Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Driver's License Campaign Update from Somos Un Pueblo Unido

Somos DLFrom Somos Un Pueblo Unido: It was a busy and somewhat crazy week last week for immigrant drivers' licenses in the legislature.


Senate Bill 235, sponsored by Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell), passed handily in the Senate Public Affairs Committee last Thursday. This bill would continue to allow immigrants to apply for a driver's license while subjecting them to additional residency requirements, more frequent renewals, and harsher penalties for fraud.


The real drama, however, occurred in the House Judiciary Committee. After a five-hour hearing and a two-day failed effort to hammer out a "compromise," the Republicans and their two Democratic allies (Representatives Al Park and Joseph Cervantes) voted on Friday to pass Rep. Nuñez's DL repeal bill and send it the House floor for a vote this week.


The good news is that these two conflicting committee votes signal an impasse between the House and the Senate on the issue. Any discussion of further negotiations for compromise legislation was derailed by the Governor who said on Friday in an Abq. journal article not to bother because she wouldn't sign any bill that allows undocumented immigrants to drive legally and that all she really wants is to use this against candidates in the upcoming election.

Close to 50 organizations and thousands of members have been working with us for over a year to fight this repeal effort. We cannot let up now!

If you haven't emailed your legislators, this is the time to do it. Click here to send a message to your House and Senate member.


If you haven't called your legislators, today's the day to do it. To get their office number click here. The message is simple: Real leaders stand up to the politics of fear. Reject repeal and keep immigrant drivers licensed.


Join us for a Timely Community Dialogue

Resisting the Politics of Fear: The Connection between Anti-

immigrant Legislation and the Struggle for Civil Rights 

Alabama march
Alabama 2011 March Against HB 56

     Convocation with Sen. Steve Gallardo &

Scott Douglas  Friday, Feb. 10th
10:00 to 11:00 AM
Capitol Rotunda, Santa Fe

For event flier click here Feb10th+flyer  

February 7, 2012 at 10:22 AM in Border Issues, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, NM Legislature 2012, Regulation, Susana Martinez | |

Friday, December 09, 2011

ACLU-NM: Border Patrol Fails to Return Personal Belongings

Following is a Press Release dated 12/07/11, from the ACLU of NM and other groups, to see orginal click here.


BorderNicolás, 57, lived and worked for several years in the United States, where he emigrated to make a better life for his family. This year, he made the decision to return to Mexico to reunite with his family, but Border Patrol agents apprehended him in the “Los Paisanos” bus station, a private transportation company in El Paso, Texas. His bus was destined for Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, when border patrol agents boarded the bus and began asking passengers for “their papers.”

Even though Nicolás told the officials that he was on the way back to Mexico, the agents removed him from the bus and placed him in deportation proceedings. The agents also confiscated four boxes and a suitcase that held Nicolás’s clothing, personal belongings, and trade tools he had purchased over the years. Two days later, he was able to recuperate the boxes with the help of the Centro de Derechos Humanos del Migrante, A.C. (CDHM) and the Humane Repatriation Program. However, the suitcase is still unaccounted for and no one has taken responsibility for its disappearance.

“Unfortunately Nicolás’s experience is not unique; thousands of individuals who have been apprehended by immigration officials in the United States lose personal belongings when detained,” notes Lizeth Martinez, lawyer of CDHM in Ciudad Juarez. “These are hardworking, honest individuals who are being deported without their government-issued identifications, cash or bank debit cards, which makes it harder for them to find steady work in Mexico or even to pay for food and shelter while they figure out how to put their lives back together.”

Not having identification also makes it difficult for these individuals to prove their identity at interior checkpoints when attempting to return to their original hometowns in different parts of Mexico, creating a great deal of uncertainty and making them vulnerable to exploitation by local authorities or criminal elements while on their voyage.

A Survey on Migration on the Northern Mexican Border, conducted by the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), showed that the failure to return personal belongings to deported persons increased by 400 percent between 2007 and 2010, from 6,650 to 34,820 individuals. In the last four months, CDHM has restored personal belongings to 37 individuals were deported to Ciudad Juarez.

Border Patrol agents issue a 30-day notice to detainees prior to the destruction of seized property. But if immigration officials hold an individual in a long-term detention facility or detainees face charges of illegal entry or illegal reentry, they may be unable to respond within 30 days and their personal property is destroyed. Also if the person has not been adequately informed about the 30-day limit, attempts to regain his or her possessions even one day late, results in lost belongings.

Nicolás’s experience is also a disturbing example of Customs and Border Patrol’s questionable practice of boarding buses and trains in the interior of the United States and demanding “papers” from passengers. A recent report published by the New York Civil Liberties Union and other NY immigrant advocacy groups showed that between 2006 and 2009, most of the 2,743 people apprehended by CPB during sweeps of public transportation in New York bus and train stations were of Latino/Hispanic descent or people of color[1].

“Border Patrol agents in the United States should not be asking for papers from bus passengers who are traveling within the United States and much less asking for these papers from individuals who are leaving the country,” notes Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights. “The NYCLU report illustrates how border patrol agents may use racial profiling when asking passengers for their documents. This practice needs to stop.”

“In addition, Border Patrol has the responsibility to return personal belongings to individuals prior to their deportation,” added Ms. Gaubeca. “Not returning an individual’s belongings contradicts the American core values of justice and due process.”

[1] NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Families for Freedom.

December 9, 2011 at 03:10 PM in Border Issues, Civil Liberties | |

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hector Balderas: Why Cain's Electrified Fence Is Not So Shocking

Images-1Today, NM Democratic candidate for Senate Hector Balderas wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Huffington Post Latino Voices about how GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain's offensive and unbecoming call for an electrified border fence is not shocking, considering the rest of the Republican agenda. It can be found HERE, or see the full text below.

An electrified fence. On the border. Designed to kill people. Along with "real guns with real bullets."

This is the immigration "plan" recently proposed by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

And he's one of his party's frontrunners.

There's no question that immigration is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. No one wants to see people entering this country illegally -- that's why we need bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform in this country. We need leaders who aren't afraid to take up this problem and acknowledge the realities of how we live. For too long, Washington has failed in its responsibilities and not lifted a finger to do anything about this issue.

But Mr. Cain doesn't support bipartisan immigration reform. Neither do any of the other Republican presidential candidates. They all oppose a path to citizenship. They all oppose a federal DREAM Act. They all support Arizona's draconian law that promotes racial profiling.

Instead, Mr. Cain supports electrified fences, guns and bullets. His proposal is not just offensive to the Hispanic community but unbecoming of someone seeking high office, and it flies in the face of everything this great country stands for.

After repeating his comments several times, Mr. Cain said he was merely joking. But there's nothing funny about the violent imagery he's espoused. His comments are reprehensible and should be condemned.

Instead, what we got from the other Republican candidates was silence. They spent the most recent debate pandering to the worst elements of the Tea Party and arguing over who was the most right-wing, but not one critical word was said about Mr. Cain's remarks.

Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

The Republicans running for president, and many running for other office (like Senate candidate Heather Wilson in New Mexico) have embraced a Tea Party agenda that will hurt many average Americans -- but will be particularly devastating to Hispanic Americans.

While Mr. Cain may try to laugh off his offensive comments about an electrified fence as a joke, there are very serious consequences to the Tea Party agenda shared by Cain, Romney, Rick Perry, Heather Wilson, and Republican candidates across the country. Thirty-one percent of New Mexico Hispanics under the age of 17 live below the poverty line. Yet the Republican candidates continue to coddle Wall Street, millionaires and large corporations while proposing to slash Medicaid funding, causing 36 million people to lose their coverage. And they would cut food stamp benefits for a family of four by nearly $1,800 a year. As someone who grew up in public housing while living on food stamps, that's no laughing matter.

Nearly half of New Mexico's Hispanic students don't graduate from high school. Many of them come from rural communities that are among the most economically distressed in the country. Yet the Republican candidates have a plan that would cut federal spending for education and training by 25 percent -- it would cut 320,000 children from Head Start and cut assistance for families trying to send their children to college. As the first from my town to graduate from law school, the husband of a public school teacher, and father of children in New Mexico public schools, that's not funny.

There are over 60,000 Hispanic senior citizens in New Mexico. Yet the Republican candidates have proposed privatizing Social Security, putting it at the mercy of a volatile stock market. And they support eliminating Medicare as we know it, increasing costs for seniors by $6,400. As someone who was raised by a single mother that now relies on Medicare, there is nothing funny about that.

For too long, the wealthy and powerful have benefited from Washington policies that continue to help them at the expense of everyone else. Rather than focus on policies that will grow our economy, create jobs, hold both Washington and Wall Street accountable, and lift everyone up by bringing people together, Republicans and the Tea Party have decided that it is in their political interest to continue dividing us by pitting us against one another.

Mr. Cain's remarks take that to a whole new level. That, I'm sorry to say, is no joke.

And, sadly, given the harmful plans they have for the country, his "joke" about an electrified fence is not that shocking all.

Hector Balderas is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate from New Mexico. If elected, he would be the first Hispanic Senator from New Mexico since 1977. He was elected New Mexico's State Auditor in 2006 at the age of 33 (making him the youngest statewide Latino elected official in the nation), and he was overwhelmingly reelected in 2010. For more information, visit www.HectorBalderas.com.

October 26, 2011 at 06:11 PM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Border Issues, Hector Balderas, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Republican Party | |

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NAACP, LULAC Denounce Gov. Susana Martinez's Extremist Allies on Driver's License Issue and Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Agenda

NM Governor Susana Martinez

In a joint press release issued today, New Mexico's chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( ) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said they are concerned and appalled by the involvement of the Americans for Legal immigration PAC (ALIPAC) in New Mexico politics, as well as Governor Susana Martinez's continued attacks on immigrants and her apparent abuse of power.

"It has become apparent that Governor Martinez's anti-immigrant political agenda relies on support by national organizations with no ties to New Mexico and with questionable motives," said Pablo Martínez, a member of the LULAC Board and former law enforcement administrator. "We're concerned by ALIPAC's documented ties to white supremacists and other extremist organizations."

In an article in today's Albuquerque Journal, ALIPAC President William Gheen said the group will lobby New Mexico lawmakers to fight the "illegal immigrant invasion of America."

NAACP and LULAC pointed to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that have repeatedly labeled ALI-PAC as an "nativist extremist" group and an organization that goes beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants or their employers. Click for SPLC report.

They also pointed to statements in 2009 by the Anti-Defamation League decrying actions taken by white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups on behalf of ALIPAC: click here and here

Both organizations stated they believe Governor Martinez overstepped her authority in August, when she instituted the now-halted "Residency Certification Program" that targeted 10,000 individuals in the MVD foreign national driver's license database. The program has since been stopped by New Mexico District Judge Sarah Singleton, who ruled on September 13 that requiring re-verification based on national origin could violate the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution.

"LULAC views ALIPAC's attempt to influence our New Mexico State Legislature as a continuation of a national trend of racist militancy against Hispanic civil rights," said Dennis W. Montoya, LULAC's New Mexico Civil Rights Chair and District 1 Director.

"Our shared concern is the continued harassment of immigrants by the Governor's administration, as well as her apparent lack of concern for the impact her approach is having on New Mexico families," said Sam Bone, President of New Mexico's NAACP. "This constant attack on people that have abided by the current driver's license law is an abuse of power at the very least and is not at all reflective of New Mexico's values. We worry that this driver's license repeal effort is a the first step in the erosion of civil rights for all vulnerable minorities in our state."

Montoya went on to state that the Governor's approach towards immigrants represents "her lack of connection to the people of New Mexico, and a frightening display of overt discrimination. This repeal effort isn't about what's good for New Mexico, it's a part of a larger political strategy to alienate Latino communities from Arizona to Alabama. New Mexico has worked hard to foster positive and respectful race relations since statehood, and we don't appreciate these outside ideologies based on the politics of hate."

"We encourage the legislature to stand up to the Governor and support reasonable proposals that address fraud in the driver's license process, keep all New Mexico drivers insured and protect all of us from run-ins with uninsured motorists," said Bone of the NAACP.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

September 22, 2011 at 06:59 PM in Border Issues, Civil Liberties, Hispanic Issues, Impeachment, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MALDEF Secures Preliminary Injunction in New Mexico Driver's License Lawsuit

More on the continuing saga of Gov. Susana Martinez's "investigation" into driver's licenses issued to foreign nationals in New Mexico. Yesterday, First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton the NM Taxation and Revenue Department does not have a “compelling interest” to continue its programs of requiring certain state residents to re-verify their residence at either an Albuquerque or Las Cruces office. Judge Singleton also agreed with attorneys opposing the re-verification program that they are likely to prevail on their argument that the so-called re-verification program unconstitutionally targets individuals based on their alienage or national origin.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has issued a statement about the preliminary injunction noting that the court ruled yesterday that the injunction would remain in effect until the lawsuit challenging the program is finally resolved. To allow time for the preliminary injunction to be issued, Judge Singleton of the First Judicial District in Santa Fe has extended for another week the temporary restraining order issued on August 31, which prohibits all aspects of the unlawful re-certification program.

The court, however, will allow the State to continue with investigations into a small number of already-mailed letters that have been returned to the Department as undeliverable. While the re-verification program is on hold for now, Judge Singleton is allowing the NM Taxation and Revenue Department to investigate cases where it has specific and “particularized” information that fraud is likely occurring. 

MALDEF intends to submit further briefing to the court on the limited investigation. The court has ordered the parties to submit a preliminary injunction in one week.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, "This court decision should serve as a warning to the Governor and Secretary that they should follow the law as set by the Legislature and cease attempts to implement their own anti-immigrant policy agenda."

David Hinojosa, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel, stated, "Today's ruling bolsters MALDEF's resolve to fight this unlawful program that unfairly targets immigrants in the state. While today's victory is a significant step toward righting the wrong of this unlawful program, we will continue to fight until the last vestiges of this anti-immigrant program no longer threaten the Latino community."

On behalf of a group of New Mexico legislators and residents of New Mexico, MALDEF and the New Mexico law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan filed suit on August 24, 2011 against the Secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, seeking to stop the targeting of immigrants in the state.

On August 31, Judge Singleton issued the temporary restraining order, which prohibits all aspects of the unlawful re-certification program until the preliminary injunction is issued.

The court held a preliminary injunction hearing yesterday on New Mexico's anti-Latino driver's license re-certification program. MALDEF attorneys and co-counsel, who obtained the temporary restraining order (TRO) on August 31, presented arguments in the hearing.

More Info
For more information on the Temporary Restraining Order, visit here. A copy of the signed Temporary Restraining Order can be .

In addition, you can stay current on the issue of the driver's licenses by visiting Somos Un Pueblo Unido's driver's license information page at www.somosunpueblounido.org/DLNews/.

September 14, 2011 at 10:04 AM in Border Issues, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Legal Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Hundreds Protest Governor Susana Martinez's Anti-Immigration Agenda with Santa Fe Rally

From Somos Un Pueblo Unido:
Yesterday at the state capitol hundreds of immigrant families, supporters as well as community and faith groups from across the state, rallied in Santa Fe to protest Governor Martinez' continued attack on immigrant workers and families, and to support driver's licenses for all residents of New Mexico.

Carrying signs that said, "Public Safety Over Politics" and "Don't License Racism," participants included immigrants from over ten communities across the state as well as representatives from a coalition of organizations including Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, Engaging Latino Communities for Higher Education ( ), LULAC New Mexico, ABQ Partnership for Community Action, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico and the New Mexico Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"Why should New Mexico stop requiring immigrant drivers to be licensed and have insurance? Why wouldn't we want their records in a database available to law enforcement? It's a no-brainer," said Pablo Martínez, a New Mexico LULAC Board Member and retired law enforcement administrator. "This repeal effort isn't about what's good for New Mexico, it's a part of a larger political strategy to alienate Latino communities from Arizona to Alabama. New Mexico has worked hard to foster positive and respectful race relations since statehood, and we don't appreciate these outside ideologies based on the politics of hate."

Marcela Díaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido said the Governor's administration has repeatedly singled-out immigrants and created an environment of fear for immigrants and their families. "We're here today to show Governor Martinez that we stand united, and we refuse to be bullied and intimidated by her administration's tactics. It's integral to the safety of all New Mexicans for residents of New Mexico to be licensed and insured, and in coalition with dozens of faith and community groups across the state, we'll continue to advocate for that," Díaz said.

In 2003, community and faith groups, victims' rights advocates, and law enforcement officials came together to promote a law allowing all residents of New Mexico, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a driver's license. Over the past eight years, about 80,000 foreign nationals have successfully applied, taken their eye, written and road exams, registered their vehicles and purchased auto insurance.

In an effort to address legitimate concerns regarding fraud and abuse in the driver's license process, the Senate introduced and passed during the 2011 legislative session a better option for New Mexico than the proposed repeal of all foreign nationals driver's licenses. Governor Martinez did not sign the legislation into law, and has continued to push for repeal of the law during the current special session.

Meredith Machen, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, said on Thursday, "In addition to supporting comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, the League supports New Mexico's current system for drivers' licenses because it provides individuals with proper identification and increases public safety. We believe that New Mexico legislators need to focus on redistricting in the special session. Other agenda items are not relevant at this time."

Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide immigrant advocacy group that spearheaded the campaign in 2003 with law enforcement officials, victims' rights agencies, and faith and civil right group groups to require foreign nationals to apply for licenses, obtain insurance, and register their vehicles. Visit www.somosunpueblounido.org/DLNews for more information. You can friend Somos Un Pueblo Unido on Facebook.

September 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM in Border Issues, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8/31: Juárez from the Eyes of a Human Rights Worker

From the Southwest Organizing Project:
This speaking event will give insight to the violent struggles in the border city leading to a wave of political asylum seekers to New Mexico. Click for flyer

Cipriana Jurado, of the Juárez, México-based Center for Information and Solidarity with Working Women (CISO), will be speaking at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice on Wednesday, August 31, about her experiences defending the rights of citizens of Juárez, México and the current conditions in that country. Jurado is currently continuing her mission of awareness and activism from Santa Fe, where she and her two children now live.

Jurado was granted political asylum earlier this year due to threats on her life, part of a growing number of Mexican human rights workers, journalists and political leaders who have fled Mexico.

Join us for an evening with this courageous, longtime human rights champion, and learn about the realities on the ground in Juárez. Jurado's mission now is to increase public concern over the levels of violence and terror that grip Juárez and many other Mexican cities and towns by sharing her eyewitness accounts of the grim nature of everyday life and survival in Juarez.

This event will be held at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice (202 Harvard SE, Albuquerque) tonight at 6 PM. The event is free. Food will be served and Spanish to English translation will be provided. For more information call Tracy at 505-247-8832. Sponsored by the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

August 31, 2011 at 05:47 AM in Border Issues, Children and Families, Events, Hispanic Issues, Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bingaman, Udall Sponsor Bill to Increase NM's District Court Judgeships

Yesterday, Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation to increase the number of District Court judgeships in New Mexico to help the state deal with its heavy caseload. The bill is cosponsored by Senator Tom Udall, and would authorize new District Court judgeships for the southwest border states based on made by the Judicial Conference of the Federal Courts, which makes policy decisions for the U.S. courts.

Under the bill, New Mexico would receive an additional permanent judgeship, allow for the conversion of an existing temporary judgeship to permanent and add a temporary judgeship. There are currently seven authorized judgeships for the district of New Mexico.

“Over the last five years, we have significantly increased the number of Border Patrol agents, hired additional prosecutors and enhanced the presence of DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshal Agents throughout the border region. While this has greatly improved security in the border region, it has also put enormous pressure on the federal courts in handling the influx of cases,” Bingaman said.

“It is critical that the federal judiciary has the resources and manpower it needs to dispose of cases in a timely manner and this bill would help District Courts in the southwest border states deal with this burden,” Bingaman concluded.

“Additional resources for border patrol enforcement in New Mexico have increasingly meant higher case loads for our federal courts. This legislation would help ease that pressure by providing the manpower necessary to adjudicate cases in a timely manner that ensures justice for all involved,” Udall said.

The breakdown for the three other south border states would be as follows:

New Permanent Judgeship (P), New Temporary Judgeship (T), Conversion of Existing Temporary Judgeship to Permanent (T/P)


(4P, 1T, T/P)


Northern (4P, 1T)

Eastern (6P, 1T)

Central (8P, 1T, T/P)

Southern (2P, 1T)


Eastern (1P, T/P)

Western (4P, 1T)

Southern (4P)

May 20, 2011 at 08:14 AM in Border Issues, Drugs, Alcohol, Justice, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | |

Saturday, May 14, 2011

DPNM Chair Gonzales Demands Apology From Roswell Daily Record and Keith Bell for Racist Cartoon

The following is a statement from Javier Gonzales, Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, on the political cartoon (click for image) published in yesterday's Roswell Daily Record.

"Keith Bell's political cartoon that ran in yesterday's Roswell Daily Record clearly plays in to a racist stereotype which is offensive to anyone of Hispanic heritage. The Roswell Daily Record and Keith Bell must issue an apology for the racist cartoon."

"As I have said before, the President understands that solving the immigration crisis requires not only a comprehensive approach which includes increased border security, but also a recognition of the millions of immigrants in the United States contributing daily to our economy. We must have a frank discussion to solve this problem, and this racist cartoon is an example of divisive and vitriolic politics too often used by Susana Martinez and the Republican Party."  

May 14, 2011 at 12:12 PM in Border Issues, Democratic Party, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bill McCamley: Why I Will Miss Bishop Ricardo Ramirez

BillMcCamley This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley, who is a resident of Las Cruces. He is a former Doña Ana County Commissioner and is currently the Business Outreach Director for ROJO Apparel, a socially responsible clothing company.

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”
           --St Francis of Assisi

This week, ceremonies commemorating the beginning of a local reading initiative were held at NMSU. Interested people from many walks of life showed up to lend their support, including educators, University administration, politicians, and volunteers who would then donate their morning to read with children.

One of the speakers was Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, and his blessing included why the ability to read was so important in understanding the power of God’s love. While his statements were short and expected, they were also profound and exemplified why he will be sorely missed by all of Southern New Mexico when he retires in the near future.

His Actions
We have many statements echoing the one given at the beginning of this column. From “actions speak louder than words” to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” society honors those who not only speak well, but lead with the very being of their lives. Bishop Ramirez is one of those people.

While many leaders of faith spend time addressing politically charged, divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage, Bishop Ramirez focuses most of his attention and energy on helping those in our community who have the least voice.

His yearly masses at Mt. Cristo Rey on the border between Mexico and the United States, where at 74 years old he still makes the ascent on foot with everyone else, have always symbolized his advocacy for the basic rights for all people, no matter their nationality. He is known for numerous writings and teachings continually explaining not only how issues such as poverty and a lack of quality health care negatively affect those less fortunate but also what we can do to alleviate them. Specifically, two pastoral letters he authored regarding domestic violence and child abuse are widely recognized internationally as brave and insightful pieces addressing issues that few in the Catholic Church had previously discussed openly.

As a County Commissioner I sat on a committee dealing with colonias, communities in our area where the poorest of the poor live. The Catholic Diocese has been represented on this group for years, and it was obvious by the attention, staff, and resources given to this work by the Diocese’s Department of Social Ministries that helping people with the most basic of needs was one of Bishop Ramirez’s top priorities.

In these actions, he truly echoes the teachings of Christ, who said, “Whatever you have done for one of these least brothers of Mine, you have done for Me."

His Words
In some cases, religious leaders use emotions like fear or guilt in their preaching. This is not a practice with Bishop Ramirez. His sermons never insult or degrade, always appealing to the better angels of human nature and seeking to kindle understanding, kindness, and peace in the community. Statements, blessings, and writings from the Bishop will always contain an abundance of words like love, patience, grace, and forgiveness. And when leading public invocations, he is always as inclusive as possible in showing respect to everyone’s beliefs.

His words reflect his constant efforts to overcome borders, both physical and metaphorical, and never to create them.

In my first year as a County Commissioner, as Chairman, I faced an issue regarding prayers said before meetings. It had been the Commission’s practice for a representative of only one type of religious viewpoint to lead the prayers, and sometimes these presentations turned into mini-sermons. I believe strongly that no government agency should ever be used as a tool to influence faith, as someone’s bond with God is one of the most important definitions one can have as an individual. Therefore, I asked that the issue be discussed. However, dealing with this emotionally-charged topic was an extremely hard thing for a 27 year-old, brand new policy maker. So I called Bishop Ramirez.

To be up front, though I was raised Catholic I am not a regular churchgoer, finding that I can expand my own relationship with God in other ways. Even recognizing this, he took my appointment and spent a great deal of time discussing the topic. He is a wonderful listener and, when he did speak, his input showed understanding, insightfulness, and helped me garner a larger perspective regarding the issue that had not previously been clear.

Apparently, making the effort to discuss and understand difficult issues is far from uncommon for Bishop Ramirez. His reputation for tolerance, wisdom, and compassion is commonplace throughout our community, as these words are echoed about him from people of many faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

An Example
As a child, I was always taught that God was the ultimate repository of unquestioning love, constant forgiveness, and universal understanding. If the job of a cleric (be it priest, reverend, rabbi, or imam) is to represent and teach those values to others, then God could ask for no better than Ricardo Ramirez. Our entire community has been strengthened by his presence, and I can only hope that others will work to emulate his actions, message, and disposition.

Bishop, I am sure that I echo many others in wishing you nothing but the best. Thank you for choosing to stay with us, and enjoy your deserved rest.

This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. Publication of a guest blog does not necessarily mean that we agree or disagree with the points made.

May 14, 2011 at 12:02 AM in Border Issues, Children and Families, Faith Community, Guest Blogger, Las Cruces, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ACLU-NM Calls on Obama to Abandon Enforcement-Only Border Policy

Click to read President Obama's remarks (pdf) on immigration made in El Paso yesterday.

While the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights is encouraged by President Obama’s remarks Tuesday putting immigration reform back on the table, concerns remain with the administration’s continued emphasis on a costly, enforcement-only model.

Since 2003, border communities have witnessed a massive increase in federal law enforcement resources along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the ACLU, there are now almost 10 border patrol agents per mile; thousands of other federal agents and members of the National Guard; 700 miles of fencing; and at least six drones patrolling our skies, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The ACLU says this rapid over-intensification of federal law enforcement resources has come with little accountability and oversight and has resulted in negative consequences for people who live along the border. The ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights has received increasing reports of racial profiling and harassment, particularly of Hispanic community members -- many of whom are U.S. citizens and have lived in the border region for generations.

In addition, the Center has received several reports of undocumented individuals who did not receive needed medical attention or adequate food or water while in the custody of immigration officials. Since May 2010, there have been at least seven migrants who have been seriously injured or died as the result of being shot, tasered or beaten by Border Patrol agents.

“Our national security, while critical, should never come at the expense of civil and human rights,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights. “At the very least, we need more transparency, accountability and oversight to prevent the border region from becoming a Constitution-free zone.”

In addition, President Obama needs to better account for the record-level deportations that have occurred during his term, according to the Center. In 2010, the United States deported nearly 400,000 people at a cost of $1.5 billion. According to the Department of Homeland Security statistics, almost 60 percent of the individuals who were deported were not criminals or committed only minor offenses -- which completely contradicts the administration’s emphasis on deporting “criminal aliens.”

“Initiatives like the so-called ‘Secure Communities’ program need to be suspended and assessed for their true effects,” adds Gaubeca. “Instead of going after serious criminals who may be a real threat to our communities, study after study confirms that these enforcement programs primarily target hard-working, honest individuals and tear families apart. We could save money and protect working families by finding a way for these individuals to become U.S. citizens, learn our language and pay taxes. Moving away from enforcement-only models would even provide a much-need boost for our economy.”

“As a country, we need a serious reality check regarding our border enforcement policies and owe it to ourselves to find sensible solutions. Spending billions of dollars on a law-enforcement-only model is wasteful and does nothing to fix the problem,” adds Gaubeca. “We need to step back and begin to truly address the larger issue of how we fix our country’s broken immigration system.”

May 11, 2011 at 12:15 AM in Border Issues, Civil Liberties, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Obama Administration | |

Monday, May 09, 2011

Borderland Residents Speak Out Against Violence in Mesilla

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

A large and emotional gathering of people from the borderland community joined together on Sunday at the Mesilla Community Center to show solidarity with marches scheduled for this week in Mexico against the drug war and violence south of the border. The event was sponsored by the Comite Amigos de Emilio, a borderlands community organization that supports granting asylum in the United States for exiled journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto.

Ella Nelson

Ella Nelson of Las Cruces, the organizer, said the event and the committee's goal was to bring greater attention to the case of Gutiérrez and other victims of Mexico's bloodshed. The committee aims to put pressure on U.S. immigration authorities and Mexican officials, and demand action on Gutiérrez's and other asylum-seekers' human rights complaints.

Gutierrez_002 Chavez_aldana_001
Emilio Gutiérrez, Ricardo Chavez Aldana

The emotionally charged gathering was keynoted by Mexican journalists Emilio Gutiérrez and Ricardo Chavez Aldana. Both men have been victims of the violence in Mexico and are seeking political asylum in the United States. Gutiérrez fled his town of Ascención, Chihuahua, in 2008 after writing a series of articles criticizing the Mexican army and receiving death threats from the military. Ricardo Chavez Aldana is a radio reporter from Juarez who received death threats and lost several family members who were murdered after he spoke out against the violence on the air in Mexico.

Emilio Gutiérrez

Calling for peace and justice for Mexico, Gutiérrez laid the blame for the violence south of the border on the complicity of the Mexican military and the Calderon government, which he termed "illegitimate," rather than just on any outlaw cartel. "Because of the government policies, over 45,000 innocent people have died," Gutiérrez said. "There are at least 15,000 'disappeared' people, among them 68 journalists."

"How many mother's have lost their children? How many children have been left orphaned? How many more are living in exile?" he asked. "It's a huge pain that we carry inside of us every day. The most painful thing about all this, for me, is the loss of my home and country," Gutiérrez said, "more sorrowful for me than the loss of my parents."

Gutiérrez, Nelson

Gutiérrez fled Mexico after receiving death threats from the military. A month earlier, more than fifty military personnel overran and illegally ransacked his home after he spoke out in the press against the violence. After fleeing Mexico with his son, Gutiérrez was detained for seven months by U.S. Immigration when he arrived at the border seeking asylum last June. He is currently staying in Las Cruces while his case is pending in the courts.

Ricardo Chavez Aldana

Ricardo Chavez Aldana, a radio newsman who is also living in exile, also addressed the rally. Chavez Aldana's nephews were murdered after he spoke out on the radio against the violence in Juarez and criticized the military. "Juarez is a dead city," he said. "Four of every five businesses have closed down, and we see blood everywhere."

Ruben Garcia

Ruben Garcia, the Director of Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, recounted the stories of some of those who have sought refuge in his facility, including a mother who has lost four of her five children. "There is a mistaken idea in most of America, promoted by politicians, that one place end and another one begins at a certain line. We need to be mindful of role that the drug trade in America is having on Mexico" Garcia said. "I've heard these stories many times. Im sorry for being emotional" said a tearful Ella Nelson, "but on this Mother's Day, I hope we will take a moment to think about the mothers who have lost their families in this crisis."

For more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.

May 9, 2011 at 10:54 AM in Border Issues, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Crime, Drugs, Alcohol, Hispanic Issues, International Relations | |