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New Boards Elected

posted Apr 16, 2012, 4:15 PM by Florida AIRR

Maria Clara Naranjo- Co-Director
Andrea Valderrama- Treasurer/Co-Director/ Public Relations
Rebecca Krueger- CORE Leader
Caitlin Strawder- Community Outreach Chair

Brandon Smoot and Sarah on your new positions

The NY Times: Regents Plan Push for Aid to Illegal Immigrants

posted Oct 17, 2011, 1:13 PM by M. Schaefer

by Fernanda Santos for The New York Times

When they vote on their legislative agenda on Tuesday, New York State’s top education officials will focus for the first time on the contentious topic of illegal immigration.

The agenda, proposed by the state education commissioner, John B. King Jr., to the Board of Regents, has as a top priority a proposal to push Congress to pass legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who go to college. Included in that legislation, known as the Dream Act, is a provision that would give students who are in the country illegally access to tuition assistance at city and state universities. The agenda is expected to be approved.

The lobbying effort would thrust the State Education Department into the heart of a highly politicized debate that has divided communities for years and spawned a hodgepodge of state regulations in response to the federal government’s inaction on reforming the country’s immigration laws.

New York already allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state universities. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed a similar measure into law in 2001; controversy surrounding it has threatened to derail his effort to gain the Republican presidential nomination.

In an interview, Dr. King said that the Regents’ strategy on the Dream Act would address one of the most significant roadblocks faced by an estimated 345,000 illegal immigrants who attend public schools in New York. By providing help with tuition and with residency documents, the federal law would allow those who graduate from college to strive for more than the menial jobs they must often accept because of their status.

“It’s about making sure that students are able to fulfill their aspirations after they graduate from high school, which is something that’s currently not available to those who happen to be undocumented,” Dr. King said. In addition, he said, “it aligns perfectly with our college-and-career readiness goals.”

Dr. King said that lobbying Congress would be the “first step” in a campaign that could progress to asking the State Legislature to do what California did just a few days ago: offer state-financed scholarships and aid to illegal immigrants attending state universities.

For now, the plan is to write to and visit the members of Congress from New York, as well as legislators from other states who could play decisive roles in the Dream Act’s passage. The bill, first introduced in 2000, has yet to gain enough support for passage. It would create a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, like passing a criminal background check.

For the past several months, Dr. King and the Board of Regents’ chancellor, Merryl H. Tisch, have taken an interest in addressing the needs of the state’s immigrant students, most of whom go to school in New York City.

“These people are going to be citizens of this country some day, and we need to prepare them for a life of independence,” Dr. Tisch said.

On Wednesday, Dr. King announced an agreement to improve the services offered in city schools to students who are still learning English, like more access to certified teachers and to the language lessons to which they are legally entitled.

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group, said the Regents’ agenda was a natural evolution of a process begun years ago to refine the state’s policies regarding students who are not proficient in English.

“It really brings the focus back to what the issue is about,” she said. “It’s about education, and it’s about our children.”

Some critics of immigration reform criticized the Regents’ plan as going too far. “This amounts to a much broader amnesty than the New York State Board of Regents wants to portray it,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which has called for reducing the levels of illegal immigration.

But Daniela Alulema, a board member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a supporter of access to higher education for illegal immigrants, said she hoped the Regents would eventually throw their support behind a version of the Dream Act introduced in the State Legislature in March. Among other things, the bill would give illegal immigrants access to tuition assistance and driver’s licenses, a provision that crumbled under intense criticism in 2007, after it was proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Ms. Alulema has pinned her hopes on state action. “The truth is, it’s very hard for something to happen in Congress because of the climate there now,” she said.


posted Sep 12, 2011, 7:32 PM by Florida AIRR

Join us Monday September 19 at 12:30 in room 102 as we hold elections for the 2011-2012 Executive Board. New and prospective members are welcome! Pizza will be served for lunch! *Those interested in running for a position must submit a short statement of interest by 5 pm on Friday, September 16th.  Contact for details.


Available Positions are:  President; Co-President Acting as Treasurer; Secretary; Chair of Community Outreach Committee; Chair of Event Planning Committee; Chair of Fundraising Committee. 

NEW YORK TIMES (Editorial): The Nation’s Cruelest Immigration Law Post

posted Aug 29, 2011, 2:27 PM by Florida AIRR

August 28, 2011

The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members “wisdom and discernment” to do what is right. “Not what’s right in their own eyes,” he said, “but what’s right according to your word.” Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.


The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders — an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop — have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.

It effectively makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with federal registration laws that are largely obsolete. It nullifies any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant. It requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally.

The new regime does not spare American citizens. Businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants will lose their licenses. Public school officials will be required to determine students’ immigration status and report back to the state. Anyone knowingly “concealing, harboring or shielding” an illegal immigrant could be charged with a crime, say for renting someone an apartment or driving her to church or the doctor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department have also sued, calling the law an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government’s authority to write and enforce immigration laws. The A.C.L.U. warns that the law would trample people’s fundamental rights to speak and travel freely, effectively deny children the chance to go to school and expose people to harassment and racial profiling.

These arguments have been made before, in opposition to similar, if less sweeping, laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. What is remarkable in Alabama is the separate lawsuit by the four church leaders, who say the law violates their religious freedoms to perform acts of charity without regard to the immigration status of those they minister to or help.

“The law,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in The Times, “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.”

You’d think that any state would think twice before embracing a law that so vividly brings to mind the Fugitive Slave Act, the brutal legal and law-enforcement apparatus of the Jim Crow era, and the civil-rights struggle led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But waves of anti-immigrant hostility have made many in this country forget who and what we are.

Congress was once on the brink of an ambitious bipartisan reform that would have enabled millions of immigrants stranded by the failed immigration system to get right with the law. This sensible policy has been abandoned. We hope the church leaders can waken their fellow Alabamans to the moral damage done when forgiveness and justice are so ruthlessly denied. We hope Washington and the rest of the country will also listen.

Bilingual Pesticide Labels: Farmworkers Deserve No Less

posted Aug 28, 2011, 4:23 PM by Florida AIRR

From Physicians for Social Responsibility

By Jeannie Economos

This essay is in response to: How does our nation's reliance on pesticides affect the health of those who plant and harvest our food?

Farmworkers feed the world. Anyone who eats and who purchases food at a grocery store in the US has an intimate connection to farmworkers, whether they are aware of it or not. Some 50 years after the birth of the farmworker movement in California, farmworkers are still virtually invisible, even though agriculture in our country could not exist without them. Yet, farmworkers risk daily exposure to pesticides, and the consequent health impacts, in the course of their daily work.  

Our food supply in the United States today depends largely on the hard work of an agricultural labor force that plants, cultivates, harvests, and packs the food crops that we all depend on for sustenance. That labor force today is made up largely of men and women of Hispanic background. Statistics show that these farmworkers have some of the highest rates of chemically-related illnesses of any workers in the US. Farmworkers are at the nexus of the agricultural industry’s use of some 1.1 billion pounds (1) of pesticides annually. While the EPA has developed the Worker Protection Standards in an effort to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure, lack of compliance, problems with enforcement, and weaknesses in the standards themselves all amount to inadequate health and safety protections for workers. One action, however, could go a long way toward rectifying what amounts to an injustice against these workers: bilingual pesticide labeling. 

Thousands of different kinds and millions of pounds of chemical pesticides are used in agriculture in the US every single day. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are required to accompany every pesticide product registered for use by the EPA. The MSDS contains critically important information about the proper usage, disposal, and application methods for the particular pesticide product. While some of the information relates to the specified crops and specific usage conditions, other information is of vital importance to the people who are working with the pesticide, such as instructions for safe use and handling. Critical information for handlers, such as the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), the required re-entry interval (REI), proper disposal of empty pesticide containers to avoid soil or watercontamination and/or human exposure, proper first aid, not to mention the acute signs and symptoms of pesticide exposure, is included on the labels. Yet, except for a few rare exceptions, those MSDS sheets are written only in English. 

According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, 81% of farmworkers reported Spanish as their native language and 53% said that they cannot read, write or speak English. Pesticide labels contain EPA-required information in order to safeguard the environment and reduce the risk to human health. Yet, the majority of the people who work around and/or are exposed to these pesticides do not have access to that information, since they do not read English. That is why, in 2010, Migrant Clinicians Network, Farmworker Justice, and several other organizations petitioned EPA to require pesticide manufacturers to print pesticide labels in both English and Spanish. In response, EPA opened up a public comment period on bilingual pesticide labels that closed in June, 2011. The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) and PSR, along with other farmworker, environmental health, and workers’ groups around the country, submitted comments to EPA in support of the need for bilingual pesticide labels.

As recently as ten years ago, there were very few scientific studies on the long-term and chronic health effects of exposure to various pesticides and/or classes of pesticides. In recent years, that knowledge deficit has begun to change. Chronic exposure to pesticides can result in long-term and severe health consequences. Parkinson’s disease, as well as reproductive and immune system problems, some cancers and thyroid disorders, in addition to learning disabilities, autism, and ADHD in children have been shown, in some studies, to be correlated with chronic pesticide exposure. Emerging research links diabetes and obesity with higher body burden of toxins, including pesticides. Increasingly, pesticides that had once been deemed to be safe are coming under greater scientific scrutiny. While the environmental persistence of the mostly (except for endosulfan) banned organochlorine pesticides has been known for some time, new studies, such as a recent one on chlordane (2) and autoimmune impacts on humans, are indicating that the end of their use is not the end of their story. Chlorpyrifos (3), on the other hand, while banned for residential use in 2001, is still commonly used in agriculture, and has recently been linked to ADHD in children. A favorite for families’ homes and gardens, as well as in agricultural fields and orchards, Roundup, or glyphosate, has been found to be not so benign after all, as shown in recent studies that link Roundup to birth defects (4) and seepage into groundwater. Mancozeb, a fungicide, has been implicated in the notorious AgMart birth defects incidents in Immokalee, Florida in 2005, in which three separate young farmworker women, all of whom had worked harvesting tomatoes while they were pregnant, gave birth to babies with severe birth defects (5).

The most sensational Immokalee case was that of Carlitos, a baby boy born with no arms or legs. AgMart farms had a history of multiple violations of the EPA Worker Protection Standards. The young farmworker women probably never saw a pesticide label, and may not have been literate in Spanish or English. However, if the persons responsible for applying the pesticides on those fields had been able to read the labels on the pesticides that they used, they may have been able to warn the women of the dangers to pregnant women of working without proper protection around such toxic chemicals.

Sadly, most farmworkers are never told even the names of the pesticides that are being used in their workplaces, much less given the pesticide labels to read. However, the Farmworker Association of Florida, in multiple pesticide trainings that staff have conducted over the past five years, found that 60% of the farmworkers explicitly stated that they wanted to know the names of the pesticides; 37% wanted to know the dangers of pesticide exposure or what they could do to decrease the negative health effects; 6% wanted to know how to better prepare or apply pesticides; and 4% asked to know the re-entry period after pesticides had been sprayed. Pesticide handlers (mixers, loaders, applicators) must know the information on the pesticide labels in order to properly store, handle, apply and dispose of the toxic chemicals that they are using, and they must know the health and environmental risks of improper usage and first aid procedures in case of exposure. For Spanish-speaking pesticide handlers, English-only pesticide labels put them at a disadvantage, with potential risk to themselves, others, and the environment. 

The agricultural industry is resisting bilingual pesticide labels, siting cost and language variation and dialects as being prohibitive and problematic. Yet, pesticide manufacturers are often required to translate pesticide labels for export to other countries and this cost is easily absorbed; and translators agree that there is a standard Spanish that is generally universally understood by Spanish speakers. EPA already requires Worker Protection Standards training materials in English and Spanish. If information is deemed by EPA to be important enough to be required on a pesticide label, then it is equally important that the information be understood by those that are using and/or who are being exposed to the product.

Protection at the front end of agricultural pesticide usage, in the long run, is far less expensive than improper handling, application, and storage of pesticides. FWAF believes that providing pesticide applicators and handlers, as well as farmworkers and others in agriculture, access to information in a language they can read and understand will greatly reduce the risks of needless and dangerous exposures to themselves, to other workers, and to the environment. 

Are pesticide labels in Spanish the cure-all for protecting farmworkers from any kind of exposure to dangerous agricultural pesticides? No, but at least it is an important place to start.

Editor's note: if you'd like to take action on pesticide policy, click here.


(1) EPA: Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage 2006 and 2007 Market Estimates

(2) Research Brief 199: Foray Into Tackling the Toxicity of Environmental Pesticide Mixture

(3) Chlorpyrifos

(4) Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World's Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say

(5) Case Report: Three Farmworkers Who Gave Birth to Infants with Birth Defects Closely Grouped in Time and Place

In Alabama, Immigration Law Hits Pocketbooks

posted Aug 28, 2011, 12:47 PM by Florida AIRR

New American Media

La Opinión, Editorial, Posted: Aug 26, 2011

Editors of La Opinión write that it is time for Alabama to understand that restrictive immigration state laws have serious side effects that hit everyone’s pocketbooks.

First, it happened in the state of Georgia. Now, it is time for Alabama to understand that restrictive immigration state laws have serious side effects that hit everyone’s pocketbooks.

The Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, believed to be the country’s toughest law of its kind, was supposed to, among other things, reduce the high unemployment rate. This has not been the case. Although the law led legal and illegal immigrants to leave the state, more than two months after its enactment, their jobs remain unfilled.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan is concerned about this, since the lack of workers is endangering the harvest of peanuts, tomatoes and squash. There have been reports of small farms giving up on planting because of uncertainty regarding the labor force.

The same is happening in the construction industry, which can’t find enough workers to rebuild towns damaged by the April tornadoes.

Once again, this situation debunks the arguments used in state legislatures as well as the House of Representatives, which claim that the unemployment issue can be solved by expelling undocumented immigrants in order for citizens to take over their jobs.

Alabama has an unemployment rate of almost 10%, while undocumented immigrants account for slightly less than 8% of the state’s workforce of 1.9 million. Immigrants are leaving and local unemployed people are not filling those jobs, impacting the state’s economy. The reality is as simple as that.

What is happening in Alabama, like in Georgia, shows that these states’ economies need the immigrant workforce. It also highlights the error of creating laws based on false and stereotyped perceptions, which have more to do with anti-immigrant sentiment than with common sense.

A comprehensive reform is the only path to resolving numerous issues related to immigration. The workforce and the economy are certainly some of them. If there is some doubt, Alabama’s situation proves the point.

Obama Changes Policy on Deportation

posted Aug 21, 2011, 12:18 AM by Florida AIRR

From the Huffington Post - Click here for more

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration announced on Thursday it will do a case-by-case review of deportations, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States indefinitely and apply for work permits.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will send a letter on Thursday to Senate members who had asked for details on how the agency would prioritize its immigration enforcement. The policy change is meant as a framework to help prevent non-priority undocumented immigrants from "clogging the system," senior administration officials said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

First, the agency will look at its pending immigration cases and close the low-priority cases, so immigration courts can focus on the most serious ones, administration officials said. The low-priority cases can be reopened if circumstances require. Next, guidance will be given to immigration enforcement agents to help them better detect serious criminals and other high-priority undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants whose cases are closed will be allowed to apply for work permits, but will not be given them automatically, officials said.

The move was perhaps meant to combat harsh criticism from Latino groups and immigration reform advocates, who have rebuked President Obama for continuing to deport undocumented people at record rates, while at the same time insisting he supports immigration reform.

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly said its deportation policies focus on the "worst of the worst," immigrant rights groups say enforcement agents still net a large number of non-criminal undocumented people.

The administration had earlier attempted to defend its record on Tuesday, with a blog post meant to "set the record straight" on the Secure Communities enforcement program.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote that more than half of all removals are of people with criminal records. Among non-criminals, most of those removed were apprehended crossing the border, had recently arrived in the United States or had been previously deported, she wrote.

"Those statistics matter," Munoz wrote. "While we have more work to do, the statistics demonstrate that the strategy DHS put in place is working."

The administration earlier tried to clarify its immigration enforcement policies in a June memo, which specifically recommended prosecutorial discretion. That memo cited the possibility of considering whether a person under removal proceedings would otherwise be eligible for the DREAM Act, an un-passed bill that would allow some undocumented young people to gain legal status in exchange for two years of college or military service.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the key supporters of the DREAM Act, applauded the administration's decision Thursday.

"The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students," Durbin said. "These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember.

Durbin pledged to "closely monitor DHS" to ensure the new policy would be implemented.

But increased discretion on the part of administration prosecutors may not be enough to please advocacy groups, many of which argue the administration should abolish certain enforcement programs altogether.

"In order to fulfill its promises, the administration must end policies like Secure Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them," said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, in an email statement. "The administration has pursued policies that are sowing fear and devastation among immigrant communities, and it must reverse course to stop the Arizonification of the country," he added, referencing Arizona's strict immigration enforcement policies.

View this slideshow to see who could benefit from prosecutorial discretion:

Updated Pictures & Resources

posted Aug 5, 2011, 5:36 PM by Florida AIRR   [ updated Aug 9, 2011, 4:15 AM ]

Check out a couple of our new albums in the media section. Trying to decide whether it's better to just post slideshows or direct links to albums. If you have any Pictures where AIRR is involved (face to faces, actions, events) please forward them to 

Also, working on a resources page. Hopefully some useful materials will be up soon. 


posted Jul 29, 2011, 12:58 AM by Florida AIRR   [ updated Aug 9, 2011, 4:17 AM ]

Hello, everyone!

Welcome to the new Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Rights website! We are working on creating a place for members to hang out, share events, and become more cohesive as well as a place for visitors to familiarize themselves with our organization. These are the first few minutes of our new website - hopefully it will be a large and eventful place very soon!

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