To their credit in the United States proponents of "English Only" have quietly adopted the more politically correct tern if "Pro-English". It's unfortunate that the group was founded by John Tanton who also founded CIS, and FAIR, as well as co-founding NumbersUSA. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes NumbersUSA as part of a network of "anti-immigration" organizations, which also includes the afformentioned organizations founded by Tanton.

The Pro-English movement goes as far as providing a personal message from Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In his message he explains the subtle differences between "Official English" and "English Only". You can hear the message here.

Algun Dia! (Someday!)

Someday, I would hope that Newt Gingrich and other fellow Americans fixated on an English Only/Pro-English message, would ponder how much greater this country, a country built by immigrants, could become if we spent more of our time and resources promoting that our citizens learn other languages, any language.

Fact is the vast majority of immigrants that come to America fully embrace democracy and the ideals this country represents.  They do their able best to adopt English, some more successfully than others, but that does not make those who speak a bit of "broken English" any less American.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PowerPac: "Lo Que Importa"

Beginning tomorrow a nonprofit advocacy and political organization based out of California will launched two Pro-Obama TV Ads in the key battleground state of New Mexico.  The "What Matters" TV Ads are targeted at Latino voters in New Mexico.  The spots will air in both English and Spanish and will run through the Democratic National Convention.  You can view high resolution versions of the videos at the following links; Spanish video here and English video here. From
The English-language ad is called “What Matters.” The ads carry cultural cues that resonate with the Hispanic community, and will help fill a current void in pro-Obama television media targeting this population.
The strategy that PowerPac is taking by airing the TV Ads in New Mexico rather than in California is mapped in a post written by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona and you can read her post here.
PowerPAC’s Southwest strategy includes running ads and identifying and training rising Hispanic leaders not only in New Mexico but in Colorado and Nevada as well. Those three states, which Kerry lost in 2004 by a combined 127,000 votes, have more than 1 million eligible Hispanic voters. Had Kerry won New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, he would have captured the Presidency even without carrying Ohio and Florida.
PowerPac began in 2004, after helping run the successful field operation against Proposition 54 during California's 2003 recall election.

Monday, August 18, 2008

100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front

The New York Times ran an article on May 21, 2006 titled; "100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front".  The story brings to mind the love/hate relationship that the United States has had with migrant workers from Mexico.  The article highlights how in 1919, Texas brought in tens of thousands of Mexican migrants to pick its cotton each year. Then it invited them all to leave.

The perverse history that the United States has had with Mexico when it comes to cheap immigrant labor, but especially with immigration from Mexico has been an issue of particular interest to me.  It's an issue that binds my family to this country and connects me to a small town in Mexico that until today continues to export it's young men, and now young women into the United States. 

In 1986, when the Reagan Administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). I questioned whether Reagan's Administration would follow through with the enforcement provisions of the law that granted amnesty to approximately 3 million undocumented immigrants who had entered the country prior to January 1, 1982.  The law turned out to, as critics of the act claimed, provided no sanctions against employers and failed to stem illegal immigration.  The fact that the 1986 Amnesty failed to stem illegal immigration is undisputed, what is disputed is who should be blamed?  The anti-immigrant groups will have us blame the undocumented immigrants and point to the fact that illegal immigrants continue to come in droves.  Anti-immigrant groups would be right, if we did not consider the magnets (jobs and willing employers) that draw migrant workers accross our borders.  These same  anti-immigrant groups (NumbersUSA, FAIR, CIS) are quick to cite that what this country needs is to do is secure its southern border and then go after unscruplous employers.   They are half right.  The border, despite its pourous nature is not the problem.  The border has always been pourous, but despite beliefs to the contrary the vast majority of illegal immigrants arrive via legal means, with entry visas and then simply overstay them and join the ranks of millions of other undocumented workers. 

If we return for a bit to the 1986 Amnesty, it's not difficult to see how actual employer sanctions coupled with an effective workplace verification system would have deterred continued illegal immigration.  How many undocumented workers would have continued to journey to the United States in search of unattainable jobs? 

A lack of employer sanctions and lax workplace verification resulted in an open invitation for both workers and employers that fueled, instead of detering undocumented immigration. 

So, 25 years later we now have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  The true number of illegal immigrants living in this country could well exceed that amount by 2-3 millions once an actual solution is drafted by an Obama/McCain administration.

Immigration Reform - Act II

In 2008-2009, some type of immigration reform will be passed and a new course will be set for the millions of undocumented immigrants.  Whether those newly minted immigrants will be provided a clear path to American citizenship remains to be seen.  What we can be sure of is that this round of immigration reform will contain employer sanctions and workplace enforcement. 

Those sanctions and workplace enforcement will contribute to uneasy tensions between the races, especially when the economy stumbles.  Nevertheless, immigration reform will come and the vast majority of illegal immigrants currently in the United States will be allowed to remain, whether it be as temporary guest workers, permanent residents or eventual Citizens remains unclear. 

Immigration from Mexico will always be an important issue for the United States.  The U.S. will have to contend with immigration from Mexico as long as it continues to rely on it as a cheap labor source and maintain certain segments of manufacturing and agriculture.  A continued lack of decent hourly wages and a rise in delinquency, crime and economic uncertainty in Mexico will continue to drive immigrants North. 

Our government needs focus on one of it's major tenets of it's immigration policy, which has been family reunification before it implements comprehensive immigration reform otherwise our next wave of illegal immigration will not be from those seeking work, but rather from those seeking to reunite with their families.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Laberinto de Miradas

Deborah Bonello (aka MexicoReporter) posts on an "Laberinto De Miradas" exhibition currently taking place in Mexico City.  (Read Full Post)

The exhibit is being held at the Cultural Center of Spain and explores migration and immigration as a concept, broadening the common notions about human migration as well as the contributing factors of immigration.

Reed Johnson a Staff Writer for the LA Times posted about the exhibition here.  He writes:
Rather than rehashing familiar imagery and old, circular debates, "Laberinto de Miradas" explores some of the factors that are driving global immigration from Tijuana to Morocco. It also looks at how the condition of being an immigrant, more than just a description of someone's citizenship status, is an existential condition shared by millions of people of wildly varying backgrounds.
The exhibit showcases images from the Americas and Spain and aims to call more attention to the need for further economic and cultural development Latin America.
"What better way than to help the countries where the people are to improve [their lives], so that the people don't have to leave?" San Vicente Charles says. "It's a strategy that's more intelligent and more proactive."

Laberinto De Miradas is attempting to utilize the full interactivity afforded by the Internet.  The exhibition elicits participation via their channel on YouTube, their photostream on Flickr commentary via their Blog.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lawrence G. Hrebiniak: The Mismanagement of America, Inc.

Do you believe that we as American people have become politically lazy? Do you believe that most people are too busy with our daily lives and don't pay nearly as much attention to the actions of those who govern them? If you answered "Yes" to any of those two questions then Wharton Prof. Lawrence G. Hrebiniak has a message for you on how this nation needs to change the error of its ways.
I agree with most of what Prof. Hrebiniak states in his 27 minute interview and it's well worth watching it. Unfortunately, his message is unlikely to be carried far and wide, as most of us are too busy to digest the commentary of Prof. Hrebiniak. As an American society we like our news and punditry in easily diced and served dishes just like the MSM feeds us on a nightly basis. Sure, we can argue that Prof. Hrebiniak's message can be carried, "far and wide" on the Internet but sadly even there readers get lazy and if they can't skim through the info, few of us venture to wade deeper, into the thick of the it.
In the process our government officials are on a path that will bankrupt this nation. Our government has been incapable of leaving their grubby little paws out of the Social Security Trust Fund and MediCare. The situation has worsened since September 11th which led up to the War on Iraq on which we now spend Billions without any clear end in sight. In the meantime our economy and financial systems become a disgrace. To add insult to injury our National Security is not any better off than before the terrorist attacks of September 11th and in fact may actually be worse off than before.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez

On May 20, 1997, 18-year old Esequiel Hernández Jr., was shot and killed in Redford, Texas by a Marine squad which had been assigned to perform anti-narcotics patrols on the US-Mexico border.

Few of the facts surrounding the death of Hernández' are in dispute. US Military officials claimed that Corporal Clemente Bañuelos, the squad leader fired a single shot from his M-16 rifle only after Hernandez had raised his rifle and prepared to fire the Marines for a third time. Marine Cpl. Bañuelos specifically claimed that Hernandez had pointed his rifle at Lance Corporal James Blood.

If in fact Hernandez did fire upon the Marines, it is difficult to determine if he knew what he was shooting at, because the four Marines were conducting survelliance utilizing full camouflage gear and thereby blelnding completely with the brush, scrub and thicket of the surrounding area.

Hernandez reportedly fired twice from a .22 caliber rifle and the Marine squad then trailed him for 20 minutes. Hernandez' family claimed the .22 caliber rifle was regularly used to fend off wild
dogs, coyotes and other predators that would pose a danger to the family's goats.

The Scene

The Marine squad who were assigned to perform secret survelliance in Redford were based out of Camp Pendelton, California. After the shooting incident it was revealed that the Marines assigned to Redford had been briefed by the US Military and were told that Redford was, "an unfriendly area where 70 to 75% of the local population was involved in drug trafficking" and "of the 100 people, 70-75 of them were drug traffickers according to the Border Patrol and Joint Task Force Six".

Esequiel Hernández was shot while herding goats in the remote and sparsely populated region of Redford, Texas. Redford, according to the 2000 US census data is a town of some 132 people. The town has one of the lowest population densities with an average 2.9 people per square miles.

By law, military personnel involved in domestic law enforcement are not allowed to search, seize, arrest or confront a suspect. Military involvement is strictly limited to activities such as surveillance and intelligence (10 USCA Sec. 375). Soldiers are allowed to return fire in self-defense.

The central theme of this documentary film is to question the misguided policies which allowed for the use of US Military forces on our Border. It raises serious questions on whether US Military forces, forces which are highly trained to use deadly force should be used in anti-narcotic efforts on domestic soil. The Marines who patroled Redford were working under specific Rules of Engagement (ROE) that required them not to engage suspects.

The fact that Marines trailed Hernandez from "bush to bush" for 20 minutes raised questions on whether the Marines took appropriate action. Captain Barry Caver, spokesman for the Texas Rangers said the Marines may have violated military policy when they followed Hernandez. "My understanding is that this is totally against the rules of engagement," said Caver, adding, "I'm
not sure what their intent was" (Thaddeus Harrick, "More questions in border shooting," Houston Chronicle, June 21, 1997

At a news conference two days after the incident, Marine Corps Col. Thomas Kelly, deputy commander of Joint Task Force-6, said only that the Marines "took immediate defensive posture" and tried to "maintain visual observation." NDSN July 1997 Story

Hernandez was shot in the upper chest, but did not die instantly, rather he bled to death while awaiting medical assistance to arrive. Reports differ as to whether Esequiel Hernández was actually shot in upper chest as claimed by the Marines. The autopsy report countered the Marines report that he was shot in the upper chest and concluded he was shot in the back as he walked away from the Marines.

A Documentary Film

A documentary film has been released by Heyoka Pictures about the tragedy. The film recently aired on on July 8, 2008 on PBS' P.O.V. The documentary film was directed by Kieran Fitzgerald and was narrated by Tommy Lee Jones. Film Trailer

The documentary explores the two-sided tragedy and the dramatic details of the killing. It sheds light on the use of the US Military to support civilian law enforcement in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA), which prohibited the use of the military “as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws” unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or by Congress.

The killing of Hernandez was the first time an American had been killed by US military forces on native soil since the Kent State Shootings in 1970.

After the incident the border patrol activities by the US military were subsequently suspended, but in 2006 the National Guard was ordered by President George W. Bush to assist the Border Patrol to combat illegal immigration. NPR Story

...the Guard will be used in areas where they already have training:
building infrastructure, for example, or conducting helicopter
Striking a balance

The documentary film attempts to strike a delicate balance as it interviews the Hernandez family, the Marines and authorities involved. It also explores the guilt and remorse suffered by the Marines involved, some of it clearly evident 11 years after the shooting incident.

From a viewer standpoint, I initially tried to quickly place blame squarely on the Marines for the tragic killing of Hernandez, but that would have been too easy, instead the film posed uneasy questions about how we allowed politics to lead and set-up the tragic scenario. How our abject acceptance of our government's War on Drugs have fueled a number of unintended and deadly consequences. The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez requires the viewer to dig deeper, to focus much more attention to the dangers of militarizing our southern border.

The film has rare interviews with the Marines involved in the shooting, as the Marines involved in the shooting were not allowed to speak to the media by their superiors after the shooting incident. The interviews do show that some of the Marines were devastated by the killing, but they insist it was an accident.

"If there was any way to fix it, I would," said former Marine, Lance Corporal Blood.
The films makes use of audio recordings from radio communications between the Marines and their commanders, as well as military investigative video.

Posse Comitatus Act

The use of military forces on the border for anti-narcotics operations is prohibited under the Posse Comitatus Act.

Traditionally, U.S. military forces have been forbidden to take part in domestic law enforcement, the result of a post-Civil War law, the Posse Comitatus Act. But in the 1980s, in response to a growing drug problem on the border, the law was loosened to allow military units to help the U.S. Border Patrol catch drug smugglers. A Department of Defense entity called Joint Task Force Six, based in El Paso, Texas, has since 1989 coordinated 3,300 missions on the border; 746 of them involved
listening or observation posts like the one Banuelos and three other Marines established several days before Hernandez was shot. Time Magazine Article

How domestic use of military forces in support of local law enforcement agencies was begun anew is a product of the Ronald Regan Administration. In the 1980's the Regan Administration was under pressure to do something about the War on Drugs. In the 1984 Presidential re-election campaign the Regan/Bush Administration the War on Drugs featured heavily within their campaign. Once they won re-election the anti-narcotics efforts were lead by then Vice President George Bush and military personnel was again deployed in anti-narcotic efforts throughout the 1980's and into the Bill Clinton Administration.

The Shooting

The Marines maintain that Hernandez spotted them in the brush and fired at them twice. According to initial reports, as Hernandez raised his rifle to shoot a third time, Banuelos shot him once in the chest. The team reportedly did not call out to identify themselves until after the fatal shot had been fired. Hernandez bled to death while waiting for medical assistance to arrive.

Autopsy results concluded that ,since the bullet entered the right side of his chest and traveled to the left side of his body, Hernandez could not have been facing the Marines when he was shot. Hernandez did fire two shots with his .22 rifle before he was killed, but critics claim that he probably never saw the heavily camouflaged Marines. His family maintains that he would never have knowingly shot at any person.Family and neighbors say Hernandez was law-abiding and respectful and would never have knowingly shot at people, much less soldiers. Officials
found no evidence that the teenager was involved in illegal activities, and an autopsy showed that he did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system. Before he was killed, Hernandez was studying for his drivers license, and dreamed of going to college, working as a wildlife ranger, or possibly joining the Marines.

Investigators say they asked the Marines involved in the incident to remain in Texas so
they could reenact the shooting at the site, but they were sent back to Camp Pendleton after four days. Tests on Hernandez's rifle are incomplete, and investigators have not been able to corroborate that the teenager fired two shots in the incident. Neighbors report only hearing one shot (Thaddeus Herrick, "Doubts raised in border case," Houston Chronicle,
June 11, 1997, p. 1A).

The Aftermath

The incident devasted the Hernandez family, shocked the small community of Redford and severely questioned the actions of the four Marines, particularly those of Corporal Clemente Banuelos. It raised public awarness and called into question the effectiveness of the domestic use of US Military personnel on the War-on-Drugs. The incident also brought furhter scrutiny on the militarization of our southern border.

"Personally, I don't think this kid ever saw them, by the indication my Rangers are telling me," said Captain Barry Caver, spokesman for the Texas Rangers, the state law enforcement agency that is investigating the killing.
The Marines were heavily camouflaged, and were trained to conceal themselves so as not to be detected. The shooting appears to have taken place from a distance of 375 to 600 feet (James
Pinkerton, "Ranger says Marines' account doesn't `exactly jibe,'"
Houston Chronicle, May 24, 1997

"No-Bill" for Cp. Banuelos

A total of four grand juries were convened seeking to indict Cpl. Banuelos on murder charges. The Texas District Attorney in Marfa decided not to indict the Mrine on First Degree Murder charges.

That was not the end for Cp. Banuelos legal troubles as authorities sought to prosecute him under Federal Criminal Civil Rights laws. The US Justice Department eventually issued a "No-Bill" for Corporal Banuelos. A "No-Bill" is a grand jury's determination that there is not adequate evidence to indict someone. The U.S. Dept. of Justice issued a Press Release indicating Cpl. Clemente Banuelos would not be indicted on February 27, 1998, a full 284 days after Hernandez was killed.

From the Cpl. Banuelos press release of the U.S. Dept. of Justice:

The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to prosecute Corporal Banuelos
under federal criminal civil rights law. To successfully prosecute Corporal Banuelos
under federal law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he willfully
interfered with Hernandez' constitutionally protected rights. To prove willfulness,
prosecutors must show that Corporal Banuelos knew that shooting Mr. Hernandez was a
violation of law, and deliberately did so anyway. The Department concluded that there
was insufficient evidence to rebut Corporal Banuelos' claim that he shot Mr. Hernandez
because he thought that Mr. Hernandez, who was armed, was about to shoot another Marine.


Although both the Military and Civilian authorities determined that none of the Marines involved would face criminal charges in the death of Hernandez, the incident contributed to the military's closer evaluation and assessment on the Rules of Engagement versus a Rules for Use of Force.

From the Marine Corps Gazette

In an influential memorandum drafted in response to a military investigator’s request for an expert legal opinion on the JTF–6 shooting incident, Col W.H. Parks, a retired Marine Corps judge advocate and respected ROE and law of war scholar, succinctly captured the essence and importance of these critical distinctions between ROE and RUF:

In the case of military assistance to domestic law enforcement, the term ‘rules of engagement’ is inappropriate. The outcome of the 20 May incident, while legally correct, may have occurred in part because (a) the Marines were sent on a combat-training mission, (b) received all briefings in combat terms, and (c) trained on rules of engagement rather than domestic law use-of-force standards. This may have established a mindset in [the Marine team] that caused Corporal Banuelos to choose certain courses of action over others that might not have resulted in the death of Mr. Hernandez.

Recommend that ‘rules of engagement’ not be used with regard to military support for domestic law enforcement, or other military aid to civil authorities.

Due to the Hernandez incident on May 31, 2000 the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued: "Rules on the Use of Force by DoD Personnel Providing Support to Law Enforcement Agencies Conducting Counterdrug Operations in the United States"

The rules provide that in any military mission it is imperative that military forces understand, and are trained to understand the difference between the Rules of Engagment commonly used in combat on foreign soil and Rules for the Use of Force used by military personnel supporting domestic law enforcement.

A Quiet Settlement

In the end whether justified or not, a single bullet, fired from Cpl. Banuelos' M-16 killed Esequiel Hernandez. An autopsy contradicted statements that the Marines had acted in self-defense.
The report suggested tht the angle of Hernandez's bullet wound was consistent with walking away from the Marines.

He would have been shooting away," said James Jepson, first assistant district attorney in Fort Stockton.
The Justice Department and Department of Defense, without admitting any wrongdoing,settled with the Hernandez family for $1.9 million. A total of 14 government employees including the four man squad lead by Cpl. Banuelos were deemed not to be at fault for death of Hernandez.

On August 12, 1998, just over a year after Esequiel Hernandez' death Justice Department Spokeswoman Chris Watney said, ''The settlement came under the Federal act that allows
the military to settle claims caused by its activities without admitting fault as long as the injured person was not at fault.''

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crime and Punishment

Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national was executed by Texas authorities in defiance the World Court. Medellin was executed by lethal injection Tuesday evening over the objections of the international judicial body and official requests from neighboring Mexico to stay the execution.

The World Court last month had ordered the U.S. government to "take all measures necessary" towards halting the upcoming executions of five Mexicans on death row, including Medellin on the grounds that they, as Mexican Nationals had been deprived of their right to consular services after their arrests.

Jose Medellin, 33, was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m. CDT (0257 GMT) in the state's death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Reuters Article
The execution of Medellin is likely to affect Mexico/US relations. Mexico does not have capital punishment and it views the execution of any of it's nationals as a violation of human rights. A concerned echoed by relatives of Medellin. Reyna Armendariz, an aunt of Medellin said:

"He was a normal, happy kid ... They don't have the right to take his life away, we acknowledged that he committed a crime but make him pay with a life sentence," she said

The crime for which Medellin was condemned to dies was horrific. According to the Texas Attorney Generals office, 16-year-old, Elizabeth Pena and her 14-year-old companion, Jennifer Ertman were walking home from a friend's house, taking a shortcut along some railroad tracks when they stumbled upon the group. Evidence showed the girls were gang raped for more than an hour, then were kicked and beaten before being strangled.

A red nylon belt was pulled so tight around Jennifer Ertman's neck that the belt snapped. The belt was later recovered from co-defendant Sean O'Brien's home. O’Brien told police that he gave his belt to Joe Medellin, who used it to strangle one of the girls. At Medellin’s instruction, O’Brien grabbed one end of the belt and helped strangle the victim.

Sean Derrick O'Brien was executed via lethal injection on July 11, 2006. A total of 6 boys were convicted in the girls deaths. Two boys, Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal, who were 17 at the time of the crimes, eventually had their sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court barred execution of juveniles.

Another, Peter Cantu, described as the ringleader of the group, is on death row. He does not have a death date.

The sixth person convicted, Vernancio Medellin, brother of Jose was 14 at the time and is serving a 40-year prison term. NPR Story

International Law

The defiance of Texas authorities to the World Court's jurisdiction should not come as surprise. Texans generally don't like outsiders telling them what to do and in this instance Texas, Gov. Perry not only defied the international law, but also President George W. Bush who had directed his native Texas to comply with the World Court ruling in 2004 which mandated a review of the cases of Medellin and other Mexicans in U.S. prisons awaiting executions.

Nonetheless, this issue is likely to arise once again, since Texas houses some 27 death row inmates who happen to be foreign nationals, 13 of those inmates are Mexican. The political fall-out over the execution of Mexican nationals will eventually resurface in between Texas (US) and Mexico.

In the meantime Tuesdays execution of Medellin will be viewed in the eyes of the world as cruel and unusual punishment and further erode the stature of the United States as a fully developed nation. Medellin could have been fully punished for his crime via a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Luis Alberto Jiménez, an illegal immigrant injured in a car accident in Florida, was treated
at a community hospital, which eventually sent him back to Guatemala. He spends most of
his days inside a one-room house; only the presence of visitors, who can help him into his
wheelchair, gives him the rare chance to get out of bed.

On Sunday, August 3rd, the NY Times ran an article by Deborah Sontag entitled: "Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals

The story is about an undocumented immigrant named Luis Jimenez. It's a story about how a horrific auto accident suffered at the hands of a drunk driver, led to years of unpaid medical care for an undocumented immigrant. The accident severely injured the driver, took the lives of two other passengers and left Luis Jimenez with a traumatic brain injury and wheel chair bound. It's a story about how a hospital that initially cared for Mr. Jimenez at a reported cost of upwards of $1.5 million ultimately forcibly deported him to Guatemala.

This is clearly a tragic story and it sheds further light our broken immigration system. A system that continues to reward employers with cheap labor at the expense of fair wages and worker rights.

600+ Comments and counting...

The NY Times story has thus far garnered some 634 comments. Some of the reader comments are from anti-immigration proponents.
The comment with the highest "Reader Recommended" rating is;

Reader Recommended:
He was in the country illegally. Sorry that he was sick etc. etc. but the 1.5 million dollars that was spent on him could have been better used for Americans.

The last time I looked it was not our responsibility to be the health care provider to the entire world.

Why do you think that New York and California are going broke?

— Howard, New Jersey

Comment Link

The NY Times also provides "Editors Selections", which publication deems as follows; "NY Times editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views".

Editors Selections:

What we have is a new form of slavery: give undocumented aliens jobs and no benefits. If they get sick, who cares. If they die, so what. If they complain-call INS. The employers get free workers, we get cheap products.

Health care seems to be a "I've got mine,I don't care about yours" discussion. Government health care is vilified in spite of 40+ yrs of Medicare.

Stop the madness!! Let's have a civilized discussion SOME WHERE!!!

Comment Link

More questions than answers

The story of Luis Jimenez raises many troubling questions about what our government should do about our nations growing number of uninsured. Medical treatment should be afforded to all and it should not matter whether the person is legally within this country or not.

Money is not the issue

The problem faced by the hospital that cared for Mr. Jimenez is one that hospital administrators face on a daily basis. The fact that a hospital would resort to deporting an individual, a Federal process, raises troubling questions for both undocumented immigrants and US citizens alike.

Money is not the issue and those opposed to spending any amount of money on undocumented immigrants, should be reminded of the wasteful spending that happens daily on the War in Iraq.

If someone feels that stopping the war in Iraq is not the answer, then perhaps Mr. Jimenez medical care costs can be paid from Social Security Administration's Suspense Fund. The Suspense Fund is a fund set up after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act when the SSA office began to receive a large number W-2's from employers with "false" or "no-match" Social Security Numbers. The SSA set up a fund to receive the
billions in payroll paid into the system by undocumented immigrants using fake Social Security Cards. In 2005, the NY Times ran a story on the SSA's Suspense Fund and reported that as much as $7 billion was being paid into the Suspense Fund.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Building Ties at 3x1

In El Llano, Mexico, Napa resident Rosario Gonzalez, center, and family
members wait for friends in El Llano’s plaza during holiday festivities
in December 2007. Gonzalez’ husband Tony Herrera, who works at Swanson
Vineyards in Oakville, is at left. Between them are their niece,
Jessica Herrera of American Canyon, and their 2-year-old daughter
Carolina. Lianne Milton/Register

The Napa Valley Register have put together a good series titled Napa & Mexico, The Ties That Bind. The series contains a mix of articles, photos and videos is about Mexican immigrants from Napa and St. Helena, California, immigrants with ties to Patzimaro, Churintzio and El Llano, all small towns in Michoacan, Mexico.

The story reports on how immigrants in Napa and St. Helena have ties to these areas and how they have organized to form groups and Home Town Associations (HTA's) to provide economic assistance to these towns. Not only do immigrants send remittances, they also send donations to repair churches and roads.

Napa Valley is home to some 30,000 people of Mexican descent and it's believed that a majority of Mexican immigrants come from Michoacan.

Ties That Bind

The series shed some light on a growing trend by immigrants making visits to their hometowns, visits that not only reconnect them to their families left behind, but also serves to rekindle the cultural ties to the region and it's customs.

Mexican immigrants to these towns come for the yearly fiesta, or to attend a wedding, funerals. Some come for religious celebrations and pray at their towns sacred capilla.

The series also reports on how immigrant groups have banded together to form Home Town Associations who are attempting to make better use of the "Tres-Por-Uno" program initiated by former Mexican Predident Vicente Fox. That program was started as a social and economic development, a program that is intended to help immigrant clubs and associations raise funds to aid their
hometowns. The program thus far has served to repair churches, construct small clinics, pave roads and build highways. Home Town Associations can receive matching contributions from the Mexican government agencies at the local, state and federal
levels on a dollar per dollar basis, thus $10,000 raised for the benefit of the town would be matched by the Mexican goverment with another $30,000.

Agustin Pradillo, press consul for the San Francisco office of the
Mexican Consulate-General of Mexico, said the policy was drafted to
encourage economic growth to create jobs at home, dampening the desire
of able-bodied workers to leave for work in the United States and

The money and donations for fiestas not only helps sustain the families that remain in these small towns, but also serves to foster civic participation from Mexican immigrants concerned about the government and infrastructure of towns they left many years ago, towns for which they have fond memories, memories that keep them coming back to towns that won't be forgetten.