Monday, September 15, 2008

Some California dropouts finish high school but don't succeed beyond, study finds

Here's the summary of the New Statistical Brief: What Happened to Dropouts From the High School Class of 2004?


A little more than half receive a high school diploma or equivalent, but 90% never enroll in college or drop out after they do, according to the California Dropout Research Project.

By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 12, 2008

For most high school dropouts, reality sets in sooner or later: Without a high school diploma, their prospects in life are limited at best.

A study released Thursday confirms that many California dropouts give school another try. But the California Dropout Research Project also reports that even dropouts who go back to school appear to stand little chance of success in college. And in an economy that increasingly prizes academic success, the outlook is bleak for those who don't return to school at all.

"Kids who drop out of school are at risk in general -- we know that," said Russell Rumberger, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who leads the dropout project.

But, he added, he was alarmed by the study's finding that one in three of the students who dropped out of 10th grade in 2004 were doing nothing four years later -- not going to school or working.

"That is a disturbing number for our state," Rumberger said.

The brief statistical study is the 39th report issued by the dropout project, which was formed in December 2006 for a limited operating period. Funded by four major philanthropic organizations, the project is intended to give educators and legislators the background they need to attack the state's serious dropout problem.

The new report, based on previously published national data, found that roughly one in five California students who dropped out of 10th grade in 2004 returned to school and earned their diploma within four years. A slightly smaller percentage earned a high school equivalency degree, or GED.

In all, 54% received some sort of high school degree or were still in school working toward that goal, the study showed.

But while roughly half of the dropouts were at least making a stab at finishing high school, few were progressing past that. Ninety percent had either never enrolled in college or had enrolled and dropped out. By contrast, 60% of their peers who didn't drop out of high school in their sophomore year were enrolled in college four years later.

"These data are foreboding," said Russlynn Ali, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based nonprofit that is an advocate for improving education, especially for disadvantaged youth. She said they suggest "a very bleak future for California."

The picture presented in the report of California dropouts looks quite similar to figures for the nation as a whole, with one significant exception: More than twice as many dropouts nationwide earned a GED certificate.

Rumberger said he couldn't explain that trend. He noted that many educators and economists believe that GED certificates are of limited value -- better than nothing, but less of a boost than a high school diploma.

Ali is among those who discount the GED. "I don't think those other states should be proud that they have more kids completing their GED than California," she said.

As the dropout project winds down over the next year, Rumberger said, the lesson it carries for policymakers is that the high school dropout problem is highly complex and will require a systemwide response, beginning as early as preschool.

Dropping out is "more of a process than an event . . . and there are a lot of telltale signs along the way," he said. The biggest signposts are failure in middle and high school, but the project's data suggest that the problems that lead students to drop out can begin as early as first grade.

On the plus side, he said, "It means there are a lot of places in a child's school career where we could intervene to help."

But it also means that there is no simple fix. "It really is going to take some systemic change," Rumberger said. "Anything short of that is not going to be that successful ultimately."

Troubling link in domestic violence cases

Immigrants more likely to be victims, data show

By Maria Sacchetti | Boston Globe Staff
September 12, 2008

Immigrants account for a disturbingly high share of domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts, advocates say, raising fears that the nation's heated immigration debate is deterring abuse victims from seeking help.

In Framingham last week, an undocumented immigrant whose husband had beaten her for two days called a hot line in tears, saying she was too afraid to call police. In Boston's Chinatown, women fear becoming burdens to relatives back home if they leave their husbands.

In some cases, the fallout affects families far from Massachusetts. In hurricane-ravaged Haiti, relatives of Norma Dorce Gilles are struggling to survive without her frequent care packages of spaghetti, peanut butter, and $400 in cash. Gilles, a Malden beautician, was smothered and dumped in the trunk of her car in February, allegedly by her former boyfriend, Lesly Cheremond, an illegal immigrant who had been ordered deported and is now awaiting trial in the killing. He has pleaded not guilty.

"We need to shore up services or this will continue," said Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition of sexual assault and domestic violence programs. "What we are afraid of is the deeper isolation felt by immigrant victims. That is the danger point."

Immigrants make up an estimated 14 percent of the state's population, but accounted for 26 percent of the 180 domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2006, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Public Health. Nearly all of the 47 victims were women and children.

Illegal immigrants are perhaps the most vulnerable, advocates say, because they fear deportation. Batterers often threaten to report their victims to immigration officials if they go to police. Some batterers who are US citizens or legal residents even refuse to help their spouses apply for legal residency, effectively holding them hostage, advocates say.

"There's so much anti-immigrant sentiment and so much vitriol coming out of communities, it's really driving a lot of immigrant victims back underground," said Mary Gianakis, executive director of Voices Against Violence, a Framingham nonprofit that runs a shelter and other services. "It's really very frightening for people if they think that by reaching out they're somehow going to be outed as undocumented."

Federal immigration authorities said they do not generally deport victims of domestic violence who are here illegally. They urge victims to report the crimes, a step that opens new avenues to apply for legal residency, such as a special visa for crime victims. Greater Boston Legal Services, which has the main state contract for helping domestic violence victims, is helping more than 200 people apply for permanent legal residency.

"Our focus is on the criminal," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of investigations in the Boston office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which covers New England. "The person who is actually a victim is the last person we have a focus on as far as immigration enforcement goes."

Fear of deportation could keep batterers from seeking help as well. Judge Sydney Hanlon of Dorchester District Court said batterers are reluctant to plead guilty and enroll in treatment programs because they could be deported, even if they are here legally. This could also deter victims from reporting crimes, she said.

"Many of the women that I see don't want their partner deported," Hanlon said. "They want there not to be violence."

State officials say they are trying to beef up immigrant advocacy programs after what they said were years of underfunding. In 2003, the state's fiscal crisis cut money for translators and other services under the Refugee and Immigrant Safety and Empowerment Program. This year, the state is spending $1.1 million on the program, up from $800,000 spread over the 2006 to 2008 budget years.

For abuse victims of all backgrounds, resources are still scarce, advocates say. The state has fewer than 400 shelter beds set aside for victims, according to Jane Doe Inc. On any given day, about five beds are available for 50 people in the general population who call to request them.

Immigrants often require translators and counselors who understand their cultures and the customs of their native lands. In other countries, advocates say, domestic violence laws might not exist or aren't enforced. A 2006 report for the state said domestic violence was a significant concern for immigrant women from a variety of regions.

Each community grapples with its own fears. Cambodian women are often afraid of being deported and burdening their families, while Chinese women often fear "losing face" within their communities, according to the Asian Task Force in Chinatown.

Some Brazilian women have said they were afraid to leave their batterers because they had threatened to harm their relatives in Brazil.

In Greater Boston's Haitian community, six people have been killed in domestic violence cases since 2003 - five women and one man, said Carline Desiré, executive director of the Association of Haitian Women in Boston.

In the meantime, the community is dealing with the aftermath of the deaths. In July, Greenland Etienne, a 33-year-old mother of four from Haiti, was stabbed to death in Boston, allegedly by the estranged boyfriend of a friend she was trying to protect.

Gilles, the Malden hairdresser, left grieving survivors here and in Haiti. Her mother, who visits Massachusetts regularly, said she cannot stop crying. And the responsibility of supporting their relatives in Haiti has fallen on her brother.

"She was the bread and butter of her family in Haiti," said a cousin, Pierre Joas, a tax preparer in Somerville who now educates the community about domestic violence and other issues on a cable TV show. "All of them depended on her."

Immigrants' arrests anger S.F. supervisors

Christopher Heredia, SF Chronicle
Sunday, September 14, 2008

(09-13) 18:25 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Two San Francisco supervisors expressed outrage Saturday at federal officers' handling of six immigration arrests this past week at a Visitacion Valley residence.

Four women and two men were booked into custody, and a 15-year-old girl was questioned at the residence Thursday night, according a spokeswoman for the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and two members of the Board of Supervisors.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said authorities went to the home seeking three adults who were considered to be fugitives after being ordered deported by a federal judge.

When officers arrived, they found three other adults who are undocumented and living in the country illegally and arrested them as well, Kice said. The girl has an application to stay in the country legally and so she was not apprehended, Kice said.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes Visitacion Valley, said City Hall aides told her the 15-year-old girl was left by herself after federal officers took all the adults from the residence, a claim Kice strongly denied.

"We're still investigating," Maxwell said, "but as far as I know, the child was left. That's my concern."

Maxwell said she was also concerned that agents entered the residence without a warrant. "We need to look at the protocol and whether they followed it," Maxwell said. "This child did not put herself in this situation, and that needs to be looked at."

Kice said the girl was never left without adult supervision and that officers acted in accordance with federal law. She said a warrant was not required in this case.

"We would never knowingly leave a minor unattended," Kice said, adding that the girl was supervised until another relative could pick her up.

San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said federal officers and San Francisco police were at the residence until the girl's aunt arrived.

Kice also disputed claims by the lawyer for those arrested that immigration officers acted in an abusive manner. One of the arrested men suffered minor injuries in a scuffle with federal officers.

Kice said the man tried to assault officers with a kitchen utensil. "It was not a knife," Kice said. "But he did attempt to assault officers. In subduing him, he was slightly hurt. He didn't want to go to the hospital, but officers took him anyway to make sure his injuries weren't serious."

Kice said the man was released back into custody with a clean bill of health and pain medication.

Whether federal officers or San Francisco police officers violated the city's sanctuary ordinance may be the subject of an inquiry by the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Tom Ammiano said.

San Francisco's sanctuary laws say that no city resources should be used to assist federal immigration law enforcement unless required by federal law. Police officers responded to the scene after a neighbor reported a commotion at the residence. They stood back once they determined federal immigration authorities were making arrests, Gittens said.

"It's very disturbing," Ammiano said of the incident. "Aside from the mean-spiritedness of these arrests, there appears to be a coordinated attack on the city's sanctuary status," Ammiano said. "The people arrested should be allowed due process, and it doesn't sound like that was the case."

Francisco Ugarte, a lawyer with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network, who is representing the arrested adults, said he is looking into whether federal officers violated the U.S. Constitution by entering the residence without a warrant and whether San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance may have been violated.

Ugarte said none of his clients went at officers with a kitchen utensil.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Affirmative action study sparks controversy

Check out more info. on the proposed California Bar Study


Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
Sunday, September 14, 2008

In his 19 years as a law professor at UCLA, Richard Sander has pondered a nagging question: Does affirmative action help or hinder black people who want to become lawyers?

Two years ago, he published research suggesting that racial preferences at law firms might be responsible for black lawyers' high rate of attrition and difficulty making partner. He hypothesized that, in the interest of promoting diversity, law firms sometimes hire black lawyers that are under-qualified, and that when there is a "credentials gap" between black and white lawyers at a firm, black lawyers often fail.

The research stirred debate throughout the legal community, and Sander said he was surprised at the vehemence with which people attacked his motives. A former Vista volunteer, fair-housing activist and campaigner for Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, Sander insisted he was simply trying to examine an important question.

Now the law professor has waded into another controversy. Sander says his goal this time is to examine whether law schools set up many affirmative action beneficiaries for failure by admitting them into rigorous academic environments in which they are ill-prepared to compete. He proposes to study almost 30 years of data on California Bar Association exam-takers. In the end, he hopes to explain why, as reported in a Law School Admission Council study in the 1990s, blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on the first try.

The California Bar Association has refused to facilitate his probe. Citing privacy concerns, the association has denied him access to detailed demographic data collected from exam-takers since 1972.

Many lawyers, scholars and diversity advocates have applauded the official action.

Sander's conclusions in the earlier study and a paper he wrote for the North Carolina Law Review in June 2006 "essentially argued that law firms should not hire black graduates," said Deborah Waire Post, a Harvard Law School graduate, professor at New York's Touro Law Center and co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers.

"What this suggests is that Richard Sander is not studying affirmative action or diversity policies; he is marshaling evidence to show that blacks do not belong in elite schools or elite firms," Post said.

She likened Sander's academic assessments of affirmative action to "the late 19th and early 20th century when this country was beset by 'scholars' and 'scientists' who constructed theories of racial inferiority to justify the subordination of African Americans."

From a tidy campus office crammed with the output of academia, Sander defends his proposed project as necessary to show that admissions and hiring preferences "hurt the very people they were intended to help."

He and fellow doubters of the efficacy of affirmative action asked the California Supreme Court in August to compel the state bar to turn over what Sander describes as "the perfect database." The bar records, which include age, race, gender, academic records and bar scores, nicely divide between the pre- and post-Proposition 209 eras, the 1996 California ballot initiative that prohibited state universities from considering race, ethnicity, gender or national origin in admissions.

Among those hoping to probe the bar data with Sander is Doug Williams, an associate professor of economics at the University of the South in Tennessee. He defends the project as necessary to test a "reasonable hypothesis" as to why there are racial gaps in law school graduation rates and bar passage.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, joined Sander in his lawsuit against the California bar on grounds that the lawyer-licensing institution is a publicly funded government agency whose records should be open to scrutiny by legitimate researchers.

Scheer suspects that the bar's resistance is driven by fear of controversy and bureaucratic inertia.

"We see our job as getting the data and giving it to both sides" of the debate over the value and efficacy of affirmative action, said Scheer. "Politics should not block otherwise valid, even if controversial, academic research."

Nevertheless, he sees validity in the bar's concerns about confidentiality.

"They do need to be made comfortable, to be sure that the data is released in a way that makes it virtually impossible to link any information in it to any particular people," he said.

Holly Fujie, incoming president of the state bar, said Sander was denied access to the data because it had been solicited from bar exam-takers with assurances that it would be used only by the bar for purposes of ensuring the test's fairness.

Bar officials also harbor doubts that all study subjects could remain anonymous even if their names were excised. One woman who spoke against the research project at a bar hearing on the appeal pointed out that she was the only black woman in her law school class at UCLA so it would be obvious that she was the subject of any study conclusions referring to that demographic.

The Society of American Law Teachers' bar exam analyst, Andi Curcio, criticizes Sander's study subject for putting more value on first-time bar passage than it deserves.

"The bar exam as presently constituted is not a good measure of whether somebody is a competent lawyer," said Curcio, a law professor at Georgia State University. Flawed as it may be, affirmative action has brought desirable results in diversifying the legal community, Richardson argues. Minorities and women account for about 25 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel, a five-fold increase in the 11 years since the association was founded.

Texas schools scrambling to get dropouts back in class

Good point mentioned by Dr. Rumburger: "These are great gestures, but they won't have any impact if there's not something in schools to keep kids there," he said. "It's a long-term process."


By LAURIE FOX / The Dallas Morning News
September 5, 2008

This fall, a political spotlight and a sense of urgency hangs over the yearly quest to get potential dropouts back to class.

From principals to superintendents to mayors in the state's largest cities, the heat is on to get these students in school quickly.

Two changes are bringing extra attention to the more than 50,000 students lost from Texas schools each of the last few years.

State officials have said that failing to meet the federal dropout standard could for the first time count against campuses in their ratings.

For the first time, Texas schools have until Sept. 26 to corral wayward students before they must be considered dropouts. They had until mid-January in the past. This is a challenge in a district like Dallas ISD, which has historically had thousands of kids not return until several weeks into the school year.

"This is a very critical period for us," said Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa. "It's a very important year. If we don't do this now, if we don't have the completion rates we need, these schools will be unacceptable."

The changes are part of the state's ongoing effort to come in line with the federal dropout standards developed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Texas began using these standards two years ago, but had not yet fully factored the graduation numbers into school ratings.

On Saturday, Dr. Hinojosa, Mayor Tom Leppert, parents and other volunteers will make a public showing. They will knock on doors to reach families of potential dropouts and try to convince them to re-enroll.

Five other major cities – including Fort Worth and Houston – and more than a dozen Texas school districts will do the same.

Houston Mayor Bill White said he started the effort because he believes that knowing an adult cares enough to come to their door sometimes is enough to get students back in school.

"Every week that goes by makes it harder to get that student back up to grade level when they return," he said.

Last year, the Houston effort encouraged 60 students to return to class the day of the walk and by the end of September, 766 students who were contacted during the walk were back in school, organizers said.

Most recent state statistics show about 64 percent of the class of 2007 made it through Houston high schools. Dallas graduated 62.5 percent of that class.
Dropout statistics unreliable

For years, the state's dropout numbers and high school graduation rates were inconsistently calculated, according to the Texas education agency's own historical timeline.

Critics also say keeping accurate track of the number of dropouts has bedeviled Texas for years.

Part of the problem, they say, is that when a student stopped coming to school, for example, educators often assumed that the student moved or went to another school when in fact the student may have quit entirely and should have been counted as a dropout.

"The quality and accuracy of the data from Texas is a real problem," said Daria Hall, the assistant director for K-12 policy at the Education Trust in Washington. The group monitors achievement trends nationwide.

She said the state's 2006 completion and dropout report contained 1,300 students that were listed as data errors, those who were not figured at all.

TEA officials say they have adopted the standards of the National Center for Education Statistics within the last two years. Those standards require that school districts be more specific in documenting why students leave school.

The TEA now requires the schools to report any seventh- through 12th-graders who were enrolled at any time during the prior year, who did not show up the following year.

The standards also have more specific deadlines for when schools have to report data.

"We've given the districts as much transition time as we can," said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.

In August, state officials acknowledged that 95 districts and 142 campuses avoided lower accountability ratings because the state excused schools that failed to meet the dropout standards but still met test score requirements.

Commissioner Robert Scott said in August that the state would discontinue that practice, a move that could result in hundreds of schools being rated low-performing next year.

Mr. Scott plans to hold a state dropout summit Nov. 10 in Austin that will include state and city leaders, educators, businesses, non-profit groups and youth associations.
No easy fix

Marcia Niemann, who teaches English as a second language at Adamson High School in Dallas, said she supports the early push to find dropouts.

"I'm looking at my list of students who were here last year and who should be here this year and I don't know where all of them are," she said. "One moved, one returned to Mexico, another told me ‘Miss, I won't be back.' If we find them within the first few weeks and get them back, they can still catch up."

Maria Garcia, the parent liaison at Adamson, said she hustles all year, finding students at home, in the grocery store, wherever she can. She tells them why they need to be in school. Then she checks back again and again.

"I keep telling them ‘You still have a chance,'" she said. "They have different situations, like work or family obligations. But we have to stay with them."

Many times, she says she reminds parents that while the money that their children earn helps out, it can't replace education.

California researcher Russell Rumberger, a professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara who studies dropouts, praised local and state efforts to raise awareness.

But he cautioned that raising graduation rates is complicated and finding solutions is not easy.

"These are great gestures, but they won't have any impact if there's not something in schools to keep kids there," he said. "It's a long-term process."

What is a dropout?

Texas uses the National Center for Education Statistics dropout standard. Under this definition, a dropout is a student who is enrolled in public school in grades 7-12, who does not return to public school the following fall, is not expelled, and does not graduate, receive a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, continue school outside the public school system, begin college or die.

Recent changes

The Texas Education Agency has been phasing school districts into using the national definition for dropouts. The following changes were made during the last two years:
•A student who does not receive a GED certificate by Aug. 31 must be counted as a dropout.
•A student who leaves school without passing the exit-level TAKS must be counted as a dropout.

What’s new?

This fall, two more changes will take effect:
•Schools have until Sept. 26 instead of mid-January to get students back in school before they are counted as dropouts.
•TEA officials say they will discontinue the practice of excusing schools that haven’t met federal dropout standards as long as their TAKS passing rates were satisfactory. This could negatively affect a school’s accountability rating.

Source: Texas Education Agency

Increased Raids and Checkpoint Arrests Endanger Undocumented Immigrants Threatened by Gulf Coast Storms

An important article to read. Also, check out the audio interview.


Democracy Now!
September 12, 2008

Undocumented immigrants along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast have resisted mandatory evacuation orders out of fear they could be arrested and deported at checkpoints. The climate of fear around deportation has worsened as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, continues to step up its raids across the country, with two of the largest raids in US history taking place in the last five months. We speak to David Bacon, award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer and immigrant rights activist and author of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Migrants. [includes rush transcript]


David Bacon, Veteran photojournalist, labor organizer and immigrant rights activist. His articles have appeared in The Nation, American Prospect, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. He hosts a weekly radio show on KPFA in Berkeley, California. His latest book is Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Migrants.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Nearly a million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes along the coast of Texas as Hurricane Ike prepares to strike the Gulf. The National Weather Service issued a stern warning for certain areas, saying that people who ignored the evacuation order could “face instant death.”

But there’s a portion of the population who might not evacuate out of fear. Undocumented immigrants in affected areas of Texas remain skeptical about the mandatory evacuation order, and they fear that they could be arrested and deported at checkpoints and evacuation centers. FEMA spokesman Dan Martinez said Thursday that there would be a “hurricane amnesty” for all undocumented migrants in Texas.

But earlier this summer, despite assurances to the contrary from Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, Border Patrol agents kept open checkpoints and apprehended a van of people trying to evacuate from Hurricane Dolly. Last month, many undocumented immigrants in New Orleans did not evacuate during Hurricane Gustav due to deportation concerns.

AMY GOODMAN: The climate of fear around deportation has worsened as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, continues to step up its raids across the country. The two largest raids in US history took place in the last five months. ICE agents rounded up hundreds of workers in Postville, Iowa in May and then in Laurel, Mississippi last month, during the Democratic—right around the Democratic convention.

Although the subject of immigration and the growing crackdown on immigrants was largely absent from both the conventions, immigrant rights organizers held marches in both Denver and St. Paul. Democracy Now! was at the immigration rally in Denver, Colorado last month.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 1: They want us here working, but they don’t want us to have any rights.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 2: And they don’t want to pay the right way. They don’t want to pay the minimum wage. They want to pay less than minimum wage.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 3: [translated] We are in a country that isn’t our own, but we want the government and the new administration to reform immigration for everyone.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 4: There’s strength in immigrants. They have a lot of passion. You know, they’re recent people here. And we need to let them know what it feels like to have rights. And they have the power to change things in this country. A few generations back, my family was immigrants, as well. And it can only bring strength to the nation.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHERS: Yes, we can do it. Yes, we can.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 5: …to make sure that the people’s voices are heard and that there—the issues that are important to people—immigrant rights, rights of children, rights of families, health insurance for all people—are recognized here, recognized by our government, recognized by the people in power, by Barack Obama, who I support and who recognizes that these are important issues to us for this election.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 6: My mom and my dad came here in the early ’70s. They managed to get amnesty in ’86 under the IRCA law. We feel that it’s possible to get amnesty once again. And we want to just get out of the shadows of scapegoating. You know, scapegoating. And so, nobody—my parents don’t have to deal with that, and the next generation’s parents don’t have to deal with that.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 7: In May of this year, ICE went in and rounded up about 300 to 400 workers, and right now the town has become a virtual prison for the women and the children. They can’t leave, and they can’t work.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHERS: What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 8: [translated] This country doesn’t respect you. My words don’t matter. They’ll get what they want, including taking my life. I’m tired of them treating me like I’m less just because of the color of my skin. They have everything of ours, including our country. America is for all Americans. This is my boat, too. [in English] This is a country of immigrants. We need the change bad. Obama is not the solution.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCHER 9: Regardless of who gets elected in November, working people will continue to bear the brunt of the economic crisis. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq will continue, and it will be deepened into Pakistan. And the attacks against working people at home will continue, the raids and deportations.

AMY GOODMAN: Immigrants’ rights activists rallying in Denver during the Democratic National Convention.

As the ICE raids on immigrant communities continue across the country, we’re joined in the firehouse studio by someone who’s been following the issues of immigration, labor and free trade for years: David Bacon, award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, immigrant rights activist. His articles have appeared in The Nation, American Prospect, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and he hosts a radio show on Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley. His latest book is called Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.

David Bacon, welcome to Democracy Now! The largest raid in US history, immigrant raid, right before the Democratic convention, hundreds rounded up.

DAVID BACON: That’s right, in Laurel, Mississippi. And then, what got even less coverage was that they took 481 people, and they put them in a detention center in Jena, Louisiana and just sort of left them there—


DAVID BACON: —for two weeks. In Jena, right.

AMY GOODMAN: The Jena Six.

DAVID BACON: Right. In fact, that detention center is probably the biggest single, you know, source of employment for people who live in Jena now. But the problem with those workers is that they were—you know, there was no habeas corpus, there was no bail. There weren’t even any charges against those people for two weeks. It’s kind of like creating, I think, a Guantanamo-style of justice or injustice that’s excused because it’s being directed—you know, ICE mentions the word “illegal,” and then all kinds of things become permissible that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the spread of these huge raids over the last few years, it seems almost in response to the immigrant rights protests that developed a couple of years ago, when you saw this new movement developing in America, and suddenly the federal government all across the country begins clamping down and raiding factories, communities, stopping buses and trains, boarding buses and trains, even Amtrak trains and regular commercial buses, checking IDs all over the place.

DAVID BACON: That’s right. These are—as you say, Juan, these are terror raids, really. The purpose of these raids is really to terrorize and frighten immigrant communities, partly because, I think, the government is afraid of people asserting their rights and asserting their existence in the country through the marches and through other kinds of immigrant rights activities, organizing unions in plants and so forth.

But also, I think the government has an agenda here. In fact, it’s pretty open. Michael Chertoff keeps saying it over and over and over, and that is that he says we’re going to shut the back door and open the front door. And what that means is that ICE is trying to push for the establishment of new guest worker programs, so that people can come here as workers, but only as workers, without rights, without eventually getting political rights, without becoming citizens, certainly without voting, but whose labor is going to be used in the economy. And so, these raids are a way of terrorizing people and saying to people: don’t think that you’re going to be able to come to the United States; don’t think that you’re going to be able to work in any other way other than through these programs.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And I think one of the things that you raise in your book and in a lot of your articles is that the movement for comprehensive immigration reform, even among Democrats, is divided in terms of the purposes of that immigration reform, that there are groups that are really representative of business interests who are looking for that front-door situation. Could you expound on that?

DAVID BACON: Sure. The comprehensive immigration bills that we saw in Congress in a lot of ways were labor supply bills. These were bills that were really intended to supply guest workers to industry and then an enforcement program to kind of drive workers into those programs.

So, the difference of opinion, I think in the Democratic Party, especially, is between people who sponsored those programs and other people like Sheila Jackson-Lee, the congresswoman from Houston, who said instead of having a guest worker program, what we need is people to be able to come here with green cards and with permanent residence visas.

And also, the thing I think that she said that was really a pioneering idea, and that was that we also need a jobs program. We need to couple immigration reform with jobs programs. So she said, let’s take the fees that people pay when they’re normalizing their status and use that to set up job creation and job training programs in communities with high unemployment, so that all communities can have some kind of benefit out of these bills. You know, these labor supply bills, comprehensive immigration reform bills, what they do is they pit communities against each other over jobs, over wages and so forth.

AMY GOODMAN: David Bacon, there is a new ad campaign from NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant group, that talks about diminishing resources, which everyone is concerned about, and the increased number of immigrants coming into this country. You also have ads on, well, like the magazine you work for, The Nation: an African American face, a full-page ad, talks about immigrants taking jobs from African Americans.

DAVID BACON: Well, that’s the kind of job competition that I think Jackson-Lee was trying to get at with her bill, the idea that if we advocate for a jobs program—and, you know, a jobs program used to be part of the Democratic Party platform every election. We would hear Democrats saying we need the federal government to guarantee employment. You don’t hear that anymore, and I think that’s also one reason why people are being pitted against each other. But clearly also, this is something that’s in the interest of the employers, because the more job competition there is, then the lower wages go.

You know, the real situation, Amy, is that Congress passes trade agreements. You know, we passed an agreement with Peru this last year, right? So, here we had a free trade agreement with Peru that is guaranteed to displace people in Peru, to produce poverty, to force people into migration as the only economic alternative that people have for survival.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is it guaranteed to do that?

DAVID BACON: That’s right.


DAVID BACON: Why? Because, well, take NAFTA, for instance. NAFTA allowed big US grain companies to dump corn on the Mexican market, which essentially made it impossible for small Mexican farmers to sell their corn that they were growing for a price that would pay for the cost of growing it. So you can’t farm any longer. What do you do? You have to support your family some way. And so, people become part of this migrant stream coming to the United States.

And it’s not just the US. I mean, these structural adjustment programs, trade agreements, it’s happening all over the world. There are 200 million people in the world who are living outside the countries where they were born.

So, you know, Congress passes these agreements, which sort of push people into migration, and then immigration bills, which are essentially trying to ensure that their labor gets supplied to corporations at the lowest possible price and that people have the fewest possible rights.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your book actually makes the direct link between immigration policies in this country and trade policies. You talk about how NAFTA really came out of the immigration reform of 1986, of the—that Congress passed. Could you explain that? Because I’m not sure that many people are aware of that.

DAVID BACON: Right. The Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, we think of it as being the amnesty bill, because it helped, you know, three million people to get legal status here. But what it also did was it set up a commission to study the causes of migration. And in 1991, that commission reported to Congress that the primary cause of migration was economic. So it then recommended the negotiation of a free trade agreement between the US and Mexico and held out that agreement as being something that would slow migration.

And so, the reality of it was that NAFTA increased migration. Six million people came to live in the United States from Mexico during the time that the treaty was in effect, because of the way in which it kind of uprooted communities and uprooted people and sort of forced them into motion.

So, you could say that that immigration bill made recommendations that I think the people who were writing the bill and writing the report in that commission knew perfectly well was going to displace people. In fact, the commission itself said in its report, in the short run, this is going to cause economic pain to people, and it’s going to cause dislocation. So they knew that it was going to send people to the United States. And then the bill, at the same time, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, was the bill that made it illegal for somebody who didn’t have papers to work in the United States, which meant that people were going to become very, very vulnerable as a result of that.

AMY GOODMAN: David, why this upswing in raids? I mean, in the last few months, we’ve seen the two largest immigration raids in US history: in Iowa, then in Mississippi.

DAVID BACON: Well, I think partly, Amy, it’s to keep people down. You know, there was an organizing drive in the Agriprocessors plant before that immigration raid. So immigration raids terrorize people. They make it much more fear—much higher climate of fear in the plant, much harder for people to organize.

In Mississippi, I think that raid was also directed—if you listen to the people from the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, they’ll tell you that it was designed to attack the political coalition in Mississippi that’s been growing between African Americans, Latinos, immigrants and unions that had some prospect of eventually kind of displacing the political class in Mississippi that’s held power since Reconstruction. So that raid kind of terrorizes people and makes it—and divides people against each other and makes it more difficult for people to get together politically.

But I think, overall, that the real purpose of these raids, or the overarching purpose of these raids, is to, on the one hand, criminalize work and criminalize migration. ICE is now charging people with federal crimes for simply being present in the United States without papers. That used to be just simply a status violation. Now people are going to federal prison for it. People who give a bad Social Security number to their employer are now being charged with identity theft. At Postville, people were kind of forced to plead guilty to a federal crime that wound them up in prison for five months for simply misusing a Social Security number.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, there’s a report just yesterday that—of what happened in Greeley, Colorado at the Swift company there, the meatpacking company that had been subjected to a raid, and 260 Latino workers removed from that plant back in 2006. The company then hires hundreds of Somali Muslims, who come from all around the country to work there, and they then go—went out on strike this week, 400 Muslims, because the plant operators would not let them pray during the holy month of Ramadan. So now you have a whole new group of immigrant workers replacing the Latinos, and now they’re in conflict with their employers.

DAVID BACON: That’s right. And this would have been—see, what companies want is they want people for their work, and they don’t want human beings. So it would have been really easy for the company to simply say, “We’re going to shut the line down during the few minutes that it takes people to pray.” Everybody in the plant would have liked that, because, you know, it would have given people a break on that kind of backbreaking work on a meatpacking line. And instead, you know, the company said, “No, you may not do this. You may not pray.” And the workers said, “We have to do this. This is our religious practice.” And so, you know, that was the source of the conflict there.

But, you know, again, you know, it’s like they want people as workers. They want them to go and make those production lines run. But they don’t want the line to go down for even five minutes, so that people can pray, or the same problem about whether—what time they were going to have their break in order to break their fast after Ramadan. You know, it would’ve been really easy for the company to give people two breaks instead of one. It just would have cost them money. That’s the problem. It would have cost them a little bit of money, in terms of shutting the line down during that period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: David Bacon, there was hardly any discussion of immigrants during the Republican or Democratic convention. As we wrap up the discussion, what are the leading presidential candidates proposing? What do you think has to be done?

DAVID BACON: Well, we already know what John McCain thinks about immigration, because he was a sponsor of one of the big comprehensive immigration reform or kind of labor supply guest worker bills. So that’s where he’s at. He’s kind of a sponsor of the corporate approach to immigration, looking at it as a labor supply system with more enforcement—

AMY GOODMAN: Hasn’t he even backed off that?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, except he’s qualified that by saying that until we get the borders under control, even that cannot occur.

DAVID BACON: That’s right. And also, he comes from Arizona, and Arizona is the most repressive state for immigrants today. So the kinds of raids that we’ve seen in Phoenix, you know, the courtroom in Tucson, that every day seventy young people get sent off to federal prison for the crime of crossing the border, this is kind of like what immigration policy is like in Arizona, and that’s what we can expect from him.

You know, Obama, in the beginning of the primary, made some kind of positive statements about the border and the need to demilitarize the border and have better relationships between the communities on both sides. I think in the—since then, he has said that he’s for comprehensive immigration reform. Personally, I find that worrying, because comprehensive immigration reform, I think, is basically a way of saying we want labor supply bills and guest worker bills. So I think that under an Obama administration, we would still have a lot of arguing and debate over what direction we want immigration reform to go in, because I think we do face a fundamental choice, as you ask, Amy: are we going to have immigration reform that basically guarantees human rights for people, that gives people legal status, that offers people a way of coming to the United States other than as guest workers and as work animals, or are we going to simply allow corporations to dictate what immigration policy should be here, in the interests, essentially, of having a labor supply at a very, very low wage level.

AMY GOODMAN: And the state of the immigrants’ rights movement? Two years ago, we saw the largest immigrants’ rights marches in the history of this country.

DAVID BACON: Yeah, immigrants gave us back May Day. You know, when we—I was a child of the Cold War. We didn’t have May Day in this country, because it was the so-called communist holiday. And all of a sudden, we have people going out in the streets, and we’re celebrating May Day and celebrating the contributions of working people. I think we ought to thank the immigrant rights movement for giving us back our holiday.

AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you very much, David Bacon, for being with us. His new book is called Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.

Friday, September 12, 2008

U.S. teen: 'I felt like there were no dreams for me'

Here are a few powerful clips that I encourage watching

"How Deportation Separates Family"

Video on Carlos Quiroz

Also, here's the link to Organization to Help Citizen Children.


By Thelma Gutierrez and Wayne Drash | CNN

WAXAHATCHIE, Texas (CNN) -- Julie Quiroz clutches her teddy bear crying. "Mommy," she says softly, as her mother wraps her arms around her and rubs her back. One of her brothers tries to console her. "You're going to come back," he says.

The 13-year-old Quiroz begins to walk away to catch an airplane from Mexico to the United States. Within moments, she rushes back to her mother's arms. "Mommy," she says again, tears streaming down her face.

Quiroz is one of an estimated 3 million American children who have at least one parent who entered the United States illegally, according to the Urban Institute, which researches and evaluates U.S. social and economic issues.

In Quiroz's case, she was born in Washington state, lived there her entire life and went to school there. But her mother, Ana Reyes, entered the United States illegally before Quiroz was born and U.S. immigration officials caught up with her last year on her birthday.

"I was there when they handcuffed her," Quiroz says. "I was there when they took her down."

Two of her brothers, who had come with their mother to the United States when they were young children, also were taken into custody.

It was the start of a downward spiral for Quiroz. When her mother and brothers were deported, Quiroz and her 6-year-old, American-born sister had no choice but to return to Mexico City with them.

Her seventh-grade year was spent in a classroom where she didn't understand the language.

"I never belonged there," she says. "I'd just come home, sit down, cry. I'd say, 'Mom, I can't do it.' ... I can't read or write Spanish."

She adds, "I felt like there were no dreams for me."

Stories like these are becoming more common, immigration analysts say, with American children caught in the middle of their mother or father's illegal status. A report last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association said these children face "increasing risk of family separation, economic hardship and psychological trauma."

"It's really hard to imagine something that can be more traumatic than to be forcibly separated from their caregiver. That's the enforcement climate that we're operating in now," says Miriam Calderon, the associate director for education and children's policy at the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the United States.

Calderon says the nation needs to enforce immigration laws, but currently there is a lack of a "consistent and comprehensive standard to ensure that children will be protected" when undocumented parents are taken into custody.

"Until a major immigration reform is enacted, the country will continue to cope with challenges resulting from the presence of roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in our workforce and in our communities," said Janet Murguia, the president of NCLR, before Congress in May.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it's simply enforcing the laws on the books.

"ICE agents and officers are sworn to uphold all of our nation's immigration and customs laws," ICE press secretary Kelly Nantel said in a written statement. "We cannot pick and choose the laws we enforce. Parents make decisions that affect their families everyday.

"There are known consequences for violating our nation's immigration laws. It's unfortunate that parents choose to place their children in these difficult situations."

For Quiroz, her journey from America to Mexico City took an unexpected turn when her plight caught the attention of Joe Kennard, a land developer and Christian philanthropist. Kennard reached out to Quiroz's mother and told her the teen could live with his family in Texas and enroll in school there.

"You can make all the arguments that [the mother] deserved what she got because she was an adult, she made the choice, she was here illegally," Kennard says. "But why [punish] the children? They're innocent and they're born here and they're U.S. citizens."

His group, Organization to Help Citizen Children, works with churches along the U.S.-Mexico border to provide support for children whose mother or father is deported to Mexico.

Kennard hired a private tutor to get Quiroz up to speed for missing a year of schooling. "She's conflicted because she knows that she's got to get an education and this is the only way to do it. But she also feels the love for her mother and that's the torture."

Quiroz's mother then made the incredibly painful decision to implore her daughter to go to Texas, an unbearable decision for the teen to leave her family for her country and her future.

Her older brother, Carlos Quiroz, was about 3 years old when his mom took him to the United States last decade. He misses his sister, but knows he can't return. "I have to accept that ... and try to make it work," he says.

He's working to get a job and hopes to enter college in Mexico. But his mind is still in the land he grew up in. "I don't feel like I belong here. I feel like I was taken out of somewhere where I belonged," he says. "My whole life is over there."

His sister is now living in Texas, adjusting to eighth grade and all the changes around her. When she's alone, she says it still hurts.

"I want to be in my mom's arms," she says, choking back tears.

The dream that keeps her going?

She's determined to become a lawyer to fight for kids who are forced to endure painful separations.

"My mom only came here to make a better life," she says. "I want to be a lawyer to help people in the same situation as me."

Parents, Community Holds Key to Hispanic Education Achievement

Wow, parents as the No. 1 obstacles to student success - sounds pretty harsh.

by Victoria Yue | Diverse Issues in Higher Education
September 12, 2008


"Parents and family are the No. 1 enablers, and the No. 1 obstacles to student success," Sara Martinez Tucker, the undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education, told a group of educators, parents and community organizers at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans on Thursday.

During the daylong summit, held to discuss education reform and Hispanic education attainment, speakers tackled topics from Hispanic high school dropout rates to parental and family involvement in education. Tucker encouraged the audience to "take some of these best practices and give to communities," to help the children.

Greater community involvement was often cited as a key component to decreasing high school dropout rates and promoting higher education, and thus, a better quality of life. Some promoted educational services to children outside of the classroom, while others lauded community-based programs.

The vice president for children's programs, Clara Lopez, and development director, Maria Lopez, of a multifaceted program designed to help Hispanic students and parents get involved in education from pre-school to college presented on the subject.

Eduardo Cancino, assistant superintendent from Hidalgo, Texas, applauded community programs and also noted the efforts of public schools. Cancino has implemented a variety of programs focused on increasing the number of college-bound students in the community, as well as promoting adult literacy, financial literacy and parental empowerment. He said that it was important to "strengthen the home environment."

Other speakers also emphasized the importance of families.

"Parents need to know what's going on in their child's school, and they need to know what options they have, whether it's good or bad," said Doug Mesecar, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. Like many of the presenters, Mesecar is a strong advocate of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policies. He said that there is a need to break down the walls of communication between parents and schools to improve the engagement of parents in their child's education.

It is programs like the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), said the institute's president and CEO David Valladolid, that enable parents to be more active. The training program to help parents work collaboratively with their children's K-12 schools has graduated over 400,000 parents and has implemented its program in 16 languages. Initiated in 1987 in California, it has proliferated eastward and has recently established a chapter at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. Valladolid said that it was crucial to bring schools, parents, communities and businesses together as equal partners for a child's education.

Ana Burns, a parent graduate of PIQE with five children, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to learn how to approach and prepare her children for the American school system. Parents also learned important practical functions, such as how to ask questions, talk to counselors and apply for federal aid.

Keynote speaker Margaret Spellings, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, echoed the need for continued efforts to close the achievement gap. Hispanic students "deserve all that it takes to achieve the American dream," said Spellings. She warned about the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and flatly stated that "we cannot stand for that attitude." She praised NCLB for focusing its resources on underachieving student groups, but added that there was a long way to go.

"Accountability is only as effective and lasting as we make it," said Spellings. Together, we can and must do better.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Only 48% of California high schools meet federal standards, even with easier measure

Here's a useful link to see district and campus outcomes: California Schools Guide: Test scores, demographics and rankings


New results show about 300 of the schools met the goals only because their marks were based on the exit exam, much less demanding than tests that help determine the state Academic Performance Index.

By Howard Blume and Ben Welsh | Los Angeles Times
September 5, 2008

Hundreds of California high schools met this year's federal academic targets released Thursday only because the state uses easier standards for high schools than for elementary and middle schools, a Times analysis has found.

But even with this boost, just 48% of the state's high schools met the federal standard of "adequate yearly progress" in this year's results.

The Times analysis identified about 300 high schools that were reported as meeting all federal standards even though their combined proficiency scores in math or English language arts on the California standards tests fell below proficiency levels required for federal compliance this year. Their passing marks were based on much higher scores registered on the easier high school exit exam.

In practical terms, this means that high schools are not being consistently evaluated on what their students are supposed to be learning. The situation exemplifies California's complex, uneven and often competing state and federal accountability systems.

State education officials emphasized the positive Thursday: an incremental narrowing of the achievement gap that separates the much higher performance of white and Asian students from that of blacks and Latinos.

State officials also pointed to widespread gains on California's Academic Performance Index, which the state developed to evaluate schools and set improvement goals.

But there's also a second rating system that the state developed to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law. And within that framework, high schools get a break.

Unlike elementary and middle schools, high schools are not rated on whether students master course work intended for their grade level. Instead, the accountability measure is the high school exit exam. It's one of California's high school diploma requirements, designed as a minimum standard for confirming what students have learned. The exam's math section, for example, is based on seventh-grade standards with portions of first-year algebra.

If high schools were rated by the results of the state's STAR tests -- the method for the lower grades -- hundreds more would be subject to potential sanctions for insufficient academic achievement.

Instead, the state chose to base a high school's federal rating solely on the results of the exit exam, which is required of all high school students in 10th grade. (Students who don't pass the test can take it repeatedly to earn a diploma, but the high school is rated only on how students performed during their one test-taking session in 10th grade.)

State Deputy Supt. Deb Sigman said the federal government mandated that high schools be rated via a test that all students take -- which made measuring math especially difficult. That's because high school students take math courses based on skill and personal preference, not grade level. By contrast, all students take the exit exam, so it fit federal rules, Sigman said.

"The state Education Department and the [state] Board of Education were in a difficult position when they had to choose a measure," Sigman added, and the exit exam "filled the bill. So it had to be retrofitted to do that."

The state required a somewhat higher score on the exit exam for a student to be counted as proficient for the purposes of complying with No Child Left Behind. Nonetheless, a student could pass the math portion of the test without answering a single algebra question correctly.

Sigman acknowledged that the original reason for using the exit exam no longer applies. The federal government now allows many states more leeway.

In the meantime, proficiency based on the exit exam hasn't kept pace with what students are supposed to learn.

For federal compliance, half the students at Fairfax High were proficient in math last year. But only 17% of students actually scored proficient or better in the math course they took -- regardless of the level of difficulty. That's well under the current requirement that 32.2% of high school students be proficient in math.

Fairfax Principal Ed Zubiate, whose school has improved by multiple measures, sees a legitimate justification for using the exit exam. The results matter to students because it affects their graduation. "We're able to use that as a motivator," he said. "We're able to show that what you do in class directly relates."

But Glendale Unified School District Supt. Mike Escalante considers the exit exam a poor cousin in a comparatively sophisticated state system: "It amazes me they would use such a simple standard."

All five Glendale Unified high schools made their federal targets, but three would have fallen short if the state had relied on tests measuring what students had learned in their math classes.

Nearly a decade ago, exit exam opponents worried that even this rudimentary test would deny diplomas -- and therefore future jobs -- to students at schools that failed to impart basic skills. Having a second reason for the exit exam bolstered its political prospects.

"It strengthened our case for the high school exit exam," said Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction. He added that he'd like the exit exam set at a higher skill level over time.

Critics are impatient.

"We have California content standards in every subject at every level," said Jim Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence. "That is what students need to know and when they need to know it. These kids have got to get to grade level if they're going to have a fighting chance."

High schools, like all schools, are feeling increasing pressure under No Child Left Behind. By 2014, 100% of students nationwide are supposed to achieve academic proficiency, which each state is allowed to define. And each year between now and then, the bar for proficiency rises. Schools that don't measure up could be taken over or shut down.

Statewide, about 1,200 elementary and middle schools (and about 80 high schools) fell short of meeting adequate yearly progress because of this year's higher standard. And, about 15% fewer schools reached the federal proficiency target.

Patrick Henry Elementary in Anaheim met last year's standard -- and then improved this year -- but not enough. It had too low a percentage of students who tested at proficiency or better in English. The same scenario applied to Mt. Gleason Middle in Sunland, except that it fell under the rising math target.

Unless schools make remarkable and sweeping progress, most will be labeled as unsuccessful as the 2014 deadline approaches.

The picture looks sunnier when viewed through the state-designed accountability system, the Academic Performance Index. The API sums up statistical measures into a single number between 200 and 1,000. The state's target is 800 for every school; a school would score 875 if every student were proficient.

Based on the just-released data, 53% of California schools made their API improvement targets, eight percentage points better than 2007. And 36% of schools are at or above 800, up five percentage points.

"These gains are particularly impressive given that for the second year in a row, schools must make progress as well in closing the achievement gap in order to make their API targets," said O'Connell.

L.A. Unified substantially outpaced the state's gains, while remaining behind the state overall.

Regrounding Public Education Policy: A Review of All Things Being Equal

By Eleanor J. Bader | The Indypendent
September 11, 2008

A Review of All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time Edited By Brian D. Smedley and Alan Jenkins
The New Press, 2007

Opportunity, write the editors of All Things Being Equal, is the idea that people deserve a chance to achieve their full potential. You probably agree. What’s more, you likely agree that despite lip service to the contrary, this not-so-lofty ideal is as yet unrealized.

These are hardly revolutionary conclusions, and had All Things Being Equal simply ticked off inequities it would be a book that had already been written. Thankfully, the collection is not a rehash; instead eight essays merge righteous indignation with solid policy recommendations about ways to close the gaps between those with opportunities and those without. Although much of the data has been presented elsewhere, the collection is a refreshingly straightforward look at righting wrongs.

Take public education. Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University, lays out the fundamental problem facing racially segregated urban schools: too little funding per student. Not surprisingly, Darling-Hammond notes that “higher spending districts have smaller classes, higherpaid and more experienced teachers, greater instructional resources, better facilities, more up-to-date equipment, and a wider range of course offerings.”

In one particularly stark example, Darling-Hammond describes a California school in which students rely on photocopies instead of textbooks. The building is infested with vermin, there is no librarian, and the most recent encyclopedia dates back to 1988. Computers are nonexistent, art is not taught, and bathrooms routinely lack toilet paper, soap and paper towels. More than one-third of the teachers are unlicensed and half have worked at the school for less than a year. Contrast this with a school in the Connecticut suburbs in which every kid has a laptop, the building is centrally heated and cooled, more than half the teachers are tenured and cafeteria fare ranges from sushi to salad.

Funding inequities are, of course, to blame for this disparity, in large part due to the linkage between property taxes and educational financing. That is, the larger the tax haul the better funded the school. It’s always been this way — with the wealthiest 10 percent of school districts spending approximately 10 times more per student than the poorest 10 percent — but Darling-Hammond reminds us that we can change educational outcomes by adopting the funding method used throughout Europe and Asia: giving every school the same amount per pupil.

Simple, eh?

Clearly, giving every kid an equal shot at education, long viewed as the best path to the middle class, would be a good start but people also need healthcare, food, affordable housing and jobs.

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, writes about shifting the $20 billion currently spent on the “War on Drugs” to efforts that benefit communities. He also addresses the challenges facing released prisoners and suggests an investment in projects that aid reintegration.

“Building strong families and communities is the most effective crime prevention program,” Mauer writes. “Head Start and prenatal care are means of improving the health and welfare of low-income families, but also provide measurable long-term benefits and reduced crime.”

Americans haven’t talked about such things since the Great Society programs of the 1960s, but as All Things Being Equal reports, these ideas are neither out of date nor outmoded. “When our national policies have focused on strengthening opportunity through measures like Social Security, Pell grants, fair labor standards and federally guaranteed home loans, we have made great strides in improving our nation’s strength and prosperity,” the editors write.

One can only hope that Congress and the new president will agree.

To NAACP, Obama Stresses Parental Theme

By Alyson Klein | Ed Week
July 15, 2008


Parents and the federal government each have an important role to play in boosting student achievement, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois told the nation’s oldest civil rights organization on Monday.

In a speech at the annual convention here of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president said that, if elected, he would increase funding for the No Child Left Behind Act, invest in training teachers, and expand prekindergarten programs.

But those policy prescriptions won’t succeed unless parents are committed to becoming involved in their children’s education, Sen. Obama said. He said parental participation is key to realizing the goals of the civil rights movement.

Read on...

In the Central Valley, the Ruins of the Housing Bust

August 23, 2008

MERCED, Calif.

ELLIE WOOTEN, the likable mayor of this likable Central Valley city, is on her way to the office when her cellphone rings. A constituent wants her mortgage payments reduced, and is hoping that the mayor has some clout with her lender.

Although Merced has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, this borrower isn’t in such dire straits. She’s not even behind on her mortgage. But her oldest daughter is turning 18, which means an end to $500 a month in child support. She just wants a better deal.

The mayor hangs up and shrugs: “It’s a surprise her daughter is turning 18? You’d think she could have planned ahead.”

But hardly anyone in Merced planned very far ahead.

Not the city, which enthusiastically approved the creation of dozens of new neighborhoods without pausing to wonder if it could absorb the growth.

Certainly not the developers. They built 4,397 new homes in those neighborhoods, some costing half a million dollars, without asking who in a city of only 80,000 could afford to buy them all.

Obviously not the speculators turned landlords, who thought that they could get San Francisco rents in a working-class agricultural city ranked by the American Lung Association as having some of the worst air in the nation.

And, sadly, not the local folk who moved up and took on more debt than they could afford. They believed — because who was telling them differently? — that the good times would be endless.

“Owning a home is the American dream,” says Jamie Schrole, a Merced real estate agent. “Everybody was just trying to live out their dream.”

The belief that this dream could be achieved with no risk, no worry and no money down was at the center of the American romance with real estate in the early years of this decade, and not just in Merced.

How long will the economy have to pay the price for that illusion? The experience of Merced, which rose higher and fell faster than nearly anywhere else, suggests that recovery from the national real estate debacle will be painful and protracted.

In the three years since housing peaked here, the median sales price has fallen by 50 percent. There are thousands of foreclosures on the market. The asking prices on those properties are so low that competitive bidding, a hallmark of the boom, is back.

But almost no homeowner can afford to sell. If you cannot go as low as “the foreclosure price” — the cost of a comparable bank-owned house — real estate agents say you might as well not even bother listing your home.

And so most people do not: three out of four existing-home sales in Merced County are now foreclosures, the highest percentage in the state, according to DataQuick Information Systems. The only group for whom selling makes sense, real estate agents here say, are the elderly entering assisted-living facilities, who often have decades of appreciation built into their home’s value.

As Merced goes, so might go much of the nation. With as many as 2.5 million homes in the United States entering foreclosure this year and, at best, sales of only five million existing houses, the foreclosure price is becoming the rule in many areas. In Los Angeles County, whose 10 million people make it the most populous county in the United States, a third of the sales are foreclosures.

Local markets will not truly begin to recover until their foreclosures are absorbed, but just as few in Merced saw reasons for caution at the height of the boom, hardly anyone is optimistic now. Bank repossessions are accelerating as overleveraged owners see the value of their properties sink. Merced County had a record 523 foreclosures in July, quadruple the rate of a year earlier, according to DataQuick.

The repossessions are accelerating as overleveraged owners see the value of their properties sink and can find no way out.

Beverly Red, the woman who called the mayor to get a better deal, says she started working months ago to renegotiate her loan into something she could better afford on her receptionist’s salary. No one takes her seriously, she says, because she is not behind on her payments, which, of course, is exactly what she is trying to avoid.

“This has been my home for 10 years,” says Ms. Red, a divorced mother of three. “It won’t be good for me, or my neighbors, or the bank, or Merced, if I lose it. Yet that’s where I’m headed. It’s very frustrating.”

THE boom here allowed some people to become rich overnight and gave many more the idea that they could do it, too. Ms. Schrole, a single mother of four, succumbed to temptation too late: she bought a home as an investment, sold her own home, bought a much more expensive one, and lost both. “I was stupid,” she says. “I didn’t get in until things started to tank.”

Ms. Schrole is in bankruptcy. Other homeowners are taking their declining fortunes into their own hands. On a recent Sunday evening, an extended family of a dozen children, teenagers and adults is unloading a U-Haul into a house in a two-year-old subdivision called Summer Creek. The patriarch takes a break from wrestling with a refrigerator to explain he has abandoned his house a few miles away and is now renting this nearly-new five-bedroom.

The result, he says happily, is a drop in his monthly housing bill to $1,200 from $3,400. Somewhere a lender is recording yet another foreclosure.

Businesses in Merced are struggling. Downtown buildings are festooned with “for lease” signs. Unemployment, consistently high here, rose to 12.1 percent in July.

Among those trying to adapt to this miserable new time is the mayor. Mrs. Wooten, 74, has been selling real estate for three decades. In the old days, she worked for people selling their boom-inflated homes and moving into something better. Now she mostly represents banks, selling their foreclosures. She has 27 at the moment.

In her windowless city office, she takes a call from a man in Seattle who is interested in a 1947 home in bad repair in a bad neighborhood, but which has a large yard for his dogs.

In November 2005, the house sold for $126,000. The bank, which took it back last spring, is asking $59,000. The Seattle man offers $40,000.

The mayor says the lender is not desperate enough to take that big a haircut. “Not going to happen,” she says. “Not this year.” She laughs. “Call me in January and I’ll let you know.” Mrs. Wooten is wearing a red shirt that says, “Merced: Invest in California’s Future.” Which is pretty much how all the trouble began.

Starting in 2000, investors came over the mountains from San Francisco, up Interstate 5 from Los Angeles and out of the woodwork from many a surrounding hamlet. Over the next five years, prices in Merced rose 142 percent, a growth rate that ranked it in the top five communities in the country, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

One thing above all drew the investors: the prospect of a University of California campus on the edge of Merced, the first new campus in the state system in 40 years. They envisioned something resembling Davis, another Central Valley university town.

The University of California, Davis, however, has more than 30,000 students and is within easy reach of San Francisco and Sacramento. U.C. Merced, which opened in 2005, has fewer than 2,000 students and isn’t near much except Modesto. Instead of students or professors renting their houses, speculators say, they had welfare recipients or no one.

Many in Merced blame out-of-town buyers, who at the peak made up more than a quarter of the local market, for their current woes.

Now there are investors again. Mark Seivert, an accountant who lives in the neighboring town of Atwater, didn’t buy anything during the boom. Anyone, he says, “could have figured out that too much inventory and not enough bodies was a recipe for disaster.”

This summer, the numbers are sweet. He is working on a deal for a short sale, in which a lender agrees to let a house go for less than it is owed in return for getting the property off its books immediately.

Mr. Seivert is going after a house that the owners bought 13 years ago for $86,000 and refinanced six times, taking advantage of rising values to get cash that, in part, they spent on the house. It has a pool with a small waterfall, a TV room in the converted garage, a deluxe outdoor barbecue setup and a kitchen with all the latest gadgets.

The owners, who owe $350,000, can no longer make their mortgage payments. Mr. Seivert is negotiating to buy the house for $170,000 and then rent it back to the couple, who have jobs in the area. They will pay $1,100 instead of their current $2,600 a month.

“This could be a win-win,” the accountant says. “In four or five years, when their credit is better and the market has recovered, I’ll sell the house back to them.”

Longtime renters are also seizing the moment. Sally Johnson just bought a house that had been foreclosed at the edge of Bellevue Ranch, a huge master-planned community north of town. She paid $164,900, half the price the previous owners paid two years ago.

The market is “probably going to go lower,” says Ms. Johnson, who works at a local jewelry store. But time is on her side: She got a 30-year fixed-rate loan. The landscapers will be by shortly to breathe new life into her golden lawn.

Next door is Sheng Lee, who bought at the top with a “pick a payment” loan, which allows borrowers to make less than their fully amortized payments, but only for a few years. Since Mr. Lee, a high school aide, doesn’t have enough equity to refinance, he now needs a loan modification or a miracle. “I’ll try my best to pay my mortgage, but if not I’ll have no choice to leave like the other people,” he says.

Mr. Lee harbors no bitterness that his new neighbor got a slightly smaller house for half the price. “It’s her luck. Why would I be mad at her?” he asks. He brought her fried rice and noodles as a house-warming gift.

Another neighbor, Van Lewis, fits somewhere in between Mr. Lee and Ms. Johnson. He also bought two years ago, but says he is in a position to ride out the slump. “You have to plan for the long term,” he says. “If you don’t, the short term can kill you.” In any case, he adds, he has “too much stuff” to ever go back to an apartment.

Opposite their houses is an immense scrubby field. Until recently, it was overgrown, and Mr. Lewis says he has seen evidence of fires started by youths or vagrants. “There were supposed to be stores and a fire station over there,” he says with more resignation than anger. “We could all march down to city hall and picket, but what’s really going to happen with that?”

Things could be worse. Crime is up only marginally. There has been no major upswing in homelessness; the theory around city hall is that foreclosed families are either renting or have left the area.

Yet things may well become worse soon. During the good times, Merced built up a $17 million rainy-day fund. Now the city has a revenue shortfall. “We’ll bridge that gap by using the reserves,” says James Marshall, the city manager, “but over time the bridge ain’t long enough.”

FLIPPERS and speculators who had nothing invested in Merced beyond money were the first to abandon the community.

Many real estate agents and loan brokers, their customers gone, soon followed. So did commuters who thought they could spend four hours a day making round trips to the San Francisco Bay Area. And the spinners, young men and women hired by the developers to stand at intersections and literally point the way to the new developments, disappeared.

Now developers are pulling out.

Pacific Pride, a Central Valley developer, announced plans to build a 124-house neighborhood but gave up after paving streets and installing a wall as a partition from the railroad tracks. Graffiti runs the length of the wall. The site was declared a public nuisance by the city last winter. Messages left on a voice-mailbox belonging to Pacific Pride were not returned.

Moraga, built by Lakemont Homes of Roseville, Calif., was designed to include 500 luxury homes that ranged in size up to 3,500 square feet, boasting such amenities as butler pantries, double ovens, master suites with walk-in closets, five-foot-long soaking tubs and three-car garages.

The subdivision centerpiece, completed first, is an expansive and pleasant park, with two baseball fields, basketball courts, a picnic area and children’s playground. All that’s missing are many houses. Only about 24 were built. One was just listed as a foreclosure for $219,000, a deep discount to the already discounted price of $310,000 for that model. The Lakemont agent says that there have been no sales for a long time.

At least Lakemont is still keeping up appearances. At Gardenstone, part of the Bellevue Ranch development, the doors of the sales office are covered with plywood, as if a big storm were coming. A few blocks away is Riverstone, probably the bleakest Merced subdivision. A dozen houses were started here and then the construction workers went away. The wooden frames have been bleaching in the sun and sand for more than a year.

Both Gardenstone and Riverstone are the work of Crosswinds Communities, a developer based in Novi, Mich., that is owned and run by Bernie Glieberman. Reached at his office, Mr. Glieberman is asked if he and his fellow developers perhaps got a bit —

“No question,” he interrupts enthusiastically. “I would never deny we all got greedy. Everyone was setting records. Nobody was there to take away the punch bowl.”

He was selling houses for $300,000. That means a buyer would have needed a household income of about $100,000 to comfortably make the payments. But Merced’s per capita income of $23,864 ranks among the lowest for metropolitan areas in the country. “None of us paid much attention,” Mr. Glieberman says.

Yet he says the real problem was not over-eager developers but underhanded buyers — which is to say investors.

“We didn’t know we were selling to speculators,” the builder says. “They swore they were going to live in the houses.” He says he found out otherwise only after the plunge began and people started trying to get refunds on deposits of as much as $60,000.

Some said that they had lost their jobs, others that there were illnesses in their families. And some said they should get a refund because, as investors instead of owner-occupants, they should never have been allowed to buy the house in the first place. By then, it didn’t matter. Crosswinds didn’t refund any deposits.

Mr. Glieberman says that he intends to come back and finish those houses, that he is confident Merced will turn around.

For that to happen, banks will have to become more willing to lend. At the moment, however, they’re growing ever more reluctant.

Consider the experience of a couple moving to Merced last month from a nearby town. Their mortgage broker set up a Federal Housing Administration loan for them, which meant that it would be guaranteed by the federal government.

To finance the loan, the broker went to the HSBC Mortgage Corporation. At the last minute, HSBC said no, giving reasons that had nothing to do with the couple’s finances or their new house.

“Property is unacceptable due to high foreclosure rate and volatility of subject market,” HSBC informed the couple via fax. Apparently, even a government guarantee wasn’t enough.

Such emphatic declarations bode ill for a recovery, says Robert Gnaizda, general counsel of the Greenlining Institute, a housing advocacy group. “If a few institutions take the position that prices in the Central Valley are still excessive and they need to wait to finance houses there, you’ll have the total collapse of the market.”

A spokeswoman for HSBC says it has financed 36 mortgages in Merced County this year but declined to comment on the fax.

THE real estate boom, while it lasted, made Merced prosperous. Now the question is what can make it thrive once more, presumably on a more sustainable basis.

The university is an asset that will take time to develop. This is excellent farm country, but these days agriculture is not an occupation that creates a broad middle class.

Wal-Mart Stores is proposing to build a distribution center in Merced, but there is a movement against it among residents who say that trucks shuttling around the complex will worsen the breathing problems of the city’s children. Merced County has one of the highest percentages of asthmatic children in the state, according to a 2001 state health survey. Many children carry inhalers to help them breathe.

In the midst of all the wreckage caused by the real estate boom and bust, some think that they have found a way forward: build more houses, thousands and thousands of them.

On the western edge of Merced County, near the Diablo Range that separates the Central Valley from the Pacific Coast, is a stretch of empty land that a coalition of landowners has wanted to build on for years. The plan calls for the eventual construction of a city of 16,000 houses called the Villages of Laguna San Luis.

In many ways, the idea makes sense. The pass over the mountains is winding and slow, but if a proposed high-speed train is ever built, the Villages could end up being a bedroom community for San Jose. By 2025, California is projected to grow to 44 million people from the current 37 million. They will need somewhere to live.

This summer, the Villages came up for a vote with the Merced County Planning Commission. Cindy Lashbrook, a commissioner who is a fruit-and-nut farmer, says the project was basically well thought out. But all the cars that came with all those new houses would cause even more pollution. And in a state suffering from drought, where would the water come from?

“We have to stop thinking that more growth is always the answer,” Ms. Lashbrook says. “We have more housing than we need. We need jobs.”

She voted against the project, which faltered on a 2-to-2 split, with one commissioner absent. That meant supporters could bring it up again before the full commission, which they did. They won the second round, 4 to 1.

Rudy Buendia, the commissioner who dissented along with Ms. Lashbrook on the first vote, was in favor the second time around. Reached on his cellphone, Mr. Buendia said he was out hanging drywall on a construction project and did not have time to talk.

High-Stakes Spillover Seen

Check out the full report “Building on the Basics: The Impact of High-Stakes Testing on Student Proficiency in Low-Stakes Subjects”


Ed Week
July 15, 2008

So-called “high stakes” testing policies in reading and mathematics have had a positive effect on the science performance of students in struggling Florida schools, a study concludes.

Released July 8 by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank in New York City, the study is based on an evaluation of schools that received an F grade in reading or math under Florida’s school accountability program. That “high stakes” program, to use the study’s definition, grades schools on the academic performance of students and assigns sanctions for those that do not improve.

The study found that students in schools receiving failing grades made greater gains the next year on the state exam in science—which was not a high-stakes subject in Florida at the time of the study—than they would have done if their school had not received an F.

The authors—Marcus A. Winters, Jay P. Greene, and Julie R. Trivitt—speculate that the pressure to improve academic achievement in high-stakes subjects may have improved schools’ overall academic quality; and that resultant, improved reading and math focus may have helped students in other subjects, such as science.

The study comes amid worries by science advocates that their subject is being squeezed out of the curriculum, as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s emphasis on reading and math.
By Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 27, Issue 43, Page 4

When An Immigrant Mom Gets Arrested

This line from the article is VERY well put: "Immigration and child welfare advocates say that Mitrohina’s story—the loss of her child, her incarceration and detention, and her struggle to care for her child—represents a new and dangerous terrain at the intersection of three government systems—deportation, incarceration and foster care—that are tearing apart poor families and families of color."


By Julianne Ong Hing and Seth Wessler | Color Lines
July/ August 2008

BEHIND THE THICK GLASS THAT RUNS THE LENGTH of the Yuba County Jail’s visitation corridor, Tatyana Mitrohina’s eyes glisten, and then fill with tears as she recounts the last time she saw her son. “During the visit, he climbed into my arms and fell asleep with his head on my shoulder while I walked around with him,” she remembers.
Two months after that visit, Mitrohina was sent to the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, California, hours away from her 2-year-old son, who is in foster care. She was convicted on charges that she had hit him. While she does not deny the charges, she does say she had expected to be released from jail and to get counseling and start to rebuild her life with her child. But with the increasing collaboration between local authorities and federal immigration officials, Mitrohina found that she would not get that second chance. The government had slated her to be deported to Russia, the country she left as a teenager.

“When I first got here, I would break down crying once a week, just thinking about everything that’s happened,” says Mitrohina, who is 30 years old.

Immigration and child welfare advocates say that Mitrohina’s story—the loss of her child, her incarceration and detention, and her struggle to care for her child—represents a new and dangerous terrain at the intersection of three government systems—deportation, incarceration and foster care—that are tearing apart poor families and families of color.

While rates of detention and deportation have increased exponentially in recent years, what is happening to immigrant families is not a new story. It has been played out time and again in the lives of Black families who, in the past 20 years, have faced an increase in drug-related arrests and sentences that place Black parents in jail and their children in foster care. As immigrant families find themselves targeted by a combination of public policies, it is becoming clear that their experiences and those of Black families, women and children are troublingly similar.

* * *

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), increasing the ease with which immigrants—including green card holders—could be deported, especially as a result of criminal convictions. “Criminal aliens” (as they are labeled by the government, especially those classified as “aggravated felons”) can now be summarily deported, even if they served jail time many years ago. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, can place detainers on immigrants in jails and prisons, even those still awaiting a hearing or trial. Upon completion of their sentence, these people face removal proceedings. In the wake of 9/11, a growing number of local governments have also begun collaborating with ICE informally and formally through 287(g) programs that deputize local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Without some degree of local collaboration, Mitrohina would never have faced deportation. According to the government, deportation is technically an administrative procedure, so it doesn’t fall under the aegis of double jeopardy. Yet deportation effectively sentences people to exile. “You would be hard-pressed to find a detained immigrant in the United States who did not constantly feel that they were being punished a second or third time for the same mistakes, solely due to their immigration status, including lawful permanent residents like Tatyana,” said Raha Jorjani, an attorney at the Immigrant Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis, who helped file an appeal on Mitrohina’s behalf.

In the past 12 years, deportations have quadrupled to more than 200,000 annually. About 100,000 people choose voluntary deportation every year. Meanwhile, deportations based on criminal convictions have increased nearly threefold, reaching almost 90,000 a year. The impact on families has been devastating. Human Rights Watch reports that since IIRAIRA went into effect there have been a minimum of 1.6 million children and spouses separated from their families as a result of deportation.

While enforcement in its totality—the raids, border enforcement, local cooperation with ICE, employer verification, special registration and deportation—is like a wrecking ball for families, Jayashri Shrikantiah, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Stanford University, argues that “it is criminal deportation where the laws are harshest.”

"It’s a double whammy for families,” she said about cases like Mitrohina’s. “The child has already been separated from the parent if the conviction is recent enough, or the parent has already suffered time in prison and then it happens a second time, and again there is a separation from the child.”
There is growing anecdotal evidence that the increase in detention and criminal deportations is fomenting a trend where the children of immigrants—80 percent of whom are U.S.-born citizens—are placed in foster care. ICE and child welfare departments do not gather, let alone share, much information on the families or gender of deportees or the citizenship of foster children’s parents, so it’s impossible to know how many children have been institutionalized so far. The lack of data collection is a major problem for advocates, who are seeing the trend grow but cannot prove its scale.

Mitrohina herself says that another woman in the Yuba County jail is facing a situation similar to hers. According to Mitrohina, the woman was charged with negligence after her 14-year-old daughter ran away from home and tried to get an abortion. ICE was called to detain the mother, who was a 30-year U.S. resident. Even without knowing the scope and scale of the children being placed in foster care as a result of parental detention and deportation, these stories suggest a harrowing reality for immigrant families.

* * *

Mitrohina has long, brown hair that she has to tug back behind her ears every few minutes. She is serious as she answers questions and recounts her story. She speaks in long streams of thought, often jumping from the recent past to her childhood when describing her current circumstances. It’s a life that has been marked by the tolls poverty and public institutions take on families.

Mitrohina was born in 1978 in Russia with deformities on her hands and feet that she says her parents could not accept. “They considered me inadequate and worthless, and told me so all the time,” she said. After shuttling in and out of public institutions as a child, her parents put her up for adoption when she was 14. She was adopted by a couple in Sonoma County, California, soon after, but did not have an easy transition to life in the United States. And although her parents applied for her to receive citizenship, a combination of bureaucratic delays and legal missteps left Mitrohina without it. At the age of 21, she moved out of her parents’ home and has not been in contact with them since. Although years have passed, Mitrohina speaks about her childhood with an anger and confusion that is immediate.

In 2005, the prenatal clinic where she’d been receiving care made house visits and diagnosed Mitrohina with postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her deeply troubled childhood. “I really thought I could deal with my problems on my own,” she said. “They offered counseling, and even when CPS [Child Protective Services] got involved, I never accepted it because I was afraid they would take my baby away.” She acknowledges now that the enduring trauma of being cast out of her own family compounded her struggle to cope with the stresses of new parenthood and joblessness.

Things were looking up, though, Mitrohina insists. Before her arrest, she had found a job for the first time in two years and had completed two semesters at the Santa Rosa Junior College. But the strains of being a single mom on public assistance were too much for her, and she was arrested in June 2007 for abusing her son. Her child was temporarily put in foster care, and the Family Court in Sonoma County agreed that it would be in the child’s best interest to return home if Mitrohina completed a short jail sentence and six-month probation. The terms of her probation required that she enroll in parenting and anger-management classes, seek counseling and begin a course of medications to manage her depression.

Two days after Mitrohina’s sentencing, however, she found that ICE had put a hold on her record. She had been added to the long and steadily growing queue of non-citizens slated for deportation. Mitrohina was sure the ICE detainer would amount to little and felt confident that her legal entry into the country and green card would clear up the minor glitch in her case.

But it was a race against time: every day she remained in ICE custody was another day she violated the terms of her probation and risked losing her son permanently to the foster care system. She fought for a Cancellation of Removal but was denied. She then appealed that judge’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals but was also denied.
“The goals of that [family] court conflicted with the goals of the immigration court, which were to determine whether or not someone in Tatyana’s position deserved a second chance in the United States,” Jorjani explained. Mitrohina was stuck between two legal systems that do not communicate.

Searching for escape from this catch-22, Mitrohina still visits the law library and carries around a sheaf of notes of applicable cases and laws she wants to explore to push her case further.

Deportation, though, is now a near certainty, but not one she can accept.

* * *

Immigrant mothers are not the first to deal with the ways that different government agencies intersect, usually to their detriment. The experiences Black families have had with child welfare and criminal justice policy make clear what can happen to communities when family policy intersects with a set of other punitive policies.

In 1997, just a year after the passage of IIRAIRA, then-President Clinton signed another bill that slammed poor people and people of color. The Adoption and Safe Families Act came on the heels of changes in welfare policy. It terminated the parental rights of anyone whose child had been out of their custody and in the child welfare system for 15 of the previous 22 months. The law sped up the process for the children to be legally adopted.In large part because of mandatory minimum sentencing polices that came out of the War on Drugs era, incarcerated parents have their rights terminated at a higher rate than others, and this disproportionately affects Black parents who are incarcerated at rates far higher than whites. Black children are about nine times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent and comprise 37 percent of the foster care roles despite being only 15 percent of the total population. Families are, in effect, being punished twice over.

Like Mitrohina, whose ICE detainer prohibits her from completing her probation to regain custody of her son, mandatory minimum sentences that last longer than 22 months make it impossible for incarcerated parents to take the necessary steps in proving their willingness and desire to care for their children. According to Dorothy Roberts, arguably the nation’s leading scholar on race and child welfare policy, there is a connection between the child welfare and criminal justice systems. “These are punitive systems,” she said, adding that they are “ways of regulating poor people, especially people of color.”

This punitive approach to sentencing and deportation works against family and child welfare because family well-being requires care, not punishment. In her book Shattered Bonds, Roberts writes, “One way to preserve more families is to prevent child maltreatment. An overwhelming body of research on the negative effect of poverty on children tells us that generous public support of child welfare would dramatically reduce cases of child abuse and neglect.”

The fact that these systems work punitively is no surprise. “For hundreds of years, we have addressed problems largely related to poverty by way of mass incarceration of people of color and expansion of a prison-industrial complex. Similarly, rather than engage in meaningful immigration reform, we destroy families, create fatherless and motherless children by detaining immigrants, then forcibly ship them to countries many of them have not seen since they were a few years old,” said Jorjani.

Black and immigrant communities facing similar circumstances offer new opportunities for multiracial coalitions and organizing.

Loretta Ross, national coordinator of Sister Song, the Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, reflected that just as “welfare reform impacted primarily Black and Latina women, once it became clear to Korean business owners that this is going to affect their mothers and elderly too, it did provide the space for people to work across race and across issue. There has to be an increased level of solidarity work and the people involved in child welfare would have to have been involved.”

This past spring, Mitrohina was occupying her time with books, letter-writing and television, anything to keep her from dwelling on her past and her uncertain future. She tries to nap, too. Every day between breakfast and lunch, Mitrohina returns to her cell and tries to sleep away her anxiety. The likelihood that she will never see her son again dominates her thoughts.
“I know firsthand what it is like to be abandoned,” Mitrohina said. “And now this is what my baby will grow up thinking happened to him.”

Julianne Ong Hing is an editorial fellow at ColorLines. Seth Wessler is a research associate at the Applied Research Center.