Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lumping all "Teen Illegals" Together

The San Francisco Chronicle is known to be a liberal newspaper - it's support of the immigrant community is greatly appreciated. Yet, once in a while, as we all do, someone slips up.

This time it was the SFC's choice of words in an article on the deportation of gang members. The idea of a protocol for "teen illegals" may be ok, but the article is talking about young people who have been arrested on drug charges.... The title could be taken as a generalization that all undocumented teens are gang members or drug users/dealers.

A few years ago I had a student from Spain in a class of mostly Mexican Americans (at a Texas university). The students had a major project during the semester where they had to research a cultural topic and conduct a few interviews in the Latino community. Everyone had to present their topic at the end of the semester. The Spanish student presented her information, but before we finished, she began to cry. She said she felt so bad because people had told her that Mexican-Americans were awful people, were dangerous etc. - she had believed all this not being from this country and not having alternative information. After getting to know the other students for the semester, she realized that what she had been told was all basically misinformation. There were no gang members in the class, no one had been in jail, no drug dealers or automobile thieves.

The tears were because she had gotten to know and like most everyone in the class - and was angry at herself for having believed all the disparaging comments about her classmates. By the way, she also apologized to the class. Her candor was very admirable. She was truly a woman of class.

Yet, this incident made me wonder how often this type of thing happens.... all it takes is a title that morphs from the incarceration of drug offenders to a "protocol for teen illegals."


S.F. working on protocol for teen illegals

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 10, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle

(07-09) 22:47 PDT San Francisco -- San Francisco should do everything it can to protect the rights of young Honduran drug offenders before it turns them over to federal authorities for possible deportation, several activists urged members of the city's Juvenile Probation Commission at its meeting Wednesday.

In the wake of a national firestorm over the city's practices, Juvenile Probation Chief William Siffermann told the little-known commission about how the city is developing a protocol to surrender underage Hondurans caught dealing crack on the streets of San Francisco over to the federal authorities if they are here illegally.

The protocol was announced after The Chronicle detailed how previous efforts to shield the young offenders from federal authorities had been blocked or backfired. Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced the city will soon begin turning over offenders to immigration authorities.

But the activists who appeared before the commission Wednesday night said the city should not act hastily and must consider the privacy rights of juveniles as well as their right to seek better lives before abandoning them to deportation.
"I urge the city to slow down and not react to the manufactured crisis," said Ana Perez, executive director of the Central American Research Center, about the national furor over the city's previous practice. Perez said the city is justified in protecting the rights of the young offenders, who are often victims of poverty, neglect and abuse.

Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus told the panel that immigrants who commit crimes out of the need to survive in their adopted country should be screened to make sure they have a chance to lead law-abiding lives rather than be immediately deported.

"We should treat them as all the other youth," she said. "They sell drugs because they need to make money. The problem is there are not very many opportunities for these youth. They desperately need the money."

At the meeting, the activists said the youths were "canaries in a coal mine" for the problems of globalization and worker exploitation and in many cases were the product of repressive regimes, abusive families or community violence.
After the activists spoke, commission Vice President Susana Rojas became emotional as she described a letter she received about the issue that contained "very inflammatory language ... that is offensive for us who have worked with undocumented youth."

She said the letter damned the offenders as gang members who are exploiting the leniency of the system.
"They are minors. They do need help," she said, adding that she said the youths should not be immediately branded as criminals or gang members. "They deserve our respect. They deserve our help..."

for link to complete SF Chronicle article, click here

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