Gates Public Service Law Program: The Rollback of Civil Rights Era in America
John Trasviña, President and General Counsel, Mexican-American Legal Defense & Educational Fund
Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director, Hate Free Zone Washington
Luis R. Fraga , Vice Provost of Faculty Advancement, University of Washington
Cristóbal Joshua Alex, Campaign Coordinator, National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights
M. Lorena González, President Latina/o Bar Association of Washington
January 25, 2008
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Michele Storms and I am the
Director of the Gates Public Service Law Program here at the University
of Washington School of Law. And it is my pleasure right now to welcome
all of you today on behalf of the Gates Public Service Law Program and
the University of Washington Law School to this panel discussion on the
rollback of civil rights.
first want to gratefully acknowledge the Latina/Latino Bar Association
of Washington for giving us this opportunity to cosponsor this
important event. Many of you may know that LBAW has their annual dinner
this evening and their keynote is John Trasvia, the President and
General Counsel of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education
Fund. And, in an interest on behalf of LBAW to bring him to a variety
of audiences and to really generate good community discussion about the
issues of which he advocates, they came to us and gave us this chance
to work with him, so we are really happy to be presenting this panel
Very quickly, I have a couple of logistical matters that
I have been told I must share with you. And the first is, for those of
you who are lawyers and hoping to have continuing legal education
credit, if you did not already check in at the desk outside the room,
please do so at the conclusion of this talk, so that you can be
registered to receive your credit. And also, a little one of my own
administrative message is to please take a moment now to turn the sound
off on your cellphones or pagers if you have them with you.
our topic today is enormously important. It is the erosion or rollback
of civil rights. One way to define or look at civil rights is equal
treatment of all people with respect to protection of the law and to
the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, their protections and
privileges given to all citizens by law, protected by the Constitution
and the Bill of Rights. It is so timely for us to have this discussion
this week at the end of the Martin Luther King holiday week.
advances in civil rights for people living in this country were made
and enacted into law, thanks to the efforts of coalitions of dedicated
people who marched and testified, boycotted, filed lawsuits and engaged
lawmakers ultimately in enacting laws that would benefit the people of
our society regardless of color or nationality or creed. But, it
behooves us at this point, however, to be aware that those rights are
beginning to roll way back or in some cases, the rights are not being
applied to all people and that is something that should be of concern
to every one of us.
In our audience today, we have students and
lawyers, academics, community activists, people from all around. And I
believe what brings all of us here is our shared commitment to social
justice and equality for all people. So, I am really grateful that we
have this opportunity to have this conversation.
I am going to
shortly introduce our panelists, but before I do so, I want to share
words from our Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire. It was
her intention and desire to be here actually today, which would have
been so exciting for us, but you can understand that the Legislature
being in session and the governor's office having many matters to
contend with, that she wasn't able to be here. So, she has a sent a
letter and if you will bear with me, I'd like to read that to you.
from the Governor, January 25th 2008. I am delighted to extend warm
greetings to all of you attending this afternoon's discussion on the
rollback of civil rights era in America presented by the Gates Public
Service Law Program and the Latina/Latino Bar Association of Washington.
you have the privilege of hearing from very distinguished panelists. I
am sure you will find their insight and wisdom regarding threats to our
civil rights, especially for communities of color invaluable. Perhaps
more important will be their thoughts on what we all can do in response
to these threats, ensuring the protection and preservation of justice,
fairness and opportunity for everyone.
Democracy can only be
made whole through the inclusion, representation and participation of
all our residents. I commend the Public Service Law Program and the
LBAW for their commitment to social justice reflected in this program
and their vision of fully integrated socially and economically engaged
communities of color.
Diversity is one of our nation's greatest
strength. In particular I want to recognize the mission at LBAW to
empower and equip the Latino community, which in turn strengthens us
Thank you all for coming and please accept my best wishes for a thoughtful and productive program.
Sincerely, Christine O. Gregoire, Governor."
now, I'd like to just let you know who these distinguished panelists
are. And we really do have some wonderful people here with us today and
I am going to begin, to my immediate right, with Lorena Gonzlez who is
the moderator for our panel today and is the current President of the
Latina/Latino Bar Association of Washington. Lorena Gonzlez is an
associate with Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. Her practice focuses on
representing individuals in the areas of civil rights, employment,
serious personal injury and medical malpractice. She is a 2005 honors
graduate at the Seattle University School of Law.
Lorena, as I
said, is currently the President of LBAW and has been a member of the
executive board since 2003 and is the youngest President in the history
of the organization, has executed several programs under her
leadership, including an Annual Legal Clinic at the Hispanic Seafair, a
Latino community law forum in southwestern Washington and a stronger
coalition between LBAW and community-based organizations that provide
services to Latinos.
She was the recipient of LBAW's Outstanding
Member of the Year Award in 2004 and was the only law student in the
history at LBAW to receive that award. She is also the current
Co-President of the Latino Political Action Committee of Washington, a
progressive organization designed to politically empower Latinos in
To her right is Cristbal Joshua Alex who is currently the Campaign Coordinator of the...
Cristbal Joshua Alex:
It is a long name.
...National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. It is not written here
and so all of a sudden I just blanked here. So, thank you for bearing
joined the campaign after practicing civil rights law with MacDonald
Hoague & Bayless, the leading civil rights firm in the northwest.
And during that time, he focused his practice on police and
governmental misconduct, including important cases dealing with
prisoner rights, police shootings, discrimination and the
constitutionality of various state laws. Before joining MacDonald
Hoague & Bayless, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable William
W. Baker, Washington Court of Appeals.
And to his right is
Pramila Jaipal, Founder and Executive Director the Hate Free Zone here
in Washington State. She created this grassroots nonprofit organization
in November 2001 in response to the backlash against immigrant
communities of color. Since its creation, this organization has grown
into a leading voice for its courageous and groundbreaking work on
behalf of immigrant and refugee communities targeted post 9/11.
and the Hate Free Zone have received several awards and recognitions
for this work including the City of Seattle's 2002 Civil Rights Award,
the Washington Bar Association's Access to Justice Community Leadership
Award, the Japanese-American Citizens League Leadership Award and
She is an activist and writer and has been
actively involved in international and domestic social justice issues
for over 12 years working across Africa, Asia and Latin America as well
as domestically with immigrant refugee communities in Washington State.
And she has a masters in business administration and is the most
lawyerly non-lawyer I know.
I think, that is a compliment.
It is. And to her right is Luis R. Fraga. He has just recently joined
the University of Washington as Associate Vice Provost for Faculty
Advancement and as well heads up the Diversity Research Institute here
at the University of Washington. He will also serve as a political
science professor and his appointment began this summer.
received his Ph.D. from Rice University and was a member of the
American Political Science Association Standing Committee on civic
engagement and education that coauthored "Democracy At Risk: How
Political Choices Undermines Citizen Participation and What We Can Do
About It." He is also a coauthor of the recently published "Multiethnic
Movements: The Politics of Urban Education Reform." He is one of six
principal investigators on the Latino National Survey, the first ever
state stratified survey of Latinos in the United States.
finally at the end of our row, our panelist is John Trasvia, the
President and General Counsel of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, who is also the keynote speaker for the LBAW event
this evening. He was appointed President and General Counsel in
November of 2006. Mr. Trasvia began his career at MALDEF in Washington
D.C. as a legislative attorney in 1985. He also worked for U.S.
Senator, Paul Simon as General Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S.
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.
And in 1977,
President Clinton appointed Mr. Trasvia as Special Counsel for
Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices. As special counsel, he
led the only Federal government office devoted solely to immigrant
workplace rights. He was the highest ranking Latino attorney at the
U.S. Department of Justice and after returning to California, he taught
immigration at Stanford Law School, so second Stanford Law School
connection because I forgot to mention that Luis Fraga was a professor
there as well.
As a highly sought after advocate, Mr. Trasvia
testified in the last Congress before his US Senate Judiciary Committee
in support of extension of the Voting Rights Act and before the US
House Education and Workforce Committee against English-only
In 2006, he was named Attorney of the Year by the
Hispanic National Bar Association as well as by San Francisco's La Raza
So, as you can see they are highly
qualified, highly esteemed and well-prepared to share information with
you, not only to help you understand where we stand in terms of civil
rights today, but also to help us see maybe where we can go forward.
I turn it now over to Lorena Gonzlez and ask you to join me in welcoming her to Seattle.
Thank you Michele. And thank you to all of you for joining us here
today. I hope that we are able to have a true dialogue on all of these
just briefly before we begin the presentations, I wanted to explain
that all of you have some notecards in front of you. And so, throughout
the presentations that you will be hearing today to the extent that you
have any questions please fill those out and then - Anne, will you be
running those up to us? OK.
So, she will be running those
notecards up to me and I'll go ahead and present your questions to each
of the panelists. And feel free to direct any of your questions on the
notecards to a particular panelist.
So, what we'll do is we'll
have each panelist present for about 10 minutes on a particular topic.
And then, we will go ahead and wrap up that particular aspect and then
we'll go ahead and start off with the questions. So, I definitely
encourage all of you to seize the opportunity to ask all these
brilliant folks some questions about the civil rights era.
we'll start off with Josh. Josh is going to talk to us about what has
been happening within our court system, the Supreme Court of the United
States in particular, in the arena of civil rights. So, he is going to
lay the foundation for us with regard to that and provide us also with
some solutions on what we can do to prevent the rollback of civil
Thank you. And thanks Michelle for that kind introduction. I have one
correction to make. I think, I was the youngest President of the Latino
I think, that's right.
We continue to fight about that. I'm the youngest looking President of the Latino Bar.
She always gets me at the end there. But, it is an honor to be back
here at my alma mater the University of Washington and to be invited to
join a panel of such distinguished individuals.
Michelle mentioned, I work with the National Campaign to Restore Civil
Rights. And we are a collection of about a hundred different
progressive civil rights organizations that are working to educate the
public about the civil rights rollbacks that are resulting from the
right wing takeover of our courts.
Aside from educating the
public about the rollback, we also work to build a movement to stop the
rollback using the media, the courts and the legislature. I want to
just start off by emphasizing what a crucial role the courts have, not
only in protecting civil rights, but really in fashioning a more just
vision of our society.
The founding fathers recognized that the
judiciary is the least democratic branch of our government. But, access
to courts is a really necessary requirement for a true functioning
The courts were designed to protect the minority from
the majority. And the courts, the way they are supposed to work, are
oftentimes a last resort for folks to vindicate their rights. But, in
recent years, we have seen a drastic shift in the courts to the right.
And the result of that is the courthouse doors are being closed to many
important civil rights claims. We have to get back to working on owning
Let me just point out also really quickly that this
is going to be a very brief overview of the rollback. So, my apologies
to many of the lawyers here and other folks and especially to those in
the room who are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this area.
are just going to barely touch on some of these issues today, beginning
with the contextual barriers to the enforcement of rights and the
inability to be able to get into courts. As a lot of you know, starting
around the 80s with Ronald Reagan coming in, there was a shift in
politics, a shift in media. And really the right wing point of view
started to take over.
That spilled over into our legal services.
These are the groups that provide civil legal aid to poor folks. Their
funding was slashed. They were saddled with numerous restrictions. At
the same time, the right started to fund think tanks and anti-social
justice law firms that were quite successful and have been quite
successful in litigation.
You used to be able to rely on the
agencies, the Federal agencies and the offices of civil rights to help
with enforcement. No more, because the Federal government is going in a
completely different direction now.
And then of course, the most
drastic and scary part of this is there has been a major seachange in
the makeup of our courts. There's been really a stealth campaign to
stack the courts with folks from the right wing. The result of that is
a gutting of many of our most important civil rights protections.
So, how did we get to this? How did we get into this mess?
[music and audio]
How did all this start? Many date it to 1964. Barry Goldwater, a Republican candidate from the extreme right.
[Barry Goldwater speech and applause]
lost in a landslide. But, his defeat galvanized ultraconservatives.
They didn't get that far with their agenda though - until 1980.
I Ronald Reagan do solemnly swear...
I Ronald Reagan do solemnly swear...
They moved aggressively under Reagan, led by people like Attorney General Edwin Meese and young lawyers like Samuel Alito.
there was ever any doubt about what they had planned, that disappeared
in 2002 when law professor Dawn Johnsen exposed documents that made it
Reagan and Meese succeeded with collaboration by the Department of
Justice in making movements to set forth the blueprints of radically
moving constitutional law to the right by overruling a series of
landmark Supreme Court decisions on all the great issues of the day.
Meese didn't act alone. Ultraconservatives had partners on the outside
- big business and big money. They poured millions into law schools,
into think tanks, into nonprofit law firms and into a group called the
It began as a forum for debate. It turned into a way to groom lawyers for high government office and the Federal bench.
And there were more allies. Allies on the religious right. They said to change the law you had to change the courts.
... homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. Amen.
And what you saw beginning in the early 1980s was really a coming
together of conservative ideas, conservative intellectuals,
conservative lawyers and conservative money, all pointing in one
direction. And the direction was, "Let's get the people we want on the
[end of video]
And they have been extremely successful at getting the people they want on the Court.
Federalist Society is a key part of that. A great majority of recent
appointments to the Federal Bench have been society members and not
only the Federal Court, but also the Department of Justice.
you look at the different Circuits around the country, 11 of the 13 are
Republican majority Circuit. In fact seven of the Circuits are a two to
one majority. A lot of folks don't understand that with the way the
rhetoric in Washington is framed. They think it's the other way around.
The results of that court stacking - well there are a couple of things that have come out of it. Let me just show you this.
We no longer have candid, revolutionary efforts to change the American
Constitution as we know it. We rather have a stealth revolution. I
believe the Constitution protects the right to privacy.
You're not suggesting that there wasn't any discussion?
Not since Roe v Wade. I cannot remember personally engaging in those discussions.
Justice Thomas, when asked about Roe against Wade, said he had never
talked about it to anyone. And then of course, when he gets on the
Bench, he makes his decision absolutely plain from the get go.
I don't have any objection or basis to object or, at this point, any
quarrel with the way that the court has interpreted the Interstate
And so, with the court stacking, what we've seen is a drastic rollback
in three major areas of our civil rights. The most important and
significant is the ability of Congress to pass laws. Really, challenges
to the authority of Congress to pass certain key legislation.
second is challenges to the authority of Congress to subject the states
to those requirements. In other words, if Congress has the power to
pass the law, can we make the states accountable?
The third is,
if you have the power to pass a law, and you can subject the states to
the requirements, can you even get into court to vindicate those rights?
first one, again, the reason I say that's the most significant is
because if Congress doesn't have the power to pass laws, that undercuts
the very validity of existing civil rights laws themselves.
key case in this area is United States v. Morrison. It was a five-four
decision, and pretty drastic facts in that case: Christina Brzonkala
was a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. She was gang-raped by
several of her classmates and the school didn't take any action against
them. In fact, the students stayed in the school, they continued to
harass her, and the only thing she could do was go to court and bring a
claim under the Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law that
allows you to assert a claim in federal court against perpetrators of
violence against women.
What the Court did in that case was very
shocking to many court watchers, but the Court went in and said that
violence against women wasn't substantially enough connected to
interstate commerce. So, they didn't have the authority under the
Commerce Clause to pass it. But, then they went a step further and said
they couldn't even pass it under the 14th Amendment, Section Five of
the 14th Amendment. And that has an effect in all types of different
areas of key civil rights legislation.
That second point here,
the ability to subject the states to the requirements of federal law is
also very important. Another sad case: Patricia Garrett in Alabama was
a nurse. She got breast cancer, and as a result her hospital started to
discriminate against her. They demoted her, they moved her to another
job, and the only thing that she could do, again, was go to federal
court under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Again, it worked its
way up to the Supreme Court, and the Court said, "No, regardless of the
merits of the case, Congress cannot subject the states to the
requirements of the ADA." And that has a spillover effect in a host of
The third is this ability to get into court. A key
case, again out of Alabama, and again it's a five-four decision rolling
back our rights, it's called Sandoval. It's a case that has to do with
an English-only law to get a driver's license in Alabama, and it guts a
major piece of the 1964 Civil Rights Act called Title VI. Basically,
what it means is you can no longer just have despaired impact on a
community of color, you actually have to show intentional
And there are a couple of other key cases in
this area that limit a particular statute called 42 USC 1983. It's a
long name for a statute that basically is just a vehicle to be able to
get into court and assert your federal rights and your civil rights.
But, that's been really hampered through a series of cases, one from
out here called Gonzaga v. Doe.
These are sort of the three
major areas of the rollback, but there's sort of a catch-all fourth
area; I don't really even know what to call it. [laughter]
basically an avalanche of cases that are starting to come down from the
Supreme Court that are really rolling things back. And you all must be
very familiar with the first one, the Seattle and Louisville school
cases. This is really a big rollback in the area of integration. Last
term, a five-four decision, the court said that Seattle's very modest
efforts to integrate our schools is unconstitutional, basically turning
Brown on its head.
No longer can you challenge certain actions
that violate the separation of church and state. Standing requirements:
This third one is one of the hardest things to explain; it's a case
called Beckanen, which limits attorneys' fees. A lot of folks think,
"Oh, well, the attorneys are getting enough money anyways," or that
it's not important, about the fees. But, you can't go into federal
court and litigate unless you have a lawyer to help you, and a lawyer's
not going to be able to help you if they can't get fees, because how
are they going to keep the lights on?
And a host of other areas:
Mandatory arbitration, basically waiving your rights to get into court,
you have to go to an arbitrator in employment disputes and other areas.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is terribly difficult now to bring
a claim under because the definition of disability is so tortured.
Limits to free speech, and a whole other area called qualified
immunity. So, these are a whole avalanche of cases, especially in the
last couple of terms that we're starting to see.
It's not all
that depressing, though. There's hope. And let me just say that there's
a silver lining to all of this, and in the very few minutes that we
have left I'll talk about what we can do. But, the silver lining here
is that these cases are so cross-cutting, across silos and they affect
so many people. A case in the area of disability rights can affect
somebody who's doing work in racial justice, or environmental law. So,
there's a strong incentive for all these groups to work together, and
that's the silver lining there.
And I think, the first step,
really, here is to start talking about these issues and educate the
public about it. You know, these opinions are coming down and they're
talking about things like sovereign immunity and private right of
action. Well, most folks don't care about what that is. It doesn't make
any sense. So, we've got to start breaking it down into real terms,
talking about the real people that are affected by this rollback.
then, we've got to change the terms of the debate. The right wing for
so long has really controlled the terms of the debate. Let me show you
what I mean by that.
Support judicial restraint.
Put people on the bench who are strict constructionists.
... judicial restraint.
... interpreting the law, not writing it!
... who will interpret the laws, not legislate from the bench.
... more strict constructionists, interpret the law, and not try to...
George W. Bush:
... legislate from the bench.
See, that's really strong messaging, and they do it over and over and
over again. And you know, people who are activist judges and the ones
who are legislating from the bench are the ones from the right wing
that are rolling back all of these rights. Those are the activists. We
don't even call them conservatives anymore, because they're anything
as progressive organizations, we need to put more money and more
emphasis on communications and messaging. If you look at the right
wing, the successful organizations of the right wing spend about 30
percent of their budget on the media. The left, we spend... we're in
the teens. We need to move into funding, if we can get into the 33
percent range, we're great. If we can get into the 50 percent range on
messaging, that'll make a huge difference.
You'll hear a little
bit about immigration and what's going on in the immigration world, but
that's especially important now because, quite frankly, we're not
winning that debate in the public, when it comes to immigration. For
example, if you go to middle America and ask a voter, using language
like this: "Do you think illegal aliens should get... or, should we
give illegal aliens free medical care?" They'll say no. Now, if you ask
that same person, "Do you think that the government should deny equal
access to emergency medical care for an unauthorized worker?" you're
going to get a different answer, more than likely. So, you have to
frame messages in language very carefully, and that's what we need to
Creative legal strategies. I'm not going to get into
that too much, but we have to start thinking outside the box, using
preemption and other doctrines to get around some of these barriers
that the Court is erecting.
And then, nominations. We talked
about how the right has controlled the nominations. Bush has appointed
something like 300 judges in the last seven years. We've got a lot of
work to do on that, and we've got to remind our Senators that they have
a Constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent when it comes
to these nominees.
I put Leslie Southwick up here just as a
recent example of another battle that we lost that's going to hurt us
for awhile. I think, it was probably about a month and a half ago,
Leslie Southwick was appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
because Dianne Feinstein in California switched her vote.
talked to some folks in Seattle a while back when this battle was
brewing, and they said, "Why should I care about what's going to happen
in the Fifth Circuit? I'm in the Ninth Circuit out here." Well, as I
mentioned earlier, a lot of these key cases are coming from the
Southeast. I don't know what it is, there's some kind of judicial
superhighway from the Southeast straight to the Supreme Court, and
that's where we're getting these hits. Something like Leslie Southwick,
who is anti-worker, anti-gay, and some people think pretty bad on race,
is going to cause some problems across the country even though he's out
in the Fifth Circuit.
In the last minute here, I'll talk about
legislation. A lot of these really bad cases can be corrected through
legislative fixes. We're calling this 'the 2008 Window of Opportunity.'
I've got here a bunch of materials for you. But, just two days ago,
Senator Kennedy introduced the Fairness Act of 2008, which will
correct... It's almost a kitchen sink bill. It's going to correct a lot
of these terrible rollback cases that we've talked about. It'll have a
Sandoval fix, it'll have a fix for the ADEA, the Age Discrimination and
Employment Act that's been hurt very badly by the courts. It'll fix
that attorneys' fees provision, among a host of other different fixes.
So, it's a step in the right direction. It doesn't move the ball
forward in terms of where the court was 10 years ago, but it certainly
will help out quite a bit and correct some of the missteps.
The ADA Restoration Act:
You know, politics make strange bedfellows. You know who Sensenbrenner
is? The guy out of Wisconsin who's extremely anti-immigrant? He
introduced the ADA Restoration Act. I don't understand it. [laughter]
It's a very good act and will go a long way to protecting folks in the disability arena.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: You guys know about this case that came
down last term? She, Lilly Ledbetter's a wonderful woman in Alabama, of
all places, who worked at Goodyear Tire for 20 years. A wonderful, fine
person who did the same kind of work, actually more work, worked harder
than her male counterparts. Went up to manager, found out toward the
end of her career that she was being paid significantly less just
because she's a woman. She filed a lawsuit, was very successful at
district court, went up to the Supreme Court, and the Court said, "You
know, you should have filed that lawsuit 180 days after the first
action to discriminate against you, even though you had no way of
knowing about it for 20 years until you received this anonymous note."
Just an absurd case. And that has been introduced and has a hearing
So, these are a couple of key pieces of legislation
to watch, and I'll get out of the way because I'm taking up too much
time here, but thank you so much.
Thank you, Josh. So, now we're going to hear from Pramila, who is going
to talk to us about the immigrant rights movement that is taking place
in Washington State. And so, without further ado, I will hand it over
Should I go over there?
Absolutely, you can.
I would like to use a [indecipherable] so it's always nice for me to
stand up. Thank you so much, I am so happy to be here and particularly
with all of my esteemed colleagues that are on the panel. This is a
mentioned the Hate Free Zone. I started Hate Free Zone right after
September 11th. I honestly didn't intend that it would be an
organization, but there are greater plans in life that we sometimes
don't know about. And so now it really has become one of the most
exciting immigrant rights organizations in the state doing tremendous
work with a number of coalition partners. Hillary Stern, who's the
executive director of Casa Latina, is going to be honored tonight at
the dinner, and many others who are doing important, important work on
immigrant rights issues.
Our mission is to advance the
fundamental principles of democracy and justice by building power in
immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies. So, all of that
is important to us, and we are particularly focused, I think, on, as
Josh said, the importance of bringing many different communities who
are affected by these issues, both immigrant and nonimmigrant,
cross-sectoral, cross-ethnic, to come together to be able to build the
kind of political power that we think it's going to take to rollback
some of what we're hearing about.
We are rooted in our
communities, but we are now probably too large to be called a
grassroots organization. We really believe that the importance of
building political power is to be able to win policy change. And that's
winning policy change at the local level, at the state level, and
And so, I have the pleasure of chairing a national
campaign called the Liberty and Justice for All Campaign, which
includes a broad coalition of human rights groups, Human Rights Watch,
the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Asian American Justice
Center, and a number of different groups that have come together to say
how do we address these issues that initially we called "post-9/11
issues"? They've expanded much, much beyond post-9/11 issues into
really fundamental questions of due process, of Constitutional rights,
and of treatment of a number of different minority communities.
also work on national immigration reform issues, and so we were a part
of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, last year
pushing for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We
also chair a local table or state table of organizations who are
working on those issues. So, that's how we come to this work.
as a civil rights issue is not, obviously, a new concept, though it is
still a debated concept. In September of 1980 the U.S. Commission on
Civil Rights actually published a report called "The Tarnished Golden
Door: Civil Rights Issues in Immigration." And at that time, and I
don't know if, John, you were... That was, I guess, before you...
Even before my time.
Even before your time. John and I started working together back when he
was in the Justice Department right after I had started September
11th... started Hate Free Zone.
the report focused on a few key areas at that time, I thought it would
be constructive to outline them for you. That were areas that we needed
to look at where civil rights abuses were occurring. And those were the
past and present discriminatory provisions of immigration law, and we
all know and can strong the numerous instances in which entire
populations have been denied the right to citizenship, as well as other
ways in which immigration law is administered.
The practices and
procedures in the administering of immigration law, the issuing of
employer sanctions, the Constitutional rights that are or aren't
provided during the immigration legal system, and a fifth one was the
INS procedures around investigating complaints.
Even back in
1980, these were issues that were being discussed as civil rights
issues, and since then clearly there are other areas to add to the
list. Most recently, Charles Rangel called our current guest worker
program and he was talking about the H1B program, which allows for
agricultural workers to come in under very limited circumstances. And
he said, "This is the closest thing I've seen to slavery."
both that H1B program, as well as our practices around whether or not
we approve into legislation the ability for people to be here and work
here in jobs that we are requiring them to be here and work for, or
whether we do it by legislation or through the wink of the eye, the
fact that we have 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrant workers who
are performing critical jobs, often subject to tremendous exploitation,
manipulation by employers, low wages, these are all pieces of the
picture now that we have in terms of the rollback of civil rights.
addition, I mentioned the violations of due process. And the wholesale
violations of due process that have been occurring within the
immigration system have to be mentioned. I think, the majority of
people, the general public, does not know that 85 percent of people who
go through the immigration system go through pro se. They don't have
representation, it's a very complex system, for those of you who have
studied immigration law, you know that it's changing all the time. And
the idea, then, that you could make immigration violations the subject
of, for example, local cops actually starting to enforce immigration
law has all sorts of implications for what that means for people's due
Beyond that, there has been, at least since the
mid-90s, a rollback of the ability that judges have within the
immigration system to actually weigh the merits of a particular case.
So, judicial discretion has been essentially eliminated. In many
instances, you have cases where low-level clerks are making decisions
about deporting families back to terrible circumstances.
there has also been since the mid-80s an increasing criminalization of
immigrants. So, that what you see in the process is minor crimes now
becoming actually grounds for deportation, in some instances
retroactively. So, somebody that had pleaded guilty to a minor crime
that was not a deportable offense, if you get 364 days instead of 365
days, it's the difference between whether or not that is a deportable
offense or not.
That, then, has led to these punishments that
are absolutely so out of line with what the actual crime is. And it was
interesting, there was a report that was published by Human Rights
Watch last year on deportation and family separation as a human rights
issue. And between 1997 and 2005, there were 675, 593 noncitizens who
were deported for criminal offenses.
And you may have seen
recently there was an announcement that the Department of Justice is
now going to deport an additional 20,000 people this year, that's one
of their strategies for this year. About 64.6% were removed for
non-violent offenses like drug convictions, illegal entry, or larceny,
20.9% were removed for violent offenses, and 14.7% were removed for
other crimes that weren't classified. The report estimated that about
1.6 million spouses and children living in the United States were
separated from a parent, a husband, or a wife because of these
deportations; 1.6 million people.
If you look also at the
increase in federal detention centers-and I'm just curious, how many of
you have actually been to a detention center? Has anybody been to a
detention center? Great. So, at least we have some people. Many people
don't realize that the detention center is essentially a jail. We just
don't call it a jail, because we don't give people attorneys, and we
don't want to have to provide attorneys.
It's a civil offense;
it's not a criminal offense. If we made it a criminal offense, we'd
have to give people public defenders. And we certainly don't want to do
that. So, the immigration detention system has been growing
increasingly under private contractors and those contractors, you won't
be surprised to hear, are largely controlled by Halliburton. It is one
of the largest constructors of federal detention centers.
none of these things are disconnected. They are all very connected. We
actually have a wonderful project that we're doing right now at the
Seattle University Law School Human Rights Clinic around detention
conditions in our detention center.
So, the civil rights
movement really was devoted to securing equal opportunity and treatment
for members of minority groups, and that's exactly what we're
continuing to do as we fight for immigrant rights. And I never want to
diminish in any way the work and the importance of the civil rights
movement in saying this. And I think, it's very important every time we
talk about comparisons between the immigrant rights movement and the
civil rights movement, to say that, because that work is far from
finished. And we continue to do a lot of work with a black-brown
coalition - John and I have been a part of that - a couple of
conversations at the national level on what are we going to do about
the civil rights movement and the unfinished business of the civil
At the same time, we have to recognize that
immigrant rights is a civil rights issue. It is a human rights issue.
And it does require our attention. And that the tactics of demonizing,
of criminalizing, of marginalizing in terms of political power and
political participation, in terms of representation, are some of the
same tactics that have been used in the past.
This is an urgent
issue for us here in Washington State. It isn't just something that's
happening in other parts of the country. This is happening right here
in Washington State. And we have, actually, the tenth largest
foreign-born population in the whole country. About 12% of our state is
foreign born. We have the eleventh largest foreign born workforce, we
have the fourth largest refugee resettlement population, and we are
actually first in terms of what's called secondary migration of
refugees - so secondary resettlement of refugees. So, we cannot afford
to think that the issues of immigrant rights are not issues that
require, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, "the urgency of now" - that
require our attention now.
And so, the other thing that's
interesting about Washington State, of course, is that we have a very
wide diversity of immigrant communities. So, the largest populations
are Asian - and that is very wide within that category - and the next
largest from Latin America. But, that's changing so quickly that the
census data is far behind. Because we're getting increasing numbers
from Eastern Europe, we have, I think, it's the second largest number
of Iraqis who will be resettled here following the Iraq War, if that
ever happens. And so, this issue really is one that crosses all
The immigration debates, I think, often tend to
focus too narrowly on just one population, when in fact the
criminalizing, demonizing of undocumented immigrants is important both
in and of itself, as well as in terms of what it says about all
immigrants. And what is happening, then, in terms of public perception
and the resulting rollback of due process rights, of benefits and
services access on a number of other levels.
So, I'll just say
quickly, to wrap up, that in terms of what we can do, really Josh's
last slide is very similar to what we believe also needs to be done. We
have to change the terms of the debate when we're talking about
immigration. There is no other way that we are going to succeed. And
that doesn't mean that we do that solely. It's a multilayered strategy,
we believe, that includes changing the terms of the debate, that
includes policy work and legislative work to both push back on
anti-immigrant ordinances, policies, etc., as well as to move forward
positive solutions for how we think about the role of immigrants in
We also need to continue to do this coalition
building. It is important that it isn't just immigrant rights advocates
who are advocating for immigrant rights. We really believe that the
immigration question is not a question about immigration. It's really a
question about who we are as a country, and what we're willing to stand
up for. That's what it's about. And if we don't make it clear that this
involves all of us, that it affects our view of what the Constitution
provides, of what citizenship actually means, what it means to be a
participating member of society, we will, I think, not be successful.
we have to build those coalitions, we have to change legislation, and
we have to build political power. And so on that end, I'm happy to say
that at Hate Free Zone we have now registered 21,000 new immigrant
citizens to vote in the last 18 months. [applause] We are not just
registering them, because that is only the first step of the process,
but we are educating them about the issues that they are telling us
they care about and want to be educated on. And then, we will be
working actively to make sure that they understand the process, so that
they can participate, and their participation is not marginalized.
the election, we will have 30,000 new immigrant citizens registered to
vote. And one of the consequences of that is that we are going to be
able to push forward positive legislation. I'm sorry the Governor can't
be here, but she has told us that she is going to announce - and I
think, she will be either the fourth or the fifth governor in the
country to do this - a New Americans Executive Order. And that will
happen in the next couple of weeks, so watch out for it. We've had the
support of the Latina/Latino Bar Association and many of the other
colleagues that we have in labor, faith, business, who understand that
this is a fundamental issue for Washington.
I want to just say
quickly that there is the issue of the driver's license that's on the
table. And I want to just say that because I'm hoping someone will ask
a question about it, so I don't take up my other panelist's time right
now. [laughter] But obviously, we're aware of that. We think that it is
a bad idea, for so many reasons, to change the laws in the State of
Washington. We are working actively with the governor's office to help
them to maintain the line on our driver's license requirements as they
are now, and then also to prepare our legislature.
we're finding is so many of our legislators - wonderful people that
believe in the issue of human rights, of civil rights, of immigrant
rights, would like to do the right thing - actually don't always have
the language to do it, or the information to do it with. And so they
are actually reaching out to us and asking us for that help. We will be
putting out a poll in the field for the first time looking at positive
attitudes towards immigrants, how do we define and shape those? That's
the part I was talking about, about changing the public debate.
our new Americans Initiative, which includes the governor's executive
order, also includes allocation of funding for a naturalization program
for legal permanent residents - there are 135,000 legal permanent
residents eligible for citizenship who have not naturalized - as well
as a public media campaign on how we reach people and reconnect them,
not only to their immigrant histories, but to their belief in what
America is as a country, and how they can stand up for that belief.
So, thank you very much.
Thank you Pramila. So, I want to remind you all that if you have
questions throughout the course of the presentations today, to make
sure to jot those down and just raise them up in the air and our runner
will come by and pick those up for you. And we will go ahead and
proceed to the next panelist.
Luis R. Fraga:
Good afternoon everybody, I'm Luis Fraga, associate vice-provost here
at the university, and I'm very happy to have the opportunity to
address you for the few minutes that we have, and certainly in the
question and answer session we'll have the opportunity to get into much
been asked to focus on one particular aspect of the research that I've
been doing over the last 25 years, and that's to focus on the important
civil rights implications and consequences of education, and the
rollback in civil rights with regards to our educational policies.
no surprise that education would be at the center of any consideration
of the civil rights rollback, and it's no surprise of the importance of
Brown v. Board of Education, as an important, now perhaps symbolic, but
at least at one time, an important step in understanding how it is that
any of us, and how it is that our society generally, but certainly how
any of us as individuals gain a capacity to understand our civic
responsibilities, and gain a capacity to develop a set of important
expectations as to what it is we might choose to do, and especially the
expectations that we have as to what it is our nation, what it is our
society, what it is our state with a small 's' might have to allow us
to do, or give us the opportunity to do.
So, the development of
expectations has tremendous implications for our understanding of
rights is critically driven by the extent of which we have educational
If one wants to focus on the rollback in civil
rights with regards to education, there is a wealth of particular
arenas in which we could focus our attention. We could focus on the
re-segregation of American schools, an issue that doesn't come up very
much, that I'll spend a little bit more time on here in just a minute.
racial and ethnic re-segregation of our public schools rivaling any
level of segregation since the Brown decision in 1954, and especially
the ways in which that increasingly intersects with class segregation.
A new phenomenon in American society, I would suggest to you.
could focus upon, as a rollback on civil rights, the way in which
voting rights and voting rights advocacy has been hurt by a number of
important supreme court decisions, and the implications that that has,
our focus of attention here today, on the capacity of Latinos and
Latinas to serve on school boards - the highest level policy decision
making arena, if you will, that greatly affects the lives and structure
of educational opportunity in our country.
We could focus on the
anti-English as a second language propositions that might be an
appropriate focus of attention. In California, with its famous
Proposition 227 in 1998. We could focus on propositions in Colorado -
fortunately one that failed. Proposition in Massachusetts that passed.
And the fact that five new states are going to have votes in this next
election to try to implement, similar to California and Massachusetts
law, limitations on the capacity of schools and teachers to decide how
best to try to provide education to their students whose English is not
the primary language.
We could focus on anti-affirmative action
measures, whether in terms of supreme court decision making, or
propositions and initiatives that have been passed. With our focus here
at the university, we could focus on it with regards to implications
for faculty hiring, and with regards to student enrollment. So, there
are tremendous implications there.
We could focus on
anti-immigration legislation, generally. To talk about education. We
could talk about drivers' license bills. To talk about education. I was
giving a talk in Texas a few years ago, and a group of teachers said
"Do you understand how it is that the inability of undocumented adults
to gain drivers license directly limits the educational opportunities
of their children?" I hadn't thought about that one.
to the extent that children of undocumented workers are American born,
and it is increasingly the case that many of our unauthorized
immigrants have children who are American born, given the level of
fines that exist for those who are caught driving without an
appropriate license, it requires these families to give the
responsibility of driving parents to work, particularly after 6:00 pm,
to the children who do have a capacity to have drivers licenses.
therefore limits the capability of these children in schools to
participate in extra-curricular activities to further enrich the
educational opportunities that they have. There's a direct educational
implication of a drivers license bill that has so many other
implications here in our society.
I don't have the time to talk
about all of those, so I thought I'd choose to talk to you about two.
The re-segregation of public schools, and the anti-affirmative action
push backs that we have experienced over the past several years.
want to conclude, after talking about those in a little more details, I
want to conclude with a consideration of what some possible solutions,
and how there might be, in fact, the way in which the rollback in civil
rights pushes us to be far smarter, and far more strategic than I
think, many of us thought we would ever have to be in understanding the
way our civil rights would need to be enforced.
segregation, and especially re-segregation, we're all familiar with key
decisions that have been made. The Keys decision in 1973 was a key
decision that identified Latinos as distinct from whites, and more
similar to blacks, with regards to enrollment segregation in schools,
because it had become the custom, such as in the school system where I
was educated in Corpus Christi, Texas, for a school to claim that it
was de-segregated, because it had African American students in
classrooms with Latino students.
Since Latinos, at an earlier
period of time, had been declared white under the law, it was possible
to have a desegregated school where 90% of a school, 100% of a school,
like all of the schools I attended, had students enrolled only Latinos
and African Americans. Other schools were 100% white. The Keys decision
was key to try to change that.
The Milkan v. Bradley decision,
as you know, in 1974, that limited the intra-district bussing as a
solution, was another major limit in the capacity of our nation to be
able to desegregate a school. More recently, Missouri v. Jenkins, a
decision that emphasized by our supreme court, the need to establish as
a fundamental principal, an understanding educational opportunity as it
relates to race, to re-establish local control as the primary basis
through which judges had to decide whether or not to decide whether a
school system could be under judicial review with regards to the
oversight of court orders, and consent decrees.
the decision that was made with regards to the Seattle public schools,
where race as any significant factor in the assignment of students to
schools is no longer understood as being constitutional.
what has the impact been of this trend in court decisions? Latinos have
grown to now be about 9.6 million students in our public schools all
across the country. They constitute now about 19.8% of all students
enrolled in our public schools. Just under 20%. That represents an
increase - these are 2006 data - that represents an increase from 1968
of 356%. A 356% increase in the percentage of Latinos, the percentage
that Latinos compromised of students enrolled in our public schools.
growth in the percentage that African Americans students are in our
public schools, during that same time period, 1968-2006, is just at
31%, and all of this coincides with a decline in the white percentage
of public students enrolled in our public schools at about 27%. African
Americans are now 17.2% of all students in our public schools, whites
are at about 57%. What's important about that 57% is that it's just
Within the next five years, I would predict that most
of the students who attend public schools in the United States are
going to be non-white. What have the implications of this been for
re-segregation of our schools? About 77% of Latinos attend
majority/minority schools today in the United States - 77%. The
percentage for African Americans is 73%. By that, I mean these students
- 77% of all Latinos, 73% of all African Americans - attend public
schools where Latinos and African Americans combined are a majority of
the students in those public schools.
If one looks at
hyper-segregated schools: schools where Latinos and African Americans
combined are 90-100% of the students in those schools, a full one third
of both African Americans and Latinos attend such hyper-segregated
If a school is hyper-segregated in this fashion,
90-100% Latino and African American combined, nationwide, it is likely
that 86.7% of the students in those schools qualify for a free or
reduced lunch, the best measure of we have that income segregation in
the country. If you attend a school that is 90-100% white, the percent
of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch is between 5-8%.
have a system of, I think, it's fair to say, apartheid that has been
reestablished and reinstitutionalized, driven fundamentally by court
decisions and rollbacks on civil rights and we have little opportunity,
I think, to try to address it in a significant way.
Let me talk
a little bit about affirmative action. Well, we're all familiar with
the court decisions regarding affirmative action going back to the
Bakke decision in 1978, the famous Hopwood decision in 1996 in the 5th
Circuit, and the more recent Grutter decisions in 2003 in the Supreme
Court with regards to reconsiderations of affirmative action. We're all
familiar as well with propositions that were also written and designed
to manipulate public opinion, I would argue, but to limit the extent to
which institutions could pursue affirmative action, like Proposition
209 in California, and I-200 here in the state of Washington that
passed in 1998.
What we know in terms of the impact that these
propositions have had depends upon the area where you look. There's
been a tremendous decline in the capacity of minority firms to obtain
public contracts as a result of these provisions. There has been a
noticeable decline in the percentage of African-Americans and Latinos
and some Asians sub-groups now entering classes in schools in
California, where it has been studied most significantly.
yet to come across a study of the explicit impact of I-200, here at the
University of Washington, and in institutions of higher learning and
education here in the University of Washington overall. It's hard to
argue that the rollback on affirmative action has not had a tremendous
impact in limiting the will of many institutions of higher education to
take seriously and to develop more strategic plans trying to diversify
the nature of their faculty, and trying to increasingly diversify the
nature of their staffs as well.
Why might there be a 'silver
lining' in these areas? Or, how can we try to regain some understanding
of the opportunities that - at one time, I think, many of us thought
would be the case - our nation would have, and segments of our
population would have, as a result of laws that were passed to
desegregate our schools, and efforts by many different types of
institutions to use affirmative action as a way to try to better
educate their students, as a way to try to diversify their workforces?
is a way of understanding the rollback on enrollment desegregation as
having pushed many of us, who do work in the area of education, to have
to reconceptualize our understanding of how we define opportunity
disparity in education. There is a way in which... if you grant me the
space here for just a minute. There is a way in which the simultaneous
development of a standards-based movement in elementary and secondary
education has opened up an opportunity for us to, I think, rethink
educational rights and opportunity in more creative ways than the
explicit enrollment 'desegregation, civil rights' logic allowed us to
Arguments are developed - many from some of our best legal
minds here in the country with regards to understanding education - not
in terms of equality, but in terms of adequacy. They are trying to
develop arguments that focus upon the understanding that equalizing
opportunity - whether in terms of enrollment - or equalizing
educational spending across districts that may have very different
sources of funding is insufficient to address the actual difference in
needs. It is also unable to address the way in which we understand, in
education, that different students have different needs, and that
different costs maybe associated with them, that is then manifested in
disparities in standards-based achievement.
It provides us an
opportunity to focus our attention on how to better understand and how
to develop strategies. In other words, the rollback on
enrollment-related segregation, gives us an opportunity to develop new
and more insightful arguments, and perhaps, more long-lasting
arguments, as to how educational opportunity disparity is in fact the
key to trying to increase educational opportunity for all different
segments of our population.
Please don't misunderstand me.
Standards have all sorts of problems, and any standardized test can be
infused with tremendous amounts of class, gender, culture and
linguistic bias, but it is a measure that allows you to compare groups
to one another. And when you get the patterns of disparities that these
tests continuously exam, it opens up a space for us to engage in a much
more realistic consideration as to what it is that we may need to do in
policy, in practice, and through legislation to be able to address
issues of the disparate educational opportunities that result from the
patterns of enrollment resegregation that we have.
with regards to affirmative action, it seems to me, despite the way in
which it has limited the civic will of some segments of our society to
expand opportunities in employment, in contracting and in university
admissions, it has pushed many institutions - and I'm proud to say this
one as an example - to do what I think, many of us thought affirmative
action would do in the first place, which is to reconsider,
reconceptualize and make, in fact, more comprehensive understandings of
merit, understandings of qualification, and understandings of who has
the capacity to achieve in particular institutions.
comprehensive read of files for undergraduates who apply for admission
to universities, for example, is I would argue, a positive,
constructive response by institutions to reconceptualize what
worthiness for admission means. And that is directly resulting from the
rollback on civil rights with regard to affirmative action, where
assumptions were made about an individual's capacities and
incapacities, and the need for extra assistance on the basis of a
person's racial or ethnic background.
The work that I do here at
the University of Washington, one of my responsibilities, is to work
strategically with deans and the provosts to try to increase the
diversity of our faculty. The nature of diversity depends upon the
particular department and the particular pattern - sometimes it's
gender, sometimes it's race and ethnicity, sometimes it's international
status. It depends upon the particular department and its culture and
what its patterns are.
The work that I try to do in that arena
is a direct result of the rollback on affirmative action. I have to
make and I have to work with deans to reconceptualize merit, to make
merit more reflective of the reality of the intellectual worth that
faculty members do. And it establishes a broader understanding, I would
suggest to you, of what our capacities are, to not just do what is good
because we have a call to conscience or the law requires us to do it.
Consistent with parts of what Sandra Day O'Connor argued in the Grutter
opinion, it is because having a more inclusive understanding of merit
allows institutions to do better work than they have ever been able to
do in the past. We need to build upon those sorts of conceptualizations.
what does this all suggest about the opportunities we have today, and
the responsibilities we have to try to regain a greater confidence and
understanding of our civil rights and the opportunities that come from
those rights. As a political scientist, of course, I'm very please that
the two previous speakers - and I'm sure John will do the same -
emphasis politics as a key.
Not legality, but politics as the
key, I would suggest. I have to say that as a political scientist in
order to maintain my membership as an officer of the Political Science
Association. Politics, building coalitions, developing new policy
images, reconceptualizing fundamental understandings of interest,
fundamental understandings of group, fundamental understandings, I
suggest to you not only for the public interest, but for our mutual
At some risk in this audience of being a little
less legal and a little more political, focusing not so much on 'zero
sum' understandings of argument, but focusing when appropriate,
strategically, on 'zero sum' understandings: 'I want to win, you have
to lose. 'I want to get the opportunity, and it's going to cost you the
opportunity that you're accustomed to having'.
pursue that of course. Rights are a fundamental component argued in
'zero sum' terms, are a fundamental component of establishing any
opportunity for change. But, in addition, simultaneously as an additive
fact, identifying arenas of reconciliation and attainment of mutual
self-interest across previously understood contending groups, is I
think, absolutely critical to having any opportunity to restore our
civil rights today.
This idea of building a set of mutual
interest coalitions and re-conceptualizing things like merit, things
like educational opportunity, things like rights is within the best
traditions of the history of the country. It is what James Madison
argued in Federalist #10 when he talked about the evils of faction, we
tend to understand it in terms of majority and minority. Madison was
far smarter than that. I am not saying he was perfect in every way, but
in this particular piece, he was much smarter than that. He said "A
faction is a majority or minority that in fact pursues its interests at
the cost of the permanent aggregate interests of the community."
de Tocqueville in his famous volume written in the 1830s, the French
aristocrat, came and told us that one of the beauties of America at its
best with all of its problems at that time and he had a tremendous
emphasis on the evil of slavery and how that was going to lead to the
downfall of the nation. When America was at its best, it was because
its leaders had a capacity to define, argue and understand
self-interest rightly understood, self-interest understood in terms of
its reconciliation with the public interest.
To conclude, let me
read to you a paragraph from a book that I like, a very nice read by
Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Cornel West entitled The Future of
American Progressivism and he is trying to develop an argument for how
we develop our expectation, then they say the following: "To understand
your country, you must love it. To love it, you must in a sense accept
it. To accept it as it is, however, is to betray it. To accept your
country without betraying it, you must love it for that in it, which
shows what it might become." That's exactly where we are.
raising a set of expectations of ourselves and raising a set of
expectations as to our capacity to convince those who may be opposed to
us or as a political scientist, just enough of those who right now
maybe opposed to us, to allow us to regain the majority position that I
think, our nation was in when we were at our best in trying to
establish civil rights for broader cross-sections of our country. Thank
you very much.
Thank you Luis. And now we will hear from John Trasvia, who is going to
give us a little bit of insight into what MALDEF does and what the
national climate is in civil rights issues.
What civil rights issue is, is the issue of torture, which this
administration has rolled back a lot on and I think, one definition of
torture is for activists like you to be sitting for around 90 minutes
relatively mutely and silently.
So, I will be brief. You have heard from a number of great speakers
already and I think, it is really we want to hear from you in the time,
so I will be brief. But, I want to say this is the seventh packed in
school I have been to. Stanford is my home school and unfortunately
Stanford has been known more for its losses than for its victories.
There was a thing with the Stanford band when they ran on into the
field and back in the '82 game.
other big Stanford loss was when Luis Fraga left Stanford. It is a
great victory for your university to have Luis here. He is relatively
new here. For those of you who haven't gotten to know him, he is a
tremendous asset, he has a tremendous mind and really really committed
to really strong change and really putting, I think, all of our
principles, all of our values upfront and center for a 21st century
education, 21st century institution. So, I am really pleased to be here
with Luis today and all of you.
In terms of MALDEF, we are the
law firm for the Latino community. I have had a good time yesterday and
today meeting with a number of community organizations, lawyers and
others talking about some of the work that we are doing and yes there
is a rollback on civil rights. But, I am ever optimistic about where we
are going forward in this year, an election year and also preparing for
I want to mention a couple other things where we have been
active on the fight, but also again really express a sense of optimism.
One of the issues right now that we are facing in Congress and
potentially in some of those state legislatures, is an issue called
"birthright citizenship." That is if you are born in a country, you are
a citizen of that country. There are those in Congress who would like
to undo that, notwithstanding the fact that the 14th amendment makes
clear "all people born and naturalized in the United States subject to
the jurisdiction of the United States are United States citizens."
110 years ago the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case called
Wong Kim Ark. Wong Kim Ark was Chinese-American man. He was born in San
Francisco in 1872. He took a trip, he came back to San Francisco Bay,
Federal officials tried to keep him out. They said because of the
Chinese Exclusion Act. He was a young man. He was only about 22 years
old, early 1890s. He said "I am not coming in, I am coming back. San
Francisco is my home." They said, "Well, your parents aren't eligible
to become citizens, you are not allowed into the country."
had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to gain back what was
his birthright, his citizenship in the United States by virtue of being
born here. And it is not just the 14th amendment case, it goes all the
way back, 400 years ago, this year, in 1608, in the Roland Kelvin's
case, Anglo-American case, was adopted by this country. You can either
have a system where people are citizens because their parents were
citizens or you can say because they are born in the country.
without this birthright citizenship, we will have a permanent
underclass of individuals who will be creating a fiction that they will
be citizens of a country, either they will be stateless or they will be
citizens of a country where they have never resided. There is some
effort and some legislators tried to move forward, tried to undo to
repeal or cut back on the 14th amendment and it has been the law of the
land. We struggled over this principle for African-American struggle
over the principle with Native Americans. It took the case of Wong Kim
Ark to one would think fully decide back in the 1890s and 1898. We are
still at it and this is one of the issues that we are going to continue
to fight a rollback. We have really strong support against the
rollback, but it is one that you may be hearing more about this coming
A second issue is in the area of language. There was an
effort last year and the Congress tried to take away the authority into
the civil rights act in 1964, take away the authority of Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission to get involved, to enforce the law
on language discrimination in the workplace.
It was a case of
two women workers in the Salvation Army in Massachusetts. Salvation
Army put in a requirement that workers had to learn English. The women
didn't learn English and in time. Their job was to store clothes. They
didn't need to be able to know English well in order to that job. They
were fired. The EEOC recognizes as a case of... an issue completely
unrelated to their job qualifications or the job needs.
are some cases where language either unaccented English or English
proficiency is a bonafide in qualification for the job, such as air
traffic controller, such as a dispatcher, such as somebody working in a
surgery room, but in a lot of other jobs, English is not a requirement.
to limit people's rights because of their ability to speak English is
something that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a violation of
national origin discrimination. And I have to say some members of
Congress and I have to say it was a bipartisan acquiescence for a while
said, yes lets take away the authority of Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission on this aspect of national origin discrimination.
appeared a compromise was coming into effect, which would have limited
the authority of the EEOC. That is when the Hispanic caucus stood up
and others stood up and said look we have been patient on immigration
reform. We let the things go by, we are not going to let this one go by
and bipartisan, finally the democratic leadership in the house and
senate blocked the amendment that would have taken away the authority
of the EEOC. There is a new bill that had been introduced by a member
of Congress from Montana. It is called the Common Sense English
Language Act or something along those lines, which we will try to bring
back this issue again, and it is one of the issues that is one of our
top priorities legislatively this coming year.
where we are working to fight off a rollback on civil rights is the
blurring of the line between local law enforcement and federal law
enforcement, when it comes to the area of immigration. Very clearly in
the constitution, the federal government is in charge of immigration,
not state governments, not local governments.
I am sure you have
heard about a number of local communities, local cities and towns that
have passed anti-immigrant ordinances. Some of them require landlords
to check people's immigration status, file the leas with City Hall as
if City Hall would know what to do with it. City Hall doesn't have
access to the INS databases, but it is a way of not only limiting
housing opportunities, it is also the real agenda of our opponents on
this to kick kids out of school because if parents can't establish
residency in school, then the children can't go to those schools.
is way around the Plyler vs. Doe decision of 1982 that says that all
children are allowed to go to public school irrespective of their
citizenship status or their parents' citizenship status. The good news
is that every judge has looked at this anti-immigrant ordinances at the
local level whether they are Clinton-appointee or Bush-appointee, a
state court judge or a federal court judge, across the country every
judge has stopped these ordinances and we have gotten a little bit of
attorney fees out of it as well.
But moving forward, we now have
issues at the state level. I know the issue of driver licenses is
potentially coming up before your legislature this year. We have a
traditional view about driver licenses. If you know how to drive, you
got to get a driver's license; period. And our opponents on the other
side would leave us with the situation: if you are driver and you get
hit by a person who has no access to a driver's license, therefore, no
access to insurance, what you are left with, what do they tell the
people. Well, this is in the cause of fighting illegal immigration.
There is no benefit to people within the state to deny people driver
licenses because of their immigration status.
And as a security
measure frankly, there are other non-U.S. documents that people can use
to get onto an airplane, so there is really no connection between
driver's licenses as an ID document and driver's license for the very
purpose of being able to drive legally and safely.
I promised to
be brief and I will, but I do want to say that I am optimistic about
2008 and 2009. We have all heard frankly because CNN and Lou Dobbs and
a few others have drummed it into everybody's heads over the past year
that immigration is the big issue for the campaign.
initial indications are that - although it put Senator McCain at a
tremendous risk in his own campaign - the initial indications are
looking at the votes that those who are the democratic candidates are
pretty much clustered around principles of comprehensive immigration
reform and the republican candidates, while they are attempting to
appeal to one sector of their party, those who have been very
strivingly on the enforcement side that Tom Tancredo wing of the party
and Duncan Hunter right behind him, they have both left their parties
And in South Carolina, a state that has a
growing Latino population and growing anti-immigrant sentiment, we are
dealing with some of the local governments there. Senator McCain won
that race and generally the polls indicate that immigration is not a
voting issue. There was an effort in Prince William County in Virginia
in 2006 to try to ramp up hostilities against illegal immigrants in the
communities. Republicans in the state senate thought this was going to
be the issue that would allow them to keep the state senate, instead
the democrats got their biggest gains in the Virginia state senate,
their biggest gain since 1992. Democrats now control the state senate
That doesn't mean that the immigration issues are
over there, but it does demonstrate that even in some jurisdictions,
where you would think immigration would be a big issue, it doesn't
translate into votes for candidates. So, as we look through the rest of
this year, my sense is that immigration as a Willy Horton type issue
will fade. Unfortunately, our supporters, our friends and some of the
legislatures are definitely afraid of 30-second ad running against them
and we have gotten less courage and less commitment on some of these
I think, we have to continue to make the case and make
the religious case, the business case, the education case, the national
interest case for immigration. At MALDEF, it is not enough to just say,
well immigration reform is good for the immigrants, it is good for
MALDEF, it is good for the Latino community. It is good for the nation
and it is essential for the nation as the nation gets older and as we
need more workers, to give legal status to those who are playing by the
rules. Second is to treat them with fairness, so they can have rights
and they will be less exploited. And that is one of the fundamental
issues that we are looking at in 2008 and 2009.
So I am
optimistic, but more so I would very much like to hear from all of you
in the remaining time we have today and enjoy being here with you today.
OK. So, we have a few note cards here, so we will start going through
the note card as well. And I am going to have to apologize in advance,
but I am going to have to leave in about five minutes because I
actually have a hearing at two o'clock. But, I will begin the questions
at a minimum and if not, our President-elect, Nicole McGrath has agreed
to take over my responsibilities as a moderator in the event that we'd
run a little bit long.
Pramila, I will address this question to you. It reads "How did the
democratic presidential hopefuls come down on immigration issues, al so
what is the name of the human rights report on family separation that
you referenced in your presentation?"
As John mentioned, they are clustered mostly around the core principles
of comprehensive immigration reform, which include legalization and a
path to citizenship for the 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants.
They all support that. They all support worker protections, but what
that actually translates into is very confusing once you get down to
the details of guest worker programs and what actual worker protections
would be there. But, certainly the last bill that was introduced last
year into the senate did have some worker protections there for guest
workers. There is a lot of discussion around future flow.
is not as much attention as we would like to see paid to the due
process issues and particularly around deportation issues, judicial
discretion, some of those other key pieces have not been as much of the
part of the debate as we would like to see. And then finally, the
family reunification piece, everyone supports the elimination of
backlogs for people who are trying to get their families here, but
there were attempts in the last congress to actually take out the
family reunification piece.
Barack Obama is the only one of the
top three Presidential candidates that in a debate you probably saw
actually voice his support for driver's licenses for undocumented
immigrants and there is an op-ed that is down here with the materials
that I wrote about, that was published in the Seattle Times a couple of
days ago about the presidential candidates, exactly what John was
talking about the fact that immigration is not the key issue that
people are thinking about. It should free up space for both elected
officials and presidential candidates to really be strong on the fact
that immigrants are here building economies and we need to treat them
with dignity and respect and rights.
Thank you. I will direct this question to Josh and if others on the
panel also have some insight on it, feel free to chime in. The question
is "Could you comment on the need to defend and restore both civil
rights and civil liberties, which also has been under attack and in
particular, are any of you familiar with the violent radicalization in
Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act that grants broad authority to
congress to conduct fishing expeditions into the left wing of
progressive political movements.
I am not actually familiar with that act and the campaign is focused on
civil rights issue, so we don't focus on civil liberties issues, but
there is obviously many intersections between civil liberties and civil
rights. And we have seen drastic rollback not only on issues of torture
and long lectures, but also as it relate to issues of protection
against government surveillance without warrants and eavesdropping. And
oftentimes we see those intersections and oftentimes the judges that
seem to think that sort of thing is OK are the same ones that are doing
the rollback in other areas too. Somebody want to jump in on that
legislation, I just don't know about it, sorry.
Luis. How can we push Democrats to be more bold in pressing urgent education reforms?
It depends on their district. [laughter] We've got to appreciate that
there are those Democrats who can be more bold in certain areas because
of the nature of their constituencies, and those who can't. The way I
think, the best argument to be made is to argue it in terms of
investment. Education isn't about equality. Education is about
investing in the nation's future. And we have to be better, I think -
and some of us try to do work in that area - in articulating with, not
just argument, but with data.
evidence that exists that greater educational attainment on the part of
any subset of our population can be directly linked to greater economic
growth, or limiting the nature of economic decline, and that, given the
internationalization - and it's difficult to argue, but - given the
internationalization of labor, the only way in which employment
opportunity is going to be widespread in the United States, is to the
extent that we have an increasingly formally educated workforce. It's
not going to exist otherwise, and wages are not going to be able to
compete effectively with wages in the developing world.
way of articulating I would suggest to Democrats is, to articulate it
in terms of investment. But, also articulate it in terms of, if you
want to be smart about helping the nation be a rich nation for your
children and your grandchildren, invest in your children, and your
grandchildren, and their peers. It's not about those of us who are
adults now. It's about what we can determine to be the responsibilities
we have to provide important opportunities for our children, and our
grandchildren. And I wonder about the extent to which Democrats, and
Republicans who choose to pursue it, might get more traction in
articulating educational opportunity in that way.
I just wanted to add one thing to that. On our New Americans
Initiative, actually it is very much an important comment, because we
are framing that as an economic and community development initiative.
Because in looking at strategies and coming up with recommendations on
how to integrate immigrants - which includes looking at the educational
disparity, it includes looking at workforce opportunities - those are
about investing in Washington's future and in our economic development.
I think that even though it's a little bit strange for some of the
immigrant rights folks, frankly, to think about it that way, it is
absolutely the way we need to position it, in order to make that very
crucial argument about investment now. So, you'll see that framing
coming a lot more, as well.
And broadening it also beyond immigrant integration into just workforce
readiness in general. And we will be supporting legislation at the
federal level that talks about immigrant integration, but it goes
beyond that. Because there continue to be inequities and shortages in
education, for native-born individuals as well, across different
we can't just come in and say, "Oh, we need this for immigrants."
Again, that assumes that the other inequities historically are gone.
And they are not. Part of the legislation that we'll be pushing in
Washington, D.C., will provide tax credits for businesses who teach,
before work or after work, English and GED training programs.
OK. And this question is posed to anyone on the panel. The question
would be, "Could any of the panelists who addressed this topic
regarding changing the message describe how this can be done
effectively without lowering the level of the debate, using the
characteristics we see the Right Wing media pundits using? For
instance, mischaracterization of the issues, or sensationalism.
Unfortunately, these tactics have been very successful in grabbing a
hold of public attention. Could each of you perhaps briefly address
what ideas you have on changing the message?"
I'll jump in really quickly and briefly. When we, I think, as a panel
are talking about changing the terms of the debate, we don't mean a
race to the bottom. We mean a different kind of messaging. And we could
actually learn a lot from what the Right has done effectively, If you
look at a recent book by Drew Westen called, "The Political Brain,"
he's gone through and he's studied various campaigns and what works and
what doesn't work. And generally, he uses the example of Democratic
messaging in presidential elections and why that fails.
it's because many folks think that voters are these rational people who
are going to look at all the facts and all the issues, and then make a
rational decision. Well, that's not really how people act when they go
in the voting booth. They vote with emotion and they act with emotion,
and they use a different part of the brain to make those types of
decisions. And the messaging can be tailored more to those types of
issues. And so, they use the example of Bill Clinton as being a really
good person in terms of being able to reach that part of your brain.
And Kerry, not so good at it.
Yes, I would really agree with that. And we're doing polling that is
looking at how people respond emotionally. What are the positive
characteristics that people can respond to on immigrants and
immigration, for example, in our case. So, I think that it is really
important that we're putting forward positive messages.
I see there's a hunger for that out there. People want to be
reconnected with their values. They want to be reconnected with the
idea that we are in this country fighting for what we believe to be our
country, our rights, our notions of equality, or fairness, or justice.
And most polls show that, consistently. Even on the issue of
immigration. Even if you phrase it the way that Josh talked about, how
many of the questions are phrased. "Illegal aliens." I mean, how much
more distancing can you get? But even then, what you see is that people
do commit themselves to those values that they hold very close. And it
is an emotional issue.
I would argue that some of the terms that we've heard already, you
know, investment, a future for our children, I think, is very
significant. I wonder about whether use of the term "smart" might be
useful. That is, to respond to a claim that someone may make as being
maybe politically viable, but not particularly smart, because it
doesn't take into account these other sorts of issues. The comment that
was made about the way in which voters vote by emotions is absolutely
true. But, among the reasons American voters vote so much by emotions
is because we have such a low level of political discourse generally.
So, there's a question about what the right balance should be between
has always amazed me as a political scientist is the extent to which -
and there's been a little bit written about this - the Democrats get
the messaging wrong. And I don't understand that [laughter] because
there are firms on Madison Avenue who can tell you whether it's going
to work or not, and who it's going to work with.
So, the science
of polling, the science of developing understandings on the basis of
focus groups. Testing with strategically positioned segments of the
electorate, whether a message of hope, or a message of competence, or a
message of waves of undocumented immigrants coming in. Whatever the
message is, we can find out who that works with and who it doesn't. Is
it that the Republican pollsters are just that much smarter than the
Democratic pollsters, or what? I don't get it.
And with the
amounts of money that our two leading Democratic candidates have now to
invest in all sorts of things, I would recommend that they spend a
little less on television ads, and much more on having a really good
set of pollsters out there to be able to test out what all of these
different possible messages are. And target that for the strategic
understanding of what they need as critical minimum winning coalitions
in key states, to be able to have the sort of support that's going to
perhaps allow them to be more competitive than they otherwise would.
And I think, on the immigration issue we have a strong case to make.
And I think, we can appeal to people's values; we can also appeal to
their basic self-interest. And I think, sometimes basic self-interest
wins out over higher-minded values. But, talking about who's going to
be paying into the social security system; that every time we educate
people we're educating people as future taxpayers; and that immigrants
are contributing to the society in some of the most dangerous and
difficult jobs. So, there are elements of an argument that make a
difference to people, and it's really not just the same cast of
characters making the argument. We have to expand the "we" so that we
have businesspeople, people in all walks of life, making the case for
responsible immigration reform.
Well, that will conclude our Question and Answer portion of today's
lecture. Thank you so much on behalf of the Latino Bar Association for
your commitment to coming today and becoming more educated and asking
great questions and thank you...
Transcription by CastingWords