Sunday, January 9, 2011

Arizona Bans extremist Latino Studies Program in Tucson school

A new immigration debate is burning in Arizona this week after the state's attorney general declared a Tucson school district's Mexican-American program illegal -- while similar class programs for blacks, Asians and American Indians were left standing.

"It's propagandizing and brainwashing that's going on there," Tom Horne, the new attorney general said earlier this week referring to the Latino program. He ruled it violated a new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, the New York Times reported Saturday.

When he was the state's superintendent of public instruction, Horne wrote the bill challenging the program. The legislature passed it last spring, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in May at a time when Arizona was mired in protests against its new anti-illegal immigration law.

Now, adding to an already combustible racial and ethnic climate in the heavily Hispanic state, 11 teachers have filed suit in federal courts challenging the new ethnic-studies law, the one that is backed by Horne.

In the Tucson school case, the state claims that the Latino program is more about creating future activists and less about education.

Horne's fight with Tucson goes back to 2007, the Times reported, when Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, told high school students in a speech that Republicans hated Latinos. And Horne is a Republican.

Arizona school districts may lose 10 percent of their state funds if their ethnic studies programs fail to meet new state standards. Programs that support the overthrow of the United States government are banned. Also prohibited are classes that encourage hatred or resentment toward a race, or that focus on one race, or that support ethnic solidarity instead of individuality.

Horne said that Tucson's Latino program violated all those provisions. The district has 60 days to comply with the new law, although Horne indicated that the program would be ended anyway. He said that other districts ethnic-studies programs could continue, absent any complaints.

At Tucson High Magnet School where nearly all the students enrolled in Curtis Acosta's Latino literature class were Mexican-American, students expressed anger, asking how they could protest Horne's decision. "They wrote a state law to snuff this program out, just us little Chicanitos," Acosta told the New York Times. "The idea of losing this is emotional."

On the other side, Horne was asked if he felt he was being compared to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner whose violence against blacks and other freedom fighters became the image of bigotry in the 1960s. Horne said he had joined the March on Washington in 1963, and lashed out at his critics, saying, "They are the 'Bull Connors.' They are the ones re-segregating."


Cautious Choice for House Immigration Panel

The new Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, has passed over an outspoken immigration hard-liner and member of the Tea Party caucus for chairman of the immigration subcommittee.

In an announcement Friday, Mr. Smith unexpectedly gave the job of chairman of the subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement to Representative Elton Gallegly, a conservative Republican from California.

Representative Steve King of Iowa, who was the senior Republican on the subcommittee in the last Congress and was expected to take over as chairman, was named vice chairman instead. Mr. King is known for his high-profile support for measures to crack down on illegal immigration.

In an interview late Friday, Mr. King made no secret of his surprise and disappointment. “I don’t know I can explain it,” he said.

“But the speaker has clearly said that our legislative agenda is the Pledge to America,” Mr. King said, referring to the newly inaugurated Speaker of the House, John A. Boehner of Ohio, and a manifesto Republicans endorsed before the November elections, in which they won a strong majority in that chamber. Mr. King was critical of the pledge, saying, “There is no immigration agenda in it, period.”

He added, “If that is the speaker’s will — that there be no immigration agenda — then this decision would begin to be rational.”

An aide on the Judiciary Committee said Mr. Smith had followed protocol, since Mr. Gallegly was more senior than Mr. King on the full committee. The aide, who asked to speak anonymously following guidance from Mr. Smith, said Mr. Gallegly had requested the immigration subcommittee post.

In practice, Mr. Gallegly does not differ substantially with Mr. King on immigration. Mr. Gallegly, who represents a southern California district, supports tough border enforcement and opposes measures to give legal status to illegal immigrants. He has described himself as one of the “top 10 illegal immigration hawks in Congress.”

But Mr. King, as top Republican on the subcommittee, had made immigration a hallmark issue, appearing frequently in the media to denounce illegal immigrants and recount crime waves and job losses he said they had brought to the country.

Coming from Texas, Mr. Smith has been more sympathetic than Mr. King to Republican concerns that harsh rhetoric on immigration could alienate Latino voters. A chorus of Latinos said Thursday they were offended by Mr. King’s bill to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

“We urge our conservative brothers and sisters to be careful regarding the message that they are sending to the fastest growing segment of our society,” said Juan Hernandez, a founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a group that favors legalization for illegal immigrants.


"Refugees" win access to Australian courts

THE Gillard government is bracing for a wave of asylum claims to swamp the legal system. This comes after the government accepted the results of a High Court ruling that raises serious questions about the value of offshore processing.

Responding for the first time to the High Court's ruling on the rights of asylum-seekers to challenge procedural aspects of their cases in the courts, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday announced the government would appoint two new federal magistrates specifically to deal with the expected deluge in new cases.

Changes to the refugee review process will also greatly extend the appeal options available to asylum-seekers.

But, in a move likely to put the government on a collision course with the Greens and the Coalition, Mr Bowen said the government was already considering laws to limit access to the courts. He said one option was eliminating the jurisdiction of the Federal Court, something legal experts said could be done with an act of parliament.

The changes announced by the government yesterday, which were based on legal advice from the Solicitor-General, provoked fresh questions about the value of retaining Christmas Island as a processing hub for refugees.

The island, along with other parts of Australia's territory, was excised from the migration zone by the Howard government in 2001, a move that denied asylum-seekers access to the courts.

University of Sydney law professor and refugee law expert Mary Crock said that logic no longer applied. She said there was now virtually no legal difference between a protection application lodged at Christmas Island from one lodged on the Australian mainland. "But practically the gulf is enormous," Professor Crock added. "You are treated much more fairly onshore than offshore."

Professor Crock said there was no longer any point to offshore processing, which, according to the incoming government brief supplied to Mr Bowen by his department, was budgeted to cost $471.18 million. That compared with onshore detention costs of $93.76m.

The High Court unanimously ruled in November that two Tamil asylum-seekers were denied procedural fairness and failed to have their claims processed in accordance with the Migration Act.

The court rejected the government's use of the Migration Act to detain asylum-seekers on Christmas Island while claiming the assessment process was "non-statutory" - occurring outside of Australian law.

Mr Bowen, citing advice from the Solicitor-General, said yesterday that, as a result of the decision, failed asylum-seekers would now have access to the Federal Magistrates Court, the Federal Court and, finally, the High Court.

In an effort to streamline what is sure to be a longer, more expensive process, Mr Bowen said immigration officials would "triage" new asylum claims. As of March 1, when the regime takes effect, asylum-seekers with obviously weak or problematic claims would be sent straight to a newly established "independent protection assessment" reviewer. The protection assessment replaces the old independent merits reviewer who audited failed claims, and whose decisions were the subject of the High Court ruling. From there, they could appeal through the courts if unsuccessful.

The announcement greatly extends the appeal options available to asylum-seekers processed offshore, who prior to the court's ruling only had access to a single non-statutory reviewer appointed by the government.

The government's response was dismissed by Tony Abbott as "bureaucratic hand-wringing". He said as long as asylum-seeker boats kept coming, problems would remain. "Look, there's really only one way to address this and that is to stop the boats, and nothing in today's announcement by the government will actually stop the boats," the Opposition Leader said.

The Coalition's acting border protection spokesman, Michael Keenan, said the High Court decision had undermined the concept of Christmas Island, underlining the need for the government to process illegal arrivals in a third country.

"If the government is serious about streamlining the process, they should acknowledge their never-never East Timor solution is a complete farce and pick up the phone to call the President of Nauru," Mr Keenan said.

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