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Beyond Borders

A blog about immigration in the New York region

Archive for August, 2010

NYCLU raises alarm on schools asking immigration status


The New York State Education Department is making clear to school districts that they cannot seek documentation of immigration status as a prerequisite to enrolling a child in school. The New York Civil Liberties Union wrote to the state in July, saying that a survey of all 694 school districts found that at least 139 were asking, directly or indirectly, for proof of a parent or child’s status.

The organization wrote to Commissioner David Steiner:

Asking for such documentation is at best irrelevant to proving eligibility to attend school in a particular district, and at worst a deliberate attempt to prevent undocumented children from enrolling in school.

Undocumented children have the same right to a free public education as other children. State guidelines recommend proper ways to determine a child’s age and residency, saying schools “should avoid asking questions related to immigration status or that might reveal a child’s immigration status, such as asking for a Social Security number.”

Among the 139 districts where the NYCLU identified problems were these Westchester County districts:

Eastchester, Tarrytowns, Somers, Rye City, Rye Neck, Pelham, Mamaroneck, Hastings, Harrison, Elmsford, Dobbs Ferry, Croton-Harmon, Bronxville and Blind Brook.

The NYCLU analysis and the state guidance are linked on this site. The state regs are also here.

ADDED: Noreen O’Donnell reports on the response of local districts in this Journal News article.

Posted by Leah Rae on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 1:21 pm |

Farm workers and labor rights — a perennial issue


At your local farmer’s market, the discussion is more likely about tomato varieties than farm workers’ rights. But such labor issues have returned to Albany, as sure as the harvest. The New York Senate again defeated a labor-rights bill this month. Journal News reporter Diana Costello follows up today with reaction from growers and worker advocates.

The bill would have provided rights that farm workers are excluded from: time-and-a-half overtime pay and one day of rest a week. New York farmers say the measure would be too costly, particularly because they operate at narrower margins than the rest of the nation. Growers also say their labor needs are different because of the demands of the harvest.

Workers at Stuart’s Farm in Somers (photographed) travel from Jamaica on H2A visas for seasonal laborers. Such workers would not have been subject to the bill. But those visas are the subject of another clash, this one between the U.S. and Jamaica. Workers were not being admitted because of objections that Jamaica took a cut of workers’ paychecks, according to the NY Daily News. Facing labor shortages, farmers sought help from Sen. Charles Schumer. Here’s the story and the update.

(Photo: Xavier Mascareñas/The Journal News)

Posted by Leah Rae on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 11:48 am |

Report: 72 massacre victims in Mexico were migrants


Seventy-two massacre victims found dead in Mexico were migrants who were extorted by gunmen on their way to Texas, according to a witness. Read the NY Times story here. The victims, 58 men and 14 women were reportedly from Central and South America. A drug cartel is suspected, reports AP.

The Los Angeles Times has this story about another deadly aspect of migration over the border. Even though illegal immigration appears to be down this year overall, the number of deaths of people trying to cross the desert could set a record, the paper reports.

Earlier this month, the Phoenix New Times had a harrowing story looking into the violent world of human smuggling. It starts here.

Posted by Leah Rae on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 6:50 pm |


DOJ may sue Arizona sheriff over civil rights probe


More news from Arizona: The Justice Department may sue Sheriff Joe Arpaio for not cooperating with a civil rights investigation on his treatment of Hispanics, reports the Washington Post.

At the state level, Arizona is appealing the ruling that has kept it from implementing parts of its immigration-enforcement law.

Posted by Leah Rae on Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 at 11:15 pm |

Port Chester attorney points to non-citizen population in districting debate


In an opinion piece on LoHud.com, one of the attorneys in Port Chester’s voting rights case revives questions about the effect of including non-U.S. citizens in the population count for districting purposes.

This argument came up during the DOJ’s lawsuit in Port Chester when the village was fighting a switch from at-large voting to single-member districts for trustees. Aldo Vitagliano (at left), who wrote the opinion piece, and attorney Anthony Piscionere argued that the presence of so many non-citizens in Port Chester would skew the voting power of people in various districts, violating the “one person, one vote” principle. An organization called the Project on Fair Representation argued this point also.

At the time, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers in the case told me that such an argument was extremist nonsense — “a fairy tale.”

The village was ordered to change its trustee election system after it was deemed unfair to Hispanics, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. As it turned out, the village was not forced to create districts, switching instead to the unusual cumulative voting method as the remedy to its voting rights violation.

Posted by Leah Rae on Monday, August 9th, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

It’s ‘independence season’ in Port Chester’s Latino community


It’s still Independence Day season in Port Chester, given the various Latin American countries celebrating independence from Spain. For the fourth year, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is incorporating the festivities into its “Cultural Fridays” series, intended to showcase the different nationalities in the congregation.

Peruvians celebrated their day recently with a traditional “scissor dance” (photographed at Port Chester Fest, left) and a salute to Luis Marino, the village’s first Hispanic trustee and a native of Peru. Next up, Friday, are the Bolivians, gathering on their actual independence day, Aug. 6. Ecuadorians are celebrating at the church Aug. 13, Dominicans Aug. 20, Mexicans Aug. 27, and Central Americans on Sept. 3. The festivities start at 7 p.m. The Bolivian event will start with a Mass and be held outdoors in the church parking lot.

Father Hilario Albert began the Friday events with the hope of mingling the various groups, but that remains a challenge. “It has still been very, very slow-moving,” he said this week. “People come to their own, and they forget about the other.”

Posted by Leah Rae on Thursday, August 5th, 2010 at 2:45 pm |


Westchester Community College to open ‘Gateway’


Westchester Community College has an opening date next month for its Gateway Center — an environmentally friendly building geared toward the growing immigrant population, with an emphasis on business entrepreneurship.

The college has 4,000 ESL students and a volunteer program that matches native speakers with learners. The new center will house those activities along with business programs and an Institution for Entrepreneurial Studies. More info here.

Posted by Leah Rae on Thursday, August 5th, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

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Reporters from The Journal News track the latest developments in immigration. Beyond Borders explores the news, the cultures and controversies.
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