August 5, 2008
Press #3 for Xenophobe
This is actually good news.
Republican Harri Anne Smith was vying to represent Alabama in the U.S.
House of Representatives but lost on July 15 to her GOP rival.
Smith, who served several terms in Alabama’s state senate, will be
well remembered for at least two racist videos.
In one, she pins the rising cost of food and fuel to the Arab world,
saying, “It’s about time those Middle Eastern billionaire sheiks show
us some gratitude by lowering their oil prices.” The camera shows a
blurry shot of what are supposed to be those “billionaire sheiks.”
In a second video, she calls for the U.S. to make English the
official language. Listening to an operator who says, “For English,
press one. Por Español, oprima dos,” Smith tells the camera: “I don’t
want to hear this…. English is what we speak.” The camera then pans
across store signs in English.
TXT to Harri: We don’t want to hear this xenophobe talk. Hopefully,
her loss signals that folks in Alabama also aren’t down for bashing
In Louisiana the state legislative session closes in a month, and a lot is at stake for people of color and immigrants.
An effort to overturn Louisiana’s juvenile life without parole bill has been met with stiff opposition. The bill—currently in the state Senate—would allow young people to be eligible for parole once they turn 18. Seung Hong, a local activist, said that the bill failed to pass in the House recently and has been hotly contested in the Senate. Louisana has 317 juveniles serving life without parole in its prisons, according to a Human Rights Watch report released in 2005.
Three anti-immigrant bills, HB 1357, 1358 and 25, have also been introduced. HB 1357 would essentially penalize anyone who doesn’t notify local authorities when they know someone is an undocumented immigrant. Providing an apartment lease, legal services, or even a ride to the grocery store would count as “harboring” under the terms of HB 1357. HB 1358 would make it illegal to give undocumented immigrants a ride and fine the driver $1,000. If passed these bills would also sentence people to a year in prison. The last, HB 25, demands that police verify the citizenship of anyone they arrest. These bills passed the House with wide margins and are currently being discussed in state Senate judiciary committees.
Hong explained that there has not been a strong organized resistance to these bills because the immigrant population in Lousiana is so new and does not have an organizing and advocacy infrastructure in place. The immigrant community “is a post-Katrina population. The numbers have gone up ten times in the course of a year,” Hong said, adding, “It looks like all the bills are going to pass.”
Missouri: Anti-affirmative action measure fails
Ward Connerly’s anti-affirmative action initiative, known as the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, failed to make it on the ballot for this November. The group did not turn over 140,000 signatures by the May 4th deadline, even though it claimed to have gathered 170,000 signatures.
The proposal to bar many state affirmative action programs is part of a campaign led by Connerly nationwide. Other states impacted include Nebraska and Arizona. Signature gatherers have until July to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot in the remaining states. Colorado voters will have a say on the measure next November.
May 2, 2008
Nevada: Voting In Whose Interest?
Ruben Kihuen, the son of Mexican immigrants, is up for re-election in Nevada’s state assembly. The Dem has represented the 11th District since 2006, when he ran his first campaign a year after becoming a citizen. Kihuen made news most recently though because he endorsed and canvassed aggressively for Hillary Clinton, though the local Latino-heavy Culinary Union supported Obama. Clinton won the Nevada primary, but how Kihuen will deal with the difference in opinion between himself and his constituency is something to keep an eye on, says Bill Fulkerson of Plan Nevada, a nonprofit alliance of over 24 groups that works for progressive social change in Nevada.
Ruben Kihuen’s website: http://www.rubenforassembly.com/
Florida: Cuban Americans Battle For Seats
In South Florida, Latino Congressmen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his younger brother, Mario Diaz-Balart, are up for re-election. They are part of a Cuban political dynasty (their father was a pre-revolution Cuban politician and U.S. Representative) and represent elite Cuban interests. In Congress, they’re considered the backbone of the Cuban-American lobby. Their staunchly conservative politics give legitimacy to the Republicans’ and Bush administration claim to Latino support, but they don’t always have the support of working and middle class Cubans and non-Cuban Latinos.
Both Diaz-Balarts, who have served several terms in Congress and represent the Old Guard Cuban elite class, are being challenged by Cuban American Democrats Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia. Joseph Phelan of the Miami Workers Center projects that if the brothers lose, it could precipitate a huge change in Cuban policy. However, given the recent news of Castro’s resignation, they won’t give up their seats without a fight.
Peggy Flanagan, a 28-year-old American Indian and pro-choice Catholic, who holds a seat on the Minneapolis Board of Education is challenging 12-year incumbent Representative Joe Mullery for his seat in November. Mullery is popular with progressives for championing consumer rights, but Jermaine Toney, from the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, an advocacy organization, was disappointed with his track record with other issues. “When it comes to criminal justice issues and issues affecting people of color, it’s like, ‘Where are you?’” Toney said.
Colorado: Attacks On Affirmative Action
Ward Connerly’s Colorado Civil Rights Initiative turned over more than 128,000 signatures to the Secretary of State in March. But several dozen Coloradans say they were deceived into signing the petitions under the guise of ending discrimination, according to Colorado Unity, a coalition that is fighting the measure.
The proposal to ban affirmative action in Colorado is part of a national effort lead by Connerly. Other states affected this year include Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Connerly’s people in the remaining states have until early July to turn in enough signatures to put it on the ballot in November.
Affirmative Action stories