After Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was killed on his land last year by a man police believe was an illegal immigrant, television networks and more than 300 newspapers wrote about his death as an example of the dangers on the border.
Nine months before Krentz was killed, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, were shot to death in their home, 150 miles from Krentz’s ranch. Their attackers were allegedly affiliated with an militia group opposed to illegal immigration that was conducting raids to steal money.
The Flores case is now being tried in Tucson, and immigrant rights activists contend that it deserves more attention. The reason why: The raid was allegedly organized by Shawna Forde, 43, head of a fringe border patrol group called Minutemen American Defense.
Forde’s murder trial, which has been marked by vivid testimony over the past two weeks, has become a cause celebre among proponents of overhauling U.S. immigration law, who cite the killings as an example of the risks of extremism in the immigration debate.
“There has been the prospect of people taking the law into their own hands for some time,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which advocates a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “The rhetoric, the hate mail. It’s unbelievable.”
The organization Cuentame posted a video online last week asking, “Is hate turning to violence?” It elicited hundreds of comments.
But unlike the Krentz case, the trial has been a largely local story.
“There’s a few places writing about this, but it is not getting the attention it deserves,” said Eric Rodriguez, vice president of the National Council of La Raza. “It should be shocking to more people. Is there any circumstance where what took place is acceptable to people?”
A group of young people with a group called “Cuentame” has taken the fight for immigrant rights to a whole new level. The organization, whose name means, “Tell Me a Story,” recently raised hundreds of thousands of dollars online to put up a billboard in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week that says, “God Doesn’t Discriminate, Why Should Utah?”
The tech-savvy leaders of the group call themselves social network activists and use Twitter, email, social book-marking sites and Facebook as organizing tools to educate and activate young people. “Cuentame” is an ongoing campaign that has a small staff and many volunteers who magnify immigrant rights initiatives around the country using arts, politics and culture. Also known as the Brave New Foundation’s Latino Instigators, “Cuentame” currently has more than 48,000 followers on Facebook.
Republican lawmakers dominate Utah politics. Prominent among them is State Sen. Stephen Sandstrom who is expected to introduce a copycat law similar to Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant SB 1070.
Arizona Republicans passed that bill last year granting police the authority to question people about their immigration status based on a “reasonable suspicion” that the person was undocumented. However a federal judge, acting on a lawsuit filed by the Obama administration, has stayed central provisions of the Arizona law.
Authors of the Arizona law and now the Sandstrom bill belong to the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), activists say. The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded FAIR as a hate group. “Cuentame” leaders say FAIR is indeed linked to white supremacist and nativist groups. “Cuentame” released this video exposing the connection.
Critics say the Sandstrom bill goes completely against Utah’s Social Compact, which was issued by a coalition of businesses, law enforcement bodies, churches and community groups urging state leaders to use compassion on immigration issues.
SALT LAKE CITY Despite the chill breeze that came with dusk, supporters of federal immigration reform and amnesty for Utah’s illegal immigrants stood firm Monday on the south steps of the state Capitol.
“This building might look like the U.S. Capitol, but it is the wrong place for immigration reform,” said Mark Alvarez, an attorney and radio host of Pulso Latino.
His sentiment for a federal, rather than a state, solution to illegal immigration was echoed earlier in the day at a news conference by local religious leaders. Both demonstrations took place on the first day of the 2011 Legislature, which will be dealing with about a half-dozen bills attempting to address immigration. The issue caught fire last year in Utah and other states after Arizona passed a controversial immigration law that has been largely blocked by a federal judge.
The late Monday rally in Utah, titled “Don’t Let Utah Become Arizona,” was organized by members of United for Social Justice, a Utah-based activist organization. Members led the crowd of more than 100 in chanting messages to Utah lawmakers, in English and in Spanish, including “fund education, not deportation” and “no human is illegal.” They also chanted for amnesty.
“Something has to be done with our immigration laws,” said Ellie Miller, a retired English as a second language teacher from Salt Lake. Her main concern was for the children, some of whom she taught, who are affected by anti-immigration laws.
“They can’t go back,” she said. “They came with their families.”
Though not traditional advertising, a video from the band Arcade Fire opened new possibilities this summer. Working with Google, the band’s video for “The Wilderness Downtown” could be personalized by typing in the address of your childhood home. If Google Maps has enough footage, the site conjures up a highly personalized video about the end of childhood.
Taking a similar tack, a company called Brave New Films, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union and MoveOn, released a Facebook-based app in March that let users plug in their personal info for a highly entertaining video of Glenn Beck ranting about…you. After using the app, Beck’s chalkboard was filled with pictures of you and your friends along with their names and other personal data. The point: Glenn Beck could just as easily be attacking you.
AFSCME is launching an aggressive new “Stop the Lies” campaign to fight back against lies about public workers by radical right talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and John Stossel.
The campaign will use social media, videos, paid advertising and ground events across the country to get the truth heard amidst the din from Fox News, loudmouthed TV and radio talkers and their attacks blaming public workers for the financial crisis cities and states are facing.
Says AFSCME President McEntee: “Public workers have become the scapegoats for the far right. We’re not going to sit around and let corporate CEO’s define the debate. After all, it was their greed and incompetence that drove this country’s economy into the ditch.”
UPDATE 6pm ET: Election Protection also said voters have reported problems at:
Benedict College, a traditionally black college in Columbia, South Carolina, where students were turned away from polls because the addresses on their drivers’ licenses did not match their university addresses. Similarly, students in Ann Arbor, Michigan reported having similar troubles voting at their colleges. When students turn 21 in Michigan the state automatically renews their drivers’ licenses and updated their voter registration to match the address on their license instead of their local school addresses.
In Wake County, North Carolina, over-eager Republican campaign workers had violated the buffer zone and was giving voters at polling stations election material, telling people who to vote for.
In Tucson, Arizona’s Armory Park precinct, a person had snuck behiind poll workers and was filming voters who had turned up at the polls, which is against the law.
Election Protection also fielded around 60 calls of malfunctioning equipment with new electronic voting machines in New York.
Election Protection said that even though many of the issues people reported today were standard Election Day fare about malfunctioning machines and uninformed poll workers, the group had also seen an uptick in organized efforts of groups to challenge, deceive and intimidate would-be voters.