Page 12


7111 Nadezdha Garza PHOTO BY MELISSA DEL BOSQUE HEALTH CARE REFORM “What t Alap in the face to the many fine, respon sible, hardworking Texans vt -i don’t have health care care they can afford.” Commentator “Isis2010” in the Abilene Reporter News on a federal lawsuit brought by attorneys general from eleven states, including Texas, to block health care reform legislation “No public policy goal no matter how important or well intentionedcan be allowed to trample the protections and rights guaranteed by our Constitution.” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, on joining the lawsuit “Perry doesn’t mind throwing a $100 million dollar amount to state lawyers […] Meanwhile, he will announce cutbacks in fire and police protection, and withdrawing teacher raises for the same fiscal year to pay for the worthless suits.” Commentator “Mike Smith” in the San-Antonio Express-News _A FOR THE LATEST political analysis, read Bob Moser’s Purple Texas at Fowler, lead author of the report. “It can have a devastating impact on a student.” Incredibly, teens forced into juvenil justice programs for low-level misbehavior are more likely to return to the programs than those sent for serious criminal offenses. Eventually, most kids do return to regular schools, then find they’re way behind their peers. “We hear from parents and students that it’s at that point that they begin to lose hope and consider dropping out,” says Fowler. For plenty, jail or prison is the next step. FORREST WILDER TYRANT’S FOES Defending Invisibles FROM A CRAMPED OFFICE IN THEIR EDINBURG HOME, Nadezhda Garza and her older sister, Anayanse, pub licize the plight of an almost invisible population thousands of undocumented and legal immigrants held in immigration detention for months or even years while their immigration cases are decided. In 2009, more than 379,000 people were detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. That makes ICE the nation’s largest jailer. .A recent agency memo revealed that ICE has set a quota of 400,000 detainees for 2010. Increasing numbers of detainees are being shuttled to Texas from places that have a shortage of detention beds. These transplants are thousands of miles from their families and need help getting their grievances heard. Last year, Anayanse, 32, who works for the nonprofit Southwest Workers Union, started receiving calls from families in New York. Their loved ones had begun a hunger strike at the Port Isabel Detention Facility, north of Brownsville, to protest the lack of due process. “At the time, no one was talking about the hunger strike or other problems going on inside Port Isabel,” Anayanse says. “People are in mandatory detention who shouldn’t be. They have no lawyers and are isolatedeverything is working against them.” She and her sister, who’s 27, contacted local news media, which started covering the story. They started lobbying elected officials. In February, the sisters had one of their biggest successes when U.S. Congressman Solomon Ortiz, a Democrat from Corpus Christi, visited the Port Isabel facility. The previous day, the sisters had brought Zoila Molina, mother of a detainee at Port Isabel, to Ortiz’s office. Zoila told the congressman she was on a hunger strike in solidarity with her 24-year-old son, Ronald, a legal resident. He had been picked up on a minor drug possession charge and held for four months without a hearing. After Ortiz’s visit, his office looked into Ronald Molina’s case. Ronald was transferred back to Florida and eventually released. Ortiz promised that when Congress takes on immigration reform, he would address some of the sisters grievances in legislation. Bob Libal, with the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership in Austin, often works with the Garza sisters. “They’ve had a tremendous impact on publicizing the plight of immigrants in detention,” he says. “When you are locked up and far away from home, it’s an amazing thing to have allies in solidarity with you.” MELISSA DEL BOSQUE READ MORE about immigrant detention at www. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG