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Cross-posted from Southerners On New Ground.

In a moment when North Carolinians are struggling for employment, education, housing, healthcare, violence-free communities, and clean water, self-interested legislators have decided to put a family discrimination constitutional amendment on the May 2012 ballot. Come, let’s mourn the hurt, understand the issues at stake with the amendment, and practice using relational organizing as a tool to build a broad-based movement. If we unite, we can defeat the amendment, strengthen our skills, and also deepen our relationships for the long haul. When the right-wing tries to take away anyone’s services or benefits, they’ll have all of us to reckon with.

All of Us North Carolina believes in fighting to win, with our eyes on the prize beyond the prize, using grassroots popular education. Southerners On New Ground is a Southern regional home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality. Immigrants and Allies for Justice brings together immigrants, students, workers, and families for a stronger progressive movement. The NC DREAM Team is an organization of undocumented immigrant youth and allies fighting institutionalized discrimination and exploitation of immigrant communities through a sustainable, community-led movement. Equality NC is a statewide group dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for LGBT people.

Become a fan of All Of Us NC at www.facebook.com/AllOfUsNorthCarolina

Thanks for spreading the word! We have room for 100 people, and we especially encourage youth, elders, people of color, poor and working people, LGBTQ people, immigrants and other marginalized people to consider participating.

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All of Us North Carolina:
Moving our people to vote “No!” like we’re building a justice movement
Sponsored by All of Us NC, Southerners On New Ground, Immigrants and Allies for Justice, NC Dream Team, Equality NC
Saturday, September 24th. 5-8pm
First Presbyterian Church ♦ 305 East Main Street ♦ Durham, NC 27701

People of all ages welcome. Wheelchair-accessible. Spanish-English interpretation available. Free & meaningful childcare.
5-6pm Dinner by Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, no charge, donations welcome.
6-8pm Participatory workshop (interested children welcome & childcare also available)
Contact allofusnc@gmail.com or call us at 919-618-0442

Click here to download the “All Of Us North Carolina” flyer.

Contact:
Domenic Powell (704) 281 - 9911
domenic@theniya.org

Jose Torres-Don
(919) 704 - 0599
jose.torresdon@gmail.com

Seven Undocumented Youth Speak Out Against Federal Inaction and the Lack of Educational Access

Risk arrest at ‘coming out’ action in 287(g) county

One year before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, undocumented youth from across the state will speak out against the threats they face at the hands of this Administration and the lack of educational access nationwide. The rally will take place today at 1PM on the Central Campus of Central Piedmont Community College.

“I am breaking my silence and speaking out against the injustices my community, my brother, and I are suffering,” said Angelica Velazquillo, one of the participants in the day’s action. Velazquillo graduated Magna Cum Laude from Belmont Abbey College in 2008. “Undocumented youth deserve the opportunity to study, work, and live without restrictions.”

In North Carolina, undocumented youth are required to pay out-of-state tuition for post-secondary education even if they graduated from a state high school. Worse still, undocumented students are required to register after everyone else in community college, amounting to a pervasive form of segregation. Students can lose their seat in class at any time if a citizen student wants it.

“I was forced to drop out after about two semesters due to the high costs of out-of-state tuition,” said Manuel Vazquez, one of the participants from Raleigh, NC. “My dream is to one day be a small business owner and give back to a community that has given so much to me.”

Over the summer, the Obama administration suddenly found more discretionary power to apply toward undocumented youth. It did so hoping to silence its critics and compensate for the lack of support from fellow Democrats, including Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), who voted against the DREAM Act in December. It is clear that undocumented youth have no sincere political ally and have chosen to fight for themselves, their education and their communities.

The following students will reveal their status publicly: Santiago Garcia, 20, of Asheville, NC; Cynthia Martinez, 20, of Sanford, NC; Martin Rodriguez, 20, of Hamptonville, NC; Marco Saavedra, 21, of Cincinatti, OH; Alicia Torres, 25, of Carrboro, NC; Manuel Vazquez, 21, of Raleigh, NC; Angelica Velazquillo, 25, of Charlotte, NC.

“The emotional side of the cruel reality of our lives has not been a concern for congressmen and congresswomen,” said Martin Rodriguez, a participant in the action from Hamptonville, NC. Rodriguez attended NC State University. “I choose not to present another emotional testimony, I do not ask for sympathy, we do not ask for superiority; we ask for justice. Mere justice!”

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If you have heard of the ‘Morton Memo’, you have probably heard it as something to be happy about. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton has urged his agency to utilize “prosecutorial discretion”, meaning that it may not pursue deportations as vigorously as it has. Unfortunately, this memo isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. There aren’t any guarantees that undocumented youth are now safe from deportation-it shouldn’t be thought of as anything remotely reassuring. In fact, President Obama just deported asylum-seeker Andy Mathe the day after personally finding out about the case.

Here’s a brief overview of this much talked about memo and what it means for you.

The Memo, ICE and Obama

On June 17, John Morton put into writing what President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano have been saying for months: that DREAM Act-eligible youth are not a deportation priority. Despite that, as you’ve seen from the continued need for petitions, undocumented youth are still winding up in proceedings (and deported, as mentioned above).

Overall, ICE has been taking heat for two of its programs under the ICE ACCESS umbrella of law enforcement partnerships, 287(g) and Secure Communities, making the Morton Memo appear to be a concession to satisfy critics who have rightly accused ICE of rounding up immigrants without respect their civil rights and civil liberties or the due process of law, let alone the nuances of their cases. As the National Day Laborers Organizing Network pointed out, President Obama has now deported more immigrants than President Eisenhower under Operation Wetback in the early 1950s.

A Brief History of Prosecutorial Discretion

The Morton Memo is another development in a history of prosecutorial discretion that goes back to the Clinton Administration and changes to immigration law in the past two decades.

Long before the Morton Memo, a previous memorandum on prosecutorial discretion written by INS Commissioner Doris Meissner in 2000 established significant authority for prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases. After Congress amended the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1996, judges in immigration court lost a lot of their ability to use, well, judgment on individual cases. INS was forced to make better decisions about where it allocated its resources now that immigration judges would no longer be able to grant as much relief from removal as they once had. Meissner’s memo places a greater emphasis on “substantial Federal interest,” meaning that prosecutorial discretion permits ICE not to pursue cases-even “legally sufficient” ones-which don’t benefit the federal government in any way. Meissner’s memo also lists cases in which discretion should be used and categories of people that should “trigger” favorable discretion. Some of those triggers should sound familiar: “Juveniles;” “Aliens with lengthy presence in United States (i.e., 10 years or more); and “aliens present in the United States since childhood.” The memo also notes that “community attention” is a factor to consider when discretion might be possible.

The Morton Memo and today’s politics

In 2011, what does the Morton memo say? Nothing too different from the previous policy directive. It doesn’t say anything about the DREAM Act. However, many of the factors ICE should use to consider backing off would apply to undocumented youth:

the circumstances of the person’s arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if the alien came to the United States as a young child;
[...]
the person’s pursuit of education in the United States, with particular consideration given to those who have graduated from a U.S. high school or have successfully pursued or are pursuing a college or advanced degrees at a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States;
[...]
whether the person, or the person’s immediate relative,has served in the U.S. military, reserves, or national guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat;
[...]
the person’s criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest warrants;
[...]
the person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships;

But as previously noted, there are no guarantees that undocumented youth will not be deported. In fact, Meissner’s memo was far more rooted in looking at the merits of individual cases and the radical idea that law enforcement officials ought to do more than round people up and ship people out. The Morton Memo is based more in budgetary concerns rather than humanitarian ones.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and several other senators have claimed that the Morton Memo was an attempt to “grant administrative amnesty“, but this is the same Jeff Sessions that lied on the Senate floor when he said that undocumented immigrants could already join the military during the December DREAM Act vote. There’s no reason to take him seriously on this. As a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, Sessions is supposed to be an expert on immigration, so the only explanations are that he’s a liar or that he is completely undeserving of his position.

The history of prosecutorial discretion and its present reiteration reveal the root of the problem: a system that is too narrowly focused on deportations. Such a narrow focus is ill-fit for the present reality, and one that we wouldn’t tolerate from any other law enforcement agency. Police have to do more than make arrests-immigration officers have to do more than raids and deportations. Prosecutorial discretion isn’t a solution, or even really a benefit. One way or another, it shouldn’t be thought of as a pro-migrant accomplishment by the Obama Administration.

This is a video put together by the Diocese of Charlotte, which hosted a vigil for Erick Velazquillo. It was a strong and beautiful showing of a community coming together around one of its youth.

Sign the petition to help keep Erick here. Again, thank you for your support.

Please help stop the deportation of Erick Velazquillo by coming to a vigil tonight for him and all undocumented youth. Join the Facebook event here. THe vigil will be at St. Peters Catholic Church in Charlotte (507 S. Tryon Street).

You can also sign the petition if you haven’t already.

By Emily Cabaniss

When I was 6 or 7 years old, my mom was driving my sisters and me home from the mall. It was dark and she had her low beams on. About halfway home, her lights unexpectedly went out on the highway. In a panic, she pulled the car over to the side of the road and started flicking switches and twisting knobs trying to get the lights to come back on. I remember being scared at first – we didn’t have a cell phone, we were nowhere near an exit, and we were still pretty far from home. I didn’t know what we were going to do, and my sisters and I bombarded my mom with worried questions. We were making a bad situation much worse. But, then I remember my anxiety giving way to excitement when mom figured out the high beams still worked. Amazing! She had solved the problem! We had lights again! As mom cautiously pulled back into traffic, we continued on our way home – my sisters and I hovering over the back seat noisily “helping” navigate this new adventure.

Not too long into it, though, a driver going the other way flashed his lights at us, signaling mom to turn off her high beams. She was annoying on-coming traffic. Mom cursed nervously at the bind we were in (she was NOT going to turn off the only lights that were working!). She ignored the signal and anxiously continued down the road – high beams blazing. A few minutes later, there were blue lights in her mirror.

My sisters and I fell silent. My parents had been stopped by the police before and those encounters almost always ended with one of them getting a ticket. We knew mom was not happy. She pulled over and waited for the police officer to approach her window. Peering into the back seat at us and then back at mom, he asked her bluntly, “Why didn’t you turn down your high beams when I flashed you?” She explained the problem with her lights and said she knew it was wrong to drive with them on like that, but she didn’t know what else to do. The police officer nodded. He seemed to understand. He told her he was going to let her go as long as she promised to get her car fixed, smiled at us in the back seat, and walked away. She promised. We went home. She didn’t even get a ticket.

That’s how my story ends. Because my mom is a U.S. citizen with white skin, she got to drive away that night, her only lingering concern being how much it was going to cost to get her lights working again. But that’s not the way these kinds of traffic stops end for many undocumented immigrants. I live in North Carolina, a state that is now 100% Secure Communities. That’s the federal immigration enforcement program that deputizes local law enforcement officers to act as agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under those circumstances, even minor traffic violations can result in detention and deportation if drivers are undocumented. That’s what happened to Erick Velazquillo. And it’s wrong.

As an ally in the immigrant rights movement, I am astounded by the increasing brutality of our current immigration enforcement laws. One mistake – one single mistake – and one’s life can change forever. Like my mom, Erick broke a traffic law. Like my mom, he was stopped by police. Like my mom, he offered an explanation. But, that’s where the similarities end. That’s where policies that legalize discrimination against undocumented immigrants lead Erick down a different path that could very well end in deportation. That’s the reality undocumented immigrants face in this country. It’s inhumane, cruel, and un-American. And it’s getting worse.

When Arizona passed SB 1070 last year, it sparked a vicious anti-immigrant flame that has spread rapidly across the states. It has emboldened politicians in Alabama to pass laws requiring principals to determine the legal status of children in their schools. It has led legislators in Georgia to ban college students from attending its top universities. And in North Carolina, undocumented youth trying to enroll in community colleges are forced by law to the back of the line, allowed to register for classes only after everyone else has.

In this kind of climate, where their very existence in this country is criminalized, many undocumented immigrant families are afraid – and rightly so. That makes it all the more surprising and inspiring that some of the young people who are directly impacted by these laws have begun standing up, speaking out, and fighting back.

Following the example set by growing numbers of undocumented youth in this country (here and here, too), Erick is “coming out” and sharing his story with the aim of putting a face on this struggle and demanding humane and progressive change in our immigration laws. I stand with Erick and all of the other undocumented youth who are boldly leading this fight. I ask you do the same.

Please sign this petition to help keep Erick home where he belongs and where we need him.

The only way I can start this post is by asking you to sign the petition. Go on, sign it. This is something that’s just plain wrong.

HB 744 does something despicable: it attacks undocumented children. Before enrolling (which means we’re often talking about little, little kids), parents have to present school officials with information on the immigration status of the child. While the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Dale Folwell from Forsyth County, NC claims that it is meant for the sole purpose of determining the amount spent on undocumented youth, everybody knows this is meant to discourage children from being enrolled. It’s so obvious that even he let the cat out of the bag when he spoke to the Winston-Salem Journal:

Folwell said, however, that policies must change to prevent illegal immigrants from choosing North Carolina as their home.

“The main thing I want is to answer the question: What policies are there at the state level that are making North Carolina a magnet for illegal immigration?” Folwell said. “I want to demagnetize this state.”

This was the sixth time Folwell has introduced the bill in the four terms he has served in the state General Assembly.

The only way this bill would “demagnetize” the state is if it scares people away, making it pretty clear that Folwell is trying to find a way around Plyler v. Doe. Under Plyler, public school systems are required to educate students irrespective of their immigration status. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice sent out a strongly worded letter reminding state and local educational agencies of their obligation to educate everyone who walks into their classroom. Instead of trying to kick them out, Folwell and his gang of foamed-mouth restrictionists are trying to find a way to make sure they don’t walk in at all.

What makes this even more shameful is that the following day, NC Republicans read another “restrictionist” bill, HB 36, which expands the use of E-Verify in the state. However, while all of Folwell’s vitriol toward children counts as “getting tough” on immigration, supporters of HB 36 completely rolled over when it came time to get tough on farm labor. It’s easy to “get tough” on school children behind whom no moneyed interests lie, but when you might be looking for handouts from the farm lobby in just a few months’ time, your compassion can be bought.

If you haven’t signed the petition by now, please do. We need you here in the South.

Contact:
José Rico (919) 802-0508
dreamteamnc@gmail.com
ncdreamteam.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cowards in the General Assembly Propose Bill Attacking Children
NC DREAM Team vows to stop the attacks on undocumented youth

RALEIGH, NC—Although not a single “restrictionist” bill in the General Assembly has addressed the biggest employers of undocumented immigrants in the state—state farms—several bills have attacked school children and college students. By proposing HB 744, a bill that would force students to reveal their status to school officials, North Carolina legislators are telling undocumented immigrants working and living in our state that they are good enough to pick its residents’ food, but not good enough to sit next to them in class.

“Our communities are under attack,” said Viridiana Martinez, an undocumented immigrant who has been an active fighter for immigrant rights. “We will expose this nasty bill and everyone behind it.”

Anti-immigrant groups frequently lament the 1982 Supreme Court decision of Plyler V. Doe, which protects the right of undocumented students to attend public education through high school. However, legislators in the segregationist South have begun to find new ways to direct their prejudice at school children. The Alabama State Senate passed a bill that would ban undocumented immigrants from attending extracurricular activities like prom and afterschool sports. NC Republicans also refused to make an exception in the Matricula Consular bill, HB 33, for educators to accept the Matricula to identify the parents of children at the school, both citizen and non-citizen.

Earlier this month, US Department of Education had to remind school districts of their obligation to provide an equal education to undocumented immigrant children. The DOE released a letter (co-signed by the Department of Justice) stating that “Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, or students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law.”

Requiring children to register their immigration status with their schools will inevitably result in discrimination, harassment or exclusion. Plain and simple, the legislators who support these bills are unprincipled cowards.
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Fredd is on Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento RIGHT NOW!

You can start calling to vote at 10pm. The number is Fredd’s line, so keep calling that number. You don’t have to say a thing. Each number can call 13 times.

1-877-497-6017

VDARE, one of the hardest-nosed anti-immigrant screed machines out there is calling out the Tanton Network for being “cowardly conservatives” unwilling to own their racism. After a lengthy piece on the founding of FAIR and its white supremacist connections in the New York Times, its founder and architect of the “Tanton Network”, John Tanton, stepped down.

According to VDARE, this aquiecense, the fear of being called a racist-or being associated with racism-is unpatriotic. True “immigration patriots” like themselves have to be willing to stand up for what they believe.

What Bush—and all pusillanimous progressives and cowardly conservatives—are doing is valuing the opinions of their enemies. They are hoping that by paying a sort of Danegeld to the “anti-racist” left, they will stop being hated.

It’s not going to happen.

While VDARE may not think so, being a racist is bad-it’s an outlook that is no longer tolerable. But I’m not going to go into what the right thinks about tolerance, other than to say that free speech ought to be a defense of last resort rather than the knee-jerk response it goes for today.

Before getting too off-topic, this little dust-up started when IMAGINE2050 protested against the FAIR-affiliated Progressives for Immigration Reform. Tanton had once urged progressive groups like the Sierra Club and Planned parenthood to turn against immigrants in the name of population control. PFIR is a movement in that same spirit. VDARE buttresses that strategy by scapegoating immgrants as the reason for higher poverty among African-Americans on average. Why African-Americans should accept their position on the bottom of America’s economic totem pole, VDARE leaves as a given. Nevermind that 95% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are white-the would-be black CEOs didn’t lose their jobs to immigrants. Being progressive while being retrogressive on immigration fails to see how it fits into the bigger picture.

After the Georgia protest against HB 87, in which undocumented youth gained the support of serveral black Civil Rights leaders, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article making the same argument against black-brown unity that VDARE is making. The logic behind it new—Arizona Neo-Nazi JT Ready suggested that a white-black alliance be made to fight the higher-priority Jews. In this period of ever-shifting racial, ethnic and geographic boundaries, nativists are having a little bit of an identity crisis themselves, or at least trying to make sense of a world in which “native” means much less than it used to.

The author of the VDARE post, James Fulford, believes that to harden onesself against insult, “you need to have a certain contempt for the insulter”. Lucky for us, it’s easy to have contempt for racists. Luckily also: most of society agrees.

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@NCDREAMTeam

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