Archive for the ‘disenfranchisement’ Category

ZILLAMOD -This is the god’s to honest truth. At the end of the day – it’s not a partisan matter. It’s a family matter. You use whatever you have to protect your family from harm. I am the same. This is my story as well.

This is a repost by Linda Vega.

Being an American citizen is one of the most powerful manifestations of our constitutional tradition as a nation and as a government. These constitutional rights and obligations reserved strictly for citizens have made man want to die to protect our nation, because they know that as citizens they have unalienable rights. However, the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration is now stripping American citizens of their citizenship. More importantly, these attacks on a population where American citizens are being denied their constitutional rights are mainly aimed at a group: elder Latino Texans who were too poor to go to a county hospital and opted, instead, to use a midwife because there was no hospital in the poor rural areas of Texas. As a result, the Obama Administration is now incarcerating and stripping some seniors of their citizenship because they are unable to “properly” prove their birth occurred on U.S. soil.

According to immigration attorney Jaime Diez, along the Rio Grande River in Texas, there are cases where Elderly Latinos have to relinquish their U.S. Citizenship because they cannot provide enough evidence to substantiate their birth on U.S. soil by either a hospital or a credible midwife.

Prior to 2009, a few cases of maybe 20-30 would arise where elderly Latinos had to produce evidence of their U.S. Citizenship. Usually a baptismal record or a birth certificate would suffice to prove their U.S. citizenship birth. However, under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, (“WHTI”), which came into full force and effect on June 1, 2009, changes implemented under this new law, have caused overzealous U.S. agents and officers to litigate case after case that seeks to strip U.S. Citizenship from Latinos that now number over 1000.

With only limited exceptions, WHTI makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to “depart from or enter the United States” without a valid U.S. passport. 8 U.S.C. §1185(b); 22 C.F.R. §53.1(a). While this may be a necessary application of law, for a group of people who did not have the conveniences of modern day hospitals or record keeping when they were born, it has become a nightmare and a loss of identity.

Long before there was a dispute regarding the demarcated boundary that separates the U.S. and Mexico, descendants of Mexicans lived along the border on the U.S. side for years without fear of having to leave their country of choice. When Texas became the 28th state under the Presidency of Polk in 1845, those who lived along the border were annexed into the U.S.

Additionally, when the two countries were unwilling to reach a compromise as to where the boundary would be set, the Mexican-American war broke out on April 25, 1846. The result of that war fixed the southern boundary between the two countries at the Rio Grande River. For generations, the people living along the Rio Grande River into Mexico where their relatives were left in their undisturbed Mexican residency and those in the U.S. were granted U.S. Citizenship. It was a matter of convenience and understanding that those U.S. Citizens who were instantly acquiesced into the U.S. territory had travel privileges back and forth between the two countries. In the years that followed, children were born through midwives and clinics who would record the births as credible state records. In 1925, more than 50 percent of babies born in Texas were delivered by midwives. However, by 2004, the number had dropped to 6.6%. Much of the change was brought about because as rural areas integrated more clinics into the area, many along the border were receiving more prenatal care and healthcare during births.

The earliest known hospital in the valley was in Harlingen, Valley Baptist medical Center, founded in 1925. Surrounded by rural areas and colonias, the hospital is at least a 25 mile distance to these areas. At present, it is not uncommon for women to give birth to children in clinics or hospitals as these facilities are not as scarce as previous years prior to 1950. The births were not the problem, it was an industry norm for registering births that had unintended consequences on what the government is now terming, “delayed birth certificate” fraud.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), many of these births recorded by midwives are either fraudulent or not legal as they were not recorded according to standards. Those affected by this new application of law, now find themselves having to defend their birth certificate and passports granted to them by the U.S. State Department.

Additionally, those affected are between the ages of 60 and older born in the 1940-50s. This is the age group that is most affected as they were more likely to be born by the assistance of a midwife and at home.

While Texas is approximately 25 million in total, it is populated by a large Latino community in the rural areas, and in South Texas where about 90% of the total population is Latino.

Texas and South Texas Population by Ethnicity, 2007

When broken down into the counties most affected by the passport requirement see the following:

Consequently, immigration attorneys in the Rio Grande Valley have noticed that these cases requiring elderly Latinos to prove their citizenship has spiked within the last two years. Attorney Jaime Diez argues that over 1000 cases have been reported but many more are not for the sake of keeping the peace. However, these are only the cases of those with financial resources to fight DHS, or USCIS in court; but many more surrender their citizenship fearing a long battle in a court that is estimated to cost between $15,000 to $20,000. Many of the elderly, living on a fixed income cannot imagine this long battle or the expense, and instead relinquish their U.S. Citizenship and leave for Mexico, a land not their home.

Immigration Attorneys, like Jaime Diez, in the Rio Grande Valley accept the cases on a pro bono capacity, but have been overwhelmed recently with unnecessary discovery requests by the government and oftentimes face over 5 U.S. attorneys for a simple case of birth certificate verification. In one such case, Jaime Diez in Brownsville. States that five U.S. Attorneys were flown in from Washington D.C. to appear in Federal District Court to ask women questions regarding her childhood in the valley. The U.S. Attorneys asked to be taken to the many places the woman played as a child and other places where she and her brother remembered family gatherings. This was not only inefficient use of government money and resources, it provided little if any comfort thinking that securing the border means stripping Latinos of their U.S. Citizenship rather than apprehending those who are “terrorists” in all aspects at the border crossing.

In 2008, Obama promised Latinos change. Unfortunately, one of these promised changes includes having to lose your birthright identity because you were born at a time when a system was inefficient and antiquated. According to the present Obama policies, if you were born in 1950 and beyond, you are expendable in the U.S. Your absence, along the Rio Grande Valley where you have lived most of your life, will be overlooked. According to this Administration, Latinos have an apathy and will not participate in elections, and so invalid deportations and stripping on U.S. Citizenship will go unnoticed because no one will dare to speak up to this injustice. It is a quiet secret that many will chose to ignore. But Latinos are strong in family ideals and are compassionate protectors for the less fortunate. And now that many do know about what is happening to the elderly along the border, I hope that this Administration is placed on alert to immediately cease and desist this action. It is a shameful way to protect the border, and frankly this behavior is anything but American or decent, it is Mr. President, monstrous.

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c/o Transect blog

By Quinn
I’ve seen a lot of talk about full-body scans on CNN, but it took William Saletan’s piece over on Slate advocating the use of full-body scans in order to protect from terrorists like Abdulmuttalib to push me to write about this.

The lack of consideration for the side-effects of a mandatory, uniform full-body scan policy is absurd.

Now, I actually agree with one of Saletan’s major points – that people should get over their hang-ups about other people seeing their entire bodies. Puritanism is so last century (and last decade). I also certainly appreciate that many people worry about their security on flights.

However, the statistical likelihood of being caught in a terrorist attack is quite low – so low that I can’t imagine how the loss of efficiency in the security process or the invasiveness of the procedure can find a counter-balance in “preventing terrorist attacks.” We’ve already done quite a bit in terms of making it difficult for terrorists to pull off an attack. Anything more just leads to diminishing returns. Saletan seems to think a continual escalation – like an “arms race” – is what’s necessary to keep people safe. But there comes a point at which more security measures won’t actually much of anything to deter attacks.

More to the point, this particular attack was a failure of intelligence, which just didn’t get its act together. Perhaps it might be better to address intelligence rather than airport security.

Previous moves, including requiring gender markers on tickets and ID issues, have already made travel unappealing for trans people. But full-body scans are beyond what’s even potentially justifiable. This will out trans people left and right. In a transphobic society, this puts too many people at risk for harassment. I’m sorry – I don’t trust U.S. TSA or any law enforcement agency not to give me crap for being trans. They have the power to pull me aside for even more scrutiny or say that I’m not who I present myself as. Or pull some madness like assuming that my trans-ness is a disguise for terrorist activity. Or just harass me – since law enforcement officials can be bigots just as much as anyone else.

And don’t even get me started on how this violates the religious liberty of people who do believe in modesty as a matter of faith, even though I generally don’t agree with them. This really won’t help relations with Islam.

The U.S. needs to catch itself before setting up full-body scanners everywhere. And, if it doesn’t, no country that seriously respects the privacy of its citizens should cooperate with the U.S. if asked to use full-body scans – including the Netherlands (and Nigeria) and Canada. The consequence is effectively deterring me – an otherwise law-abiding person – from air travel, along with an uncounted number of people like me.

We need to ask more questions about full-body scans than what Saletan has mentioned – or what the talking heads on CNN are blathering about. Do we really want to punish many innocents to catch the few guilty? Do we really want to make it impossible for some marginalized communities to fly for the sake of “mainstream” society? And do we really want to enact extreme measures in response to an attempt at terrorism that didn’t even succeed?

By Renee Feltz
From the October 3, 2008 issue 
PHOTO: STOKELY BAKSH

VOTER SHUTOUT
97-year-old Shirley Preiss has voted in every election since 1932, but cannot register to vote in Arizona because she lacks proof of her citizenship. She was born in Kentucky before the state issued birth certificates and says she’s never left the country, so she does not have a passport. Arizona is one of eight states that require voters to prove U.S. citizenship.
PHOENIX—While both presidential candidates avoid discussing immigration reform, Republican pundits are stirring up concern about non-citizens throwing the election.

“The evidence is indisputable that aliens, both legal and illegal, are registering and voting in federal, state, and local elections,” wrote Hans A. von Spakovsky in June in a widely circulated “legal memorandum” entitled “The Threat of Non-Citizen Voting.”

Von Spakovsky is a former Bush recess appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice, where as counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, he specialized in voting and election issues. After the Senate blocked his reappointment citing his involvement in “efforts to politicize the Department and use the Voting Rights Section to disenfranchise voters, rather than enforce our nation’s civil rights laws,” he served as a member of the Federal Election Commission for two years.

Now with the Heritage Foundation, a leading right-wing think tank, von Spakovsky argues the “honor system” of signing a legally binding registration card fails to keep non-citizens from the polls, and suggests election officials should be allowed to access U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases “regarding voter eligibility based on citizenship.” He also wants all states to require anyone who registers to vote to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.

Citizenship is already a legal requirement to vote in the United States, but GOP scare tactics have led more than a dozen states to consider additional legislation to require documented proof of citizenship, and in many cases a Voter ID card, in order to vote.

Voter registration rates in Arizona, the one state with both types of laws, suggest these cumbersome requirements will further disenfranchise low-income citizens, people of color and the elderly, all of whom are more likely to vote Democratic.

SCAPEGOATING IMMIGRANTS
Republicans first used outcry about undocumented immigration in the border state of Arizona to win support for a citizen initiative four years ago that requires voter registration applicants to document their citizenship with a birth certificate, a passport or naturalization papers.

“You had a confluence of two interests,” said Linda Brown, director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, when asked how backers of the initiative known as Proposition 200 overcame opposition from most of the public and the state’s elected officials in 2004.

The first force at work was the anti-illegal immigration movement. “These are the true believers,” Brown said. “Even though there is no documentation people are voting illegally, certainly not on purpose,” they will favor a crackdown on such behavior, she explained.

“Then you had the other group, the savvy political operatives,” Brown said. “They believe it is reasonable to deny law-abiding citizens the right to vote by shaving the rolls of people least likely to vote the way they want them to.”

When Proposition 200 passed there had been just 33 cases of documented voter fraud throughout the country between October 2002 and September 2005. Ten of the cases were acquitted or dismissed, and 19 of the 23 people prosecuted had registered to vote and voted using their real names — not the best method for getting away with fraud.

In fact, voting rights advocates say individuals trying to steal or cast an invalid ballot is less likely than being struck by lightning. The practice is even more rare among non-citizens.

“If you’re a non-citizen and you register or vote, there is a paper trail that connects you to that voting,” notes Justin Levitt, counsel to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “If you’re convicted, which is a straightforward thing, you can be fined up to $10,000 and, probably most serious, you can be deported. For the majority of people, those odds just don’t make sense.”

TURNING A RIGHT INTO A PRIVILEGE
According to the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, at least 38,000 voter registration applications have been rejected in Arizona since Proposition 200 went into effect in 2005, largely because of failure to document citizenship.

Outreach groups say that when they conduct registration drives voters often are not carrying their birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers.

“I was trained to do this job back in Detroit and it was so easy to get people registered because all I needed was people’s name, address and the last four digits of their Social Security number and their signature,” said Teresa Castro, political director for Arizona’s ACORN chapter, a group that has been working to register low-income voters. “But here in Arizona it got more complicated because you have to ask people to give up all this information to us.”

According to a phone survey commissioned by the Brennan Center in 2006, 7 percent of Americans lack ready access to proof of their citizenship.

“After Proposition 200, I feel like something that is a right is treated more like a privilege you have to earn,” said Teresa Castro, political director for ACORN in Arizona.

Access to documents like birth certificates and passports can be especially costly and difficult for low-income and elderly voters, like 97-year-old Shirley Preiss, who moved to Arizona in 2007 to be with her son, Joe Nemnich.

“My mom was born August 17 in 1910, in Clinton, Kentucky. There was no birth certificate,” Nemnich said. “Can I get a delayed birth certificate? No, I can’t … everyone she knows is dead.”

Preiss cast a ballot for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and has voted in every election since. Her Social Security card and several state-issued ID cards are of no use. She says Prop 200 violates her constitutional rights. “I have a legal right,” Preiss said. “It says so right in the book.”

THE ARIZONA MODEL GOES NATIONAL
Republicans say the problems faced by voters such as Preiss are a small price to pay.

“Every vote cast by a non-citizen, whether an illegal alien or a resident alien legally in the country, dilutes or cancels the vote of a citizen and thus disenfranchises him or her,” said von Spakovsky in his Heritage Foundation memorandum.

While Arizona’s law is unique, that could soon change. The chair of Arizona’s Republican Party, Randy Pullen, said he has advised supporters of similar laws in Georgia, Oklahoma and Colorado.

“It’s almost like we’re incubators in terms of what works and what doesn’t work on this issue. I’ve been very pleased with how this worked out nationally,” Pullen said. “And I expect … this will become pretty much the standard for most states.” Which states? “Red states,” he said.

Bills to require voters to show documented proof of citizenship narrowly failed this year in a handful of states where the GOP controls the legislature, such as Missouri and Kansas.

Virginia enacted a law that allows the registrar to remove “all persons known by him not to be United States citizens” from voter rolls after sending them a notice requesting sworn statement of citizenship that requires a reply within 14 days or the application or registration will be cancelled.

Supporters of Indiana’s Voter ID law cited voter fraud by undocumented immigrants as a reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the measure, which it did.

Eight states already require or request photo ID at the polls — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota; Kansas and Pennsylvania require photo ID for first-time voters. Meanwhile, anticipation of voter fraud has become so ingrained that recent news articles have encouraged voters in all states to bring photo ID with them to the polls “just in case.”

As Bush-appointee von Spakovsky argues, doing “anything less encourages contempt for the law and our election process.”

21st Century Voter Disenfranchisement: By the Numbers
By John Tarleton

While claiming to target immigrants who vote illegally, right-wing efforts to require proof of citizenship for voting could disenfranchise millions of U.S. citizens — primarily lowincome, African-American, elderly, female and college-age voters.

7: Percentage of voting-age Americans who lack ready access to citizenship documents (at least 13 million people).

12: Percentage of voting-age citizens with incomes less than $25,000 per year who lack ready access to citizenship documents.

66: Percentage of voting-age women with proof of citizenship who have a document with current legal name. At least 32 million women may have proof of citizenship documents that do not reflect their current name.

11: Percentage of voting-age U.S. citizens who lack valid, government-issued photo ID.

18: Percentage of elderly U.S. citizens who lack a valid, government-issued photo ID.

25: Percentage of voting-age African-Americans who do not have a valid, government-issue photo ID.

8: Percentage of voting-age whites who do not have valid, government issued photo ID.

15: Percentage of voting-age U.S. citizens earning less than $35,000 per year who do not have valid, government-issued photo ID.

10: Percentage of voting-age citizens whose photo ID does not have their current address and legal name.

18: Percentage of voting-age citizens age 18 to 24 who do not have photo ID with current address and name.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice, brennancenter.org