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image4Yesterday in Raleigh, El Pueblo, Inc. joined forces with several volunteers to hold a vigil for the approximately 60,000 children currently attempting to escape the poverty, violence, and fear of their hometowns in Central America to find relief, security, and freedom in the U.S. As Mike Figueras of El Pueblo informed me, for each child’s body found in the desert, there are about 10 more still lost. (A new report from the Immigration Policy Center shines more light on the dire situation).

Several people spoke at the vigil including staff members of El Pueblo, volunteers, and people representing We Are Raleigh. As Mike explained to me, they hope to do much more than the vigil. He stated that they don’t want this issue pushed to the wayside as these children’s lives are precious and in danger. El Pueblo will also be making efforts to inform and persuade those who are eligible for registration so they can vote. This effort needs all the help it can get.

One purpose of the vigil was prayer, practiced silently as everyone gathered in a circle for a “moment of silence.” One female speaker stated that faith in God and prayer are important to them as they no longer feel that can trust or rely on the government. It is a sad day when the leaders of the “free world” struggle to do the morally right thing by providing relief and help to thousands of poor and suffering children.

Another speaker made a great point when he informed the group that the Statue of Liberty itself has a plaque with the following words engraved: Read More

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May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37As more and more “illegal” children are held in detention at the border, mistreated, mocked, and abused, our President continues to “solve” the crisis by deporting them.

These children end up in detention for various reasons. Sometimes, as they are attempting with their families to cross over, they lose them in the desert and end up on their own. Sometimes they are offered opportunities for sneaking in by drug-smugglers. Sometimes, after waiting for many years to immigrate with their parents, they are prevented from entering on the basis that they are no longer considered children.

It is a great injustice that citizens of the US, who consider themselves to be “civilized,” would engage in demoralizing and devaluing the lives of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. Apart from the deportations, which are unjust enough, those who guard our borders have also dehumanized these children through racist mockery, general mistreatment with bad living conditions and inadequate healthcare, and physical and sexual abuse . These innocent children are merely seeking better lives beyond the violence and poverty they have experienced elsewhere when they are not pursuing reunification with their families.

To make matters worse, Border Patrol agents in Texas were warned by an assistant patrol agent not to speak with journalists who are seeking to obtain more information on the crisis. As in the case with Guantanamo Bay, some government officials have a record for lacking transparency in areas where humanitarian crimes are being committed.

Critics of this humanitarian injustice directed at immigrant victims are encouraging the Obama administration to implement  a program of affirmative relief that will dramatically decrease the number of deportations taking place each day. Let’s hope these efforts bear fruit in the very near future as the current situation is clearly intolerable.

Poverty and Policy Matters

In 20 states, undocumented students that graduate from an in-state high school can go to college for in-state tuition. Studies show that these states are reaping serious economic benefits — and a new report shows why it’s time for North Carolina to join them.

Given the demographic and economic changes driving the state’s need for an educated workforce, tuition equity is a cost-effective way to make sure North Carolina isn’t left behind. The report, released today by the Budget & Tax Center, does a great job of presenting the facts and dispelling myths. 

According to Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center and one of the report’s authors, we need tuition equity to prepare our state’s workforce for the jobs of the future.

“Tuition equity is an important tool for furthering the state’s goal of increasing the education of its residents and ensuring that the workforce is ready for the jobs of the future,” Sirota said. “By lowering the cost barrier to college for undocumented students, North Carolina will come out ahead, with minimal costs and strong economic benefits.”

Read the whole news release here, and the report here.

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Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status. It’s an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education, and fortunately is one that will be carried out here in North Carolina as well.

On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a letter to all North Carolina school districts, reminding them of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.

The letter reads:

School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school.

Read More

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Immigrants ICEHouse Speaker John Boehner’s most recent delay tactic in preventing passage of an immigration reform bill has been to state that Republicans have “widespread doubt about whether [the Obama] administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”  As anyone paying attention to the immigration debate is aware, this is a ridiculous statement—the Obama administration has steadily increased the number of deportations conducted compared to previous administrations.  The most recent statistics show that almost 420,000 immigrants were deported in fiscal year 2012, more immigrants deported in a single year by any president.

A recent essay in the D.C. news website The Hill by a retired immigration judge makes a powerful argument against that ridiculous claim.  Retired Judge John Gossart, Jr. remarks:

“In my thirty-one years as a United States immigration judge, I have never had as many people come through my courtroom as I have over the last six years. During this time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of non-citizens that the United States detains and deports, and the detained number of individuals appearing in immigration courts today is unprecedented. Read More