Driving Without a License, Immigrant Workers at Risk
Though they are not licensed to drive, many undocumented immigrants get behind the wheel in order to get to work.
Though they are not licensed to drive, many undocumented immigrants get behind the wheel in order to get to work.
The good days have returned for Brazilian immigrant Claudete Alcântara. Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Everett Literacy Program has reopened its English classes and she is one of 54 students who have now returned to school.
This is the first in a special two-part series on domestic violence in immigrant communities by Feet in Two Worlds reporters. Jelena Kopanja reports from New York the challenges faced by immigrant women.
After nearly five years of an international custody battle that has drawn the attention of the Obama administration and members of Congress, American model David Goldman flew to Brazil a few days ago to finally be reunited with his son Sean.
On Monday, June 1, Brazilian federal judge Rafael de Souza Pereira Pinto, of Rio de Janeiro, ruled that Sean should be handed to the local American Consulate in 48 hours. In an 82-page ruling, the judge also determined that Sean could travel to New Jersey accompanied by his Brazilian relatives.
Once in U.S., the judge determined, in the first two weeks Sean would spend days with the Brazilian part of his family, and nights with Goldman. After that period, the 9-year-old boy, whose Brazilian mother died while giving birth to a baby girl last September, would stay with his father indefinitely.
But that ruling lasted less than 24 hours.
Brazil’s Senate is debating an amendment to the nation’s constitution to create at least four congressional seats to represent Brazilian citizens who live abroad in the US, Japan, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Fifty-nine senators recently voted in favor of the amendment — authored in 2005 by Senator Cristovam Buarque of Brasilia.
Brazilians in Massachusetts celebrated the victory, although the amendment still faces an uphill battle. Before it can get passed into law, it must go through one more voting session in Brazil’s Senate, and two in the House.
Currently 3 million Brazilians, worldwide, live outside Brazil, sending about $5 billion back home every year. The Brazilian state of Alagoas, with a population of 2.9 million people, has more natives who live abroad than in the state itself.
“Put it this way: Imagine if Pernambuco [a northern state in Brazil with population of 6 million] did not have its own congressmen. You [Brazilians living in the US] all represent a state,” said Sen. Buarque during a live interview on “Conexao Brasil,” an evening radio show on Portuguese-language WSRO (650 AM) radio station in Framingham, Mass.
The 2010 U.S. Census gets underway one year from now. Amid concerns over an undercount of immigrants and ethnic minorities, census officials recently met with ethnic media journalists from New England to address fears and suspicions that may discourage people from participating in the census survey.
According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights there are three main reasons why the 2010 census will be especially challenging:
- The rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and heightened immigrant enforcement activities, have created real fear and distrust of the government;
- The foreclosure crisis and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have displaced millions of people, making it hard to do an accurate count; and
- As the first census after 9/11, the Census Bureau will have to deal with Americans’ privacy concerns about how their information is used.
The journalists attending the meeting in Boston represented TV, radio, Internet and newspaper media for African American, Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Chinese, Polish and Spanish communities. Census regional director Kathleen Ludgate told them that the census needs to create media buzz where it matters, in the communities.
“The idea here is to have ethnic journalists tell us the talking points that interest their own readers,” she said.
Addressing the fear that some undocumented residents have about answering the census, Ludgate said “whether it’s the Patriot Act or anything else that’s happened over this decade, the Census Bureau has a good track record of maintaining confidentiality.”
Some immigrants workers have told ethnic newspapers and radio programs that they fear personal information could be used against them if it is revealed to local authorities — even if the information turns out to be inaccurate.
“We don’t share information with the city or anyone else. The only purpose for the data we collect is for the census,” assured Ludgate, whose Region I office oversees all six states of New England, upstate New York, and Puerto Rico.
Census media specialist Cesar Monzon explained, all employees of the census sign an oath of confidentiality, which is renewed annually. Anyone who reveals specific information about any household would be subject to up to five years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine.
In addition, federal laws require that specific data about residents be concealed for 72 years before it can be made accessible to the general public. (more…)
The ingredients were typical of a soap opera: a handsome American male model falls for a Brazilian fashion student. The couple met in Milan, Italy. From the love of David Goldman and Bruna Ribeiro resulted a happy wedding, a peaceful marriage, and life in New Jersey with their baby boy, Sean.
But the dream of a beautiful family went awry, resulting in an international custody battle that has strained ties between two friendly nations — even prompting an intervention by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In 2004, Ribeiro brought 4-year-old Sean to spend 15 days in Rio de Janeiro. Goldman would join them a few days later. But as soon as she landed in the “Marvelous City,” the mother called David and said she was not returning to the United States. Goldman’s nightmare started when his wife told him that if he ever wanted to see Sean again, he would have to assign sole custody of the boy to her.
Since that phone call, Goldman has fought to have the right to visit his son in Brazil. Meanwhile, Ribeiro married an influential and politically well-connected lawyer, João Paulo Lins e Silva — although in the U.S. her marriage to Goldman was still valid.
In August 2008, the couple’s story took a dramatic turn. After giving birth to a baby girl, Bruna Ribeiro Lins e Silva died of complications from the birth. Although tragic, the events gave Goldman renewed hope that, as the only blood-relative to Sean, he would finally be reunited with him.
“If you don’t speak English, you’re missing out at work, at home,” Luciene Campos said in Portuguese. “When you do, you’re more respected.”
She was one of some 600 immigrants, many of them Brazilian, who recently jammed the auditorium of a Framingham, Mass. middle school waiting for a lottery that would assign 185 slots in English as a Second Language classes.
The classes, Feet In 2 Worlds reporter Eduardo A. de Oliveira wrote on EthnicNEWz.org, are “an obligatory stop for immigrants eager to learn the language of their future — but not all of them would get enrolled.”
Monday,PRI’s nationally-syndicated radio show The World ran a radio piece by Eduardo about the ESL lottery. This is from the show’s website:
Brazilian immigrants make up about a third of the population of Framingham, Massaschusetts. Many newspapers, radio stations and businesses cater to the immigrant’s needs. But the Brazilians still want desperately to learn English. Eduardo de Oliveira reports that the town’s English classes are so popular that you need to win a lottery to get in.
You can listen to Eduardo’s report here:[audio:http://188.8.131.52/audio/0216096.mp3]
Here are a couple of extra interviews:
– Christine Tibor is the director of Framingham’s ESL program. Twenty–five years ago, Tibor was the program’s first teacher. In this interview she told Eduardo de Oliveira she knows how it feels to live in a foreign country and not be able to speak the language. During a trip to Venezuela, she survived on a diet of ham-and-cheese, the only two words she knew in Spanish.
– Fernando Castro is the owner of five tax preparation stores in Massachusetts. He was a student in thel ESL program 19 years ago. Now, he’s an occasional sponsor of the program.[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/fi2w_fernando_castro.mp3]
By Eduardo A. de Oliveira EthnicNewz.org and FI2W reporter
When Barack Obama begins to focus on health reform as part of his lengthy to-do list, the new President probably won’t address the case of Pretinha, a 64-year-old undocumented housecleaner from Framingham, Mass., who worked for 22 years, but has no health insurance.
She is not alone. Dr. Milagros Abreu, a Boston University physician, knows hundreds of working families who, despite having paid taxes for years, were left behind by the Massachusetts Health Reform of 2006.
Dr. Milagros has helped more than a 1,000 Latino families enroll in a local health insurance.
Despite Pretinha’s lack of insurance, doctors at MetroWest Medical Center acted promptly after discovering her heart was failing. She was rushed to the operating room to receive a pacemaker, a small device that uses electrical pulses to normalize the heart rate.
Pretinha’s life was saved only because there were people who care for those who “simply don’t qualify.”
“Since June, our goal has been to draft a concrete proposal so the President can work on health reform on day one,” said John McDonough, a former Mass. state representative, and an envoy of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office to spearhead health reform efforts.
President-elect Obama has said he will look for Congressional input on the direction the country takes on health care reform. But will the Republican minority in Congress compromise? Or will 46 million Americans, of which 32 percent are Latinos, remain uninsured?
“It’s probably too early to say how the Republicans will vote,” said McDonough, who admits that the illness of Sen. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, has helped soften some hearts, but will not be decisive. (more…)
By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter
For millions of immigrant workers 2008 began with a sour taste in all the mouths they have to feed. Six months into 2007, Congress had drowned their highest hopes by killing the Immigration Reform bill.
For many families there was no choice but to return home – in the Brazilian community of Massachusetts alone there were 10,000 retornados, according to the Brazilian Immigrant Center.
Among those who remained here, much of the rhetoric about the need for immigrants to learn English got stuck in the back of their heads. The consequences were best seen in Framingham, Mass.
During a lottery for seats in an English-as-a-second-language course at Fuller Middle School, 500-plus immigrants competed for 165 seats. Of course the ‘no cost’ policy wooed many. But more than ever, they saw English as the language of their future – whether or not they are documented.
Hairdresser Marta dos Santos smiles upon hearing the news that she is one of 165 immigrants picked for an ESL course at Fuller Middle School. More than 500 people tried to get a seat in the classes. Photo: EDUARDO A. de OLIVEIRA
Despite being an election year, 2008 also served to harden immigrants’ hearts.
In the Republican presidential primary, candidates debated who would be the toughest on deporting undocumented workers. Forget about the melting pot, at that point workers learned that to half of America, all that mattered was their immigration status.
In the end, the Republicans selected a presidential candidate who had a record of trying to help undocumented immigrants. But the workers’ future in the U.S. looked grimmer as gas prices hit $4 per gallon, straining the livelihoods of delivery men, truckers, and taxi drivers.
But David Grabowski, a Health Economist at Harvard Medical School, found something about higher gas prices that was not bad news at all.
“We’ve discovered that for every 10 percent in price increase, there are 2.3 percent fewer fatalities in traffic related accidents. Among teenage drivers, at least 6 percent more lives were spared,” said Grabowski, who compared data from Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), from 1985 to 2006.
In another health-related story, a Dominican doctor used her Boston University credentials to fill a gap left behind by the Massachusetts Health Care Reform law. (more…)