Tag Archives: immigrants
“A chef who once spent a year living under the Franklin Avenue bridge and a hard-charging minister” star in the Star Tribune’s good news story from Minneapolis today. They run the Soup for You Café at Bethany Lutheran Church, serving homemade soups with fresh, healthy ingredients to anyone who walks through the door. Church people volunteer. People who come for the delicious soup pay “whatever they feel is a fair price — or whatever they are able to.” Continue reading
On February 17, Texas federal district court judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction to stop immigration changes. That’s an order saying the government may not proceed with expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA). The order is one of the very early steps in the lawsuit against the federal government by 26 states. These states want to overturn President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Continue reading
Arizona law, Minnesota protests – July 29 is the effective date for Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 law to take effect, but much of the impact will be blunted by the July 28 court decision enjoining enforcement. In Minnesota, protesters will gather at 6 p.m. at the state capitol to protest SB1070, joining other protests across the country. Continue reading
NEWS DAY | Defending the public good / Home prices down – and up / Somali youth update / Shrinking skyways
Defending the public good Eric Black points to a Minnesota Supreme Court order and opinions denouncing the $100 increase in lawyer registration fees necessitated by the short-changing of the judicial system by the legislative and executive branches last year. The issue is not just a fee on lawyers, but a failure of the legislature and governor to fund essential services through general revenues.
Some of the justices voted against the fee increase, saying it is a tax and that the court does not have the authority to levy a tax. The majority, however, voted to impose the fee increase on lawyers and judges, while noting that it pays for services that should be part of the general budget.
Justice Paul Anderson, a moderate Republican, votes for the increase, but wrote a 10-page opinion, explaining why this is the wrong way to fund public defender programs, detailing specific consequences of the underfunding on people and on the courts right now, and denouncing the anti-government ideology that applauds funding cuts:
By underfunding public defenders and leaving it up to our court to procure financial support from lawyers, the Governor and Legislature have failed to meet one of their fundamental responsibilties. The crisis faced by public defenders and the resulting need to impose fees ona specific professional group are the result of an unfortunate impasse which affects how the citizens of Minnesota create and maintain a civilized society. …
Some people, both at the national and state level, are so bold as to welcome this turn of events by clearly articulating their goal to shrink government down to a size so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub. The problem with this approach is that when you continuously put the government’s head under water, it is not the government that drowns — real people drown. Floodwaters breach levees and people drown. Bridges collapse and people drown. I have little tolerance for this anti-government rhetoric given the adverse consequences that result to real people, especially the least advantaged among us, when this myopic approach to governing actually gets translated into policy. I believe that government does have a proper, even an essential role to play in creating and preserving a civilized society. Meeting constitutional mandates is part of that role.
Both Black’s article and the thoughtful analyses by Anderson and the rest of the Supreme Court justices are worth reading in full.
Home prices down – and up The Star Tribune reports that median home prices fell across the country during the third quarter of 2009, compared to the third quarter of 2008, despite rising home sales. The median price nationwide was $177,900, about 11 percent below 2008 third quarter prices.
But the numbers tell several different stories. Reporting on the same National Association of Realtors survey, CNN notes that home prices rose from the second quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2009. So, while prices are lower than a year ago, they are higher than a couple of months ago.
CNN also breaks out the data by metropolitan area. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area, home prices fell by 9.9 percent in third quarter 2009, compared to third quarter 2008. That meant a median Twin Cities home price of $184,800 in the third quarter of 2009.
NAR attributed much of the recent increase in home prices to the government’s first-time homebuyer tax credit, which has helped revive home sales from a deep slump.
“We can’t underestimate just how powerful a catalyst the first-time homebuyer tax credit has been for the housing sector,” Yun said.
The homebuyer tax credit has been extended into 2010.
Somali youth update Is an arrest in the Netherlands connected to the departure of 20 Somali youth from Minnesota in 2007-2008? The Star Tribune reports that “Special Agent E.K. Wilson of the Minneapolis FBI office confirmed Tuesday that the man was arrested in connection with the ongoing counterterrorism investigation that began here when young men began disappearing in 2007.”
The man’s age – 43 – has been released, but his name has not. According to the Strib report, Dutch officials say “U.S. prosecutors suspect the man of bankrolling the purchase of weapons for Islamic extremists and helping other Somalis travel to Somalia in 2007 and 2008,” but U.S. prosecutors won’t comment.
While much of the story of the Somali youth remains shrouded in mystery, four people have pleaded guilty to some charges connected to the events, and six of the youth have died in Somalia. Suspicion of a local mosque seems to have lifted, as the Star Tribune reports:
In another development Tuesday, Mahir Sherif, an attorney for Sheikh Abdirahman Ahmad, of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis, where many of the missing Somali men were known to socialize or worship, said Ahmad was taken off the federal “no fly” list in the past month.
Shrinking skyways MinnPost picked up on the skyway shrinkage story in St. Paul yesterday:
[A complaint served on Mayor Coleman] notes that the city skyways are required to be 12 feet wide, to easily accomodate pedestrian and wheelchair traffic, but in rebuilding some office space for Cray Inc. — the supercomputer maker that is moving into the downtown building — the skyway was narrowed without getting proper permits or variances.
Seems that developers are nibbling away at the publicly owned space, appropriating the public property for private use. Cray benefited to the tune of 124 square feet, but it isn’t the only culprit – Galtier gave away 500 square feet of skyway to private parties, some 10 years back. John Manillo, a downtown building manager, thinks that building owners should cough up the rent they collect on that footage, maybe into a fund for skyway improvements.
But rent isn’t the only issue. City law requires skyways to be 12 feet wide, in order to allow free passage of, well, anyone who wants to use a skyway, including people in wheelchairs. The latest incursion means that the skyway has narrowed to eight feet near Cray. Disability advocates say that just isn’t right, and express concern that if one building gets away with narrowing the skyway, others will follow suit.
NEWS DAY | Pawlenty prescription for poor / “Quiet” immigration action / Strib cuts 100 / War reports
Pawlenty’s prescription for the poor After decreeing an end to General Assistance Medical Care, the state program that covers the poorest of the poor, Governor Tim Pawlenty now has found a “solution.” He has ordered that the counties enroll GAMC enrollees in MinnesotaCare and pay their MinnesotaCare premiums for up to six months. After that, the former GAMC enrollees will have to pay their own premiums, estimated at about $5 per month, as well as any co-pays.
That could still be a problem. Many of those who are receiving General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) are living on $203 a month, and are homeless, in precarious housing, or low-income housing. An estimated 70 percent of those who receive GAMC deal with a mental illness or substance abuse.
Hospital officials told the Star Tribune that many GAMC enrollees incur inpatient costs higher than MinnesotaCare’s $10,000 annual cap, and that people who arrive at the emergency room in need, but not yet enrolled, will not be covered. Under GAMC, if an eligible person arrives at the hospital in need of emergency treatment, the person can be retroactively enrolled to cover the cost of treatment.
Nor are the counties thrilled about picking up the premium tab. “It’s in counties’ interest to make sure this group of people has coverage, but we’re not happy about having an additional cost passed on to us,” said Patricia Coldwell, a policy analyst for the Association of Minnesota Counties.
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the Health and Human Services Budget Committee, said MinnesotaCare is already stretched because the economy has resulted in a surge of new enrollees. Add the General Assistance enrollees and the program is likely to run out of funding in 2011 instead of 2012, she said.
“Quiet” immigration action Some 1,200 janitors were fired in Minnesota, based on their immigration status, reports MPR. That’s almost as many as the number arrested in the six 2006 Swift raids and about three times as many as were arrested in Postville in 2008. The main difference: these janitors were fired, not arrested and deported.
The janitors worked for San Francisco-based ABM, which cleans many downtown office towers in the Twin Cities. ABM, the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), and the janitors’ union, SEIU, all declined comment for the MPR article. The process began this summer, with ABM letters to workers saying ICE had found problems with their paperwork. They were given time to fix the problems, but time ran out in October, when the firings started. ABM had advertised for workers in September and apparently filled all of the positions before firing workers.
The Obama administration has been aggressive in removing undocumented workers. In fiscal year 2009, which ended in September, ICE deported 6,300 people from the region represented by Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska. That’s 1,000 more people than during the last year of the Bush administration. …
John Keller of the Immigrant Law Center says of the 1,200 fired janitors, about 10 might have a path to citizenship under existing laws. The rest, he says, will probably try to wait it out, hoping for the laws to change so they can work here legally.
Strib cuts 100 The Star Tribune will cut 100 jobs, including 30 in its 290-person news room, it announced yesterday. The 70 non-news-room jobs will be gone by the end of the year, while the 30 news room jobs “may take a little longer.”
The pink slips started coming Monday. Duane Lee, a project coordinator in the facilities department, said he was told his job would be eliminated Dec. 31 and that he was part of the 100 layoffs. The company gave him an employee-of-the-year award in 2004, Lee said.
Since 2006 the Star Tribune has shrunk its workforce by nearly 40 percent, or the equivalent of 779 full-time employees.
At MinnPost, David Brauer interprets talk about “somehow restructuring how work is done:”
To me, that’s code that the cuts will focus on non-bylined newsroom troops such as copy editors, designers, etc. The Strib has held reporters relatively harmless in recent cutting, and I’m betting that will continue.
White House: No decision yet on troops to Afghanistan After reports that President Obama has decided to send 30,000 (McClatchey) or 40,000 (CBS) additional troops to Afghanistan, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a firm and unequivocal denial Monday night. National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones said:
“Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.”
President Obama embarks on a week-long trip to Asia on Thursday and no decision is expected until after the trip, according to TPM.
Pakistan A bomb outside a market in northwest Pakistan today killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 50, some critically, according to AP.
The bombing in Charsadda city was the third attack in as many days in or close to Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Militants have stepped up attacks in recent weeks in retaliation for an army offensive in a key area along the Afghan border.
Metro Gang Strike Force: Abuse, theft, racism Legislators heard testimony on criminal activity by some Metro Gang Strike Force officers yesterday, with investigators describing a pattern of abuse of citizen rights, unjustified seizure of property, and taking seized property for private use. The investigative reports and testimony described a pattern of seizure of cash from anyone carrying large amounts of money when stopped by MGSF officers and noted that “these encounters almost always involved a person of color.”
Even with the testimony offered, Ruben Rosario writes, the committee did not hear about some of the more troubling aspects of MGSF behavior: the pursuit of immigrants with no gang or criminal ties, just because of their brown skin. MGSF instructed Minneapolis impound lot employees to call them when “Mexicans” came to claim their cars, and 29-year-old Dagoberto Rodriguez-Cardona was among their victims. The MGSF cops came to the impound lot on July 31, 2008, searched and questioned the two “Mexican” families there, seized more than $4,000 from Rodriguez-Cardona, and searched the cars of the two families:
No drugs were found.
None of those bagged that night had gang ties. Rodriguez-Cardona had no arrests, not even a parking ticket. Other than an acknowledgment that a little more than $4,000 was seized, Luger’s report found minimal information on the encounter in strike force records. No crime was alleged or prosecuted against those arrested and held in custody that night.
Yet, police contacted federal immigration officials in violation of a Minneapolis ordinance that prohibits officers from doing so unless a crime has been committed.
Now Rodriguez-Cardona faces deportation, and is suing to get his money back, showing what his attorney calls “raw courage” in coming forward.
The legislators heard from investigators yesterday. They heard about seizure of a wood chipper and stump grinder, and wondered how these could possibly have been thought to be involved in gang activity. They heard about seizures of flat screen TVs and sloppy accounting methods, and the need to change state seizure laws — never mind that many of the seizures seemed to be in blatant disregard of existing laws. The testimony that they did hear was damning, but they did not hear from victims. Rosario writes:
But the one thing lacking in Wednesday’s legislative hearing was testimony of someone like Rodriguez-Cardona. He would have driven home the human experience of someone placed in handcuffs in front of a sobbing relative and stripped of money earned by the sweat of his brow. Throw in the fact that his alleged muggers were officers of the law.
For additional accounts of yesterday’s hearing, see Metro Gang Strike Force: “Bad actions overshadow the good actions” in the TC Daily Planet, Metro Gang Strike Force hearing: Plenty of blame, but no answers in the Pioneer Press, Forfeiture law questioned after gang force misuse in the Star Tribune.
Big win for Central Corridor communities? The City of St. Paul will pay for an LRT station between Snelling and Rice Street under a tentative agreement reached Wednesday, reports the Pioneer Press:
St. Paul will put up $5.2 million for a new station — probably at the intersection of Western, Victoria or Hamline, according to a vote by the Central Corridor Management Committee.
In exchange, the Metropolitan Council will purchase an $8 million downtown property at East Fourth and Cedar streets, which would allow trains to make an easier turn. A prior agreement required St. Paul to foot the bill. …
The vote also prioritized the construction of two more east metro stations using money from a capital reserve built into the project — provided all goes well.
That’s huge for the community about to be disrupted by Central Corridor construction, as previous plans called for the trains to zoom along with stops a mile or more apart in low-income areas along the eastern part of the University Avenue line, though stops are closer together in other areas. However, the change still offers little to University Avenue small businesses. MPR reports:
A group of business owners met today to discuss their ongoing concerns. They say their voices aren’t being heard.
Lysa Bui, who owns the Saigon restaurant, says her business and many others won’t be able to survive the four-year construction project.
Central Corridor spokesperson Laura Baenen responded to business concerns by saying, “There’s absolutely no money in the project budget for handouts,” but she said that limited funds are available for “mitigation,” such as signage to tell customers where to look for parking, and free business consulting to offer advice to business owners.
Despite the late hour of the release, the Star Tribune was prepared with an impressive set of charts and graphs showing the performance of every school district in the state, and every school within each district. For the record, statewide proficiency stands at 64% in math and 72% in reading. In Minneapolis, the figures are 48% in math and 51% in reading. In St. Paul, the figures are 46% in math and 52% in reading.
The figures can be sliced and diced in myriad ways, and the Department of Education spins the story as well as it can be spun:
There has been a 7.6 percent increase in the number of schools making AYP, compared to 2008, due to an increase in the number of schools measured for AYP. The increase in the number of schools not making AYP is the result of more schools being measured and proficiency improvements that have not yet matched the increases necessary to meet the AYP targets under NCLB.
The Department of Education helpfully provides a PDF file detailing the five stages of AYP for school and three stages for districts, with a guide to penalties at each stage.
Minnesota 2020 has a cogent critique of the entire NCLB/AYP problem:
The number of schools not meeting AYP grows each year because the NCLB is meant not to highlight student achievement but to brand schools as failing. AYP is a false measurement of achievement. Even the most ardent of public education’s detractors will find it contrary to common sense that more than half the schools in the state can’t educate their students. These “results” are ludicrous. …
Here’s how NCLB works: States develop a standardized test and give it to all students once each year. Students are divided into subgroups depending on their race or special conditions, i.e. special education or English language learner. If one subgroup fails to meet AYP, the entire school and district fails. Not only must students show proficiency, the school must make sure enough students take the test. If too many students miss the test, the school and district fail to meet AYP.
The bottom line is that AYP doesn’t measure the work of teachers and principals and schools or the achievement of students over time. To measure that work, a test would need to ask how much individual students have learned during the course of a school year or two or three. That would require knowing where students were when they entered a school and how much each of them progressed.
That’s not what the tests are structured to do. The test does not measure how much progress Johnny and Maria and Moua and Jamal, who have now moved on to different schools, made during the years they spent at PS 135. Instead, it measures how well the current population of students performs — regardless of whether they have been in the school for six weeks or six years, regardless of what reading or math level they had when they entered the school, regardless of whether the teachers and school have had time and opportunity to make a difference. If a student enters the school in fifth grade, with a first grade reading level, and moves up two grade levels in one year — that’s still not proficiency and that’s not Adequate Yearly Progress.
Our schools need support and improvement. The NCLB/AYP mess provides neither. NCLB comes before Congress for renewal — or not — later this year.
Mayor vs. Park Board Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak denounced the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s attempt to get taxing authority. The MPRB has turned in thousands of signature sheets to put a referendum on this fall’s ballot, a move the mayor called “half-baked.” According to the Minnesota Independent:
The proposed referendum would grant the city’s quasi-independent (and chronically broke) park board the ability to impose its own levies, without oversight of the city council.
Today is the last day to turn in petitions, and then the city clerk will have 10 days to count and verify signatures. To put the measure on the ballot, signatures must total five percent of the votes cast in the last general election.
Some of the day’s best headlines
• With God as his co-pilot, Jungbauer announces bid for governor
• Barnes & Noble to buy Barnes & Noble College Booksellers
• Do not drive drunk to jail to bail out boyfriend on DWI
• Wisconsin woman accused in Krazy Glue assault
No immigration bill until 2010 That’s the Obama message, delivered after a tri-national meeting with Mexican and Canadian heads of state, according to the New York Times:
“Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No,” the president said. “But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness. And we can create a system in which you have strong border security and an orderly process for people to come in. But we’re also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so they don’t have to live in the shadows.”
One in nine That’s the number of Americans using food stamps to help meet basic needs. Another number: $4.50 per day. That’s the average amount of food stamp benefits. Think about it. What do you get for $4.50 a day? Rice and beans, yes. Maybe milk and cheese. Fresh vegetables or fruits? Rarely. And, as NPR reports, you wait for that. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) explained:
Let me point out one other kind of problem we’re finding here and that is because more and more people are eligible and are, you know, trying to enroll and state budgets are being cut back, and the states kind of processed the whole program even though the federal government provides most of the money. But because they’re being short staffed that is taking them, in some parts of the country, up to 57 days between the time somebody applies and between the time that they’re told they’re either qualified or that they’re denied. … And, you know, 57 days is a long time to go without a benefit to be able to put food on the table.
Congo The government troops sent to drive out rebels in eastern Congo and protect the people in fact have become persecutors, escalating the rape epidemic as they take women as spoils of war.
Although all sides in Congo’s messy 15-year conflict have used rape as a weapon of war — particularly the Rwandan rebels — the spike since January is being widely blamed mostly on the army. The number of soldiers roaming these eastern hills has almost tripled to 60,000, and rapes have doubled or tripled in the areas they are deployed. Aid groups said the number of rapes so far this year is probably in the thousands.
Pakistan A rocket attack on Peshawar killed at least two people and wounded more as a dozen rockets sent panicked residents fleeing into the streets. In northwest Pakistan, a U.S. drone attack killed at least ten people. Officials said the attack targeted an insurgent training camp.
Minnesota’s recession Although Minnesota is doing slightly better than the nation as a whole, the recession/depression hits us as unevenly as it hits the country. Along the western border, unemployment is lower — 4.5 percent in Moorhead and Clay County marking the lowest point. Except for Anoka County, the seven-county metro area manages to stay barely below 9 percent unemployment. The dark spots on the map are located mostly in Greater Minnesota, with four counties and a handful of cities showing unemployment at more than 12 percent. On the Range, unemployment reaches 17 percent in Virginia and 18.7 percent in Hibbing. (For county and city details, go to DEED’s “Positively Minnesota” website.)