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ISSUES | One Richmond

On the Decision in Ferguson

Black Lives Matter

by Nicole Valentino

The grand jury verdict is still fresh, and we are still processing our emotional reactions to it. Immediately, although we are not surprised, we are outraged by the decision of the grand jury in failing to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri.

We are outraged that Prosecutor Robert McCullough could still bring a case against Darren Wilson, but he has said that he would not. We are outraged that while the protesters and sympathizers are being asked publicly to be peaceful, to remain calm, and to practice restraint and tolerance, there was no such restraint and good judgment on the part of Darren Wilson when Michael Brown attempted to surrender and was killed, allegedly in cold blood.

US Attorney General Eric Holder is quoted as saying "It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting." We say, it does not honor the memory of Michael Brown to let his killer go free without any serious repercussions or legal consequences. What happened in Ferguson tonight is a travesty of justice to say the least.

Black lives matter. Black lives matter in Ferguson, Missouri. Black lives matter in Richmond, California. Black lives matter everywhere.

All aboard the Freedom Train to Progress!

Beckles Stood Tall in Juneteenth Parade

Eye on the East Bay, Contra Costa Times

Videos and photos posted to Facebook captured the scene for those who got up late.

Beckles, who is of African descent and is the first openly gay councilwoman in the city's history, rode in the bed of a pick-up truck decorated with wood panels to look like a locomotive. With the title "Freedom Train to Progress," Beckles stood tall and pumped her fist to the incendiary rhythms of Public Enemy's iconic "Fight the Power," the theme song of the 1989 Spike Lee film "Do the Right Thing."

Yellow flags with the words "freedom" and "progress" jutted from the faux smokestacks and whipped in the wind.

It was quite a scene, and the clarion rapping bellow of Chuck D rang timeless:

"Cause I'm Black and I'm proud, I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped, Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps," Chuck D rapped.

Powerful song and powerful imagery. Well-played, councilwoman.

With Liberty and Justice for Some

We Still Need Real Justice for Trayvon Martin 

Trayvon MartinThe verdict in the George Zimmerman trial demonstrates that People of Color cannot live free in the United States.   

Whatever the reasons for the jury’s verdict – a racist law, a racist community, or ineffective prosecution lawyers, the facts are clear. Trayvon Martin was walking where he had a right to be.  He was minding his own business, and he was shot dead. His only crime was being a young Black male.

We remember that simply electing a Black President,  does not change the fact that racism still grips everyday life  in the United States. It produces and promotes economic deprivation, poor schools and unequal educational opportunities, blatant and subtle discrimination and, as in this case, death.

The pain in the African-American community from this decision is intense. And although it is experienced differently among non-black allies in the struggle to eliminate racism, we all share the outrage of the injustice. We all understand the destructive impact racism has every day. Every day and every time the “pledge of allegiance” is recited, we must recommit ourselves to the struggle of justice for all.

First everyone can sign the NAACP petition.  Click here. (The website has been crashing because so many people are trying to sign it. If you have trouble, try later.)

Then begins the real work.

Steering Committee
Richmond Progressive Alliance

RPA Statement

Disruption of  Council Meeting on 7/23/13

We want to be clear.

Civil disobedience and demonstrations, including disruption, have a proud history. The civil rights movement, labor struggles, and the movements of opposition to apartheid, unjust wars, and dictatorship have all used these methods.

These movements also understood that these tactics must be used selectively and carefully. They must have a point by which they can be judged. They must have a clear message so that innocent folks know it is not directed against them.  

Richmond Council Disruption 7/23/13
Richmond Council Disruption 7/23/13

Last Tuesday night's disruption had no discernible message and did not meet these standards. Instead it was intended to create chaos, to stop the City Council from functioning --and done simply as an exercise of power.

This is an escalation of a strategy that Council members Booze and Bates have been pursuing since the last election. Since they have no positive program of their own to put forward in the city, they hope to build their political careers by defending Chevron and other corporate interests. They seek to tear down the work that progressives have done and are doing to advance the city.


One element of this strategy is to try to discredit Mayor McLaughlin by making City Council meetings chaotic and uncomfortable. First, they tried overtalking the Mayor at council meetings and tried to prevent her from carrying out her responsibilities as the presiding officer of the meetings. Then there were pointless filibusters to prevent important business from coming up and intimidating questions to members of the public who spoke. As the Mayor developed techniques to handle these tactics, such as rulings on order and recessing the meeting, Booze and Bates relied more on the antics of their small band of followers in the audience to create an insulting and chaotic atmosphere.

Last Tuesday's disruption was just the logical continuation of that process.

It has to stop. It will stop when citizens of Richmond demand that it stop. It won't stop by repeating "The Council needs to work together" as though the responsibility lies equally with all members of the Council or by repeating Bates' line that "the Council is dysfunctional."

In fact the Council is not dysfunctional. It has accomplished a lot despite the disruption and ugly behavior of two of its members and their supporters.  

The disruption will stop when people shine a light on and condemn the actions or lack of action by the few, including Bates and Booze, whose interests are served by disruption and chaos at the meetings. Richmond residents need to stand up and be counted by writing letters to editors, posting comments on blogs, and coming to city council meetings.

One result of this kind of public outrage already is that Councilmember Booze finally issued a statement distancing him from the hate speech. His statement is more than a year late. Also his actions speak louder than and different from his words. For the last two years he has led this group of hate-promoters. During recesses that he creates by not following the rules of order and trying to overtalk the Mayor, Booze goes into the audience and shakes the hands and puts his arm around the makers of the statements from which he supposedly dissociates himself. And Councilman Bates covers for the hate-promoters by declaring that their speech is just another point of view.

---RPA Steering Committee  7/28/13

disruption cartoon

Real Leadership Required

Drawing the Line between Hate and Free Speech


Hate speech is one of the most difficult issues for those of us who strongly defend the right of free speech. The problem is that hate speech, by creating a climate of fear, discourages other people from participating and deprives them of their rights of free speech. The hate and vulgar speech and atmosphere at the council have already driven away many who would otherwise attend.

It is tough to set rules setting the line between hate and free speech. Moreover, this method rarely works in the long run although it may be necessary in the short-run.

The most effective way to end the hate speech and atmosphere at Council meetings is for all council members to take individual responsibility to exercise leadership and make it clear that they personally will not tolerate such behaviors at Council Meetings. The problem is that two Councilmembers, Bates and Booze give these hateful behaviors legitimacy by seeming to encourage them from their followers.

Nat Bates Hears No Hate!
Nat Bates Hears No Hate!

See this clip from recent Council meetings where Nat Bates could hear no hate!

In calling what is obviously hate speech, a "point of view" he legitimizes it and promotes it.

What is Booze's contribution to the atmosphere? After a proclamation honoring the LGBTQQIS-2 community, the Mayor asked everyone who supported Pride month to stand. The video of the Council meeting shows Corky sitting, looking around, and then at the very last moment when he saw he was isolated, standing. But it is not his delay in standing that concerns us most.

When it was his turn to speak he did not criticize his supporters' hate speech. He did not support the proclamation. Instead he made up a story to answer members of the community who criticized his staying seated, claiming he was absorbed in reading materials. He then went on to attack his critics including questioning whether Police Chief Magnus could be fair. (The City Council session of 6/25 can be viewed here --the Proclamation is about 20 minutes from the beginning.)  

It's time for the community to demand that these two so-called leaders help lead  Richmond into a proud future and stop encouraging behaviors which drag it into the dirt. Those who no longer attend Council meetings have left the field to the hate promoters. We need people who have good things to say about Richmond and its progressive polices to show up and set the tone for these meetings.

It's time for the community to demand that the hate promoters end their shameless behavior. 


Steering Committee
Richmond Progressive Alliance

Honoring Diversity

Council  Honors Pride Month

Celebrating Pride in Richmond 2013 Part I 
Celebrating Pride in Richmond 2013 Part I

On 6/25/13 The City of Richmond made a Proclamation honoring its LGBTQQIS-2 residents and the LGBT movement.

Here is a three part video showing the positive side of Richmond that celebrates diversity while responding to the unfortunate hate speech

Jovanka Beckles: 

Supreme Court says YES to Gay Marriage                              and NO to Voting Rights


As a human rights advocate, and a leader of our community I rejoice that a major barrier to LGBT rights has come down. I use the term LGBT to include all of those people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, 2-spirit, queer, or questioning and any others who face discrimination around the complicated issue of sexual identity.

Voting Rights Struggle
It was a huge struggle to win voting rights

At the same time I am enraged that the Supreme Court nullified the core of the voting rights act of 1965 passed after the magnificent struggle and significant sacrifices of African-Americans and our allies.


Of course there is not a great contradiction in the Supreme Court votes since the court is divided down the middle. Both cases highlight the conservative direction of the Court. Even in overturning the onerous so-called "Defense of Marriage Act", the Court reinforced the right of states to select which marriages are legitimate. We still have to carry on the struggle for marriage equality in 2/3 of the states and we must fight against LGBT discrimination that continues to be acceptable in every state.


The loss of the Voting Rights Act should move all of us to action. Whereas in the case of LGBT rights, the country is moving in the direction of democratic political rights, when it comes to voters' rights it is moving the opposite way. Increasingly, corporate power has more influence in our politics. This power is used to strategically and effectively to disenfranchise people of color and the poor to further tip the balance towards corporate interests.


The question of voting is truly a fundamental issue of civil rights. We have to ask ourselves why we are losing. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:


Newspaper Clip
A powerful force
1. The fight for economic and social justice challenges powerful enemies. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X both understood that we could not win true civil rights without winning economic and social equality. Exercising the vote is an act with powerful ramifications in the struggle for equality; it is not just an end to itself. It is absolutely in the interest of those who benefit from racism and inequality to keep us from exercising our power at the polls.

2. Much of our leadership has been bought off and co-opted. Far too many of our leaders settle for their own recognition, financial gain and personal power. And when it benefits them, they conveniently call this progress.


Another powerful force

3. We get caught in the time honored game of pitting the oppressed against each other, and find ourselves easily divided and conquered. A good example of this occurred at a recent city council meeting when some African American "leaders" complained about the Pride flag, during LGBT Pride month. Some questioned "Where was the Juneteenth flag?". If the behavior of pitting the LGBT against the African American community wasn't so harmful and offensive it would have been just silly. Every movement puts itself forward, and promotes its message in different ways. Juneteenth was a great event that the City endorsed and for which it provided money. No one from the LGBT community opposed this by saying "wait a minute you can't give $10,000 or City endorsement unless you give it to the Pride activities" Some of these African American divisive leaders made it a point to make hateful remarks about gays and lesbians, while still others claimed to hear nothing hateful in these remarks. The point is that these so called leaders perpetrate the scheme of pitting one oppressed group against the other in order to protect their corporate funding.


It's time for us all to understand that we will get rid of oppression only when we are all free from oppression. And that can only happen when we stand together.

--Jovanka Beckles 



Beckles keynote speaker

Chevron Pride Event


Jovanka at Cheevron
Jovanka addressing Chevron Pride Event

Over the past several years the LGBT movement has shifted the mind set of America. In every aspect of life there has been both the recognition of rights and personal acceptance of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer or questioning. We can see this in opinion polls, the ruling of courts, the positions of even conservative politicians, and the actions of corporations. Last week Chevron Richmond Refinery sponsored a Pride Celebration for its employees


About 150 Chevron employees gathered for a lunchtime BBQ outside the plant cafeteria. New Plant Manger Kory Judd introduced Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles as the main speaker.

Beckles began by acknowledging the "elephant in the room" - that she is well known as a critic of Chevron's policies. That hasn't changed, she said, but it was also important to work together where we can. Chevron has been a corporate leader in providing benefits to domestic partners. Even more important is that Chevron has supported its LGBT employees who say that we cannot be silent. If we want our rights we have to stand for them. The symbolism of Chevron sponsoring its own Pride event is an important symbol within the company and to the surrounding community.


A question: Will Chevron spend a million dollars next year to try to defeat Jovanka and promote candidates who have defended the hateful speeches we heard at Council meetings this last week?


Dajenya Kafele

Not a Competition for a Single Prize

At the June 5, 2012 Council meeting, long-time Richmond resident and social worker Dajenya Kafele started the following statement to the Council in response to a previous Council meeting where there was an attempt to divide the LGBT and African-American communities (see next article).This is the full prepared statement.

The oppression of African-Americans is very real and on-going, and is exemplified in, for example, the degree of poverty among African-Americans in Richmond, the inferiority of many ghetto schools, the proximity of toxic emissions from Chevron and other oil plants to poor neighborhoods in Richmond, and the way so many needed services for the poor are the first to disappear in this troubled economy.  The problems in Richmond are huge, from massive unemployment to self-destructive gun-violence, and yes it is very important to do everything possible to instill Black pride in our young people so that they can strive to improve conditions for us all.

That said, each people's struggle for liberation and/or the attainment of civil and human rights is not a competition for a single prize.  We all deserve freedom from oppression, and we all have the right, and even the responsibility to fight for these rights.  If we can learn to work together, despite our differences, for rights and freedoms for everyone, we can all get a lot further than when we fight each other, to the benefit of no one except those who would like to keep us all down.

Black Panther leader Huey Newton understood this more than 40 years ago when he stated in a speech in 1970, "Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion..... We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people.....  We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups."

For those who wanted to know why June was chosen as LGBT Pride month, it is important to understand that this choice was not made by the Richmond Mayor or City Council, nor was it made to take anything away from Juneteenth.  June became LGBT Pride month decades ago as the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, when gay men, lesbians and transexual people grew tired of being oppressed by the police, and for the first time, fought back, marking the beginning of the modern LGBT movement.  Fighting against police oppression is something I think most African-Americans might understand.

It should be noted that it was members of the African-American community, not the LGBT community, who chose to hold Black History Month in February, rather than in June.  No one in the LGBT community has voiced any objection to Juneteenth celebrations being held during LGBT Pride Month in June, nor are LGBT celebrations being held during Black History Month in February.  But if they were, it should not matter.  Movements against oppression should not see themselves as competing for the crumbs thrown by the mainstream society.  Real pride, racial pride or any kind of pride, does not depend on being the only one fighting for civil and human rights.  Think how much further all movements against oppression might get if we all fought together instead of fighting each other. 

Likewise, think how much further we might get in transforming Richmond into an environment in which we all can thrive, if we work together to make necessary changes to serve the people of Richmond as best we can, instead of defeating our own potential by spending all our time and energy tearing each other down.

I know we all have a great deal to contribute to restoring some of Richmond's former glory, and re-making it into a city in which all Richmond residents can thrive in health and peace and freedom for all.  Let today mark a turning point in our coming together to meet our common goal of building our city into a caring community ever-working towards greater health, opportunity, freedom and promise for everyone.

RPA Steering Committee Statement

Pride Month Proclamation Marred by Hate

 GLBT presentation

Seven young people form RYSE youth center were at the Richmond City Council on May 22 to accept a proclamation from Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Council Member Jovanka Beckles. The proclamation recognized Pride Month in the City of Richmond and the RYSE Youth Center's PRYDE Initiative to create an inclusive community for LGBT youth and their straight allies.


Pride month is celebrated nationally in June. For the past several years President Obama has issued a Proclamation designating June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender month (See Obama 2011 proclamation). President Obama and the NAACP recently took public positions in support of same sex marriage, as a matter of basic civil rights.  


While many in the audience enthusiastically applauded the youth who received this proclamation, the mood that should have been a celebration of diversity and a recognition of their valuable work was shattered by viciously hateful and blatantly homophobic remarks from some of the public speakers. These speakers, with a few supporters, repeatedly disrupted from the floor and applauded each other.   While we vigorously support the right of free speech we denounce the message of this spectacle, as it is not reflective of the respect and acceptance that we believe most people in Richmond demonstrate for people of other races, ethnicities, and sexual orientation.


After this disgusting display of hate toward a group of African-American youth that had courageously stood before the city council, the Mayor and every Councilmember except Bates and Booze made it clear that these public comments did not represent themselves or the city. Booze and Bates, who are quick to jump to the defense of Chevron whenever a member of the public criticizes it, chose to remain silent rather than criticize their regular supporters. It is extremely important that the Richmond community and its elected officials take a stand against all forms of homophobia and racism and not remain silent.


Several members of the public (some of whom regularly attack the Mayor, Councilmembers Beckles, Ritterman and the RPA) spoke on the Pride resolution to suggest that the selection of June as Pride month undermines Juneteenth, celebrating the freeing of African-American slaves. Sadly, these statements diminished the courageous presence of RYSE Center youth who came to receive the Pride Month proclamation. As the Mayor and others pointed out, Pride Month is celebrated nationally and not selected by the Council and we often have multiple events and causes to celebrate in any given month. Juneteenth is a very important occasion in Richmond. The Council officially recognizes it and devotes funds and staff time to making it a success. A Juneteenth proclamation will be presented at a City Council meeting in June, along with the Juneteenth parade and festival on June 16.


At the May 22 City Council meeting, however, the proclamation at hand was designed to express support to our LGBT community and show that Richmond residents who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and all of their straight allies can live together as One Richmond.


Come to the council meeting on June 5 at 6:30 to express your views on this in Open Forum.

RPA Steering Committee Statement  



Richmond City Council Gay Pride Proclamation-1 
Richmond City Council Gay Pride Proclamation
You can see the proclamation  and the RYSE youth comments by clicking on the video.

We don't recommend watching the remainder of the session because it was so ugly but if you need evidence for what was stated above you can  see the offensive public comment by  clicking here 

A Healing Retreat

Building Bridges Between Black and Brown Communities

Black-Brown Dialogue  3Black and Brown Richmond women have started a series of dialogues to address the tensions that exist between the Black and Latino Communities. The first, called Building Bridges was sponsored BAJI (Black Alliance for Just immigration) The Latina Center, BWOPA (Black Women Organized for Political Actions), the City of Richmond Human Rights/Human Relations Commission, and the Neighborhood House of North Richmond and was held at the Booker T Anderson Center on June 25.

The RPA was represented by Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles and Nicole Valentino, Community Advocate in the Office of Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, at the first of its kind event in Richmond. The event was designed to provide a safe retreat space for the healing and empowerment of Black and Brown women in the Richmond and West County community.

Building Bridges began as a concept at a table discussion at Sisters in Solidarity, an annual Richmond Mayor’s Office commemoration of Women's International Day. Members of BAJI, BWOPA and the Latina Center shared a table and began the early discussion of building bridges to heal the divides across communities. Originally the conversation centered on immigration reform, but gradually it began to focus on how black and brown women can heal the tension between the two groups in Richmond.

BBD Dialogue -2The women agreed that there was too much at stake for the groups to senselessly fight one another rather than to collaborate. As the primary care givers in the family, it was up to women to begin the healing process in their individual and collective communities. The group took responsibility for working across differences and collaborating around common struggles, particularly the struggle against oppression that hurts both groups.

Building Bridges, was designed to provide a safe retreat space for the healing and empowerment of women in the community willing to go back into the community as agents of change. Through a facilitated exchange of exercises including opportunities to speak the truth, to discover similarities, to exchange ideas and thoughts and to break bread together, women connected despite false and manufactured divides created to keep them separate. In close to equal numbers, Latina and Black women ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus years, gathered to participate in an unprecedented spirited, candid and at times volatile exchange.

Councilmember Beckles was singled out for special appreciation for having sponsored and supported the Human Rights and Human Relations Commission request for City funds to support the effort. In response, she explained that healing the tensions is critical to the well being of Richmond as we come together to work to build community. We acknowledge the need to reduce violence in order to achieve this goal. She also shared her personal experience of being a Panamanian immigrant who identifies as Black Latina. She spoke to the question of loyalty to her roots coming from both Blacks and Latinos -- a sentiment that was echoed throughout the day by many.

At the end of the retreat, there appeared to be shared enhanced understanding and compassion. There was more obvious agreement than disagreement. The 50 or so women dispersed after emotional good byes and firm commitments to continue the dialogues and to do the healing work in a variety of ways; from becoming more vocal and politically active to going home and teaching their children, family and neighbors, to taking the message back to their congregations and into their classrooms. One agreed upon next step is to solidify the collaboration and develop a program of work for at least the next three years.

For more information, please contact the following organizers: Amahra Hicks of BAJI at
(510) 758-4212; Miriam Wong of the Latina center at 233-8595;Kathleen Sullivan of the Human rights and Human relations Commission and the Neighborhood House of North Richmond at (510) 229-5000 ext. 5020.

--Nicole Valentino
photos: Jovanka Beckles, Rhonda Harris

A more inclusive Richmond

Council Unanimous on  Municipal IDsID_Rally


The city council unanimously passed a resolution strongly supporting a Richmond Municipal ID.  Jovanka Beckles introduced the resolution and motivated it. Among other things she pointed out that:


   The ID will make it easier for people to report crime and lift the fear associated with contact with local law enforcement. Chief Magnus is supporting the concept.


   Similar ID programs have already been tried and proven successful in a number of cities.


   The program would be operated by an outside vendor and would not use city funds. People with the ID could select an optional feature to use it as an ATM card.


   The IDs could be used by all citizens to prevent any stigma from being attached to their use.


paradeThe resolution directs city staff to research the proposal and return with a report on possible implementation by July 5.


Approximately 400 people rallied in the Civic center square outsidC the City Hall.  Since not everyone could sit in the Council chambers, as the item was being discussed, the rally paraded single file through the chambers holding signs endorsing the ID program.


While the council was unanimous there was some opposition to the ID program from the audience, showing the need for us to continue to work for "One Richmond."

Richmond Municipal IDs

ID flyerThe Richmond Municipal ID Cards Coalition 2011, [R-ID]  is moving rapidly to make Richmond Municipal ID cards a reality. 


The Latino Caucus of the RPA jump-started the effort this year building on great work done previously.  The coalition has:

Produced a Power Point Presentation explaining the issue.

Click here for Power Point (Have patience--this is a very large file.)


Met with Police Chief, Chris Magnus and senior members of the Police Department.  The coalition delegation included Maria E. Rivera, immigration attorney; Roberto Reyes, RPA member and Planning Commissioner;  Alejandro Navarro, president of one of Richmond's. Neighborhood Councils and carpenter's union advocate; Alvin Herring and Richard Boyd,CCISCO organizers and Ramon Cardona of the Centro Latino Cuzcatlan.  It was a very positive dialogue, covering anti-fraud technology, and the use of the ID with many other city departments.

Produced fliers in English and Spanish  to explain the concept 

English download here        Spanish download here


The next meeting:  Wednesday  April 13, 2011  7-9 PM  at the Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room Richmond Public Library 325 Civic Center, [with co-sponsorship by the Office of the Mayor.]  Media and outreach for the "Cinco de Mayo" festivities will be discussed  and volunteers are needed to get the word out to the communities.

If you want to be involved send an e-mail to :  

Bay Area Immigration Rights Rally March 24

Immigrant Rights 1

Exuberant demonsrators filled Market street and marched on Senator Diane Feinstein's office on March 24th to demand real immigration rights reform. The march was organized by many immigrant rights and community groups. CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization) was a major organizer and brought a large delegation from Richmond. See CCISCO's web site for more pictures

As has now become standard practice in politics where up is down, immigration rights that come through congress are frequently the opposite. We are reprinting an article by David Bacon to sort out some of these issues. For more photos of the march and more information check out CCISCO's website

By David Bacon

OAKLAND, CA (3/19/09) - Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham announced Thursday their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread, recycling the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse.

Immigrant Rights 2

Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among Washington powerbrokers. Real immigration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immigrants and working people, not the political calculations of a reluctant Congress.

What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham proposal?

  • 1. It ignores trade agreement s like NAFTA and CAFTA, which produce profits for U.S. corporations, but increase poverty in Mexico and Central America. Since NAFTA went into effect, income in Mexico dropped, while millions of workers lost jobs and farmers their land. As a result, six million Mexicans had to leave home and migrate north, looking for work.
        If we do not change U.S. trade policy, millions of displaced people will continue to come, no matter how many walls we build.

  • 2. People working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned under their proposal, and raids will increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low. Every worker will have to show a national ID card, (an idea too extreme even for the Bush administration). A problematic ID would mean getting fired, and maybe jailed.
        This will not stop people from coming to the U.S. But it will produce more immigration raids, firings, and a much larger detention system. Last year over 350,000 people went through privately-run prisons for undocumented immigrants. That number will go up.
Immigrant Rights RPA
  • 3. Schumer and Graham treat the flow of people coming north as a labor supply for employers. They propose new guest worker programs, where workers would have few rights, and no leverage to organize for better conditions. Current programs are already called "Close to Slavery" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • 4. Schumer and Graham's legalization scheme imposes barriers making ineligible many of the 12 million people who need legal status. Their idea for "going to the back of the line" would have people wait many years for it.
        Getting in the back of the line is like having to sit i n the back of the bus. In 1986, even President Reagan, hardly a liberal, signed a plan in which people gained legal status quickly and easily. Many are now citizens and vote, run for office, lead our unions, teach in our schools, and have made great contributions to our country. Schumer and Graham treat legalization as a carrot, to force acceptance of a program in which the main beneficiaries are large corporations, not immigrants, nor other workers.
        Instead, we need reform that unites people and protects everyone's rights and jobs, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. We need to use our ideals of rights and equality to guide us.
        For several years, immigrant rights groups, community organizations and unions have called for reform based on those ideals. It's time to put those ideas into a bill that can bring our country together, not divide it.

Immigrant Rights FilipinoA human rights immigration bill would:
  • 1. Stop trade agreements that create poverty and forced migration.

  • 2. Give people a quick and easy path to legal status and citizenship.

  • 3. End the visa backlogs, so there's no "get in the back" line.

  • 4. Protect the right of all workers in their jobs - against discrimination, or getting fired for demanding rights or for not having papers.

  • 5. Bring civil rights and peace to border communities.

  • 6. Dismantle the immigration prisons, end detention, and stop the raids.

  • 7. Allow people to come to the U.S. with green cards - visas that afford people rights, that are not tied to employment and recruitment by labor brokers.

  • 8. Use reasonable legalization fees to finance job programs in communities with high unemployment.

  • 9. End guest worker programs.

Those who say no alternative is possible might remember the "go slow" advice given to young students going to jail in the South in the early 60s. If they'd heeded it, we'd still be waiting for a Voting Rights Act.

Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the students in SNCC, and Chicano civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez, Bert Corona, Dolores Huerta and Ernesto Galarza, asked the country a simple question: Do we believe in equality or not?

That's still the choice.

Reprinted from TruthOut, 3/22/10 For more articles and images, see David Bacon's website

--March photos: Mike Parker