Thursday, April 27, 2017

Not just a Sad Day for Texas, but an UnGodly Spirit Prevails

The anti-sanctuary cities bill, SB4, got out of the Texas House last night with a 93-54 vote. Truly disgusting.  Here is a bill that makes it illegal for cities to be sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants and that will racially profile Latinos and Latinas, and that will further persecute people living in our country who are here not to cause trouble, but to work and contribute to our state and nation.  

In a state that is already prejudicial and exclusionary on so many levels, thoroughly documented, arguing that this will have no collateral effects on the Latino community writ large is untenable and disingenuous. 

This is not just a terribly sad day for Texas, but this is an unGodly spirit that threatens the whole. Accordingly, I encourage you to read this June 10, 2011, blog post by the Rev. Larry Payne titled, "An UnGodly Spirit Threatens the Welfare of the Whole: A Call to all good people of conscience, church and spiritual leaders in Texas" that makes this very claim from an earlier legislative session when Rick Perry was our governor.  And then consider calling Governor Greg Abbott, asking him to veto this legislation when it gets to his desk.

Our racist legislators are akin to the "evil judges of Sodom and Gomorrah who developed policies against the outcasts and strangers in their midst despite an abundance of food and resources."  A closing quote from Payne's piece that I, again, strongly encourage you to read:

If we as God’s people are called to care for the outcast and the stranger among us, how much more are we called to not perpetuate harm or cruelty to them?

Accordingly, in Ephesians 6:12, the Apostle Paul offers:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
My friends and all people of good faith who see the injustice in this law, do what the Reverend Payne did, and call out this injustice and the evil, dehumanizing motivations of our leadership—not just in Texas, but in the highest halls of state and national power.

Angela Valenzuela

Texas House gives initial OK to 'sanctuary cities' bill

Updated: 2:10 a.m. Thursday, April 27, 2017 |  Posted: 6:42 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The Senate has already approved a version of the bill.

Democrats lined up scores of amendments to kill or weaken the bill but made little headway.

Republican and Democratic leaders tried to strike a deal Wednesday evening to cut the debate short.

After more than 16 hours of debate, the Texas House at about 3 a.m. Thursday voted 93-54 to give initial approval to the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, the common term for jurisdictions that decline to assist federal immigration enforcement.
Along the way, lawmakers cried, fought and traded horses on the Texas House floor, and the bill was amended to be more in line with the goals of hard-line conservatives.

Calling it the defining showdown of this legislative session for their constituents and wearing black in protest, outnumbered Democrats had lined up scores of amendments and planned to fight Senate Bill 4 late into the night.
But almost all of their amendments were defeated, and tea party-aligned Republicans countered by introducing measures that would make the bill stricter, restoring some elements that were stripped out by a House committee after being approved by the Senate.
One by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, prohibits local law enforcement agencies from discouraging their officers from inquiring about the immigration status of people who have been detained, a broad category including routine traffic stops. The bill previously limited that provision to cases in which the person has already been arrested.
Schaefer’s amendment, approved in an 81-64 vote, drew intense criticism from Democrats, who say it will lead to racial discrimination against Latinos.
They bargained for more than four hours over a deal that never materialized to cut off debate early and abandon dozens of their planned amendments in exchange for the House forgoing some of the more conservative proposals, like Schaefer’s.
The Senate has already approved a version of the bill, which was authored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and was listed by Gov. Greg Abbott as one of his “emergency items” for this legislative session.
The bill would impose stiff financial penalties on jurisdictions deemed to be sanctuary cities and allow local officials to be charged with a crime for implementing sanctuary policies. It targets police agencies that discourage their officers from inquiring about subjects’ immigration status in certain circumstances and county jails that decline to honor federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to extend the detention of inmates suspected of being unauthorized immigrants.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez has become a flashpoint in the debate over sanctuary cities after she adopted a policy in January limiting the county’s cooperation with those so-called detainer requests, which are meant to give immigration officers time to take inmates into federal custody for possible deportation proceedings.
Testy exchanges
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, began Wednesday’s debate with a call for civility and decorum during what promised to be an emotional day. It took about two hours for decorum to fall apart during an exchange between Dallas Reps. Jason Villalba, a Republican backing the bill, and Rafael Anchia, a Democrat leading the opposition.
After Anchia pressed Villalba on crime rates among immigrant communities and other statistics, the Democrat suggested his GOP colleagues were pursuing the bill because of emotion and prejudice, not a real policy need.
“Oh my gosh, you don’t act based on data? You act on emotion?” Anchia, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said sarcastically. “And hate is a pretty good emotion, isn’t it?”
Villalba responded by noting previous episodes in which Anchia has said GOP-driven legislation on immigration is fueled by racism.
“You have stood on the front mic and impugned the good representatives, the men and women of this body, about how you feel they’re racist,” he said.
After the dust cleared, Anchia, who was proposing a symbolic amendment that would gut the bill, said, “What is this about? It’s not about ICE detainers. It’s not really about crime data. It’s really about the emotions that Jason spoke to and it’s whether we’re going to place those emotions in statute today.”
The amendment was defeated in a 90-52 vote.
Almost every amendment and procedural maneuver proposed by Democrats was defeated by a similar tally. A rare exception was an amendment by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, that got the blessing of Senate Bill 4’s House sponsor, Fort Worth Republican Rep. Charlie Geren, and was approved overwhelmingly.
The amendment changes the process by which a city or county can be deemed a sanctuary city under the law, leading to financial penalties and the potential removal from office of local officials who implemented the sanctuary policy. Previously, the bill charged the Texas attorney general’s office with deciding which jurisdictions had run afoul of the law. Lucio’s amendment requires the attorney general to get court approval before green-lighting sanctions against a sanctuary city.
Impassioned pleas
Earlier in the day, Democrats made impassioned pleas to their GOP colleagues to abandon the legislation, including Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, who came to the U.S. illegally before obtaining citizenship and running for office.
“I know firsthand the impact that (Senate Bill 4) will have on many families … mothers that will be afraid to go to the grocery store,” she said. “I know how this bill will punish immigrants and push them into the shadows.”
Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, who is on a four-day fast to protest the bill, read profane social media messages she has received since beginning her fast.
“This is the sort of hate that our Latino community is already hearing,” Neave said. “Look into your hearts to realize the impact that this is going to have.”
Geren, however, said the bill wasn’t discriminatory because it targeted criminals, not members of a particular racial or ethnic group.
“This bill has no effect on illegal immigrants if they have not committed a crime or hanging out with someone who has,” he said.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Valenzuela: Ethnic Studies Courses are Great Policy for Texas, Nation 4.25.17

Many thanks to the Rio Grande Guardian for publishing this piece that I had earlier posted on this blog.  The more exposure, the better.  

We all need to be talking about Ethnic Studies as it concerns what kind of future we would like to build and what kind of legacy we would like to leave for our children and grand children—indeed, for society, as a whole, for generations to come.

We might think of Ethnic Studies as part and parcel to a renewed commitment as individuals, parents, organizations, and communities, working in a spirit of partnership, to re-imagine public education as a public good to which we are all not only entitled in a democracy, but genuinely honored and privileged to be able to play a part, however large or small, in this unfolding narrative of the struggle for substantive curricular inclusion and respect.

Educate yourselves, my friends, on Ethnic Studies, beginning with a close reading of the research. You can find a couple of important studies linked to the blog.  

They help make the compelling case for why we need Ethnic Studies.


Angela Valenzuela

Sunday, April 23, 2017

This week's State Board of Education News from Georgina Perez, District 1.

This week's Texas State Board of Education News from Georgina Perez, District 1. 

Texas State Board of Education 
District 1
Georgina Cecilia Pérez

What a week!  The April SBOE Session was action-packed with Public Hearings in Science, Math, Spanish & English Language Arts and Reading, and Comparative Literature courses in High School.
Texas Women Educators Set the Stage and Ran the Show!!!

Preparing Texas students to be 21st Century STEM Champions
Texas Science Educators discuss the need for stronger TEKS

Spanish: a syllabic language
El Paso Dual-Language Educators make a great impact!

Comparative Literature Course in High School
“The definition of comparative literature is not exclusive of one ethnic group or one cultural group,” Pérez said. “It’s comparative literature of a variety of ethnicities and cultures and historical periods, but the most important thing for a successful comparative literature course is that it is responsive and reflective of the students in the classroomas well as the community.”


H-1B visa needs reform to make it fairer to migrant and American workers

I have family members that have immigrated from Mexico who are highly skilled, but who have nevertheless been exploited within their firms.  The biggest beneficiaries of this are indeed the exploitative, outsourcing companies.  Read on...


H-1B visa needs reform to make it fairer to migrant and American workers

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Press release

The H-1B program provides temporary, nonimmigrant U.S. work visas for college-educated workers and fashion models from abroad. While no one can deny the importance of attracting skilled, talented workers to the United States, the reality is that the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B program are outsourcing companies that have hijacked the system—using between one-third to one-half of the visas—to replace thousands of U.S. workers with much-lower-paid H-1B workers while also sending tech jobs abroad.1 In addition, these outsourcing companies rarely provide H-1B employees with a path to permanent residence and citizenship. Outsourcing companies, however, are not the only abusers of the system: The vast majority of employers that hire H-1B workers pay them wages below the local average for the occupation.

We need to reform the H-1B program to make it:

  • Fairer to U.S. workers, who should have the first opportunity to apply for jobs in the United States
  • Fairer to H-1B workers, who deserve fair pay for their work according to U.S. wage standards and who should not have to fear retaliation and exploitation by employers

Major flaws in the H-1B program

U.S. employers don’t have to recruit U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers. Employers and corporate lobby groups claim that they use the H-1B primarily to bring in the “best and brightest” workers from abroad to fill labor shortages in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM). But despite this widely held belief, the contrary is true:
  • Employers are not required to recruit U.S. workers or prove they are experiencing a labor shortage before hiring H-1B workers.
  • “H-1B-dependent” employers (those filling 15 percent or more of their U.S. jobs with H-1B workers) are required to recruit U.S. workers first, but they get around the requirement with a cheap and easy loophole: they can hire an H-1B worker who holds a master’s degree or pay the H-1B worker an annual salary of over $60,000. For comparison, $60,000 is $21,000 lower than the national median wage for all workers employed in computer occupations ($81,430).2
U.S. employers can legally underpay H-1B workers. Corporate lobbyists and other H-1B proponents claim that H-1B workers cannot be paid less than U.S. workers because employers must pay H-1B workers no less than the “prevailing wage.” That is true in theory but:
  • Employers have the option of paying the prevailing Level 1 “entry-level” wage or Level 2 wage, both of which are well below the average wage (Level 3) that local employers pay workers in similar jobs.
  • While the wage level is supposed to correspond to the H-1B worker’s education and experience, in practice the employer gets to choose the wage level and the government doesn’t check unless a lawsuit or a complaint is filed by a worker.
Here’s what wage savings can look like for H-1B employers: The average software developer in the Silicon Valley commands a salary of $147,000 per year, but an H-1B software developer earning the Level 1 wage is paid $102,000. That’s a savings of $45,000 per H-1B worker per year for up to six years.3
The top 10 H1-B employers use the program for cheap, temporary labor rather than as a bridge to permanent immigration. The H-1B visa is considered a “dual-intent” visa, which means that employers have the option of sponsoring their H-1B workers for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, which can then lead to citizenship. But the top 10 H-1B employers sponsor very few workers for LPR status. In 2014, Tata Consultancy Services, the top H-1B employer that year, hired 5,650 new H-1B workers but only filed for two permanent labor certifications.4
H-1B workers are often exploited and often arrive in debt, and they are tied to their employers. The H-1B visa itself is owned and controlled by the employer; an H-1B worker who is fired or laid off for any reason becomes instantly deportable. H-1B workers often pay large fees to labor recruiters, which means that many arrive virtually indentured to their employer, fearing retaliation and termination if they speak out about workplace abuses or unpaid wages. And widespread abuses have been documented—even human trafficking and severe financial bondage.5
Outsourcing companies are using the H-1B program to replace U.S. workers and send tech jobs abroad. The top 10 employers of H-1B workers are not innovative high-tech firms like Apple and Google. The biggest users of the H-1B visa are outsourcing/offshoring companies that specialize in information technology (IT). Typically, H-1B workers do computer and engineering work at the office of the U.S. employer but are employed by the offshoring company. The many reported cases of U.S. workers being laid off and replaced by H-1B workers have all been facilitated by this arrangement.6 In multiple incidents, the H-1B workers have been hired with annual wages around $40,000 less than the workers they have replaced. Before they are laid off, the U.S. workers are often forced to train their own H-1B replacements as a condition of their severance packages; this is euphemistically known as “knowledge transfer.” Major, profitable U.S. employers like Disney and Toys “R” Us—as well as public employers and institutions like the University of California and Southern California Edison—have laid off thousands of U.S. workers who were forced to train their own replacements. Eventually, many of these replacements and their jobs were moved offshore.7

Simple reforms can fix the H-1B program and have been proposed in Congress

  • Require employers to recruit U.S. workers and offer jobs to any equally or better qualified U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers.
  • Require employers who cannot find qualified U.S. workers to pay the H-1B workers they hire no less than the local average wage for the job (i.e., eliminate H-1B prevailing wage Levels 1 and 2).
  • Provide the Labor Department with additional legal authority to crack down on abuses and exploitation of U.S. and H-1B workers, and to conduct random audits of H-1B employers.
  • Appropriate more funding to the Labor Department to hire additional agents in the Wage and Hour Division and better scrutinize H-1B applications.
  • Provide H-1B workers with additional protections against employer retaliation and workplace abuse.
  • Ban employers from hiring additional H-1B workers if they have violated any wage and hour, labor, or immigration laws.
  • Reform the H-1B lottery to prioritize higher-paying employers and non-H-1B-dependent employers.8

Quick facts on the H-1B program

  • An estimated 460,000 H-1B workers are employed in the United States.9
  • 85,000+ new H-1B visas can be issued per year—65,000 plus 20,000 for workers who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. university plus an unlimited number for employers such as universities and nonprofit research organizations.
  • In 2015 there were 113,000 new H-1B workers and 162,000 H-1B workers extended their visas.10
  • H-1B visas are valid for up to six years (for two three-year terms).
  • Over half of H-1B visa holders work in IT or other computer occupations.11
  • H-1Bs also work in engineering, in medicine and health, and at universities.12
  • H-1B workers can be up to 40 percent cheaper to employ than Americans.13


1. Many of these jobs are sent abroad once the H-1B workers are trained. Ron Hira, “Top 10 H-1B Employers Are All IT Offshore Outsourcing Firms, Costing U.S. Workers Tens of Thousands of Jobs,” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), August 22, 2016; Ron Hira, “Top 10 Users of H-1B Guest Worker Program Are All Offshore Outsourcing Firms,” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), February 14, 2013.
2. Information about H-1B-dependent employers and the applicable exemptions for H-1B nonimmigrants can be found at the Department of Labor’s website. See “Fact Sheet #62C: Who is an H-1B-dependent employer?” and “Fact Sheet #62Q: What are ‘exempt’ H-1B nonimmigrants?” Data on median wages of computer workers comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor), Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016 [online database].
3. Foreign Labor Certification Data Center, Online Wage Library, “All Industries Database for July 2016–June 2017.”
4. Ron Hira, “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers,” Testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, Judiciary Committee, Dirksen Senate Office Building, February 25, 2016.
5.  See, for example, “Techsploitation,” Reveal News, The Center for Investigative Reporting, and Farah Stockman, “Teacher Trafficking: The Strange Saga of Filipino Workers, American Schools, and H-1B Visas,” Boston Globe, June 12, 2013.
6. See, for example, the recent 60 Minutes segment “Are U.S. Jobs Vulnerable to Workers with H-1B Visas?” (CBS News, March 19, 2017).
7.  Julia Preston, “Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements,” New York Times, June 3, 2015; Julia Preston, “Toys ‘R’ Us Brings Temporary Foreign Workers to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas,” New York Times, September 29, 2015; Michael Hiltzik, “How the University of California Exploited a Visa Loophole to Move Tech Jobs to India,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2017; Patrick Thibodeau, “Southern California Edison IT Workers ‘Beyond Furious’ over H-1B Replacements,” Computerworld, February 5, 2015.
8. Most of these reforms have been proposed in bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Durbin and Grassley, which in previous sessions of Congress was also sponsored or co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown and former Senator Jeff Sessions. See, for example, “S.2266 – H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2015,”
9. Daniel Costa and Jennifer Rosenbaum, Temporary Foreign Workers by the Numbers, Economic Policy Institute report, March 7, 2017.
10. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Department of Homeland Security), Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers: Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report to Congress, March 17, 2016.
11. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Department of Homeland Security), Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers: Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report to Congress, March 17, 2016.
12. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Department of Homeland Security), Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers: Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report to Congress, March 17, 2016.
13. Ron Hira, “Top 10 H-1B Employers Are All IT Offshore Outsourcing Firms, Costing U.S. Workers Tens of Thousands of Jobs,” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), August 22, 2016; Ron Hira, “New Data Show How Firms Like Infosys and Tata Abuse the H-1B Program,” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), February 19, 2015.

A Complex, Multicultural Vision of the World Promotes World Peace and Justice

Happy Sunday, everybody!

Here is a powerful piece by Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez in this month's Diverse Issues in Higher Education. He makes the strong case that Chicanos/as have been in a permanent state of insurrection.  I might prefer the word "continuous," as opposed to "permanent."  In any case, this is a worthwhile read.  I like this quote from within:
"In effect, what is being said here is that the state of insurrection(s) by native peoples on this continent has never been quelled. The reason is because it cannot be quashed unless all lands are returned, etc. No one has the authority to end it. It is akin to when the Mexican government in the 1800s sued for peace with the Maya. The Maya famously proclaimed to their enemies: “Go away and then there will be peace.”
Of course, settlers won't simply "go away," but the mentality that reproduces imperial projects can and should.  However, this calls for and indeed requires an opening of the mind to others' experiences, albeit with an epistemic humility and openness that help access this different, complex, and beautiful world.

So this "insurrection" about which Dr. Rodriguez writes, in my view, is as much about the political as it is about the moral and the epistemic, meaning the value system (or systems) that attaches to ways of knowing and being in the world.  

The antithesis—a monolingual, monochromatic, monocultural, ahistorical, commericalized, decontextualized, standardized view of the world—is tantamount to the death of the soul, of complex ways of knowing and being, that in their absence, render "insurrection," in Rodriguez' words, a necessary state of affairs.

A contemporary of President Abraham Lincoln in the U.S., Mexico's greatest, most beloved president who also happened to be a full-blooded, Zapotec Indian, President Benito Juarez' time-honored, wisdom rings true not just for today, but for the ages:

“Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.

Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

In closing, a complex, multicultural vision of the world breathes life and justice into the stuff of social relations and in so doing, promotes world peace.  
And we are all the better for it.
Angela Valenzuela

Rodriguez: Resistance or Permanent State of Insurrection?

Roberto Rodriguez

In Chicano Manifesto (1971), Armando Rendon made the radical claim that the United States and Mexico were technically still in a state of war (1846-1848) because the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was violated prior to even its signing, and that therefore, a state of war continues to this day.
Rendon’s claim was based on war having been waged against Mexico; half of its territories were illegally seized via war or threat of war during the 1830s through the 1850s; and several of the articles (Article VIII and XI) from the treaty were altered and one (Article X) was outright deleted​. These articles had to do with land rights and the human rights of the peoples that remained in the former Mexican territories.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Here, I am not agreeing or disagreeing, but actually positing something even more radical: that people of Mexican descent (including Chicanos/as) that live in this country, live in a permanent state of dehumanization and thus also part of a permanent state of insurrection that has been ongoing since the days of Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro and other “conquistadors,” one that never ended, and technically, can never end. These (Indigenous) insurrections and rebellions went on long after the official wars of Independence ended in the 1800s that rejected the more than 300 years of colonialism.
Continue reading here.