Monthly Archives: July 2010

Don’t Buy the Anti-Immigrant Greenwash

When I think of a toxic flood currently destroying the environment, the BP oil spill comes to the forefront of my mind. But for nativist groups that adopt green rhetoric as a means to an anti-immigrant ends, the poisonous threat to America is a flood of human beings from over the border.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for New Community (CNC) have both released reports on how nativists suddenly became one with Mother Nature if it looks like that might net them a restrictionist immigration policy, a tactic I’ve written about before. The CNC report, “Apply the Brakes: Anti-Immigrant Co-optation of the Environmental Movement,” looks at a group that has adopted population control rhetoric to oppose legal immigration flows. As Imagine 2050 puts it, Apply the Brakes (ATB) and other anti-immigrant environmentalist fronts are revealed by the CNC to as the politically acceptable “contemporary face of white nationalism.”

On Change.org’s Environment blog, Editor Jess Leber writes about the SPLC report, “Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate,” which investigates the attempt of anti-immigrant groups to appeal to progressives by “greenwashing” an intolerant agenda. And hypocrisy is right: as Leber points out, “global warming is, by definition, global. It surely won’t be solved by planting ‘Stay Out’ signs.” Actually, the environment is hurt by items on the nativist wish-list such as sticking a massive wall into the middle of natural habitat.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons for progressives and nativists alike to be concerned about protecting the environment. As Leber wrote in another piece earlier this week, the impact of global warming could push as much as 10% of the Mexican adult population to cross the border into the United States. That’s some seven million people displaced from their homes by the ravages of environmental degradation, which will lead to hotter and drier temperatures south of the border that decrease agricultural productive capacity by about half and cause widespread food insecurity.

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Ask Lady Gaga to Sing Out Against Arizona’s SB 1070

In two days, Lady Gaga is set to play a concert in Arizona, despite an artists boycott of the state over their new racial profiling-encouraging law. And GetEqual, an organization that works toward LGBTQ equality, is asking her not to wear a pokerface on July 31 and to take the opportunity to denounce the law.

As Michael A. Jones points out on Gay Rights, Lady Gaga has some serious activist credentials on behalf of the queer community. But GetEqual wants her to remember that immigrant rights and LGBTQ rights are not separate issues. “As a community of people who understand what government-sanctioned discrimination feels like, it’s important that the LGBT community stand strong with those who are experiencing the same type of discrimination at the hands of others … especially when there are many places where our communities overlap.”

Given that Elton John recently responded to pressure to join the Arizona boycott by calling those musicians who did pull out of concerts “fuckwits,” it’s great to see an LGBTQ organization standing up for immigrants and recognizing that intolerance, discrimination, and hate isn’t in their best interest either. John claimed that, hey, he as a gay man is not allowed to get married in California, and he plays concerts there, so why should he care about the plight of immigrants in Arizona?

How about 36,000 reasons: the estimated number of binational same-sex couples who live in the United States and would be aided by immigration reform with a path to legalization, and would be endangered by laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 Actually, I guess that’s 72,000 reasons.

SB 1070 goes into the effect today, but fortunately some of the worst provisions have been blocked by the ruling of a judge yesterday. Ask Lady Gaga to live up to her activist credentials and sing out for justice at her concert.

Photo credit: Domain Barnyard

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Change.org Members Help Save Domestic Abuse Survivor From Death Row

Gaile Owens was physically and mentally abused by her husband for years before she hired someone to kill him and set her free. Though Owens has been diagnosed as suffering from battered woman’s syndrome, and clearly the constant domestic violence presented extenuating circumstances to her crime, she was sentenced to the harshest punishment we have: death.

But, as Matt Kelley writes on Criminal Justice, after almost 3,000 Change.org members signed a petition created by the Action Committee for Women in Prison, Owens’ sentence was commuted by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen less than three months before her scheduled execution. She remains in prison now serving a life sentence.

In a case of a domestic violence victim retaliating against the person who controls her, both the death penalty and life in prison are extreme sentences. This is not a case in which the perpetrator can be considered to be in her right mind. Owens’ crime was one of desperation against a man who, through his regular abuse, put her a into the mental state in which killing him appeared to be the only way to escape daily torment.

Owens, who has already served 25 years of her sentence, will be eligible for parole in 2012, and the Action Committee for Women in Prison wants to see her set her free. As the parole board should see, Owens does not pose a danger to society based on her prior crime. The 25 years already served — on top of years of mental and physical violence at the hands of her husband — is punishment enough.

Photo credit: Friends of Gaile Owens

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Actor Posing as a Slave Promotes Forcing Women to Be Incubators

Opponents of legal abortion seem to have decided that comparing women exercising control over their own bodies to the enslavement of African-Americans is an excellent new campaign tactic. First there was Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who claimed that abortion is more devastating to black people than slavery. Now, Personhood Colorado has released a radio ad featuring the character of a former slave calling for Colorado voters to essentially ban abortion.

Right Wing Watch reports that the voice actor recites on the air, as patriotic music swells behind him: “I fought so all slaves would be recognized as persons, not property, and we won. But today in Colorado there are still people called property — children — just like I was. And that America you thought you wouldn’t recognize is all around you, and these children are being killed.” The amendment he asks Colorado residents to vote for would basically try to make abortion the legal equivalent of homicide.

This particular Colorado amendment received a mere 27% support last time around, so it’s not a surprise that the anti-reproductive rights group is looking for a flashy campaign that can garner them a lot of attention. Yet let’s remember that, actually, slavery still exists in the United States, and people — particularly women — are still used as property. Personhood Colorado can check out the Human Trafficking blog if it needs a reminder on this.

Then, let’s brush up on the meaning of “slave” and “property” for women in America back before the Civil War.

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White Supremacists Donate to Arizona SB 1070′s Legal Defense

When all these hate groups and white supremacists insist on demonstrating their whole-hearted support for Arizona SB 1070 (which was set to go into effect tomorrow but keys parts have been temporarily blocked), it’s not easy for defenders of the law to reject criticisms that the law is racist through and through.

The deck was stacked against them from the start, what with SB 1070 being designed by Kris Kobach, lawyer for the nativist hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which is all tangled up with white nationalists and has accepted $1.2 million in donations from and published support for the Pioneer Fund, “a foundation established to promote the genes of white colonials.” Up until recently, FAIR listed the group “Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement” on its state contacts page, despite the array of Holocaust denial videos on the organization’s website. Under pressure from civil rights organizations, FAIR decided to fend off well-deserved charges of bigotry by finally removing this Holocaust-denial group from its approved list.

But the white supremacist money trail doesn’t just finds its way to FAIR and the law’s beginnings. American Third Position (A3P), a white supremacist political party whose founder has been friendly with Klansmen and neo-Nazis, wanted to show how much it appreciates what Arizona is doing in terms everybody can understand, so it made (and proudly advertised) a donation to the fund Gov. Jan Brewer set in to prepare for the defense of SB 1070.

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Mexican Women Face Up to 30 Years Prison Time for Having an Abortion

Six women in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato have been sentenced to 25 to 30 years prison time for the crime of making decisions about their own bodies.

Actually, that’s not completely accurate: one woman’s crime was having a body that made the decision for her.

Ms. Magazine reports that the six women were tried and sentence for homicide under laws criminalizing abortion. Activists working with the women reports that all six defendants were poor and had little education. Two were impregnated by rape, and all were abandoned by the sperm-providers. One had a spontaneous abortion, a.k.a. a miscarriage.

In the United States, even those who want abortion banned are divided over whether a woman who goes ahead and obtains or self-induces an illegal abortion should be charged with homicide and locked up in jail for 15 years to life like any killer. But, in Mexico, Guanajuanto can brag about sporting the country’s harshest penalties for abortion, which is only legal in Mexico City, and even rape survivors can face 25 to 30 years in prison.

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Bus Driver Sues After Refusing to Take Woman to Planned Parenthood

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has an unbiased-sounding name, but it’s actually a tool of the Religious Right founded by Pat Robertson, “dedicated to defending and advancing religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the two-parent, marriage-bound family.” The ACLJ is a major proponent of “conscience clauses,” under which health care providers can get out of doing their job if it goes against their beliefs, and backed a Kmart pharmacist who denied birth control pill to women with a valid prescription. Now, ACLJ is trying to extend this protection to bus drivers who refuse to transport women to locations they object to.

Texas bus driver Edwin Graning is suing his former employer for firing him when he refused to do his job. Tasked with driving a woman to Planned Parenthood, he balked under the argument that she might be going for an abortion. Of course, she just as easily might have been going for birth control, sex education, a pregnancy test, or adoption counseling, but none of that really matters — if the woman were going for an abortion, that is fully within her rights.

I consider a man attempting to control a woman’s choices about her own body to be anti-woman and misogynistic. But I’m going to be sympathetic to Graning’s motivation. I believe women’s ability to access abortion is a positive, moral good. On the other hand, I pay taxes toward things I believe are morally wrong, such as the Iraq War. I could partake in a civil disobedience action and refuse to pay, but I’d have to accept being open to prosecution. If I were a bus driver who refused to transport an American soldier to the airport because I thought he might be en route to fighting in Iraq, I could expect to be fired. And I wouldn’t be justified in suing.

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Should a Progressive Conference Be Held in Las Vegas?

This weekend, the fifth annual Netroots Nation, a gathering of liberal progressive bloggers and other people involved with online advocacy, took place at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV. And because I’m a women’s rights blogger, from the time I announced to my friends at home that I’d be headed to Vegas until the day I bid the 100-plus degree weather behind, I was frequently asked a variation on one question: What do I think about the fact that a progressive conference is being held in Las Vegas, a symbol for the sexual exploitation of women?

Las Vegas, in addition to having slot machines everywhere, millions of neon lights, and air conditioning on hyper-drive, also offered cheap hotel rooms. For bloggers and other progressives on a budget (the price tag on Netroots registration itself is already a few hundred dollars), making the conference financially accessible is a significant consideration. But progressives have to consider more than the bottom line in support of their ideology.

Some people say Las Vegas gets props for being honest: after all, exploitation exists everywhere. But Sin City isn’t just more upfront about its darker side: it’s a hub for sex trafficking, particularly of minors, an industry protected by the devil-may-care attitude on the sexual exploitation of women (although sex work is technically illegal within city limits). And the skimpy dress code for waitresses and certain other casino workers is a much rarer find in other cities.

I’m sex-positive, pro-sex worker’s rights, and support women using and displaying their bodies in whatever manner they like. So what I care most about regarding Las Vegas is choice. Recently, at a restaurant in New York with some friends, and one guy remarked, “Could the waitress’s shorts be any shorter?” I supported the waitress wearing what she pleases. But it’s significant that the waitress’s clothes were not part of a work uniform: she was wearing what she wanted to on a hot day. A waitress at Las Vegas has a required uniform designed to bare as much flesh as possible (in a freezing lobby). While she might to a certain extent have the “choice” to take such a job, if the status quo of employment for people without special skills or a higher education is exploitative of women’s bodies, choice is undermined. Trafficking victims, of course, have no choice.

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AZ Governor Funneling Money to Private Prison Corporation Through SB 1070

Chuck Coughlin, one of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s policy advisers and the head of her re-election campaign, has a history of bragging about his ability to “make some [expletive] happen” on behalf of private industry. And just who might he be making shit happen for these days, with Gov. Brewer relying on him for another term in office and his oh-so-important policy advice? Try the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the people who profit from immigration injustice.

CBS 5, a local Arizona news channel, decided to poke around and see what kind of ulterior motives Brewer might have had for signing a racist, unconstitutional, wasteful anti-immigrant bill like SB 1070 law. Coughlin is the president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which just happens to lobby for CCA. And CCA just happens to have a tight grip on the contract for running immigration detention centers. (It’s like playing Connect-the-Dots.)

In fact, CCA already rakes in a good $11 million [corrected] every month, courtesy of the state of Arizona, and once (if) the new harsh anti-immigrant law SB 1070 goes into effect and the number of immigrant detainees rises, that corporation is poised see its profits spike.

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ACLU Video: Would You Ask This Man for His Papers?

Barring any last-minute court action from one of the seven lawsuits levied against Arizona’s SB 1070, the draconian anti-immigrant law that civil rights groups and law enforcement alike agree will promote racial profiling is scheduled to go into effect this Thursday.

Well, the American Civil Liberties Union has something to say about that. What they want to know is: Would you ask this man for his papers?

Brown skin. Spanish-speaking. Doing lawn work. Nothing says undocumented immigrant quite like those three characteristics, am I right? Watch the video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zUAO6Ig8Uk&w=610&h=303]
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