Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Some Calif. latinos receive letter warning them not to vote

By The Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The state attorney general's office is investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month.

"It's a very malicious and degrading letter. It's to pull Latinos down and make them afraid," said Benny Diaz, who is running for City Council in Garden Grove. He said his wife and five other people he knows had received the letter.

The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

The truth is that immigrants who become naturalized citizens can legally register to vote.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said the letter was "something we are investigating aggressively right now." He said the sender could be charged with a felony and receive up to three years in state prison.

Several of the people who received the letters appeared to be naturalized citizens, said John Trasvina, interim president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Source: Seattle Times


Hispanics angered over letter
BY PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press

State and federal officials are investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month.

"It's a very malicious and degrading letter. It's to pull Latinos down and make them afraid," said Benny Diaz, who is running for the City Council in Garden Grove. He said his wife and five other people he knows had received the letter.

The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

The truth is that immigrants who become naturalized citizens can legally register to vote.

In a letter Tuesday to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the letters "racist" and "despicable," and argued that the perpetrators should be tried for a hate crime.

Lockyer spokesman Nathan Barankin said the letter was "something we are investigating aggressively right now." He said the sender could be charged with a felony and receive up to three years in state prison.

The FBI's criminal division in Los Angeles obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday and was reviewing it, said Special Agent Kenneth Smith, a bureau spokesman.
The note's letterhead resembles that of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal-immigration group based in Huntington Beach, and contained the signature Sergio Ramirez.

The group's founder, Barbara Coe, told the Los Angeles Times she did not know anyone named Sergio Ramirez, adding she did not authorize the letter and was unaware of anyone in her group who did. Over the past several days, Coe said, she has taken dozens of calls from Orange County Hispanics who received a letter.

It "puts a shadow on our credibility, that we would target certain people who might be citizens of our country," she said.

She did not immediately return calls Tuesday from The Associated Press.

The letter contained several grammatical errors and reads like a literal translation from English to Spanish, suggesting that it was not written by a native Spanish speaker.

"Why send something like this?" said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles. "The intention is clearly to spread fear and intimidation, and ultimately suppress a vote that is critical in the elections."

John Trasvina, interim president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, suggested that the letter might have a backlash effect.

"A lot of people will get angered by this and say, `No you can't take away my right to vote,"' said Trasvina.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whatever happened to all of those American fruit pickers?

Whatever happened to all of those American fruit pickers that wanted these fruit picking jobs oh so badly?

Whatever happened to all the screaming about Mexicans taking jobs away from Americans?

Whatever happened to that 1 person who said "Mr. President. I'll do those jobs."

Whatever happened to all the high school students that were dying to have a job as a fruit picker?

I tell ya.. Some people tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths.

Everytime I see an article like this, I can't help but be reminded of this image:


Fruit left to rot as US farmers struggle with labor shortage
by Rob Woollard Sun Oct 1, 6:44 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Tougher US-Mexico border controls are having an acute impact on American produce growers, farmers groups say, with tonnes of fruit and vegetables left rotting amid crippling labor shortages.

Farms across the United States are reporting shortfalls in the number of available workers, which in many cases has caused crops to go unpicked.

Blame for the lack of labour is laid squarely at the door of a crackdown on illegal workers crossing the US-Mexico border and the absence of flexible legislation that would allow farmers to hire workers on a seasonal basis.

Toni Scully, co-owner of Scully Packing in northern California's Lake County, said she usually hired 900 fruit pickers to harvest their crop during the three-week window. This year, however, she could only find 500 workers.

"We think about 40 percent of our workers didn't come because of the increased security on the border," Scully told AFP.

"By our estimates we've left about 20 to 30 percent of the crop either hanging on the tree or lying on the ground because we couldn't pick it," she added. "It's just heartbreaking because we had a beautiful crop."

Scully said the labor shortages had not been felt as severely amongst growers of other produce in the region, whose crops were lower this year for unrelated reasons such as adverse weather.

"That's the important thing to bear in mind -- other crops like cherries and raisins were down from 20-40 percent this year and yet many growers still struggled to get everything picked," Scully said.

"If they'd had good crops, then what has happened to us would have been played out across California."

Scully's problems are far from an isolated case, according to farmers trade groupings.

The Western Growers Association, whose 3,000 members in California and Arizona account for around 50 percent of the United States' fresh produce, said the labour squeeze was being felt widely.

"We are getting reports almost on a daily basis from our membership," said WGA spokesman Tim Chelling. "If it's not a crisis then it's certainly close to a crisis. Millions of dollars have been lost so far."

Chelling also said the industry was also losing workers to better paid jobs in the construction and tourism sector.

To combat the problem, the WGA wants Congress to overhaul existing labour laws governing migrant workers.

"The WGA's position is that there should be a complete reform of immigration policies relating to these workers," Chelling told AFP.

"We are seeking a large, stable workforce. At the moment, it's a mess. The policy is a sick policy, and things are getting worse rather than better."

A bill before Congress known as "AgJobs", which would create a program to allow people who have worked in agriculture for a specified period of time to get green cards, failed to be put to a vote in Congress on Friday.

The bill's supporters sought to have it attached to legislation creating a 700-mile (1,100-kilometer) fence on the Mexican border.

Prominent California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein warned of a worsening crisis in the farm sector unless legislation was introduced.

"It is a disaster, and it will be a very costly disaster, for the farm community as well as for the consumers of America," Feinstein said.

California's other Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer echoed Feinstein's warning. "This is tragic for us," Boxer said. "We could lose these farmers. We could lose agriculture."

Despite the bill's failure to progress, Toni Scully says she is grimly optimistic that a solution will be found before next year.

"The writing is on the wall for next year," Scully said.

"But I am optimistic that we will be able to make our point and that the American people will realise that we need to provide the people who grow our food with the workers to do it," she said.

"If we don't, then our family farmers are going to be driven out of business for lack of workers ... the alternative is to be dependent on foreign food like we are on foreign oil."

Yahoo News

Friday, October 13, 2006

What really happened at Columbia University?

The protestor who was kicked in the head ought to file assault charges against the person who kicked him.

The other protestors should file vandalism charges in response to the Minutemen ripping/tearing up their sign.

And the Minutemen should be charged for attempting to obstruct justice by propagandizing what occured at that University on various news outlets.

Right-wing lies about the protest at Columbia

Confronting the Minutemen
By Ben Davis, David Judd and Jennifer Roesch | October 13, 2006 | Page 12

A PROTEST against the anti-immigrant Minutemen at Columbia University in New York City has gained national attention after an attempt by the mainstream media to slander supporters of immigrant rights.

The October 4 forum at Columbia, sponsored by the College Republicans, featured Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen, a vigilante group notorious for organizing armed patrols at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After 40 minutes of the Minutemen’s program, protesters mounted the stage to unfurl a banner reading, “No one is illegal,” in English, Spanish and Arabic. This protest turned violent when Minutemen supporters began assaulting the pro-immigrant protesters.

University officials and the Minutemen decided to call off the rest of the forum, but since then, they--with the help of the New York and national media--have shifted the blame onto protesters for “shutting down free speech.” From the New York Times to Fox News, media outlets claimed that “free speech” was “under attack at Columbia University.”

For more information
Videotape of the protest shot by the Univision television network has been posted at the YouTube Web site. The first selection shows part of the protest. A second selection clearly shows the Minutemen assaulting nonviolent pro-immigrant demonstrators.

A statement by the students who protested on stage at Columbia has circulated around the Internet. The Columbia Spectator has extensive coverage of the protest. Columbia President Lee Bolinger’s statement has also circulated on the Internet.

What you can do

Show your support for the Columbia student protests by calling (212-854-9970), faxing (212-854-9973) or e-mailing ( President Lee Bollinger's office and asking that he stop his threats of discipline. Copy/send messages of support to the Columbia Protesters' Defense Committee at

You can also sign an online petition in support of the protests.

In response, student activists are organizing to get their story of what really happened out more widely--and show that they won’t be silenced by the lies and slanders.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

GILCHRIST’S MEETING at Columbia was more than the latest attempt to gain legitimacy for anti-immigrant scapegoating. As the Minuteman Web site details, the right-wing group is trying to get a foothold on campuses, targeting immigrant students and workers as part of their campaign of intimidation.
As soon as students found out about the event, planning for a protest began. The Chicano Caucus brought together a broad coalition of campus groups, including the Black Students Organization, the College Democrats and the International Socialist Organization (ISO), to sponsor a protest outside the event.

As the October 4 meeting was set to begin, a large and vocal crowd of students and community members had gathered on the sidewalk outside Columbia’s Roone Arledge Auditorium, chanting loud enough to be heard inside.

Inside, the program of speakers was delayed when it became clear that most of the crowd was opposed to the Minutemen. Audience members stood and turned their backs as the first Minutemen speaker launched into what even the apolitical Columbia student publication, the Blue and White, described as a “free-associative rant” about uniting church and state.

After 40 minutes, Gilchrist was introduced. As he took the stage, two students from the ISO did as well, unfurling their “No one is illegal” banner. The crowd cheered, and other members of the audience joined the two pro-immigrant demonstrators on the stage, holding other banners.

The protesters remained peaceful, but--as captured by Univision TV network cameras at the event--the Minutemen and College Republicans turned on the protesters, kicking and punching several people, targeting especially Latino students.

Unable to restore order, campus security eventually closed the curtains and ushered Gilchrist away. Outside the auditorium, protesters gathered to jeer the retreating Minutemen and celebrate.

But the story that university officials and the mainstream media have told about the protest is very different.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger immediately issued a statement denouncing the immigrant rights supporters. “The disruption on Wednesday night that resulted in the termination of an event organized by the Columbia College Republicans in Lerner Hall represents, in my judgment, one of the most serious breaches of academic faith that can occur in a university such as ours,” read the statement.

Administrators have launched an investigation and say they will be scanning campus facebook images and profiles to identify the protesters. They are threatening harsh disciplinary action--not against the College Republicans who attacked peaceful protesters, but against the immigrant rights supporters.

The media responded with the same torrent of abuse that characterized their campaign of the last several years against Columbia faculty who support Palestinian rights.

The New York Post published an editorial calling for the expulsion of all students involved. Fox News hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity invited some of the protesters onto their shows--only to harangue them about why they were against “free speech.”

The pro-immigrant rights protesters responded to the press hysteria in a statement, that read, “We celebrate free speech: for that reason, we allowed the Minutemen to speak, and for that same reason, we peacefully occupied the stage and spoke ourselves. Our peaceful protest was violently attacked by members of the College Republicans and their supporters, who are the very same people who invited the Minutemen to our campus in the first place.”

The denunciations extended to New York politicians--even Mayor Michael Bloomberg stepped in, urging Bollinger to ensure a “safe space” for debate on campus. Unfortunately, some liberal groups have bought the Minutemen’s complaints about being silenced, and joined the condemnation.

Unsurprisingly, protesters have gotten hate mail and death threats. As the Chicano Caucus said in a statement, “We have received numerous messages filled with racist and violent threats due to the misrepresentation in the national media of the Chicano Caucus' involvement. This racist backlash exemplifies the nature of the organization that was brought to our campus, and only validates our initial decision to protest the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project.”

However, the students have also received support for challenging the Minutemen’s racism. “I salute the students who protested the hate speech and join them in opposing any organization or venue that accords hate groups like the Minuteman Project a place to spread their venomous message,” Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association, said in a statement.

At a protest last weekend against anti-immigrant groups rallying at the Mexican consulate in New York, immigrant rights supporters jeered “Columbia, Columbia” at the racists.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

STUDENTS ARE organizing to tell the true facts about what happened, build support and expose the racist violence of the Minutemen. The newly formed Student Protesters’ Defense Committee has organized an online petition and put out a fact sheet that refutes the Minutemen’s lies. It organized a packed press conference Monday and is building for a town hall meeting on campus.
“The Minutemen’s violence is in response to a mass movement of immigrants for justice, a movement that exploded on the streets last spring,” Monique Dols, one of the people who protested Gilchrist onstage, told the press conference. “The Minutemen are trying to silence that movement through fear, intimidation, a whipping up of racist hysteria and outright violence.”

“But,” Dols concluded, “immigrant workers have worked too hard and waited too long for equal rights and dignity. Our movement will not be silenced.”

Source: SocialistWorker

Take action to defend Columbia University protesters!

Write to Columbia University, demand: no reprisals!

On Wednesday night, October 4, progressive students at Columbia University protested the racist Minuteman Project inside and outside the auditorium where they were speaking. Although the students were subject to vicious and violent attacks by Minutemen stormtroopers, they held their ground and Jim Gilchrist, the Minutemen founder, terminated his speech. Now the university is threatening to punish the anti-racist students. It is urgent that you take action now to show your support.

The ANSWER Coalition has set up an easy-to-use mechanism to send a letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in support of student protesters who are being threatened with reprisals following their protest against Jim Gilchrist, founder of the racist anti-immigrant vigilante organization, the Minuteman Project. The protesters went on stage with banners that said, "No One is Illegal" and "Say No to Racism." The protesters were physically assaulted by Minutemen and their supporters. When they spoke out against fascism and racism, they spoke for all of us. Yet, there has been a coordinated campaign seeking reprisals against the students, initiated by FoxNews, the Minutemen, New York City's Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the New York Times, and other media.

It is important to understand that the Minuteman Project is at its core, the same as the Nazis and the KKK. This fact has been confused by the legitimacy granted to the Minutemen by Lou Dobbs on CNN, FoxNews, and other so-called mainstream media, including NPR. David Duke, the white supremacist leader of the KKK, achieved some of the same "legitimacy" from the mainstream media when he ran for Governor in Louisiana. Taking the hood off a Klansman, or the swastika off the arm of a Nazi, doesn't change their fascist essence.

Click here to send a letter to Bollinger expressing your support for the protesters, and to demand that the students suffer no reprisals.

For the initial report from the protest, click here. To see the statement of the protesters, explaining their decision to go on stage, see below.

Racist and fascist groups are not welcome!
Statement of Columbia anti-Minutemen protesters who took the stage against Jim Gilchrist on October 4

October 6, 2006

In the aftermath of the protest on the night of October 4 against Jim Gilchrist and the racist Minutemen at Roone Arledge auditorium, we want to state clearly: We are proud to send the message to the country that racist and fascist groups are not welcome at Columbia or in New York City.

As Chicanos and Latinos, alongside African Americans and progressive people of other nationalities, we took it as our responsibility to give voice to the undocumented immigrant families who live in fear at terrorist vigilante groups like the Minutemen. Armed patrols by these groups force more and more people desperate for work to find even more hazardous ways into the United States. Over 3,000 people—including hundreds of children—have died in the desert. Their blood is on the hands of Gilchrist and his thugs.

Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion. Like Hitler in pre-Nazi Germany, Gilchrist and the Minutemen attempt to demonize foreign-born poor people, blaming “illegals” for society’s problems. His group doesn’t present reasoned debate. It spouts racism and hatred, aiming to divide people against one another.

Regardless of how Gilchrist tries to sanitize his message for national audiences, more candid moments tell the real story. Gilchrist is a member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which is now notorious for referring to Mexicans as “savages.” Speaking about Mexicans and Central American immigrants, Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox once said, "They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people."

This vile racism translates directly into violence on the ground. “It should be legal to kill illegals,” said one Minutemen volunteer. “Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation.” It is no wonder that neo-Nazi organizations like the National Alliance praise the Minuteman Project in their publications, and have members signing up for Minutemen militias.

We are sure that if the Nazi party held a public meeting on campus, Jewish groups would be there to challenge them—so would we. We are sure that if the Ku Klux Klan held a public meeting on campus, African American groups would be there to challenge them—so would we. The Minutemen are no different.

We are pleased that an overwhelming number of people answered our call to demonstrate against the racist, fascist Minutemen the night of October 4. The hundreds of people outside Roone Arledge chanting, “Minutemen, Nazis, KKK, racists, fascists, go away!” represented students and community people from all walks of life. Inside the auditorium, perhaps as much as 80 percent of the crowd was repelled by the Minutemen’s message of hate.

When we walked on stage on the night of October 4, with anti-racist banners for immigrant rights, we were met with violent attack by Gilchrist’s goons. We were the ones who were punched and kicked. We are proud that despite these attacks, we held our ground. When Gilchrist walked off stage, it was because he and his Minutemen outfit were isolated.

This is not an issue of free speech. The Minutemen were able to reserve a hall at our university and had the protection of campus security and the NYPD—all to espouse their hate speech. We along with hundreds of others expressed our right to speak and protest.

Over the last 50 years, throughout the Civil Rights movement and the women’s rights movement, ultra-right wing groups have routinely used violence, lynchings, armed assaults and bombings against oppressed people. Yet when we organize to oppose them to express our contempt for their violence, we are criticized for inhibiting the free speech of the ones who perpetrate violence.

We thank everyone who joined our protest inside and outside of the auditorium.

Shame on the Columbia University administration for launching an investigation of peaceful protesters, and failing to condemn the perpetrators of violence. Shame on the College Republicans for inviting this fascist thug and provoking such outrage on our campus.