Archive for August, 2008

Washington Times: (Republican) Convention to duck immigration

August 31st, 2008 35 comments

According to an Associated Press article in the Washington Times, the Republican Party will also most likely remain silent on the issue of immigration because the positions between both Presidential candidates are so similar.

Personally, I believe McCain will be the better candidate to deal with this because Republicans will be more likely to work with him than with Obama.

ST. PAUL, Minn — It’s the unmentioned issue — Democrats were nearly silent on immigration during their convention, and on Sunday House Minority Leader John Boehner said the Republican convention won’t say much about it either.

“Probably nothing,” Mr. Boehner told reporters. “In every election cycle, some issues rise to the top and others fall to the wayside.”

The issue, which rocked the Senate in 2007, has fallen in importance in part because the election doesn’t offer voters much of a choice.

Both Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain sharing similar positions: Both men support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, though Mr. McCain now says that must come after border security, while Mr. Obama says they must be combined.

At Democrats’ convention several speakers did mention the issue, including Sen. John Kerry, who criticized Mr. McCain for backtracking from the broad bill the Republican wrote along with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it,” he said.

Unlocking the Mystery of SOLs and AYP

August 31st, 2008 18 comments

How SOLs and AYP Work
Contributed by Guest Poster DB

SOL scores and AYP pass rates were made public at the end of August, and there have been many articles in various newspapers about which schools in our area made, or did not make AYP. AYP, or Annual Yearly Progress is how the federal government measures a school’s performance of the No Child Left Behind standards.

Understandably, AYP causes some confusion among those who do not work in the school system. This is how it works. Each year, students in certain grades take the Virginia SOL tests which are designed to measure how the students are progressing in the areas of English (Reading), Math, Writing, Social Studies, and Science. The state of Virginia looks at how the students perform on all of the tests. For AYP purposes, the federal government looks at ONLY the Math and English scores. The state of Virginia looks at the total pass rate for each test at each grade level. When it comes to AYP, the federal government does NOT look at the total pass rate for all students, but breaks the test scores into categories, and looks at the pass rate in EACH category.

If a school has students that fail in certain categories, the school does not meet AYP. The student population of every school is broken down into the following AYP categories: black, Hispanic, white, students with disabilities (i.e. an LD student with an IEP), disadvantaged students (those who receive free or reduced lunch), and LEP students (those considered to be ESOL). It is possible for a student to represent more than one category. A white student who receives free lunch will have his/her test scores counted in two categories: white and disadvantaged. A black student with an IEP who receives reduced lunch will have his/her scores counted in three categories: black, students with disabilities, and disadvantaged. So it is possible for schools to have students that pass or fail in more than one category.

Here is an example of one Manassas City elementary school’s test rates. The school is Baldwin. It is a K-4, Title I school which means that a high percentage of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and it has a medium- sized ESOL population. The overall pass rate for the English SOL was 77%; the pass rate for Math was 84%. Not too bad when you look at the total pass rates. In order to make AYP, a school must have a pass rate of 75% in Math and 77% in English. Looking at the overall pass rate, one would think that Baldwin made the cut. But once the scores were examined in the AYP categories, Baldwin did not make AYP because they did not achieve the 75% and 77% pass rate in each and every category:

Pass rates by category in English: black 66%, Hispanic 74%, white 91%, students with disabilities 68%, disadvantaged students 66%, and LEP students 68%.

Pass rates by category in Math: black 69%, Hispanic 81%, white 96%, students with disabilities 71%, disadvantaged students 77% and LEP students 80%.

When a school does not make AYP, the blame game often follows. It’s the fault of the ESOL students, or the teachers, or the curriculum, or the principal etc. It is important to remember that the students who take the test each year are different. Those who took the 3rd grade SOLS last year, are not the same as the students who took it the year before. It is also important to note that the SOL tests change every year. The test questions on the 07-08 SOL tests were different than the year before, and the test questions on this school year’s tests will be different as well. Another important piece of information to consider is that a school’s SOL or AYP scores do not include cohort data.

There is no data that considers those students who have attended an elementary school from K to grade three. Likewise, there is no data on students who have moved through 4 or 5 schools before even getting to third grade. There are many schools in Manassas City, Manassas Park, and Prince William County that have revolving students. Though SOLs are the same through out the state, different school jurisdictions use different curriculums, and not all of their Scope and Sequences (what you teach, and when you teach it) will match.

Does an achievement gap exist among students? Absolutely. Despite years of effort by teachers and school systems, closing the gap among white, black and Hispanic students has been difficult. As the years have gone by, the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students is decreasing, yet the black students still lag behind. The Hispanic students in many cases now out perform the black students. Raising the achievement of black students is an issue that schools have struggled with in the past, and continue to struggle with today.

[Editors note: there is indeed a formula that few understand, and when the formula is applied to all categories, a school can fail AYP in a specific category even if the pass rates in that category are higher than the pass rates in another category. This information illustrates how convoluted the entire AYP process is.]

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Class Act

August 31st, 2008 8 comments

McCain congratulates Obama on his historic achievement.

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McCain picks Sarah Palin for running mate

August 29th, 2008 152 comments

Apparently, John McCain has selected Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska as his Vice Presidential running mate.

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Seriously, this is our immigration quota system? OY VAY

August 28th, 2008 141 comments

So, as usual, I am wondering, how inadequate is our immigration system? I find this very interesting summary, it clarifies, fairly succinctly, how incredibly broken our system is in America, especially for unskilled workers. I won’t spoil the ending, but remember this number, 147, it will astound you when you realize what it represents.

But even if Congress were willing to expend the necessary funds to upgrade systems and supply the manpower needed to expedite the millions of applications already in the queue and awaiting processing, the major flaws in immigration policy would still exist.

Flaws codified into law that almost ensure that for the vast majority of would-be immigrants there is simply no legal path to take.

Here is where that number – 147 – comes into play, and why I asked that it be kept in the back of the mind.

I few weeks ago the annual Yearbook of immigration statistics from the Department of Homeland security came out listing every green card, work visa, tourist visa etc. issued for the past year. It’s about as dry and boring a report as one could managed to muddle through …but it supplies invaluable insight into what is really going on with the dysfunctional immigration system.

In 2006 the government issued a little over 1.2 million green cards to new immigrants to live in the US legally. Additionally, 1.7 million more non-immigrant visas were issued to temporary workers and their family members to work in the US (1/2 million more than the number of green cards issued to new permanent residents, a troubling statistic unto itself).

So at face value it appears that there is amble opportunity for those wishing to enter the country permanently to do so legally. But as Mark Twain said there are three kinds of lies “lies, damn lies, and statistics” ..and in this case one must delve into the numbers to see what story they really tell.

Of the 1.2 million green cards issued last year, 581,106 of those went to wives, children and parents of current US citizens. And additional 222,225 went to various other family members of citizens and legal residents, for a total of 2/3 of all green cards going to someone who already had a US citizen or resident relative.

The next largest category of immigrants after the “family based” status were those who entered as “employment based immigrants”. 159,081 immigrants were awarded green cards last year to legally work in the US. ( 12.6% of all immigrants). The vast majority of them being immigrants with high skills, “specialty skills” “extraordinary skills” or “advanced degrees”.

This is codified into the system.

The yearly cap on unskilled workers is placed at a 5000 maximum. This despite the fact that according to the Dept. of Labor, the US economy produces between 400,000 and 500,000 new low-skilled jobs a year and the vast majority of the nearly ½ mil unauthorized workers who enter the country each year find work in these unskilled sectors.

But as unrealistic as the 5000 cap appears, the situation is actually far worse.

Last year the total number of unskilled workers allowed into the US legally was roughly half the official cap: 2513. Out of nearly 3 million people allowed to enter the country either as temporary workers or stay as legal residents, only 2513 were unskilled workers.

But here comes that number I asked you to keep in the back of your mind ….remember it 147?…

Of the 2513 unskilled workers allotted green cards last year, 2366 were already here living and working in the US. They simply “readjusted” their status to permanent residents (most likely from some temporary worker status) …that leaves 147

147 new un-skilled workers without US citizen or legal resident family already here were allowed to enter the US last year legally and receive green cards.

147 out of 1,266,264.

147 …so tell me again how there is a legal path for all who are willing to work and wait patiently.

How long is one expected to wait… because if the ½ a million who enter each year through improper channels were to go home and wait patiently for their turn, it would take over 3000 years before they would get that chance when only 147 are allowed in each a year.

But the rhetoric will most likely continue, despite all factual evidence to the contrary. Lou Dobbs will nightly inform his minion that only the shiftless and slovenly disregard the law. O’Rielly will bluster away how he “respects and supports” those who “do it the right way” and Rush will whine that reform isn’t fair to all those “waiting in line”…But disingenuous blowhards and misleading experts cannot change the truth, or hide the facts. The current immigration laws, and the systems in place to enforce them, are woefully inadequate and all the wall building, workplace raids, deporting and incarcerating will not change that fact…and until they are addressed rationally and reasonably the “immigration crisis” will never end.

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Undocumented Teenager Commits Suicide After Arrest

August 26th, 2008 207 comments

LEAGUE CITY — The 17-year-old’s lifeless body was frozen in a sitting position in solitary-confinement at the Galveston County Jail.

Arturo Chavez’s back was flush against a 7-foot partition for the cell’s shower. A blue blanket was twisted into a noose, with one end wrapped around his neck, the other tied to a shower head.

He apparently hanged himself about 48 hours after being arrested for what started as an illegal left turn.

I have a son, he is almost seven, I can’t imagine him risking his life, crossing the Rio Grande, at the tender age of 13, hoping to attain the American dream. This is a story that exemplifies a crisis with our Southern neighbors and with our broken immigration system. Yes, its true, albiet he did it without proper papers, this boy risked his life to come here to create a better life for himself and for his family, imagine the inner strength it must have taken to make such a journey.

Arturo Chavez, 17, after being arrested for making an illegal left hand turn, reportedly panicked, attempting to flee from his jail cell. According to jail officers he was tasered and clubbed while attempting to escape over a fence.

From all accounts, he was a model immigrant, taking classes to learn English, proud of his Mayan heritage but also proud to be here in America, his ankle braclet displaying the red, white, and blue colors. He worked hard as a bus boy, hoping to move up to waiter.  People will point out that he came here “illegally”, that he should not have been driving without a valid drivers license, and insurance.  I agree with all that, but what I am wondering, is where is our soul as a nation, that we don’t raise this child up, praise him for risking so much, for being so brave to strive for the American dream as a mere child.  How many teenagers do you know that exhibit such desire to better themselves and better their loved ones?

Those who knew Chavez said, like many undocumented immigrants, he feared any run-in with authorities as it would likely mean he would be deported.

He left Central America when he was 13 and wanted more out of life than he could get with tips loading baggage at a bus station.

Relatives say it took him nearly 15 days to get to Houston, including sneaking into Mexico and riding a passenger bus north.

He crossed the Rio Grande and hiked through South Texas.

Human smugglers demanded $3,500 to guide him, a hefty sum met with help from family and friends.

In Houston, he was known for his hustle and held out hope his improving English skills would get him promoted from busboy to waiter.

Chavez’s death was a mystery as much as a shock, said Mario Garcia, who owns the restaurant where Chavez worked.

“I don’t understand how you can go from making a mistake to losing your life, I’m dumbfounded by it,” Garcia said. “There are two sides to every story, and the truth is probably somewhere right in the middle.”

$100 sent home weekly
The kid known by his family as niño, Spanish for boy, had come a long way since leaving his indigenous village. He was sending home at least $100 a week to help his mother, father and sister.

He was not only working full time, but attending Clear Creek High School’s program to help newly arrived international students.

He wore woven bracelets made of blue and white yarn — the colors of Guatemala’s flag — as well as an anklet with the U.S.A.’s red, white and blue.

“He was very proud of his Mayan heritage,” said Elizabeth Laurence, one of his teachers. “He was a feisty young fellow, popular and wanted to learn English very much. He wasn’t timid; he tried to use it.”

Things were going well with his girlfriend, Jhoseline Martell, whom he met at school.

As the police cruiser’s lights flashed behind him near Louisiana Street and League City Parkway, Chavez dialed Martell on his cell phone and stuffed it in his pocket.

“He said the police have stopped me, just listen,” recalled Martell, 15.

He normally rode a bicycle to avoid such trouble, but he had recently bought a used green Honda sedan.

He had no driver’s license, no insurance and what turned out later to be a fake identification card.

He was arrested and taken to jail. His mugshot was taken while he wore the red shirt from his job as a busboy.

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“Many Officials Reluctant to Help Arrest Immigrants”

August 24th, 2008 88 comments

Chief Deane, having expressed concern, from the outset of the first proposed immigrant resolution,  did not want to negate the relationship his department had built with the immigrant community due to an ill thought out resolution with would result in “unintended consequences”.  He shared great concern that turning his police officers into immigration enforcement would jeopardize the hard won trust his department had worked so hard to gain. It is not only Chief Deane that sees the risk in alienating the immigrant community, but apparently, the overwhelming majority of law local law enforcement feels the same way.  Is this some lefty bleeding heart liberal conspiracy? Or is just simply common sense. Read more in this Washington Post article that demonstrates a national reluctance to morph local police into immigration enforcement.

I also found it interesting that the crime trend in PWC, crime decreasing over the past four years while our immigrant populaton rose, represented a national trend. 

Although law enforcement agencies in Prince William and Frederick counties have agreed to help federal authorities enforce immigration laws, officials in many other parts of the country remain reluctant to do so, saying they fear losing the trust of immigrant communities and worry about being accused of racial profiling.

Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

El Paso’s mayor, John Cook, described his mostly Hispanic city on the Mexican border as “the second-safest city in America,” in part because it stresses community police involvement. While recognizing that illegal immigration is a crime, he said he is also worried about a growing public perception that immigrants are criminals.

“There is a danger,” he said. “Once people don’t trust a police officer in immigrant communities, they become communities that foster crime, where people won’t report domestic violence or the theft of a TV. If people feel they are under threat of being deported, they become silent. There has to be a delicate balance.”

Several scholars at the meeting expressed concerns about public perceptions that illegal immigrants are linked with high crime. Rubén Rumbaut of the University of California at Irvine said crime rates across the country have steadily declined as immigration rates have increased. His research showed that the percentage of foreign-born men in U.S. jails and prisons is far lower than that of African Americans and in some cases close to the level of native-born whites.

Other legal experts and advocates at the meeting said that immigration law is increasingly being “criminalized” to prosecute people who have crossed the border to find work, especially by charging them with identity fraud, and that civil immigration warrants are being used like criminal warrants, even though they do not carry the same powers, such as the right to enter a home without permission.


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Obama picks Biden for running mate

August 23rd, 2008 126 comments

Barak Obama has apparently picked Senator Joe Biden as his VP.

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Chairman Corey Stewart’s Political Aspirations

August 22nd, 2008 97 comments

With much discussion over whether or not Virginia Governor Tim Kaine could become Barack Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate, it started me considering the political aspirations of Chairman Corey Stewart. We do know that according to a Washington Post article in February that Stewart did have intentions on seeking the Lieutenant Governor’s position even declaring himself the ‘preeminent Republican in Northern Virginia’. Now, while I don’t proclaim to know what his long-term objectives are, could he conceivably envision himself as a possible candidate for a national office?

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Patrolling with the Mounted Police

August 21st, 2008 46 comments

Here you go.

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