The Trail of Dreams encounters the KKK

From the Restore Fairness blog.

On January 1st, four courageous students embarked on a 1500-mile symbolic walk from Miami to Washington D.C. to strengthen and inspire the immigration movement. Inspired by the idea of non-violent resistance, the Trail of Dreams has been joined by hundreds of inspired folks who walk along with the students in small towns and cities, to stand together for the passage of the DREAM Act.

But Felipe, Gabby, Carlos and Juan have also met with their share of challenges along the way. Coping with limited resources, finding shelter at each stop on their journey, and being away from their families for four months, they have also had to contend with some opposition to their cause. Now in the deep south, the most recent, and decidedly the most jarring of these, has been their encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in Nahunta, Georgia last week.

Yes, we too thought the KKK had no place outside of the embarrassments of history. Apparently we were all wrong on that. While the group is not very strong or active nowadays, there are still a few thousand Klan members scattered around the country, 50 of whom decided to hold a rally “against the Latino invasion” in Georgia at the same time that the “dreamwalkers” were passing through the area. One of the students, 20 year old Juan Rodriguez, wrote about the encounter on the Trail of Dreams blog -

Today we drove to Nahunta, GA where the Ku Klux Klan was organizing an anti-immigrant demonstration, under the premise that “God put each race in their respective continent and they were meant to stay there”. I can’t help but keep being amused by these concepts that the very organization can’t seem to be able to uphold appropriately. Is the KKK secretly on a campaign to reclaim all lands back for the indigenous people of North America and preparing for the voyage back to Europe? I find this highly unlikely….It is disappointing that after so many years of social reformation, we still have organizations filled with so much hate convening and gaining the support of communities….Ultimately, the success of today was to be able to stand hand in hand with our friends from the NAACP; singing liberation songs together and acknowledging our united struggle for racial justice. We ALL deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

It seems unacceptable that while the walkers and the NAACP (who had organized a rally to counter the KKK) were promoting tolerance, dignity, and humanity, the KKK were propagating hatred and racism. And it’s far from over. After completing 600 miles of their walk, the four students are in a part of the country that is notorious for its anti-immigrant sentiment. This week they will enter Gwinnett County, Georgia, home of Sheriff Conway, known for his anti-immigrant stance.

It takes a lot of courage and determination to do what the dreamwalkers are doing and that’s why they need your support. Check where your Member of Congress stands on immigration reform and let them know what you think about it.

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Trumka: Jobs Crisis--Fix It Now

Today at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other leaders joined together to call for urgent action to create jobs and rebuild the economy.

In a live webcast panel discussion, the consensus was clear: Without quick action, an entire generation could be mired in economic turmoil. The nation can, and must, put people back to work--while addressing critical needs for the future of our communities.

The scale of the jobs crisis is obvious: Since the beginning of the recession, more than 8 million jobs have been lost. The official unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent, with more than 26 million unemployed or underemployed. These figures are even more severe among African American and Latino communities. Young people are at risk of permanently stunted opportunity, and the jobs crisis is rebounding throughout the country with increased hunger and poverty, massive numbers of home foreclosures and diminished access to health care.

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Trumka to Launch Jobs Initiative Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will announce a major new initiative to create and save jobs.

(Watch the live webcast at starting at 9 a.m.)

Trumka will be part of a noted panel in "Spotlight on the Jobs Crisis" at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

With unemployment at its highest rate in more than 20 years, Trumka says America needs bold, quick action to put people back to work, in addition to longer term, structural fixes for our economy. The AFL-CIO initiative he announces will include calls to extend help for the unemployed, rebuild the nation's infrastructure, provide aid to struggling states and communities, create federally funded community-based jobs and increase lending to small and medium-sized businesses to spur job creation.

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Iowa NAACP head needs a history lesson

Sioux City businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats got a surprising endorsement on Monday from Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines and president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.

Vander Plaats was the front-runner in the Republican field until former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race. Ratliff said Vander Plaats' position on same-sex marriage rights was "an important factor" in his endorsement.

The Des Moines Register also reported,

Ratliff, a registered Democrat, said there were other factors in his decision, such as his dissatisfaction with Gov. Chet Culver's progress fixing discriminatory hiring practices unearthed under his predecessor, Gov. Tom Vilsack. Both Culver and Vilsack are Democrats.

"I believe marriage is between one man and one woman," Ratliff said. "But I also feel there are many other issues that have to be addressed."

Vander Plaats said he sought Ratliff's endorsement. Vander Plaats also said that, until now, he had not spoken during the campaign about the minority hiring practices or offered a plan for addressing them.

If Ratliff were merely upset about Culver's work on state hiring practices, he could have waited until after the Republican primary and endorsed the GOP nominee. Yet he jumped in early for Vander Plaats, who has never spoken out about minority hiring practices.

Let's get real. Vander Plaats sought Ratliff's support because both men were involved in public protests against the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v Brien.

Moreover, Vander Plaats is the only gubernatorial candidate who promises to issue an executive order on day one halting same-sex marriages until Iowans have had a chance to vote on the issue. Other Republican candidates understand that the governor lacks the power to overturn a Supreme Court ruling. Simple facts about the separation of powers are lost on Vander Plaats and his wingnut endorsers like Bill Salier and Kent Sorenson.

Ratcliff's endorsement is valuable for Vander Plaats, who needs to persuade Republicans that he has enough crossover appeal to defeat Culver. Many GOP power-brokers have thrown in their lot with Branstad, believing that "bold-color conservative" Vander Plaats would lose the general.

Although Ratliff was not speaking on behalf of the NAACP yesterday, it astounds me that the head of any NAACP chapter would get behind a candidate like Vander Plaats. I mean, what could go wrong when a governor unlawfully uses executive powers to defy a court ruling protecting minority rights? I get that the reverend is icked out by same-sex marriage, but you would think that anyone representing the NAACP would recognize the danger of encouraging governors to overrule the courts. But no, Ratliff "rejects the notion the gay rights movement is akin to the civil rights movement for blacks."

Vander Plaats has advocated some wacky ideas, but none more dangerous than letting the governor pick and choose which Supreme Court rulings to respect. The NAACP should distance itself from Ratliff's politics.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's immigration blog round-up covers a new report on low-wage Latino workers and some state immigration news.

A new Southern Poverty Law Center report finds that low-wage Latino workers in the South are "are cheated out of wages, subjected to inhumane conditions, subjected to wide-spread racial profiling and are regularly harassed by law enforcement." The report also found that:

-Eighty-eight percent of Georgia respondents believed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials targeted and treated Latinos differently, including immigrants of other backgrounds;

-41 percent of responders reported that they had personally experienced wage theft, meaning they had not been paid for work they completed; and

-Although only 44 percent of survey participants were women, 77 percent of them reported that sexual harassment was a major problem on the job.

More here.

Last weekend in Baltimore, a coalition of organizations and people of African descent come together to form the Black Immigration Network to address immigration and racial equity issues surrounding African Americans and immigrants of African descent. The convening included participants from the Center for New Community and the NAACP.

The Center for New Community has more on their initiative to address race and immigration here. They reject the notion that immigrants and African Americans compete for jobs and argue that proof of citizenship legislation disenfranchises African Americans.

Representative Michael Honda, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, has joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez on the Family Unity tour.  Asians make up 12 percent of the undocumented population.

In New Jersey, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor has come out against the recommendations of the blue ribbon panel on immigration.  In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg announced his support for the DREAM Act.

The Latino Coalition is working to ensure that Latino entrepreneurs secure their share of government small business contracts and procurement opportunities.  They will be holding an Economic Summit in DC on May 6th.

For more from The Opportunity Agenda, visit our blog.

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