law


Judy Ackerman Protesting at Rio Bosque

EL PASO – A 55-year-old Army veteran hunkered down in front of construction crews who were building the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, halting work for about eight hours before she was arrested.

Judy Ackerman, one of about a dozen people at a peaceful protest east of El Paso on Wednesday, was handcuffed by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers after several hours of figuring out which authority was responsible for removing her. It wasn’t clear what charges she’d face.

Work on the fence resumed immediately after Ms. Ackerman was led away. Before her arrest, the white-haired woman sporting a reflective vest and hard hat cheerfully chatted with authorities. About 20 workers were milling around the site, leaning against heavy equipment and dump trucks and taking pictures of her with their cellphones.

“They have a job to do, but today their job is to take a break,” said Ms. Ackerman, a retired sergeant major who spent 26 years in the Army.

She crossed a canal before workers arrived and took up a position on a levee where large steel poles were being erected. The levee is in a desolate area several miles east of downtown El Paso, near the 370-acre Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.

“They have this wonderful park here, and the wall is messing it up,” Ms. Ackerman said.

She was on land maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission. Al Riera, the principal engineer for the commission, said officials were notified about her presence early Wednesday and spent several hours trying to figure out what agency should remove her.

The Associated Press

www.vmlaw.us

Advertisements
Follow the link below to hear NYU Law Professor Cristina Rodriguez’ lecture at Yale Law School entitled Burden Sharing in an Age of Migration.
Graphiti Art in Bethlehem

Graphiti Art in Bethlehem

www.vmlaw.us

Today three judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the rights of Baldomero and Hilaria Muñiz, and Pamela Rivas.  Both families live in Los Ebanos and are refusing DHS access to survey their properties prior to building a border wall.  Those arguments can be heard here.

All three judges are white, and all three were nominated by Republican presidents.  Judge E. Grady Jolly and Judge Edith Brown Clement seemed rather unsympathetic to the arguments of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid lawyer Jerome Wesevich, whose voice was shaky, and seemed off balance throughout his argument.  Judge Clement was the most antagonistic and offensive on the three judge panel.  She scoffed at the concern of the landowners that their properties could be severely damaged.  Although DHS’ own language says the government can destroy buildings in the way of survey equipment, she mocked the property owners’ concerns by saying that DHS “might trim some hedges.”  She also invoked the term “illegal aliens.”  And although Judge Jolly later referenced the landowners’ inability to speak English as a reason to sympathize with regular people being bullied by their government, Judge Clement seemed to think their Spanish language was making it unreasonable for DHS to do it’s job (as if we were here to facilitate our government’s attacking us, rather than the government being here to serve its people).  Judge Priscilla Richman Owen, the lone Texan on the bench, did not question Wesevich.

When his turn arrived, DHS attorney John Arbab was quickly cut off by Judge Jolly because DHS’ position is that the 5th Circuit did not have jurisdiction to hear the cases.  His basic sense of fairness was offended by the government’s claim that they could condemn property without the landowner being able to sue and appeal.  But Arbab seemed to me to successfully parry the judge’s questions and argued calmly and confidently.

Judge Clement appeared most interested to know if the Los Ebanos families were basically alone, or whether other residents along the route of the wall were also suing.  According to DHS’ Arbab, there are 250 cases, 193 “footprint cases” and 57 “right of entry cases.” (This number will increase when the Texas Border Coalition processes the more than 120 affidavits of Brownsville landowners who, thanks to the assistance of Border Ambassadors and C.A.S.A., recently started the legal process of suing DHS.)

Graphiti Artist Banksy

Graphiti Artist Banksy

As for Judge Owen, I would guess that of the three, this George W. Bush appointee is our best ally.  She questioned why the pre-suit offer of DHS to landowners was $0.  She also seemed upset that DHS was suing for access to survey when independent of any survey DHS has determined that a fence is needed and has filed a condemnation lawsuit as well, thus getting the cart before the horse, and assuming the outcome of the case being argued while simultaneously making it appear unnecessary for DHS to survey.

During his time for rebuttal, Wesevich performed much better, arguing much more confidently.  Despite a comfortably closed-minded Clement, Wesevich pushed back.  Still, Judge Jolly ended the session with the statement that the landowners “need lawyers, but they don’t need lawyers,” meaning, they need someone who lets them know that they have a right to negotiate for a price, but not someone who is going to sue.  Hopefully that doesn’t mean Judge Jolly wishes to sweep the rights of border residents under the rug.

I’m not a lawyer yet, but I’d guess that these Los Ebanos families will lose their right of access cases, but that the 5th Circuit will claim jurisdiction, ensuring each landowner the opportunity to appeal.

 

The Border Ambassadors, led by Jay Johnson-Castro, passed out fliers for TRLA in Los Ebanos during the Warch Against the Border Wall from March 8 – 16, 2008.  TRLA had already announced their information session to the residents of Los Ebanos before we arrived, and it is impossible to know whether we helped encourage the members of the Rivas or Muñiz families, but I’d like to think we didn’t hurt.  I vividly remember hobbling up to Mike Johnson with his wife Cindy in the distance, also with tired legs and sore feet, handing  out our last TRLA information fliers.  We worked not until we were tired or in pain (we were tired and in pain before we started), but until we were out of fliers.

Jeanette Ruiz and other activists marching against the Border Wall

Jeanette Ruiz and her family marching against the Border Wall

Those are the kinds of selfless acts, passing out fliers after already marching all day in the hot sun, that drive this movement and make me proud of those I work alongside.  The weekend before the Brownsville City Commission met to vote on whether to give city land to DHS to build a wall, another Border Ambassador and I, Jeanette Ruiz, working in conjunction with C.A.S.A., met a tattooed and pierced young man who lives along the fence’s route.  Although he had to work until after the start of the city meeting, he said that he would pick up his mother and come late.  And thank heaven they did.  His witty humor kept me from becoming angry, and his mother, pleading in Spanish for help maintaining the home (not just the house) where she raised her family, broke the hearts of all those in attendance.  She was the heroine of the night. The courageous Dr. Tamez calmly and eloquently conveyed her conviction. Mr. Paz from Sabal Palms also provided necessary support. Mr. and Mrs. Lucio from Ft. Brown made their persuasive and thoughtful argument. Michelle Taylor and her husband were at their courageous best.  Others of us less prominent Brownsvillians made valuable input, speaking truth to power. And we will never know who influenced whom, or what the outcome of the vote would have been without all of these people acting together. But like the widow and her mites in Jesus’ parable, by finding the courage to plead with the commissioners, this humble woman from La Moria cast in more than us all.

For the sake of that woman, for the sake of the Muñiz and Rivas families, for the sake of our beloved borderlands where integration, multiculturalism and bilingualism flourish, please join with Border Ambassadors, No Border Wall Coalition, C.A.S.A., or any other organization you feel comfortable working with (and if that doesn’t work, just find a friend), and go door-to-door along the fence route, in whatever town you live, collecting signatures on the Texas Border Coalition’s Affidavit.  We need your help.

website metrics






 

website metrics

Today, I gave this speech to the Brownsville City Council Meeting during the public comment portion.  The Brownsville Herald ran an article on Sunday that said that the Mayor was betrayed by the City Council who went behind closed doors to allow the Army Corps of Engineers onto city land to survey for the wall.  It is in response to that that I wrote this speech-on the back, and in the margins of the agenda.   

Yesterday, Princeton University recognized five of my 8th grade students for essays they wrote on the topic “What would Martin Luther King say and do about immigration?”  Princeton opened this year’s essay contest to my students because they used my blog, nonviolent migration, as a resource for their contest.  These five students, Melissa Guerra, Yessenia Martinez, Abigail Cabrera, Vanessa Trevino, and Blanca Gonzalez were the only five students who had the faith to submit an essay and all were recognized by Princeton. 

I asked the rest of my 121 students to speak honestly about why they had decided not to write for the contest.  The overwhelming number of students responded that it wasn’t worth trying because they felt that because Princeton is in the North, they would prejudge their work since they live on the border.  This experience reminded me once again just how excluded these children feel.   Even though this wall will be South of most of my students, my students are smart enough to know that the same motive behind this wall is also shouting at them, saying, “You are not us; keep out!” 

These students, who started with such enthusiasm when the contest was announced, lost hope and they let their fears overcome their faith.  This broke my heart because I love my students, but your capitulation is something other than heartbreaking because you are no longer 8th graders.  We expect you to hold out hope.  We expect you to keep the faith.  We expect you to work for us, and let us fight this fight. 

At this time, we want to express our love… and forgiveness… to all the members of the commission.  However, as a result of your action, we must now find a legal way to undo what you’ve done so that my 8th graders don’t come to learn that you prejudged them too. 

website metrics

Siding with justice if not the law

GERALD E. SHENK

In today’s parlance, Douglass, a runaway slave, was an “illegal immigrant” into the free states. Under Maryland law in the 1840s, Douglass was the private property of Thomas Auld. Not only was it illegal for him to run away, it was illegal for others to assist him.

Article IV, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution required the authorities of any state to which Douglass traveled to arrest and return him to his owner, whether or not slavery was legal in that state.

By the 1850s, federal law required citizens of every state to assist in the capture and return of slaves. Thousands of average citizens knowingly faced arrest and imprisonment for violating this law. Some died for their refusal.

Today, every argument against “illegal immigrants” has its analog in the defense of slavery. Runaway, or freed, slaves created unfair competition for jobs; they were, by definition, criminals; they threatened social and cultural cohesion.

The only argument they and their allies had was justice.

The full article can be found here.

website metrics

“The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin [read disobedience] increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20 NIV

With the advent of a nation-based quota system in 1924, many immigrants found themselves found themselves on the wrong side of a new law. Because of the quota system, it became illegal for many Mexicans to cross a border which was less than 80 years old. As the popular slogan states, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Many immigrants who had been pouring in legally were obstructed, and these quotas failed to take into account the growing and dynamic needs of our country and the globalizing world. With the creation of more laws, there will inevitably be more criminals, not necessarily more peace.

The United States of America must soon decide whether it wants to continue waging the costly and ultimately self-defeating war it has been waging against immigration. The border wall, estimated at $4-8 billion dollars, and the President’s proposed $13 billion for Border Security are huge costs to stave off a necessary immigrant pool. Just yesterday, the first Baby Boomer cashed her Social Security check; at a time like this, we should be encouraging young, qualified immigrants. Who else will foot the bill for our millions of retirees?

Immigrants have always been the lifeblood of our economy, and that is no different in today’s world. In fact, immigrants are even more important in today’s economy. Immigrants bring the world economy and global competition within our borders. At a time when America is ceding its position to China and the EU as the world’s prime economic regulator, our nation must realize that it is far better to bring people into our country than to export business outside our country. For years, our production companies have been sending jobs and values overseas. Immigrants are the main reason many key “American” industries are still profitable and still centered in the continental U.S. To continue criminalizing immigrants is to ignore the rough lessons of globalization and to accept a position as an economy in decline.

Our nation is bogged down with the expense and legislation of fighting a battle that we must not and should not wish to win. China is just now re-emerging as a true world power after years of shutting its doors and walling in its borders. With its new legislation, the United States appears to be turning back the clock and starting down that same path of isolationism and xenophobia.

These are the economic and legislative reasons our nation must opt against the continued criminalization of immigrants. What follows are ideas for ways in which to nonviolently voice opposition to this philosophy. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in “New Day in Birmingham” from his book Why We Can’t Wait, “It is terribly difficult to wage such a battle without the moral support of the national press to counteract the hostility of local editors.” (53) This tenet still holds true. Save for a few feature stories and the publicity surrounding the May Day protests 2 years ago, the media has been largely silent or silenced on this subject. It is the duty of the active citizenry, both legal and criminalized, to inform our nation’s media sources about the true heart of the immigration issue. If every informed reader would take genuine concern and write an OP-ED piece to his local newspaper or her college newspaper, this issue would again become the conversation piece it was before it was voted down in our nation’s lawmakers. If concerned citizens in our nation’s borderlands and cities would write articles or suggest immigrant stories to editors, newspapers and magazines would cover these stories because their readership demands it.

As I write, Mayor Ahumada in Brownsville, TX, is seeking to impose a court injunction against the construction of an unsightly, ineffective, and retrogressive border fence. Whereas in the times of Martin Luther King, Jr., the court injunctions were resisting positive changes in the realm of civil rights, this court injunction and others like it are seeking to use legal means to stop our country from continuing to make an unwise decision. Support for his efforts, and the efforts of all politicians and attorneys who are fighting for immigrant rights, is much needed at this time of dire urgency.

It is time for all God’s people to echo with one voice that anti-immigrant laws and quotas are immoral and retrogressive. It is time to say “Basta! Quotas were a bad idea in the 20s, and they are just as bad now.” We cannot afford to put this off until the next election. We must not just “sit” on this issue, because it is the backbone of our nation’s future. While 12 million illegal immigrants work and reside in this country without rights or legitimacy, none of us can rest assured of our inalienable rights. While 12 million “illegal” immigrants remain unjailed, unprosecuted, unprotected and disrespected, we must ask ourselves and our politicians if our nation can long endure with this many working citizens on the wrong side of such a law. If illegal aliens can be alienated because of an unjust quota system, then the very rights of citizenship itself are unjust. We must work in every facet and every means to nonviolently inform, persuade, and insist on true immigration reform. Our country desperately needs to rediscover grace.

website metrics

Next Page »