UCSB Student Detained After Homeland Security Interrogated Her Roommate

From the Courage Campaign
Last Thursday, at about 5:30 in the morning, agents from the Department of Homeland Security visited the apartment of some UCSB students. They interrogated a graduate student — the target of the pre-dawn raid — and compelled her to produce documents proving her legal immigration status. The federal agents also asked if anyone else in the apartment was an immigrant. Presumably frightened at the early morning intrusion and eager to comply with the agents’ requests, the graduate student’s roommate volunteered that she, too, was not born in the United States. Probably confident that she was doing the right thing, the roommate — who is an undergraduate student at UCSB — looked for her documentation but was apparently unable to find enough proof to satisfy the agents. She was arrested on the spot. She’s currently in a detention facility in Ventura.
I have just been informed that the detained woman is a student in the class I am teaching this quarter. I am horrified. This student has visited me in office hours. She’s almost always at lecture, and she has been a frequent contributor to the class discussion. I cannot believe that this is the reason that she’s missed lecture the past few days.
Ironically, this week the class will talk about immigration policy in the United States, but I’ve been notified by the Associate Dean that this student is likely to miss class since she’s in an immigration detention facility. I’m told that university counsel is working with the student’s family and their legal representative and they hope to secure a quick release for the student.
I wonder how often this kind of thing happens. I obviously don’t know all the facts, but from what I do know, the interrogation of these students seems utterly ridiculous. Any questions as to the status of the graduate student targeted for suspicion surely could have been answered in less intrusive ways than an unannounced, pre-dawn interrogation at her apartment. And what made the Department of Homeland Security think that these students, who study sociology and religion, would be some kind of threat deserving of this kind of rough treatment in the first place? Why did they decide that my student, who apparently couldn’t find her documents on the spot in the early morning hours, needed to be arrested right then and there? Why not just come back later to check on her, or require that she report to an immigration office within 48 hours or something like that? The immediate arrest and detention appears to me to be totally unwarranted.
I’ve been an “immigrant” myself when I lived in Japan, and I’m not sure that if agents came storming into my room in the early morning that I’d be able to produce my passport and all my documents fast enough to satisfy them. Thankfully, I was an immigrant in a country that didn’t conduct any raids on me. Unfortunately, these students do live in a country where we raid people’s homes, asking them to prove that they’re legal.
I’m not just horrified by this incident, but I’m also embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as an American that we’ve sunk to this level in our quest for “securing the borders.” How sad.

Take Back America coming up

Of all the emerging progressive infrastructure groups, the Campaign for America’s Future has been on a tear lately. As we wrote about a few weeks back, they landed the brilliant Rick Perlstein, author of the mind-blowing history of Barry Goldwater at the dawn of movement conservatism, to cover conservative failures. (he’s a busy, busy guy)
They’ve continued this trend of snapping up brilliant progressive writers by getting Bill Scher (of LiberalOasis and “Wait! Don’t Move to Canada: A Stay-And-Fight Strategy to Win Back America“) to take point on blogging for their upcoming conference.
The show is from June 18th to 20th and it is an incredible deal; in an age of ever-climbing conference fees they’ve managed to hold it down to $190 for three entire days of brain-melting progressive action. And it’s in Washington DC – not the most affordable place for a junket, but far from the worst, too. New features this year include a bunch of self-organized, “unconference”-like sessions, which have proven to be some of the most interesting sessions at the last couple of events I’ve attended. I’m hoping to present some of the philosophical foundations work I’ve been hammering out at one of these.
Bill’s blog is here and the main Take Back America conference site is here. If you can make it, this one’s a good ‘un.

Making state dollars go farther

Sometimes in politics, the easiest solutions are the most elusive. That should not be the case with one part of the state budget discussions. When it comes to trying to leverage state tax dollars to maximize federal money at small state cost, there is no simpler discussion than putting in a meager $24 Million to increase the Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for our state’s safety net health care providers like Planned Parenthood and Neighborhood Health Clinics.
These providers are requesting the state increase their reimbursements for the first time in 20 years, although their work and responsibilities have expanded greatly over time and the costs to them have increased substantially as the sheer costs of delivering health care services—from staffing to pharmaceuticals, have shot through the ceiling during the past two decades.
But the common sense of it all should be the deal maker alone. For less than 1/10th of 1% of the state’s budget, we could see California get nine matching federal dollars for each state dollar spent, thus reducing the state’s financial burden, our healthcare safety net’s fraying edges and returning to Californians some of their hard-earned dollars. With Californians paying over $50 Billion more in taxes to the feds than we get back in services, this is one pretty inexpensive way to bring at least a few of those tax dollars home.
If you agree, it’s time to act. We urge you to go to our site at: http://ga4.org/campaign/Fundingthehealthcaresafetynetnow and sign a letter to our state’s leadership urging them to put these dollars to work. We’ve been working hard to get a $24 million dollar increase into the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate as part of the current budget negotiations. After 20 years of no increases at all, NOW IS THE TIME. We are at the critical point in these negotiations when we must TAKE ACTION and INSIST that our state leaders—from the Governor to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Don Perata and Speaker of the Assembly, Fabian Nunez,—listen to us and help the state’s healthcare safety net providers care for the hundreds of thousands of people they serve—and have to turn away because they don’t have the financial resources to provide clinical care to those seeking it.
This is a solution that works. It’s time to bring those tax dollars back to California. The need is great and the opportunity is NOW. Easy solutions are hard to come by these days. Let’s not let them drop the ball on this one.
Help us help them make it happen.

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Crisis at the University of California

From The Courage Campaign
The Times has a frightening piece up this week about a growing crisis at the University of California, the sorely underfunded facilities for mental health care for students.  The number of suicides at the UC's campuses has increased, as has the number of students seeking counseling, but the university's capacity for helping students in need has not improved to meet this crucial need.

After the tragedy at Virginia Tech last month, UC students received an email from the university urging them to take advantage of the counseling services available to them.  When I received this message (as a student at UC Santa Barbara), I had the impression that the counseling and mental health services at UCSB are quite good.  So I was shocked to read this in the paper today:

At UC Santa Barbara a decade ago, an average of 21 students a quarter came to the counseling center to report they were experiencing an emotional crisis. Now, more than 200 students a quarter come for help, saying they are in a crisis. "Our crises have gone way up and we have fewer psychologists to deal with that," said Jeanne Stanford, director of counseling services. "We feel like we have become a crisis center." UC has about one psychologist for every 2,300 students, far below the International Assn. of Counseling Services guideline of one psychologist for every 1,000 to 1,500 students.

California is set to spend more on prisons than on colleges for the first time in our history.  We'll be the only big state with this dubious distinction.  This is already a tragedy, but we also have to ask whether the costs of prison are worth the sacrifice of our public colleges and universities.  Which is a more effective preventative against crime — massive prisons, or the promise of a quality college education for every Californian?

I also noted in the story that improvements to health services for students have come from an increase to student fees (which have been rising steadily over the past five years).  We need a governor and a legislature that prioritizes school investment over prison investment, and we need them now.

Devious Debt Collectors get their just desserts

Unlike Bush’s raiding of our treasury and the piling on of debt that is the hallmark of his administration, regular citizens aren’t able to just print up more money to pay for what they want and buy. Instead, we’ve become trained to borrow and use anything we can as collateral. Thanks to the Republicans who have controlled Congress, once we’ve gotten sucked into the mindset that when life gets tough, we should just spend money,we’re forced into a debtors nightmare that doesn’t end.
When the answer to 9/11 was that we should all go shopping, it is no wonder that more and more Americans find themselves in debt. When we haven’t seen an increase in the minimum wage in over a decade, have more jobs being off-shored, workers benefits being obliterated, the cost of health insurance and health care out-of-control, and the cost of everything from gas to food going through the ceiling, it’s not at all surprising that we’re digging deeper and deeper into our pockets just to survive.
Enter the financial industries and the debt-collector. This administration has seen to it that the balance of power rests with the creditor—everywhere from the bankruptcy court where debt cannot be discharged in many cases to the debt-collector being able to harass and abuse those who have the misfortune of being in their sights.
Their arrogance is only exceeded by their obnoxious behavior. It is only getting worse, so the story of attorney Bob Brennan of La Crescenta becomes one of those far-too-rare but important victories that illustrate the need for tenacious and committed plaintiff’s attorneys to be on the forefront of protecting you and me—the consumers of this state and nation.
It is important to highlight these victories because the so-called “tort reform” movement wants to eliminate the ability of average citizens to sue these wrong-doers. These misnamed “reformers” use the most extreme examples to support their spurious complaint that the courts are tied up with “frivolous” lawsuits. Check out this case and see if you think this woman’s lawsuit was unwarranted. And remember, the goal of the “tort reformers”, led by the Bushies and our Governator, is to deny “John and Jane Q Citizen” the ability to stop these bullies from trodding on their rights. If you close the courthouse to the average person, there is no recourse left. Check out this story:

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Attacking California’s high school drop-out epidemic

As students begin the graduation process at high schools throughout California, we thought it would be helpfu to take a look at how many young people who start high school actually graduate. We know that the drop-out rate in California is unacceptably high and that it overwhelmingly affects young people of color and low socio-economic standing. We need to ask ourselves whether the current system, with the required exit exam and the unfunded No Child Left Behind program is fixing the problem, or making it worse.
Senators Darrell Steinberg and Gloria Romero have introduced legislation that is currently moving through the legislature that tries to deal with the issue. We’ve asked Speak Out California Board Member, R. Stanley Oden, Assistant Professor of Sociology at California State University at Sacramento, and long-time political activist, to give us his observations on this epidemic. Are we doing what we can to help our students navigate through the world of employment and the hope of opportunity often so elusive to those who come through high school empty-handed?

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Total Recall: Prison Reform Update

From The Courage Campaign
California’s prisons are in a serious crisis. They are massively overcrowded, and the problem is getting worse as more people are being sent there than ever before. The conditions inside the prisons have deteriorated to the point that the health care system is already under the control of a federal court (three inmates died just this last December due to poor health care). The courts have threatened to take over the rest of the system if urgent reforms are not implemented. As Total Recall (the Courage Campaign governor watch) has noted, prison reform was a key part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s campaign promises both in the 2003 recall election and his 2006 reelection. But Schwarzenegger took almost no action to fix our prisons in his first term as Governor, and he didn’t release a detailed plan to fix the problem until after his reelection, in December 2006. Schwarzenegger’s first major prison bill has finally been signed, just this month.
More Prisons, And Billions More For Prisons
Nearly every expert agrees that sentencing reform – stopping the huge increases in the prison population – is desperately needed in California. For Governor Schwarzenegger to fulfill his promise to fix our correctional system, he needs to provide bold leadership and resist the calls for “tough on crime.” We simply cannot afford to send so many people to prison, and there’s no evidence that locking up 170,000 people (and the number keeps getting higher) has made us any safer.
Rather than enact bold reforms, on May 3, 2007, Schwarzenegger successfully pushed through a plan to build tens of thousands of new prison cells, which together with a few new treatment programs will rack up a cost of some 7.4 Billion Dollars. Despite the rejection of voters, again and again, for bond dollars to build new prisons, the plan hailed as a success by Schwarzenegger spends more than 6 Billion just on construction alone — operating cost estimates will come later. Schwarzenegger did not do what almost every expert on prisons has said he must do: institute immediate reform of the sentencing system to stop sending so many people to prison. The 7.4 Billion Dollar plan does nothing to relieve the crisis in the immediate term. Rather than a permanent fix to the broken system, this plan is a 7.4 Billion Dollar bandage. Did I mention that the cost of this plan is 7.4 Billion Dollars?
Health Care for Inmates: Still Cruel and Unusual
The construction of new prisons is just the first part of the massive cost that we will have to pay to maintain a prison system housing 200,000 human beings. Last week, the person appointed to fix the health care system in the prisons released his proposal to bring the system out of “cruel and unusual” territory. The proposal had no price tag, but experts say it will take nearly 20 years and billions of dollars to fully implement.
Death Chamber Controversy
Adding a new dimension to Schwarzenegger’s prison failures is the recent controversy over a secret new death chamber at San Quentin prison. Governor Schwarzenegger and his staff apparently knew of the plan to build this new chamber well before it was made public — but Schwarzenegger made statements to the contrary. John Myers has an excellent description of the unfolding controversy here.
Total Recall
This series is dedicated to keeping you informed of how well Schwarzenegger’s actions live up to his promises. We’ll keep you updated on developments as they happen.

Where is the governor’s moral compass?

When I first arrived in Sacramento to begin my legislative career, I was told straight out that the most important votes I would cast each year would be on the budget.
I was reminded that the budget is the state’s moral document; it reflects the priorities of the state to the neediest among us, to the future and to our vision of who we are as a people. It should be fair and responsible. It is a document that reflects our compassion, our sense of purpose and our values.
So here we are in 2007, with a budget that leaks red ink because of structural deficits (that means because we’re required to spend certain amounts for various programs, etc. that cost more than we bring in). We’ve had these structural problems for years—as we load more and more requirements onto government but refuse to increase income to pay for them.
Our Governor says we should sell off some of these programs to bring in one-time dollars (and then let the private sector run amock without accountability or commitment to serving the public, just their profits). He also says we should pay back Wall Street instead of making sure that the kids on Main Street have food and shelter to help them grow and live with basic human dignity. He says we can’t ask the wealthy for more, or close tax loopholes for bloated multi-national corporations that take our services but won’t pay for them. Instead, we’ll just ignore the blind, the elderly, the disabled and children of the poor and cut their already puny “aid”. After all, why should those with so much be asked to share even a small amount with those who have so little? Why should corporations that make millions off of Californians and the freeways and infrastructure we’ve created for their use have to compensate the state for the benefits that come to them as a result?

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The Catholic Church doesn’t like Planned Parenthood

While blogging on Speak Out California is always fun for me-( although the topics sometimes make my blood boil ), it is quite rewarding when the opposition sees fit to respond in an attempt to neutralize the content of the posting. Mixing it up with those who disagree is what democracy and freedom of speech are all about.
So this time, the push-back comes from the California Catholic Daily. I didn’t know such a publication existed, but I do now. The gist of their piece, which directly quotes Speak Out’s recent posting, is to challenge Planned Parenthood’s claims that it needs to see an increase in the reimbursement rate for its clinical services, which haven’t been increased in 20 years. That fact alone should be sufficient to warrant an increase. What can you purchase today at the same price you could 20 years ago?
Not even baseball cards—which went for a dime a pack in the old days or for those who never collected them, think of a candy bar at less than a quarter, or a gallon of gas at less than a buck. So, why should Planned Parenthood, or any health care provider, for that matter, be forced to accept pricing that is 20 years old for services that continue to be a necessity for thousands and at a cost of delivery that only keeps going up?

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Privatizing California

One of the “GREAT LIES” the neo-cons and free-marketeers have advanced and perpetuated with a surprising degree of success has been the notion that the private sector can do it better than the public sector. They don’t bother to distinguish what “it” is, but it actually doesn’t matter to them. “It” is intended to include every form of human endeavor, from academia to zoos, from energy to prisons and on-and-on. Of course, these folks don’t give a damn about providing services and programs that actually help people or benefit society as a whole. Their unabashed mantra is: “If there’s money to make, the private sector will be there to meet the demand.”
While that might be all well-and-good in some areas, the fact still remains (and sadly so), that the single driving incentive for the private sector is money and money alone. Fortunately, there are a few socially responsible companies who see the importance of combining profit with purpose, and perhaps more stepping up as our world warms beyond repair and starvation and genocide seem to be plaguing the planet. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of companies are drvien by one single principle: PROFIT. That profit leads to pay-back in the millions to CEO’s for whatever time and effort they put in to increasing that “profit” regardless of its impact on the environment, its employees or the communities in which it operates.

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