Letters From the March 7, 2016, Issue

Letters From the March 7, 2016, Issue

Deadly inequality… northern lights… such stuff as dreams are made on… mixed-up priorities…


Deadly Inequality

Congratulations to Seth Freed Wessler on his article about immigrants incarcerated in privatized prisons [“Separate, Unequal, and Deadly,” Feb. 15]. These human beings don’t deserve to be treated differently from any other prisoner in the federal system.

I’ve seen my share of “bad institutions” in over 30 years of travel and visits to 828 jails in 49 states and numerous prisons in the United States and beyond. Based on these visits, I’m not surprised by what Freed Wessler described. Too often I found such prisons understaffed, and the staff undertrained. What is really sad is that the Federal Bureau of Prisons now applies a double standard when it comes to confining immigrants.

Anybody who has read American correctional history understands that up until court involvement in the late 1960s, people who were arrested and confined lost their rights. This country endured 30 years of protracted litigation to force many state and local governments to implement medical programs, require that officers be educated and trained, provide acceptable food and medical care, and set down rules for mail, telephone, and visitation programs. Immigrants incarcerated in this country deserve to be treated the same as any other inmate in our American institutions. Privatization is not the way to do it!

Ken Kerle
topeka, kan.

Northern Lights

Congratulations to Ann Jones for an easily understandable explanation of Nordic socialism as well as a demonstration of how poorly the United States fares in comparison [“After I Lived in Norway, America Felt Backward—Here’s Why,” Feb. 15].
Mary Landry

Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals didn’t happen overnight, and it was not just a few sit-ins at Obama for America (OFA) campaign headquarters that made President Obama and then–Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano believe that this was the right policy to implement, as suggested in “Dreams No Longer Deferred” [Feb. 8]. Winning DACA was a long, arduous process of resistance, brilliance, and diligence by an immigrant community that has been unjustly scapegoated and marginalized for decades.

The seeds were planted in the early 2000s, when a group of organizers in New York created Families for Freedom, a multiethnic organization founded in the aftermath of 9/11 by families facing deportation. Among the group’s tactics to stop these deportations was a form of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law called “deferred action.” Subhash Kateel, one of FFF’s founders, eventually moved to South Florida to work as an organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. And in 2009, when Felipe Matos, Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, Carlos Roa, and I decided to walk 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, DC, for what became known as “The Trail of Dreams,” it was Kateel who helped write our one-page demand to President Obama, which included halting the deportations of and granting deferred action to young immigrants, Dreamers, and immigrant parents of US citizens. Shortly after we arrived in DC, we met with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and urged the need for deferred action.

In early 2010, Senators Dick Durbin and Richard Lugar sent a letter to President Obama with the same demands. The failure of the 2010 Dream Act gave impetus for the United We Dream Network to lead a national campaign called “End Our Pain” in 2011. The campaign sought to counter the Obama administration’s narrative that it was not deporting students or young immigrants. In June 2011, the administration reacted with the Morton memo, a set of priorities that would potentially end the deportation of low-priority individuals, such as Dreamers. Unfortunately, most of the memo’s recommendations were not implemented, but that only gave greater momentum to the Dreamer movement to ramp up the pressure on President Obama—and to look for other solutions.

In the spring of 2012, the stars aligned when Senator Marco Rubio decided to work on a Republican version of the Dream Act. Rubio’s plan was promising; however, we knew that the president had the legal authority to grant us what was proposed. Dreamers decided to work with Senator Rubio and simultaneously put pressure on the administration. It was an election year, and Obama’s reelection was on the line. The stakes were high. Democrats in the House and Senate pressured the administration, with Senator Durbin, both publicly and behind closed doors, urging Secretary Napolitano to stop the deportation of Dreamers.

Weeks before DACA was announced, President Obama was bird-dogged on the campaign trail, with Dreamers bravely interrupting his speeches and holding rallies at campaign stops. And thanks to the efforts of California-based organizations like the National Day Laborer Network, and people like the UCLA Law School’s Hiroshi Motomura, over 100 law professors wrote a letter to the president affirming his executive power to grant Dreamers deferred action.

In May, conversations with the administration inclined us to believe that it would finally take action. Rather than wait and hope, however, a group of Dreamers who participated in a walk from California to DC held a sit-in inside the OFA’s Denver office.

It was only after all of these efforts that, on June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a program allowing deferred action for childhood arrivals. Today, the immigrant community rejoices in the program we dreamed of, fought for, and won. And now over 700,000 young people live freer lives.

Gaby Pacheco
miami, fla.

Mixed-Up Priorities

While we throw up our hands in helplessness at the $1.5 million price tag to clean up Flint’s water [“Poisoning the Public in Flint,” Feb. 15], we bat nary an eyelash at the $3 billion price tag for one Long Range Strike-Bomber [“Who Runs the Pentagon?,” Feb. 8]. Something is rotten in the state of America.

Debra Bender
cape coral, fla.


A sentence in Cora Weiss’s letter to the editor [Feb. 15] responding to Barbara Crossette’s article on the United Nations [Jan. 11/18] was changed in the editing process and should have read: “The list of what [the UN] could accomplish in this new year is very much appreciated.” The sentence was intended to applaud Crossette for acknowledging the important work of the United Nations in 2016.

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