Friday, March 26, 2010

Immigration News Roundup - 3/26/2010

1. Study Finds Immigrant Wage, Benefits Increased Substantially By Unionization: Unionization substantially improves the pay and benefits received by immigrant workers, who now make up over 15 percent of the workforce and almost 13 percent of unionized workers, according to a new report released March 25 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The report, Unions and Upward Mobility for Immigrant Workers, found immigrant workers who are represented by a union earned on average 17 percent or about $2 per hour more than nonunion immigrant workers with similar characteristics.

2. The High Cost of Deportation: A new Center for American Progress study shows that getting the 10.8 million undocumented immigrants out of the country and maintaining strict immigration enforcement over five years would cost $285 billion.

3. Texas Observer: The Texas Observer has two excellent articles on immigration enforcement this month:

  • Down for the Count: The profitable game of including immigrants in the census, then deporting them - "...[Henry] Arroliga is one of more than 30,000 immigrant detainees who will be counted in this year’s census. Four hundred billion dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years will be distributed based on the count, making detainees worth thousands of dollars to cities, counties, and states where they are briefly detained. The government will allocate more than $100 million in additional funds to places where immigrants are detained..."

  • Point of No Return: With thousands of legal residents locked up indefinitely, far from home, Texas' immigrant detention centers are boiling over - "On March 10, 2008, 39-year-old Rama Carty, who’d lived in the United States since he was a year old, became Alien #A30117515 in America’s booming immigrant detention system. At the time, Carty never imagined he’d be shipped to seven detention facilities around the country. Or that he’d help organize hunger strikes in South Texas’ Port Isabel Detention Center, 2,000 miles from his Boston home. Or that he would inspire an Amnesty International investigation into human rights abuses by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement..."

4. Barriers to Hispanic Education: A new study released this month by the American Enterprise Institute, Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority, finds that at the average college or university, 51 percent of Hispanic students complete a bachelor's degree in six years compared to 59 percent of white students at those same schools. On the positive side, AEI reports that "Hispanic women graduate at consistently higher rates than Hispanic men and often graduate at the same rate as white men in their schools." Go hermanas!

Padre Jony Video 6: Aborregau

Padre Jony has just released his sixth video for his anti-aborregamiento campaign. There is no official narrative yet for this new video. The term "aborregau" has no strict English equivalent. It basically means acting like a "borrego", a sheep who follows what everyone else is doing. The campaign is a protest against the kind of mindless conformity that young people seem to fall into. This conformity keeps the young people from exploring ideas and roles that might interest them because of what others might think, and also makes them succumb to destructive behaviors and relationships under peer pressure. Padre Jony wants today's youth to pursue their dreams, critically evaluate the information they are given, and start thinking about what they can do to make the world a better place instead of just "going along to get along".

The time and turn of the Asians

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

If we consider the consequences of the current financial and economic crisis we see a disturbing inertia. The United States managed to impose on the Europeans the decision to keep the market as the linchpin of the economy with the promise of controls and regulations that have not yet been implemented. Barack Obama leaned in the direction of Wall Street and with the taxpayers' money saved and propped up the banks that were the main culprits of the crisis. Increasingly, he is showing himself to be a president who obeys the logic of an empire in decline, whose only strength that really matters is its ability to kill everyone and destroy life on earth. This is the truth that nobody likes to speak or hear.

Of the aid that the G-20 pledged in London in April 2009 to vulnerable countries -- one billion one hundred million dollars -- only 5% has actually been granted. This support is 360 times lower than the 18 billion dollars to save the shattered financial institutions in rich countries. Financial speculation moves uncontrollably, just as it did before the crisis. Not unreasonably, the two preeminent Nobel prize winners in economics, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, predict a new crisis more serious than the previous one shortly. We live happily, as in the days of Noah, eating, drinking and having fun.

Still and all, the current crisis has produced or reinforced three phenomena that deserve to be highlighted. The first is a deglobalization, which occurs through a regionalization of the economy: the creation of regional groupings such as Mercosur, Alba, Nafta, BRIC, ASEAN (10 countries including Burma, Indonesia, Singapore), OECD, the European Community, OSC (Organization of Shanghai with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, etc.) and others. They put into effect coordinated policies to prevent crises and have strong regional banks, irrespective of the IMF.

The second is the shift in the center of gravity from the North Atlantic to the Pacific and Asia. Forty-four percent of global reserves are there. China's GDP is around 7.8 billion and it sustains U.S. consumption, Japan's is 4.5 trillion, while that of South Korea is 1.3 billion, and Indonesia's is 932,100 billion. The reserves of those four countries amount to 7.34 billion dollars. Marx left us this lesson: the economy brings behind it the politics, culture and hegemony of the world. Asians aspire to shape the global process with Asian features, especially Chinese ones. It's their turn.

Finally, the emergence of a collective global action against the current critical situation. It is born of a deep disappointment and much anger that exists in the world. There are now 60 million unemployed. Soon there will be more than one hundred million. It appears that the solution for warming and for the widespread ecological crisis can not come from politics, crisscrossed by national interests and by so much corruption.

Outlines are emerging of organizations for the salvation of life and humanity. Leaders, groups, movements, religious groups, associations, world bodies will want desperately to take history into their hands. Millions of climate refugees will force the political boundaries of many nations in search of survival. There will be mass demonstrations of discontent in front of banks, parliaments and government palaces demanding drastic measures to ensure food security, jobs, potable water, protection from the devastation caused by extreme events. Who will resist the angry masses?

The economics of pure growth for consumption, the engine of the capitalist economy and the Lula government's PAC, basically says, "to hell with nature and future generations be damned, we want to continue to grow and increase the GDP, since that is what makes us a power." But all will cry: "Enough with geocide. We want a green economy that makes us live and that is suitable to the new situation of the earth." Without this change it will be difficult for us to escape the revenge of Gaia.

I have said it and fulfilled my conscience.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Honoring Mons. Oscar Romero in Virginia

Last night, Fr. Alex Diaz, a priest from El Salvador who is currently serving in St. Anthony of Padua parish in Falls Church, VA offered a lovely bilingual Mass and presentation in Spanish to honor Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and teach the second generation Salvadoran immigrants about their great countryman.

Fr. Alex's reflections were well-researched but also deeply personal as he shared experiences of his nation's civil war such as seeing his mother forced off a bus at gunpoint by the military while she was pregnant with his brother because she wasn't carrying her ID with her that day.

Fr. Alex stressed how much Mons. Romero's involvement with the poor was motivated by the gospel and deplored the politicization of the archbishop -- whether by leftist groups who attach his image to their political posters or by the right who villify him as a "revolutionary" troublemaker.

The wall of the cafeteria was lined with images and quotes from Monseñor Romero for further contemplation. I hope that Fr. Alex will eventually put his whole presentation on his Web site or blog but, until then, Spanish speakers can find an article by Fr. Alex about Romero on his blog that is very similar to what he shared with us last night in his homily.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24: San Romero de América

Thirty years ago today, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador was assassinated while celebrating Mass in a little chapel. The Salvadoran people already consider him a saint and the Salvadoran bishops' conference recently re-expressed its desire for a formal canonization of this prophet and martyr to Pope Benedict XVI. Those who understand Spanish may also want to view this BBC Mundo interview with a nun who witnessed the Archbishop's murder. It's very moving but unfortunately we can't put it directly on this blog since the embedding code has been disabled.

San Romero de América, Pastor y Mártir

por Dom Pedro Casaldáliga

El ángel del Señor anunció en la víspera...

El corazón de El salvador marcaba
24 de marzo y de agonía.
Tú ofrecías el Pan,
el Cuerpo Vivo
-el triturado cuerpo de tu Pueblo;
Su derramada Sangre victoriosa
-¡la sangre campesina de tu Pueblo en masacre
que ha de teñir en vinos de alegría la aurora conjurada!

El ángel del Señor anunció en la víspera,
y el Verbo se hizo muerte, otra vez, en tu muerte;
como se hace muerte, cada día, en la carne desnuda de tu Pueblo.

¡Y se hizo vida nueva
en nuestra vieja Iglesia!

Estamos otra vez en pie de testimonio,
¡San Romero de América, pastor y mártir nuestro!
Romero de la paz casi imposible en esta tierra en guerra.
Romero en flor morada de la esperanza incólume de todo el Continente.
Romero de la Pascua Latinoamericana.
Pobre pastor glorioso, asesinado a sueldo, a dólar, a divisa.

Como Jesús, por orden del Imperio.
¡Pobre pastor glorioso,
por tus propios hermanos de báculo y de Mesa...!
(Las curias no podían entenderte:
ninguna sinagoga bien montada puede entender a Cristo).

Tu pobrería sí te acompañaba,
en desespero fiel,
pasto y rebaño, a un tiempo, de tu misión profética.
El Pueblo te hizo santo.
La hora de tu Pueblo te consagró en el kairós.
Los pobres te enseñaron a leer el Evangelio.

Como un hermano herido por tanta muerte hermana,
tú sabías llorar, solo, en el Huerto.
Sabías tener miedo, como un hombre en combate.
¡Pero sabías dar a tu palabra, libre, su timbre de campana!

Y supiste beber el doble cáliz del Altar y del Pueblo,
con una sola mano consagrada al servicio.
América Latina ya te ha puesto en su gloria de Bernini
en la espuma aureola de sus mares,
en el dosel airado de los Andes alertos,
en la canción de todos sus caminos,
en el calvario nuevo de todas sus prisiones,
de todas sus trincheras,
de todos sus altares...
¡En el ara segura del corazón insomne de sus hijos!

San Romero de América, pastor y mártir nuestro:
¡nadie hará callar tu última homilía!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 21 - Part 1: Mass for Immigrants

The first event of the day was a Mass for Immigrants celebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and concelebrated by our very own Bishop Paul Loverde (Arlington, VA), Bishop Francisco González (Washington, DC), Bishop John Wester (Salt Lake City, UT), Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ (USCCB/Cultural Diversity in the Church) and a host of other priests...basically any priest who came with their delegation to the march and felt like vesting and concelebrating was invited to come forward.

The Mass was largely bilingual English/Spanish, including Cardinal Mahony's homily, the readings were proclaimed in Spanish (1st), French (2nd), and English (the Gospel), and the prayers were in all of those languages plus Tagalog, Igbo, Malayalam and Haitian Creole.

Two things stood out for me about this Mass:

1. Regardless of the number of concelebrants, the Mass was very much a love-fest between Cardinal Mahony and his national level immigrant flock. The cardinal was present and vested long before the service started and wandered around the sanctuary like a solicitous host, greeting his guests as they arrived and obligingly posing for photos when requested. He was totally at ease, completely "en su casa", and he made us feel like it was "nuestra casa" too.

2. Control of the liturgy pretty much escaped the program developed by the organizers. The music was supposed to be just a handful of the bilingual (or bilingualized) standards -- Pescador de Hombres, Pan de Vida, I am the Bread of Life, etc... led by a cantor. But then a music group from Texas got up in the balcony and spiced things up with some favorite charismatic alabanzas such as "Nuevo Amor" and "Sumergeme".

Things also departed from the script when the cardinal in his homily began a sentence: "As Cesar Chavez of the Farmworkers movement used to say..." The congregation immediately started to clap and chant "Si, se puede!" and the cardinal happily joined in the clapping and chanting for a few minutes until people quieted down again.

All in all, the multicultural crowd that packed St. Aloysius left spirit-filled and ready to stand up for immigrant rights. Amen, Amen, Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 21 - Part 2: March for America

The second thing I did yesterday was to join in the March for America. I found friends from Arlington -- Fr. Hoyos, Yvonne and Nicki, Enma, fellow union members from California, a sad woman whose Honduran husband is being deported leaving their child fatherless, celebrities -- Los Lonely Boys, El Piolin, Barack Obama via video, and many, many pleas for immigration reform now. And the next generation, already present and active...

March 21 - Part 3: Health Care Reform

The third part of my day yesterday, which began around 5:30 p.m. when the immigration march was over and ended at nearly 11 p.m. when the health care reform bill was passed by the House of Representatives 219-212, was spent picketing in support of health care reform with a group called Catholics United.

When I arrived there were a handful of us and a whole lot of anti-health care bill people of various persuasions and levels of civility. I heard one anti-health care protestor yell "scumbag" at Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and several others yell anti-gay slurs at Rep. Barney Frank. A few days earlier the press reported that some of the anti-health care folks had spat on African-American Congressional representatives and called them "n-----s".

We got a lot of "thumbs up" from supportive Congressional representatives as they were walking up to cast their votes. By the end of the evening my sign had been autographed by four of them: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL), Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), and Rep. Alan Grayson (FL). Rep. Grayson added a note. "Courage!", he wrote. He also spent a lot of time hanging out and talking with health care supporters. Although it was too dark at that point to get signatures, another representative who came up and spoke with me was Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota. She asked where I was from, said that she too was Catholic and would be supporting the legislation, and thanked us for being there. A very gracious person.

We did talk with some of the health care opponents. It was an interesting experience. Many right-to-lifers came up to me because of my sign. The approach was always the same: "What makes this health care bill Catholic?" "Well, the bill is not Catholic, nor is it Muslim, or Jewish or Hindu, etc..." "Well, your sign..." All my sign says is that I'm Catholic and I support the health care reform bill. Then they would say that they had read the bill and that there were hundreds of places where it supports abortion. I would then ask them to name one place in which the bill provides federal funding for abortion. Not a single right-to-lifer could name one single provision in the bill...because there aren't any. Further discussion with some of them revealed that basically anywhere in the bill that deferred any decision to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was considered an "abortion" reference because of Sebelius's pro-choice record. These people don't trust Sebelius as far as they can throw her...but their entire opposition to the bill is on hypothetical, not real, grounds.

One woman from Iowa told me that I was not a good Catholic because I was disobeying our hierarchy. The bottom line is that the bishops and I both agree that abortion is a bad thing. Where we disagree is that they think this bill supports abortion and I don't. This is not disagreement with a teaching of the Catholic church; it is a different reading of one piece of legislation and on that point, the bishops and I can disagree without making me an unfaithful Catholic. This point escapes the fundamentalists in the right-to-life movement.

Interestingly, this same woman then spun off on a tangent saying that the bill violated the principles of subsidiarity. I have to say that this is one of the more esoteric arguments I have heard against health care reform. The woman then explained what she meant by subsidiarity and concluded -- almost to herself -- that the Church doesn't do enough to care for the poor at the local level. When I wholeheartedly concurred with her assessment, she immediately backed off, realizing that she had just violated her own rule against criticizing the Church. These people are a trip.

In the end, we carried the day. The bill is not perfect. It is a start towards providing more people with health insurance. It proves that the Obama administration can tackle a difficult, divisive issue and win. It proves that we can do the kind of legislative work to pull in people from a variety of political positions. All of the lessons from health care reform will serve us well as we move on to deal with immigration reform.