Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Latinos experience discrimination in historic town

Historic community from the mid-1600s did not learn from past mistakes
By Adrian Perez

East Haven, Connecticut was established in the mid-1600s and was known for being perhaps the nation’s first iron works.  Although the community is old, it has remained relatively small (pop. 28,000) compared to its neighbor only 70 miles south, New York City.  Like many towns across America, East Haven witnessed a growth in Latino residents, comprising 7 percent of the total population that is until the City’s police force decided to implement their own attrition program.

Latinos in America number approximately 45 million, of which 76 percent are born in the U.S.  But, apparently that has not mattered for the predominantly Italian community whose Police Chief decided to conduct flagrant racial profiling of Latinos.  His officers have been serving as implementers of hate, hassling Latinos with unjustified traffic stops, false arrests, jailhouse beatings, and even towing their cars without warrant.  The situation has grown so severe that Latinos are making every effort to leave this picturesque community.

Restaurants and stores, which have been catering to Latinos on East Haven’s main street, are shutting their doors due to the owners and their clients being harassed.  One grocery owner was jailed for almost a week, charged with child neglect for having his 3-year old play in front of the store unsupervised.  Out of town shoppers have been threatened with arrest and deportation if they are unable to prove their citizenship.

About 100 years ago, Italians were the target of this type of discrimination and many would figure their experience would have led them to have a more tolerant view of immigrants.  But, Police Chief Leonard Gallo saw it differently, using his office and the city’s police as an opportunity to rid the community of the growing Latino population.  This is a population that includes immigrants and U.S. born.  Hiding behind the badge to implement racial profiling and decide who should live in East Haven and who should not, is a page from fascist regime of Mussolini.

Mayor April Capone
Today, two-years after allegations the Police Department was abusing its authority, Chief Gallo is on administrative leave while the Justice Department conducts a civil rights investigation.  In addition, the FBI has opened a criminal probe that is making police and city officials nervous.  Neither acting Police Chief Gaetano Nappi or the town’s attorney, Patricia Cofrancesco, are talking to the media or the public about these investigations.  The town’s mayor, April Capone, revealed that the FBI was conducting an investigation, but has refused to respond to further inquiries.  And, of course, embattled Chief Gallo is denying the allegations.

There is no question that this historic community needs major reform, beginning with its leaders, and will need to take steps toward resolving its new recognition of being perhaps the most racist small community in the North East.  In the meantime, it is witnessing the exodus of what could have been their next generation of tax payers.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Did White House fail Latinos?

Defeat of immigration measure reveals failed White House strategy, advocates say
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post (December 18, 2010)

Whenever Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other immigrant-rights advocates asked President Obama how a Democratic administration could preside over the greatest number of deportations in any two-year period in the nation's history, Obama's answer was always the same.

Deporting almost 800,000 illegal immigrants might antagonize some Democrats and Latino voters, Obama's skeptical supporters said the president told them, but stepped-up enforcement was the only way to buy credibility with Republicans and generate bipartisan support for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

On Saturday that strategy was in ruins after Senate Democrats could muster only 55 votes in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a measure that would have created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Under Senate rules, Democrats needed 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition to the bill. The House of Representatives had passed the measure earlier this month, 216 to 198.

The irony of the DREAM Act's failure is that it had strong bipartisan support at the start of the administration, and advocates believed it could generate momentum for more controversial policy changes.

But as the country's mood shifted on the issue of illegal immigration, support among Republicans and some Democratic senators evaporated, with many decrying it as backdoor amnesty for lawbreakers. Even a former co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), voted against it.

"This law, at its fundamental core, is a reward for illegal activity,'' said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who led Republican opposition to the measure. "This is an amnesty bill because it provides every possible benefit, including citizenship, to those who are in the country illegally.''

Virtually no one believes immigration overhaul is possible in the next two years, given the views of many members of the incoming Republican majority in the House.

Now many immigrant-rights supporters are second-guessing the president's efforts to woo Republicans by ramping up deportations.

"It is a strategy which has borne no fruits whatsoever," Gutierrez said. "This administration has unilaterally led the march on enforcement, yet the other side has not given one modicum of compromise."

"If you really want to bring Republicans to the table," he added, "so long as they are getting everything they want, every piece of enforcement, why, why would they come to the table?"

At a recent press briefing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano denied that the administration had increased deportations to bring Republicans to the bargaining table.

"I don't view it as a quid pro quo," Napolitano said. "We enforce the law because we took an oath to enforce the law."