In Mississippi, Work Is Now a Felony for Undocumented Immigrants
In The (
Passage of the bill was a setback to the political strategy that has shown the most promise of changing the old conservative power structure in the state, the "closed society" described by Professor Atkins. That strategy, building over the last several years, has relied on creating an electoral base of African-Americans, immigrants and unions. The new employer sanctions law, according to supporters of that strategy, is intended to drive immigrants out of the state by making it impossible for them to find work.
From 1995 to 2000, the state capital,
Inspired by March Madness, the folks at the Consumerist blog recently set up brackets to determine
It will be Comcast - in a rout.
Sure, you skeptics are thinking, "What about Wal-Mart? Exxon? Halliburton?" I'll admit that we can't (yet) connect Comcast to child labor, environmental destruction or Dick Cheney (although clearly you've never sat for seven hours on a Saturday waiting for a new DVR). But I'm not alone in my seething rage for the nation's largest cable company.
The Internet is filled with sites - like ComcastMustDie.com, ComCraptic.com and ComcastSucks.org - dedicated to the company. Comcast customer Brian Finkelstein's video of one of its technicians sleeping on his couch has been watched more than 1 million times on YouTube.
Then there's Mona Shaw. This once mild-mannered retired nurse from northern Virginia (a square-dancing Unitarian, no less) got so fed up with Comcast's lousy customer service that she went down to the local office armed with a claw hammer. Here's the play-by-by from a Washington Post profile of Shaw:
Shaw storms in the company's office. BAM! She whacks the keyboard of the customer service rep. BAM! Down goes the monitor. BAM! She totals the telephone. People scatter, scream, cops show up and what does she do? POW! A parting shot to the phone!
Shaw was arrested and earned a $345 fine, along with the admiration of millions.
Awful customer service is one thing. But what's truly frightening are Comcast's plans to turn the freewheeling, open Internet into something that looks like, well, cable TV.
Comcast is one of the leading opponents of "Net Neutrality" - the fundamental principle that prevents service providers from discriminating against websites or services based on their source, ownership or destination. Along with AT&T, Time Warner and Verizon, Comcast has claimed that Net Neutrality is just "a solution in search of a problem." Well, here's the problem: Last fall, the Associated Press caught Comcast secretly blocking popular - and legal - peer-to-peer file-sharing. First, Comcast denied it. Then it claimed it was just "reasonable network management."
There's nothing reasonable about it. The Associated Press couldn't even upload a copy of the King James Bible. And the "bandwidth hogs" that Comcast targeted just so happened to be using a service that directly competes with Comcast's video business.
In response to a complaint filed by my colleagues at Free Press, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched an official investigation. Comcast kept denying, stonewalling and questioning the agency's authority. As part of its inquiry, the FCC held a hearing at
With a second hearing announced for April 17 at
This fishy-sounding agreement didn't fool FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. "While it may take time to implement its preferred new traffic management technique," he said in a statement, "it is not at all obvious why Comcast couldn't stop its current practice of arbitrarily blocking its broadband customers from using certain applications."
That's FCC-ese for "I'm not buying it."
To be clear, Martin hasn't always been a friend of the public interest. He has tried to gut media ownership limits and has rubber-stamped mega-mergers. He even voted for the ruling that put Net Neutrality in jeopardy in the first place. But let's give the guy a break. After all, he's human, which means he must hate Comcast, too.
Of course, if the FCC and Congress don't act quickly to stop Comcast and restore Net Neutrality, we may have to take matters into our own hands.
Two words: Hammer time.ording to news reports. "Immigrants are always undercounted, but I think they're now about 130,000, and they'll be 10 percent of the population ten years from now," predicts MIRA Director Bill Chandler.
"We have the chance here to avoid the rivalry that plagues
MIRA is the fruit of strategic thinking among a diverse group that reaches from African-American workers' centers on catfish farms and immigrant union organizers in chicken plants to guest workers and contract laborers on the Gulf Coast, and ultimately, into the halls of the state legislature in Jackson. Activists look back to changes that started when
Through the '90s, more immigrants arrived looking for work. Some guest workers overstayed their visas, while husbands brought wives, cousins and friends from home. Mexicans and Central Americans joined South and Southeast Asians, and began traveling north through the state, getting jobs in rural poultry plants. There they met African-Americans, many of whom had fought hard campaigns to organize unions for chicken and catfish workers over the preceding decade.
It was not easy for newcomers to fit in. Their union representatives didn't speak their languages. When workers got pulled over by state troopers, they found themselves not only cited for lacking driver's licenses, but also often handed over to the Border Patrol. Sometimes their children weren't even allowed to enroll in school.
In the fall of 2000, labor, church and civil rights activists formed an impromptu coalition, and went to the legislature. At their heart was the core of activists who'd organized
Harden's efforts bore fruit when the drivers' license bill passed the Senate unanimously in 2001. "But they saw us coming in the House, and killed it,"
To build a grassroots base, MIRA volunteers went into chicken plants to help recruit newly arrived immigrants into unions. In the casinos, MIRA volunteers worked with UNITE HERE organizers. In
Then Katrina hit the Gulf. MIRA fought evictions and the cases of workers cheated by employers, and eventually recovered over $1 million. MIRA organizer Vicky Cintra and other activists participated in several celebrated cases defending guest workers, especially in the Signal International shipyard in
Not always that different, however. In Laurel and many other
In 2007, the Republican machine introduced twenty-one anti-immigrant bills into the state legislature, including ones to impose state penalties for hiring undocumented workers and English-only requirements on state license and benefit applicants, to prohibit undocumented students at state universities, and to require local police to check immigration status. MIRA defeated all of them. "The Black Caucus stood behind us every time," Evans says proudly. There are no immigrant or Latino legislators. Without the Caucus all 21 bills would have passed in 2007, and 19 similar bills in 2006.
The 2008 legislative session was different, however. Chandler describes three factions in the party - the Black Caucus at one end, white conservatives hanging on at the other, and "liberals who will do whatever they have to do to get elected" in the middle. After some Democratic candidates campaigned in 2007 on an anti-immigrant platform, MIRA wrote a letter in protest to Howard Dean, national chair of the Democratic Party. Those tactics, it said, were undermining the only strategy capable of changing the state's politics. "The attacks on Latinos, initiated by Republican Phil Bryant a year and a half ago, and joined by other Republicans, are now being echoed by Democrats like John Arthur Eaves and Jamie Franks," the letter said. State party leaders who "would go along to be accepted, rather than show the courage necessary for positive change ... are peddling racist lies against immigrants that violate the core of the party's progressive agenda." Anti-immigrant campaigning by Democrats was unsuccessful. Conservative Republican Hayley Barbour was returned to the governor's mansion and Phil Bryant was elected lieutenant governor. And in the legislative session that followed, some Democrats began to buckle under pressure from vocal right-wing groups, including the Klan.
During the 2007 elections, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally of 500 people in front of the
The Klan's web site says "it's time to declare war on these illegal Mexicans.... The racial war is among us, will you fight with us for the future of our race and for our children? Or will you sit on your ass and do nothing? Our blissful ignorance is over. It is time to fight. Time for
The web site has links to the site of the Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (the state affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform), directed by Mike Lott, who sits in the state legislature. After MIRA's Erik Fleming urged Governor Barbour to veto the employer sanctions bill, saying it would be "devastating to our economy and community here in
For those threatened by changing demographics and the political upsurge they might produce, SB 2988 law is a finger in the dike. The fight to implement it is not over, however, and MIRA has assembled a legal team to challenge its constitutionality in court.
David Bacon is a California photojournalist who documents labor, migration and globalization. His book "Communities Without Borders" was just published by Cornell University/ILR Press.