President Obama Addresses Immigration Reform Debate (VIDEO)

Today in a press conference, President Obama took two questions from Maria Peña of La Opinión about the immigration reform debate:

Did Peña’s second question even get answered?

Florida Senate President Fears Some Undocumented Students Come From Terrorist Countries

Meet Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R), who earlier today said the following about a proposed state bill (SB 1400) that would give undocumented students the ability to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida’s public universities and colleges:


To give that quote some more context, here is more of what Gaetz said about SB 1400, a bill sponsored by state senator Jack Latvala (who, by the way is a Republican):

“I am told it is ‘good politics’ to support Sen. Latvala’s bill, that it will help Republican candidates appeal to Hispanic voters in the 2014 and 2016 elections,” he wrote. “Perhaps. It is certainly true that the Republican Party has lost much of the Hispanic support President Bush earned in 2000 and 2004 and that Gov. Jeb Bush still has in our state and across the nation.”

But Gaetz argued that SB 1400 is “not limited to Hispanics.”

“It casts a blanket of approval over non-citizens who are in this country without proper legal status from anywhere in the world, including countries which are caldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence,” he wrote. “There is no improper or careless intent behind the legislation, but this bill goes much further than merely reaching out to Hispanic voters.”

Gaetz later pointed out that undocumented students are able to enroll in public universities.

“The question posed by SB 1400 is not whether undocumented students will have access to a Florida public college or university education that is supported by Florida taxpayers — they already do,” Gaetz wrote. “The question is the extent to which parents, struggling to save for their own children’s education, and taxpayers, slowly recovering from a deep recession, should be mandated to pay for substantially increased tuition subsidies for non-citizens, who have not attained legal status in our country.”

Apparently, this whole SB 1400 bill is becoming a big issue with Florida Republicans. According to reports, state senator Joe Negron (another Republican) won’t even put in on the agenda of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Here is what Negron said today in a statement: ”After careful consideration, I have decided not to place Senate Bill 1400 on the Appropriations Committee agenda for our meeting on April 22, 2014.” Negron also said this: “Florida law does not prohibit students who are undocumented from accessing our state colleges and universities. Once these students favorably resolve their residency status, they could become eligible for in-state tuition.”

Latvala (did we mention that he is a Republican?) posted this on his Facebook yesterday:

Children should have the opportunity to receive a college education regardless of their parents’ immigration status. Here’s what others are saying about SB 1400:

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford:
“The State of Florida invests thousands of taxpayer dollars to educate children who are here through no fault of their own. The time has come to stop penalizing them for the mistakes of their parents.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush:
“Punishing these children for their parents’ acts by creating obstacles to a college degree isn’t in their interests, or ours. President Obama and the federal government have failed to reform our broken immigration system. This proposal would ensure Florida keeps and capitalizes on the talent of all Florida students who want to attend our exceptional colleges and universities.”

American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas:
“Granting in state tuition rights to these children, who have lived most of their lives in our state, is not only fair but most importantly smart. Most of them will make their future home in Florida and will be far more productive to our state to their families with a college education. Regardless of your feelings on immigration reform, this is a wise proposal to assure a more productive workforce for our state.”

Council of 100 Chairman Steve Halverson:
“Florida taxpayers annually make a substantial investment in the K-12 education of their children, and it is vital to the state’s economy that we support their continued learning, regardless of immigration status. The Council of 100 urges the Florida Senate to continue its thoughtful review of the topic…”

Associated Industries of Florida:
“All Florida high school graduates should qualify for in-state tuition at our public colleges, universities and independent universities regardless of their immigration status, subject to meeting all admission standards. While the federal government continues its inaction on a national immigration policy, the Legislature should do what it can to ensure our workforce is well educated and prepared for demands of a growing economy.”
Like this if you agree that these students should have the opportunity to receive an affordable college education! ‪#‎sayfie‬

And today, Latvala reportedly said this:

But back to Gaetz and his American flag backdrops:


Seriously? Gaetz must come from a part of Florida that likes to believe that an “illegal” invasion is coming. Oh yeah, that’s exactly from where he’s from—a district where 77.7% of voters are “Single-Race Non-Hispanic White.”

By the way, you CAN help. Just go here and call.

David Sal Silva: An American Tragedy (Epilogue)

Last year, ran a three-part series by local Bakersfield journalist/writer Nicholas Belardes about the in-custody death of David Sal Silva. This weekend’s news that no charges would be filed by the local district attorney led to the following epilogue by Nicholas. The previous posts in the series are linked here: “Part One: Culture of Drugs,” ”Part Two: Culture of Violence” and “Part Three: Analysis Of A Protest.” (All photos in the following are credited to Nicholas Belardes.)

Epilogue: Protesting David Sal Silva’s Beating Death

I was at the hospital again, this time for an x-ray of my left foot for an appointment I would never keep. I waited three months. I was in Texas writing by the time I was notified. There were other appointments at the same hospital. The cancer doctor who said I didn’t have cancer. The bloodwork. The chest x-ray. I left each appointment just as I came. Questions piled regarding the mysteries of my health. I’d told a doctor “you’re not listening.” Had given her a detailed timeline of my injury. The cancer doctor at Kern Medical Center said I needed to Google my answers.

This is the hospital in Bakersfield that turned David Sal Silva away when he sought help. Each time I showed up I slowed next to the corner of Palm and Flower streets. Each time I imagined David Sal Silva’s howls, his vomiting in the darkness, his blood still damp in the morning as if grass could bleed dew.


I blame Silva for the drugs he was on. I blame the hospital for turning him away. I blame officers, even their hungry, snarling attack dog, for working his heart into an explosive frenzy. I blame society for not caring. I blame what has been defended by law officials as the legality of his beating for de-humanizing all of us when it comes to the force officers can use when other solutions are apparent. I blame a lack of compassion, a lack of empathy in the media’s own opinion-makers.

I blame the contradictions regarding the word, drugs. We live in a drug-crazed society, both intolerant and in denial. I wonder why so many love Matthew McConaughey as the heroic drugged-up detective Rust Cohle in True Detective, but could hate Silva, a man like Cohle who was looking to be reborn through the fires of the down-and-out.

Often when drugs are connected with a death, the substance abuser is vilified. Any related cause-and-effect complexities are ignored. So I’m not surprised by Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green saying there would be no charges in the death of Silva, a man who was addicted, self-abused, outcast, alone, desperate, high, wanting help, wishing for a new life, then fell asleep, only to be awakened by an attack from officers and a K-9, all while tragically across the street from a hospital and drug treatment center.


I wasn’t surprised when a longtime journalist, one who admittedly is friends with the previous district attorney posted on my Facebook, “Without Silva’s drug intoxication, he might have compiled willingly or certainly after the first dog bite. But his reactions set everything else in motion. It sounds nice to have deputies try to use their weight to subdue him, but in the face of a thrashing violent big man, that doesn’t support officer safety. So the officers applied force in a legal way.”

It doesn’t surprise me the local sheriff would blurt words out like some militaristic automaton stuck on repeat, “The facts are the facts. I knew the facts and I knew the result would be the same because you can’t change the facts.”

It doesn’t surprise me the same newspaper would only offer the point of view of the officers in its re-telling of details, presenting a highly illogical connecting-of-the-dots between Silva’s death and his drugged state of mind, instead of looking into the highly complex cause and effects of his fatal night that also includes a culture of police violence.

“Silva refused to comply,” the newspaper said.


Where this media language is vague is it doesn’t take into account how the officer could assume Silva was in his right mind to comply (the article also stated the officer suspected drugs prior to attacking Silva). At what point, for example, is a mental patient expected to comply or not comply? How is it that violent mental patients in hospitals are restrained without strikes and blows? How was it even possible to make such a judgment against Silva that he should be attacked for standing up? Sounds like a medical issue that could have been addressed across the street at the hospital.

“I hate the system here,” an emergency room doctor at the same hospital once confided in me.

This is an American tragedy being repeated, one where families of addicts (along with the rest of us) need to ponder this fine line between the legality of reasonable and excessive force, and then protest.

I’ve thought many times while passing Silva’s stop-sign memorial: this is Bakersfield’s Fruitvale Station. I imagine writing a story similar to the tragedy of Oscar Grant, a man who was trying to better his life, who found himself struggling in cuffs, who was shot in the back in cold blood on a BART platform.

Silva was trying.

I wonder about writing such a film and its resulting impact were such a movie to be made.

Silva was exiled from a health facility before being beaten and bit to death under a grey blanket of legalities. In his death I see the dispassionate, the robotic coldness in men and women: the D.A., law officials, the media people who love their relationships with law organizations (and so rarely criticize them) who like too many in society seem to be coldly unaware of the humanity in others, making excuses in the name of legality like so many Southern politicians and officials once said while supporting lynch-laws.

when will it stop

I told that journalist he lacked compassion. He can’t see that every baton strike, every dog bite, every crush and scrape was another string of rope for Silva.


nickb_poetryNicholas Belardes is a journalist, novelist and poet in Bakersfield, California. He has worked in television, radio and print news. You can follow him @nickbelardes or visit his site.

The Only Video You Need to See About Current White House Hunger Strike

Just watch.

For more, go to, Puente Arizona or follow #Not1More on Twitter.

The Drug War = Mass Deportation: 250,000 Deported for Drug Offenses in Last 6 Years

The drug war has increasingly become a war against migrant communities. It fuels racial profiling, border militarization, violence against immigrants, intrusive government surveillance and, especially, widespread detentions and deportations. 

Media and politicians have tried to convince us that everyone who gets deported is a violent criminal, a terrorist or a drug kingpin. But a newly released, first-of-its-kind report shatters that notion, showing instead that the majority (some two-thirds) of those deported last year were guilty of minor, nonviolent offenses – including thousands deported for nothing more than possessing small quantities of drugs, typically marijuana.

The report, an analysis of federal immigration data conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, details how roughly 40,000 people have been deported for drug law violations every year since 2008. That means that nearly 250,000 – one-quarter of a million – people were deported for nonviolent drugoffenses in just the past six years. A nonviolent drug offense was the cause of deportation for more than one in ten (11% of) people deported in 2013 for any reason – and nearly one in five (19%) of those who were deported because of a criminal conviction.


Much as the drug war drives mass incarceration, it also appears to be a major driver of mass deportation. Indeed, the report reveals that simple marijuana possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any crime, and the most common cause of deportation for crimes involving drugs. On average, more than 6,600 people were deported in each of the last two years just for personal marijuana possession, and overall, nearly 20,000 people were deported last year for simple possession of any drug or drug paraphernalia.

By contrast, relatively few of those deported were drug traffickers, let alone violent ones.  “Convictions for drugtrafficking accounted for only one percent of deportees recorded as convicted of a crime,” the report’s authors note, “while marijuana possession was more than three times that level.”

What becomes of the people who are deported? The sad, simple truth is that they will first likely be disappeared within the (increasingly for-profit) U.S. prison and detention system; then sent back to their countries of origin, where they may no longer have any ties to family or community, may lack basic survival needs like food, housing and health services and may face serious threats to their security. Those who are removed from the country are usually barred from reentry, often for life – no matter if they have family members who are U.S. citizens or decades-long ties to their communities of residence here in the states.

The result, then, is thousands of families broken and communities torn apart every single year.

Because of these grave consequences, advocates for drug policy reform and defenders of migrants’ rights have begun to team up to demand humane reforms to both drug and immigration policies. Central to our demands is that no one be arrested, incarcerated or deported for merely using or possessing drugs – which necessarily entails two major drug law reforms: (1) legalize and regulate marijuana, and (2) stop arresting and criminalizing people for using or possessing everything else.

These commonsense reforms are hardly controversial: recent polls indicate that substantial majorities nationwide seem to favor both proposals. Yet, though modest, they would have a huge impact: sparing tens of thousands of people from deportation every year, while saving tens of thousands more from the anguish of an arrest, conviction, jail or prison sentence, and criminal record; and saving millions of dollars in currently wasted criminal justice resources.

Such steps are critical for dismantling the war on drugs and ending the war on immigrants – a fight that is, in many ways, one and the same.


Daniel Robelo is research coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.orgThis piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog./em>

District Attorney Will Not Press Charges in Death of David Sal Silva

It has been close to a year since the in-custody death of David Sal Silva at the hands of Kern Country deputies occurred in Bakersfield, and yesterday the district attorney who had promised to conduct an independent investigation about the Silva’s death said that no charges will be filed in the case. According to reports, Green said that Silva’s death was not a homicide and that “law enforcement used reasonable force to arrest him.” Local reports also said that “Silva did not follow [deputies'] orders and fought with them. Family members said Silva went to Kern Medical Center to seek help for mental illness.”


Here is raw video from that night:

Here is a local report about Green’s comments:

Sheriff (and Coroner, yes, Coroner) Donny Youngblood told the local media, “The facts are the facts. I knew the facts and I knew the result would be the same because you can’t change the facts.” This is coming from the guy who not only heads up Kern County’s law enforcement, but also heads up the county’s medical examiner office.

Local reports also shared parts of a statement from David Cohn, lawyer for the Silva family: “this is the reason we need an independent advisory panel evaluating these types of cases. Kern County District Attorney’s office personnel work with these agencies every day, and they’re the ones in charge of prosecuting cases for them. Apparently, the way it works in Kern County is that unless they catch the officers red-handed, nothing will happen. It appears that they look for ways not to prosecute.”

Last year, just weeks after the death of his son, Silva’s father said the following to a Los Angeles radio host:

From everything that I could see, there were several officers just wailing away at him with batons. It looked like they were doing batting practice. As just like you said, [Michael], they murdered him on the street, basically, they murdered him on the street. I don’t condone the fact that my son was drunk or passed out, but in what world does that kind of a crime meet that kind of punishment? And where… who… whether the sheriff or anyone can say that that’s justifiable. Now they’re trying to say that my son had high blood pressure, that he had meth in his system, that he was depressed, I don’t know… He died of natural causes. That’s what they’re trying to say, I mean, really? How can anyone, how can the sheriff… anyone say that after what they say on the videos? They’s basically saying “Don’t believe your lying eyes or your lying ears, just because we did nothing wrong here, he died of natural causes.”

Start Speaking Spanish!

By now you’ve probably seen the OC Weekly video of a Santa Ana school police officer pinning a 14-year-old boy to the ground with a chokehold.

Understandably most people find the video disturbing and difficult to watch. I, on the other hand, love it. It’s as close to a perfect video capturing the ugliness in our society as you’re likely to come across.

Here you have a faux-cop tackling a young brown boy, choking him and eventually telling innocent bystanders to “Stop speaking Spanish!” Predictably, the monolingual officer at the center of this incident is white. Nonetheless the imagery couldn’t have been more vivid if it were Uncle Sam himself on top of the boy.

“Stop speaking Spanish”? In a place like Santa Ana, California?

Not only is Santa Ana, California one of the most Hispanophone place names in America. And not only did California’s Latino population become the state’s largest ethnic group, like, literally just last month. But the Latino population boom has led to a push to make Latinos more “American” by pressing them to learn English and (Anglo-)American history. The push is led by people who think the United States is a white, English-speaking country and should remain so.

Yet the cop in the video doesn’t say “Speak English!” He says “Stop speaking Spanish!” While strangling a brown boy. In Santa Ana, California. Where Latinos are the largest ethnic group.

So maybe the bystanders shouldn’t have complied with the faux-cop’s command. (“We’re telling him to relax!”) Maybe they should’ve answered back, “¡Aprenda español!”


As it stands, the U.S. has no official language. Immigrants from all around the world come here and learn English because that’s what the overwhelming majority speak in most places. Some of us learn a Eurocentric version of American history because, again, where some of us live, white Americans predominate.

That’s how society works: newcomers assimilate to show they want to become members of the group.

But in California and New Mexico, where Latinos are the plurality —and in cities like Los Angeles, El Paso, Miami, Union City, or even just neighborhoods like Pilsen and La Bajada— assimilating should mean picking up a little Spanish too. If you’re moving somewhere or just visiting, you should learn the language.

The idea, however, that America is increasingly becoming a multicultural, multilingual nation where non-Latinos will have to learn Spanish scares people who consider the proliferation of Spanish and Latino Studies the un-Americanization of America.

This is what divides progressives and conservatives, and even some progressives from other progressives. Some people, and I won’t say who, don’t want America to be anything but majority white. They don’t want to be forced to learn any other language, and they don’t want to be forced to learn about any other ethnic groups.

Truth is America was never strictly a white, English-speaking country to begin with. It’s always been more cosmopolitan than that—which most Americans would know if Latino history were taught in more schools.

As America becomes more multicultural, people will speak in many different tongues. The United States happens to share its hemisphere with nearly 600 million souls living in Latin America, and, naturally, Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the United States, making it the 5th largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

That means no one, not even some faux-cop, can keep Latinos from speaking Spanish.

On the other hand, now that Spanish is already the language of the land in many areas, and is on the cusp of becoming so in many others, maybe it’s time non-Spanish-speaking Americans begin assimilating to the future. Maybe they should start speaking Spanish.


Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. is a Chicago-based writer. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.

NDLON Publishes Blue Ribbon Immigration Recommendations for President

What follows is an executive summary published today by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) containing the findings of a Blue Ribbon Commission that NDLON helped to form. As it states on its site, “former and currently undocumented immigrant leaders formed a Blue Ribbon Commission to perform an independent review and present its recommendations to the President, helping fill the noticeable lack of representation from those seeking legal status and citizenship in recently-convened White House meetings. They request a meeting with the President to discuss their findings and hear directly from those who are impacted by potential upcoming policy changes.”

This is the executive summary:

#Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission Summary

The full report will be shared later today. You can access it here.

Here are the commissions’s members:











Border Patrol (With Local Sheriffs) Apprehending Undocumented Immigrants in Churches

UPDATE: We changed the head since it suggested that Border Patrol agent entered the church as well. That is not clear, but what is clear is this: undocumented immigrants were in a church, local sheriffs found them and then BP showed up.

This story got our attention when we received the following email from a loyal reader of this site:

I am on a social media “cleanse” for Lent, so apologize if you’ve already covered this. But it is OUTRAGEOUS!!

In short: Latino, poor, at a Catholic Church? Sheriffs in AZ consider that cause to question. I’m going to have to break my cleanse for this…

The reason why our fan is breaking the Lenten cleanse? The following tweet, which was also part of the email:

That tweet led us to this story out of Tucson: “N4T Investigators: Undocumented immigrants taken into custody at Ajo Catholic church” We did a double take before we started reading:

According to a Pima County Sheriff’s Department incident report obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, a deputy passing by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church spotted three Hispanic males on the front porch of the church. The three were wearing dingy and tattered clothing, and were also carrying water bottles.

The deputy goes on to say that all three then hurriedly walked into the church. The deputy then went into the church, which was not in session. Ultimately, the three told him they had come from Honduras, walking three months, and crossing the border illegally.

After taking the trio outside, the deputy detained the three until Border Patrol arrived. An agent them took the men into custody, after confirming they were in the country illegally.

“They had a suspicious look, and their behavior indicated that they were potentially up to no good. That’s why our deputy honed-in on it,” says Captain Frank Duarte, with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Tucson report, the incident happened on March 23. That would be a week before U.S. bishops held a “Border Mass” in Nogales, right next to the U.S. “security” fence, to draw attention to migrant deaths and the need for immigration reform:

Talk about mixed messages. In fairness, the Tucson report also talked with the Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon. Here is what the report said: 

Kicanas says there is a long-standing custom of the Border Patrol, police and sheriff to respect the sanctity of the church and not apprehend people inside. He also raised concerns that the group had entered the church seeking help, and asking to pray. Kicanas added, while police can legally question someone who looks suspicious it was not clear that the men had done anything wrong to lead to their apprehension in the church.

You can just imagine the reaction people are sharing with us on Twitter and Facebook. Here are just a few comments:

Is it legal? Technically, yes. Does it look really bad? Of course.

As another person wrote, “Not even the Church they respect. God Almighty.”

By the way, here is what ICE (a different agency from Border Patrol but in the business of “enforcing” immigration) said in 2011 about these situations: “This policy is designed to ensure that these enforcement actions do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches unless (a) exigent circumstances exist~ (b) other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location…” So since the Tucson case also had local law enforcement in the mix, we guess it was cool to raid a church and deport some migrants.

Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations

Looks like Border Patrol didn’t get ICE’s memo. Sure, BP is a different agency from ICE, but still. While we are on that subject, here is the difference:

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for protecting our nation’s borders in order to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for identifying and shutting down vulnerabilities in the nation’s border, economic, transportation and infrastructure security.

We digress, but it is interesting how U.S. Customs and Border Protection defines each agency.

Nonetheless, such news today also reminded us of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, where many churches were active to help Central Americans who where fleeing brutal civil wars, which, quite frankly, were being instigated by the U.S. government. As one outlet writes:

At the Sanctuary Movement’s height in the mid 1980s, over 150 congregations openly defied the government, publicly sponsoring and supporting undocumented Salvadoran or Guatemalan refugee families. Another 1,000 local Christian and Jewish congregations, several major Protestant denominations, the Conservative and Reform Jewish associations, and several Catholic orders all endorsed the concept and practice of sanctuary. Sanctuary workers coordinated with activists in Mexico to smuggle Salvadorans and Guatemalans over the border and across the country. Assistance provided to refugees included bail and legal representation, as well as food, medical care, and employment.

The defense of the Salvadorans and Guatemalans marked a new use of international human rights norms by U.S. activists. Citing the Nuremberg principles of personal accountability developed in the post-World War II Nazi tribunals, religious activists claimed a legal precedent to justify their violation of U.S. laws against alien smuggling. Other activists claimed that their actions were justified by the religious and moral principles of the 19th-century U.S. abolitionist movement, referring to their activities as a new “Underground Railroad.” Many U.S. religious leaders involved in the Sanctuary Movement had prior experience in the 1960s civil disobedience campaigns against racial segregation in the American South.

The fact is that yes, law enforcement can go into any church in the U.S. and apprehend people. Border Patrol sees so no problem. ICE agents are not allowed… unless, of course, they are accompanied by local law enforcement. However, many still think such an act is a desecration.

From OCWeekly: Cop Puts Boy in Chokehold & Tells People to “Stop Speaking Spanish”

This one comes from our friends at OC Weekly: “A Santa Ana School Police Department officer is at the center of controversy after someone filmed him putting a young boy in a chokehold. The incident occurred shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday at Adams Park, on the corner of Warner Avenue and Raitt Street.” According to the article, the officer also told people watching the incident to stop speaking Spanish.

Santa Ana School Cop Puts Crying Boy in Chokehold from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

You can read the full story here on OC Weekly. As you might imagine, the online reaction has been intense so far:

Follow @OCWeekly for more updates.

Earlier today, OC Weekly posted a statement from Santa Ana police: