Coulter: Equal justice under law - except for Indians?
by: Robert Coulter and John D. B. Lewis
October 20, 2005

The Cayuga Indian Nation had to wait more than 185 years to be allowed to bring its historic land claim lawsuit, and for 25 years thereafter litigated to gain some redress for the illegal taking of its lands by the state of New York. Last month, the full bench of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals effectively upheld the dismissal of that lawsuit by a divided three-judge panel.

Unless the Supreme Court reverses this determination, other Indian nations may forever lose their rights to sue for the illegal takings of their lands, and the country will have lost an historic opportunity to provide justice to indigenous people who have experienced centuries of oppression and discrimination.

Over one judge's strong dissent, the two judges in the majority in the Cayuga case said that the Cayuga Indian Nation had delayed too long in bringing its lawsuit and, citing that alleged delay, threw out the $248 million judgment that the Cayugas had won in the District Court. To reach this result, the majority was obliged to overrule two 2nd Circuit precedents and vastly extend a recent Supreme Court decision.

The Cayuga are one of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations, that were dispossessed of most of their lands in New York state between 1790 and 1850 in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790. That legislation, enacted by Congress to stop the plundering of Indian nations, is still on the books. The law declared transactions that violate the act to be of ''no validity in law or equity'' and forbade all transfers of Indian land without the federal government's approval. Nevertheless, the state made many deals to get Indian land, almost of them without federal approval. This history of fraud, deceit and dishonorable conduct by New York left the Cayuga Nation entirely landless, and other Indian nations lost all but tiny remnants of their homelands.

The federal government did nothing to stop the lawlessness, even though the United States had repeatedly promised the Six Nations in formal treaties to respect and protect Indian lands. President George Washington, for instance, acknowledging the illegal takings, assured Indian leaders: ''But ... these evils arose before the present government of the United States was established ... [Now] the General Government only has the power to treat with the Indian Nations, and any treaty formed and held without its authority will not be binding. Here then is the security for the remainder of your lands.''

But Indian lands continued to be sold away by unauthorized individuals in nefarious transactions; and the Six Nations, weakened by the economic desperation and political oppression that followed the Revolutionary War, were unable to resist the greed for their lands.

In the 1920s, the Indian nations in New York secured legal counsel willing to test whether a lawsuit based on the Trade and Intercourse Act could be brought. But the 2nd Circuit held that the federal courts were closed to Indian nations seeking a remedy for the violation of federal laws protecting their lands. Not until 1974 did the Supreme Court hold that Indian nations could bring claims for damages for the taking of their lands in violation of the Trade and Intercourse Act. Just six years later, the Cayuga Nation filed its lawsuit.

After a federal district judge found that New York state had acquired Cayuga Indian Nation lands unlawfully and awarded money damages, New York appealed. Before the appeal was decided, the Supreme Court, in another Indian case, ruled that land parcels illegally taken by New York from the Oneida Indian Nation, but thereafter purchased by the Oneidas, could not be returned to the tax-exempt status that typically applies to Indian land throughout the United States. The Supreme Court based its decision on various supposed facts - the Oneida Nation had long ago sold the land in question; most of the Oneidas had moved away; and the Oneida Nation had not protested the loss of its land and, in any event, had delayed in seeking to reclaim it.

To grant the Oneidas tax-exempt status, the court concluded, would be ''disruptive.'' However, not one of these assertions had been litigated in the lower courts and most of the ''facts'' leading to the court's conclusion are incorrect.

Although the Oneida Nation lost its suit for tax-exempt status, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that its taxation decision did not affect the court's 1985 ruling that the Oneidas have title to lands lost in violation of the Trade and Intercourse Act and the Oneida Nation has a cause of action for damages for such dispossession.

Notwithstanding the court's stance on these two key issues at the time of its decision in the Oneida case, the 2nd Circuit reached diametrically opposite conclusions barely three months later in the Cayuga case.

The two judges in the Cayuga case's majority read the Supreme Court's taxation opinion as deciding that a delay in initiating a land claim could bar Indians from proceeding, even when such a claim is legally viable and within legal time limits. Viewing the Supreme Court's core concern as the ''disruptive'' nature of reasserting Indian jurisdiction and tax exemption over land purchased by the Oneida Indian Nation, the two 2nd Circuit judges found the Cayuga Nation claim similarly ''disruptive'' and therefore barred due to the Cayugas' supposed delay in bringing their claim.

This determination was in direct opposition to a previous 2nd Circuit decision that delay does not bar Indian land claims under the Trade and Intercourse Act. The majority's conclusion that even an award of money damages against the state was ''disruptive'' underscored its evident stance that any remedy at all for the concededly illegal takings would be ''disruptive.''

One of the most startling aspects of the Cayuga decision is that it reversed the district court's judgment and entered judgment for New York without sending the case back to the district court for a determination of any factual issue relating to the alleged delay, such as the length of any delay, the reasonableness of any delay, the extent of any prejudice to New York, and whether the state, given its historic misconduct, should be permitted to avoid all the consequences thereof.

It is difficult to ignore the extent to which the panel majority made new law and disregarded long-established rules about delay in initiating lawsuits. Either the panel made sweeping changes in the law respecting such delay or it made law that applies only to Indian cases. Either way, the result is disturbing.

History attests that Indian nations and peoples have long been denied the even-handed application of the law. In the case of the Cayuga Indian Nation, where a straightforward application of the law would have benefited the Indians, the law was changed - or ignored - to their extreme detriment.
© Indian Country Today October 20, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Robert T. Coulter, president of the Indian Law Resource Center, has practiced in the field of Indian Law for more than 30 years.
John D.B. Lewis is an attorney and member of the Indian Law Resource Center's board of directors.
For more information, please go to http://www.indianlaw.org/


Missionaries Ordered to Leave Venezuela
Venezuela's Chavez Orders U.S. Missionary Group Working With Indigenous Tribes to Leave Country
By Ian James
The Associated Press

BARRANCO YOPAL, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a U.S.-based Christian missionary group working with indigenous tribes to leave the country Wednesday, accusing the organization of "imperialist infiltration" and links to the CIA.

Chavez said missionaries of the New Tribes Mission, based in Sanford, Fla., were no longer welcome during a ceremony in a remote Indian village where he presented property titles to several indigenous groups.

"The New Tribes are leaving Venezuela. This is an irreversible decision that I have made," Chavez said. "We don't want the New Tribes here. Enough colonialism!"

He accused the missionaries of building luxurious camps next to poor Indian villages and circumventing Venezuelan customs authorities as they freely flew in and out on private planes.

The group is involved in "true imperialist infiltration, the CIA, they take away sensitive, strategic information," Chavez said, without elaborating. "And on top of that, exploiting the Indians."

"We don't want to abuse them, we're simply going to give them a period of time (to) pack up their things because they are leaving," Chavez said to applause from hundreds of Indians who sat under tents in Barranco Yopal, a remote village on Venezuela's southern plains.

Nita Zelenak, a New Tribes representative reached by phone, declined to comment on Venezuela's decision or say how many missionaries are working in the country.

The New Tribes Mission specializes in evangelism among indigenous groups in the world's remotest places. The organization says it has 3,200 workers and operations in 17 nations across Latin America, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

During the ceremony, Chavez granted 15 property titles for more than 1.65 million acres to the Cuiba, Yuaruro, Warao and Karina tribes. The documents recognize collective ownership of ancestral lands by communities with some 3,000 people.

"Previously, the indigenous people of Venezuela were removed from our lands. This is historic. It is a joyful day," said Librado Moraleda, a 52-year-old Warao from a remote village in the Orinoco River Delta.

Moraleda received a land title and government pledges of $27,000 to build homes and plant cassava and plantains.

Chavez says he is leading a "revolution" for the poor and that defending the rights of Venezuelan's 300,000 indigenous people is a priority.

But poverty remains severe in many Indian communities, and some said they need more help beyond land titles.

"We want the government to help us with hunger, with credit," said Yuaruro Indian Pedro Mendez, 26. He said his community had asked for an electrical generator and loans to help plant more crops.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

From: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1208444&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312
Communities Without Borders
By David Bacon

The Nation / October 2005 Issue

In 1982 Guatemalan army troops filled the roads through the highlands above Huehuetenango. As part of the country's civil war, soldiers, carrying Armalite rifles supplied by US President Ronald Reagan, swept into the small indigenous villages of Santa Eulalia and San Miguel Acatan. Accusing the towns of using church youth groups to recruit guerrillas, they began killing political activists. Finally, after the army shot down San Miguel teenagers in front of the church, many families fled. Helicopters chased and bombed them through the mountains, all the way to the Mexican border. For those who stayed behind, there was no work-just devastation.

That same year indigenous farm workers from Oaxaca, living in Sinaloa's migrant labor camps in northern Mexico, began to rise up against filthy living conditions and backbreaking labor. Radical young Mixtec organizers launched strikes and, together with left-wing students from the local university in Culiacan, faced down growers, police, armed guards and, ultimately, Mexican troops.

Oaxaca's Mixtec, Zapotec and Triqui laborers were recent arrivals in Sinaloa, but they had already been migrating within Mexico for two decades. Starting in the late 1950s, when Mexican policies of rural development and credit began to fail, the inhabitants of small Oaxacan villages traveled first to nearby Veracruz. There they found work unavailable in their home state, cutting sugar cane and picking coffee for the rich planters of the coast.

Then Sinaloa's new factory farms a thousand miles north, growing tomatoes and strawberries for US supermarkets, needed workers too. Soon growers began recruiting the south's indigenous migrants, and before long, trains were packed with Oaxacan families every spring.

Over the next twenty years, Guatemala's Qan-jobal and Mam refugees, and Oaxaca's indigenous farm workers, moved north through Mexico. Eventually they began crossing the border into the United States. Today, both of these migrant streams have developed well-established- communities thousands of miles from their hometowns. In Nebraska, Los Angeles and Florida, Huehuetenango highlanders affectionately call their neighborhoods Little San Miguel. Triquis, living just below the border in Baja California, named their settlements Nuevo San Juan Copala in honor of their Oaxacan hometown. In Fresno and Madera, California, the Mixtec community is so large that signs in grocery stores list sale items not just in Spanish but in a tongue that predates the Spaniards' arrival by centuries.

Indigenous migrant streams have created communities all along the northern road. Their experience defies common US preconceptions about immigrants. In Washington, DC, discussions of immigration are filled with false assumptions. US policy treats migrants as individual workers, ignoring the social pressures that force whole communities to move, and the networks of families and hometowns that sustain migrants on their journeys. Government policy often requires the deportation of parents caught without papers, who have to leave behind their children born in the United States. Sometimes, in this arbitrary Alice in Wonderland world, the opposite happens, and undocumented youth find themselves forced to move back to a place they don't even remember.

Policy-makers see migration simply as a journey from point A to point B. They assume that people make decisions about when to leave home, where to go and how to live based simply on economics-the need for a job. There is no denying the importance of the universal human need for work. But the dislocation of communities worldwide, forced to migrate in search of it, has never been a voluntary process. In Washington, dislocation is a dirty, unmentionable secret of the global economy.

What US immigration policy does not take into account is how the drive for community motivates migration. Current proposals for guest workers are the latest form of this denial. Corporate interests have successfully made them the centerpiece of almost all current immigration reform proposals, whether made by Republicans or Democrats. By definition, guest workers are admitted on a temporary basis, contracted to employers. They have no right to settle in communities, send their children to school, practice their culture and religion or speak their language. They can't vote or exercise fundamental political or labor rights. They can come only if an employer or a gang boss recruiter offers them a job. Without constant employment, they have to leave. The assumption is that they are here to work, and only to work.

Sergio Sosa, a Guatemalan organizer of Omaha Together One Community in Nebraska, emphasizes that "Mams and Qanjobales face poverty and isolation, even the possible disappearance of their identity. But they didn't choose this. People from Europe and the United States crossed our borders to come to Guatemala, and took over our land and economy. Migration is a form of fighting back. Now it's our turn to cross borders."

When they do, though, they confront a second dirty secret of globalization-inequality. Inequality is the most important product of US immigration policy, and a conscious one. The current spate of guest-worker proposals all assume that immigrants should not be treated as the equals of the people around them, or have the same rights. Among the crucial rights denied to them is the right to community-both to live in communities of their own creation and to be part of the broader community around them.

Nonetheless, migrants can and do carry community with them, along with traditions of social rights and organization. While living in a settlement of bamboo and plastic tents, for instance, in the reeds beside California's Russian River, Fausto Lopez, a Triqui migrant farm worker, became president of the Sonoma County chapter of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB). He brought fellow Triquis from their impromptu encampment to marches and demonstrations in California's state capitol[-al?], demanding drivers' licenses and amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Living in conditions most Americans equate with extreme poverty, they see themselves not as victims but social actors with a right to acceptance both in Mexico and the United States.

"Indigenous Oaxaqueños understand the need for community and organization," says Rufino Dominguez, who coordinates the FIOB. "When people migrate from a community in Oaxaca, in the new places where they settle they form a committee comprised of people from their home town. This is a tradition they don't lose, wherever they go."

Indigenous migrants from Mexico and Central America overwhelmingly belong to transnational communities like those of Oaxaca's Mixtecs and Triquis, or Guatemala's Mams and Qanjobales. Mixtec scholar Gaspar Rivera-Salgado and Jonathan Fox, an authority on Oaxacan migration at the University of California in Santa Cruz, refer to "Oaxacalifornia" as a "space in which migrants bring together their lives in California with their communities of origin more than 2,500 miles away." They might have equally referred to Pueblayork, the title bestowed on New York by a similar flow of indigenous migration from the Mexican state of Puebla. Migrants from Guatemala's Santa Eulalia don't yet call their Midwest community Nebraskamala, but there are enough of them living in Omaha and surrounding meatpacking towns to justify such a nickname. These migrants retain ties to their communities of origin and establish new communities as they migrate in search of work. They move back and forth through these networks, at least to the extent the difficult passage across borders allows. Their ties to one another are so strong, and the movement of people so great, that in many ways people belong to a single community that exists in different locations, on both sides of the border that formally divides their countries.

For Oaxacans, the formation of communities outside their home state began back when they became the workforce for industrial agriculture in the northern Mexican states of Sinaloa and Baja California. In 1984, as a young man, Dominguez was one of those who left Oaxaca. In Sinaloa, responding to conditions for migrants that were the scandal of Mexico, he formed the Organization of Exploited and Oppressed People. The strikes he helped organize put their abuse into the public eye.

"Often we went into the fields barefoot," remembers Jorge Giron, from the Mixtec town of Santa Maria Tindu, who now lives in Fresno. His wife, Margarita, recalls that in the labor camp "the rooms were made of cardboard, and you could see other families through the holes. When you had to relieve yourself, you went in public because there were no bathrooms. You would go behind a tree or tall grass and squat. People bathed in the river, and further down others would wash their clothes and drink. A lot of people came down with diarrhea and vomiting." The strikes, they say, forced improvements.

While bad conditions kept the cost of tomatoes low in Los Angeles, they were also a factor motivating people to keep moving north. Dominguez followed the migrant trail to San Quintin on the Baja California peninsula, where he and his friends organized more strikes. Finally he crossed the border, winding up in California's San Joaquin Valley. There he again found Mixtec farm workers from his home state. "I felt like I was in my hometown," he recalls. And just as they had in northern Mexico, Oaxacan migrants formed the Frente, using the network of relationships created by common language, culture and origin.

Labor organizing was part of the mix here too. In 1993 FIOB began a collaboration with the United Farm Workers. "We recognized the UFW was a strong union representing agricultural workers," Dominguez explains. "They recognized us as an organization fighting for the rights for indigenous migrants." But it was an uneasy relationship. Mixtec activists felt that UFW members often exhibited the same discriminatory attitudes common among Mexicans back home toward indigenous people. Fighting racism in Mexico, however, had prepared them for this. According to Rivera Salgado, "the experience of racism enforces a search for cultural identity to resist [and] creates the possibility of new forms of organization and action."

Even among other organizations of Mexican immigrants, the FIOB is unique. It is a truly binational organization, with chapters all along the migrant trail. Members adopt one overall political program every two years, while chapters address the distinct problems of indigenous communities in each location. In Oaxaca in the mid-1990s, the Frente began to help women organize weaving cooperatives and development projects to sustain families in small depopulated towns, left behind by migrating men. Taking advantage of its chapters in the United States, the Frente began selling their clothes, textiles and other artisan work in the north, to support the communities in the south. This activity was an embarrassment to the Oaxacan state government, however, which is still run by Mexico's old ruling party, the PRI. Government hostility grew even sharper because FIOB leaders, like high school teacher Juan Romualdo Gutierrez, not only voiced outspoken criticism but allied themselves with Mexico's left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Last year Gutierrez was arrested and held in jail on bogus charges of misappropriating a computer until a binational campaign of telegrams and demonstrations won his release.

"You can't tell a child to study to be a doctor if there is no work for doctors in Mexico," Gutierrez says. "It is a very daunting task for a Mexican teacher to convince students to get an education and stay in the country. If a student sees his older brother migrate to the United States, build a house and buy a car, he will follow. The money brought in by immigrants is Mexico's number-one source of income, but the state government only recognizes the immigrant community when it is convenient." Like many others on the Mexican left, Gutierrez accuses authorities of relying on remittances from workers to finance social services and public works, which are really the government's responsibility.

In Baja California, south of the border, FIOB activists fight for housing for indigenous migrants. They seek to enforce the old Constitutional right of people to settle and build housing on vacant land, a right largely eliminated by the neoliberal economic reforms of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Militants like Triqui activist Julio Sandoval have led land invasions in the state's agricultural valleys. Large growers are so threatened that Sandoval was locked up for three years in an Ensenada prison. At FIOB's binational congress in Oaxaca in March, Sandoval declared that "as Mexicans, we have a right to housing, and we will force the government to respect us." Binational pressure was indispensable to winning his release as well.

The FIOB started in California as an organization of Mixtecs and Zapotecs, and then broadened to include all Oaxacan indigenous groups. At this year's assembly in Oaxaca, members voted to expand its reach again, to include indigenous organizations from Puebla, Guerrero and Michoacan.

Mexican indigenous communities in the United States live at the social margin, and FIOB's activity confronts that fact. It is an organization of cultural activists, mounting an annual celebration of Oaxacan dance, the Guelagetza, every year. Its organizers work for California Rural Legal Assistance, advising farm workers of their rights in indigenous languages. In fact, FIOB has won the right to Mixtec translation in California courts, a right still not recognized in Mexico. It knits different communities together through basketball tournaments (unlike most Mexicans, Oaxacans prefer this sport to soccer) and leadership training groups for women.

FIOB's organizing strategy grows out of indigenous culture, particularly an institution called the tequio. "This is the concept of collective work to support our community," Dominguez says. "Wherever we go, we go united. Even though 509 years have passed since the Spanish conquest, we still speak our language. We want to live our culture and to insure that it won't die."

Part of this culture is participatory democracy, with roots in indigenous village life. The organization's binational assemblies discuss bylaws and political positions. In one of the Frente's defining moments, the 2002 Tijuana assembly removed a longtime leader who was no longer accountable to FIOB's members. A woman, Centolia Maldonado, played the central role in this difficult process-a recognition of new sex roles that are a product of the migration experience, which is changing some of the migrating communities' old, patriarchal traditions. FIOB's political platform, adopted at the same assembly, maintains a focus on the problems faced by transnational communities. It condemns US guest-worker proposals, and calls for an extension of the rights of citizenship by implementing the decision made in 1995 by the Mexican government to allow its citizens in the United States to vote in Mexican elections.

Discrimination in Mexico is not the only obstacle to preserving indigenous culture. It's not easy for Mixtec and Triqui parents in Fresno to convince their children, born in the United States, to hold fast to language and traditions light-years removed from California schools and movie theaters. The state's ban on bilingual education, and discrimination from local school authorities, make cultural preservation even harder. But even as some cultural adaptation is inevitable and sometimes even desirable, the experience of forty years of migration argues that economic and social survival depends on maintaining the identity, language and traditions that hold a community together.

Ruben Puentes, director of the transnational communities program at the Rockefeller Foundation, which has supported cultural development among Mexican indigenous migrants (and a photo-documentary project by this author), asks, "Is there today a growing culture of migration itself, a kind of cultural capital that helps communities survive?" He argues that this developing transnational culture does not get adequate consideration in the debate around immigration policy.

Transnational communities play a growing role in the political life of their home countries, changing the very definition of citizenship and residence. This year, for instance, Jesus Martinez, a professor at California State University in Fresno, was elected by Michoacan residents to their state legislature. His mandate is to represent the interests of the state's citizens living in the United States. Transnational migrants insist that they have important political and social rights, both in their communities of origin and in their communities abroad.

Today's migrants often come with experience in the radical social movements of their homelands. When Qanjobales and Mams came to Nebraska, their experience dovetailed with efforts to organize meatpacking workers already underway in the church parishes of South Omaha. "Using social networks to organize people is part of our culture," Sergio Sosa says. "The art is to transform these networks and connect them with African-Americans and Anglo-Saxons. Latinos can do many things, and this is our moment. But we can't do them alone."

Transnational communities, while often founded around a single indigenous ethnic identity, don't exist in isolation from one another. In Omaha's organizing ferment, the organizing styles of Guatemalans and Mexicans blend together, as people reinterpret various traditions of collective action. The alliance between South Omaha's immigrants, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Omaha Together One Community, an organizing project started by the Industrial Areas Foundation, successfully organized one of the city's main meatpacking plants.

Sosa and another activist from Santa Eulalia, Francisco Lorenzo, then started Grupo Ixim with local Guatemalans. "Ixim" is the word meaning corn in each of Guatemala's twenty-three indigenous languages. "It also means the common good-the way that inside an ear of corn all the grains are together," Sosa says.

Like many immigrant groups, it first gelled around practical goals. "For example if a fellow countryman were to pass away, we would quickly mobilize to gather money and send the body to Guatemala," explains Jesus Martinez, a meatpacking worker. Ixim groups have also been organized in Chicago, Los Angeles and other US cities. In the Nebraska group, tension surfaced last year between those who see its function mainly as cultural preservation and others who want more politics. Last year Rodolfo Bobadilla, bishop of Huehuetenango and a former disciple of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, visited his parishioners living in Omaha. A heated debate broke out in a back room at the welcoming fiesta. Martinez, Sosa and their allies proposed to give the bishop a letter to take home, expressing the sentiment of Guatemalans in the United States about the country's national election. Former General Efrain Rios Montt, the president who ordered the bloodiest massacres of the 1980s, was once again a candidate. Ixim's activists wanted to remind their countrymen about this terrible past, which has much to do with the fact that so many Guatemalans now live in exile. In the end, they voted to send the letter.

Emigration has complicated social costs and benefits in communities of origin. It threatens cultural practices and indigenous languages. It exacerbates social and economic divisions in small rural towns, as families with access to remittances sent home by relatives bid up land prices beyond the reach of families without that access. San Miguel now boasts a number of large modern houses, owned by refugees of 1982 who live in the United States. With no economic development at home, migration has become a necessity. The ability to emigrate increasingly determines social and economic status in communities of origin. The creation of transnational communities is a global phenomenon. They exist at different stages of development in the flow of migrants from developing to developed countries worldwide. According to Migrant Rights International, more than 130 million people live outside the countries in which they were born-a permanent feature of life on the planet.

Immigration policy in almost all developed, industrial countries is institutionalizing this global flow of migration, as well as the roles of countries that employ it (like the United States) and those that produce the migrants (like Mexico and Guatemala). The main mechanism are guest-worker programs, which assign the migrants' communities of origin the function of providing a labor pool for the production of future workers, while offering no support in return. Instead, home communities depend on remittances from migrants. Mexican President Vicente Fox boasts that some of the world's most impoverished workers send home more than $18 billion annually-a contribution to the economy approaching those of oil and tourism.

FIOB's Los Angeles coordinator, Ofelia Romero, predicts that "expanded guest-worker programs will lead to the wholesale violation of migrants' rights." In previous periods, when US immigration policy valued immigrants only for their labor power, it produced extremely abusive systems. The memory of the bracero program, which ran from 1942 to 1964, is so bitter that even today defenders of guest-worker schemes avoid association with the name. But before the braceros came, Filipinos were treated the same way-as a mobile, vulnerable workforce, circulated from labor camp to labor camp for more than half a century. And before them the Japanese and Chinese, all the way back to slavery.

Today, guest workers are brought from tiny Guatemalan towns to the pine forests of the American East and South. Their experience is remarkably similar [see "Be Our Guests," September 27, 2004]. US immigration policy doesn't deter the flow of migrants across the border. Its basic function is defining the status of people once they're here. Guest-worker programs undermine both workplace and community rights, affecting non-immigrants as well. They inhibit the development of families and culture, denying everyone what newcomers can offer.

The alternative is a policy that recognizes and values transnational communities. A pro-people, anticorporate immigration policy sees the creation and support of communities as a desirable goal. It reinforces indigenous culture and language, protects the rights of everyone and seeks to integrate immigrants into the broader US society.

The United Nations' International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families proposes this kind of framework, establishing equality of treatment with citizens of the host country. Both sending and receiving countries are responsible for protecting migrants and retain the right to determine who is admitted to their territories and who has the right to work. Predictably, the countries that have ratified it are the sending countries. Those countries most interested in guest worker schemes, like the United States, have not.

"Another amnesty is part of the alternative also," Sosa adds, "but ten years from now we're going to face the same situation again, if we don't change the way we treat other countries. Treaties like CAFTA insure that this will happen." Today working people of all countries are asked to accept continuing globalization, in which capital is free to go wherever it can earn the highest profits. He argues that migrants must have the same freedom, with rights and status equal to those of anyone else. "I come from a faith tradition," he concludes. "Faith crosses borders. It says, This world is our world, for all of us."

From: TruthOut.org http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/101605E.shtml