Volume 43 Number 40

Harris, Newsom duck on immigration


EDITORIAL So let’s get this straight.

Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, has set up a laudable program called Back on Track that offers counseling and job training for first-time drug offenders who otherwise would be clogging up the local jail.

A handful of the people who went into the program were undocumented immigrants. Some completed the program successfully and were allowed to graduate.

This is a problem?

Apparently so — because between them the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner have devoted at least five major stories, one horrible column and at least one editorial to exposing the fact that some people who otherwise would have been jailed and deported for minor nonviolent crimes have been allowed to stay in the country, with new skills that might help them find jobs that don’t involve selling drugs on the street.

And Harris, who is running for state attorney general, is scrambling to cover herself, announcing that undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed to go through the program. In other words, to get rehabilitation instead of jail time in San Francisco, you now have to submit proof of citizenship.

There’s a whole lot wrong with this picture. The critics attacking Harris claim that undocumented immigrants don’t deserve job training since they can’t work in this country legally anyway. That’s just silly — tens of thousands of immigrants who lack legal documentation are working in San Francisco right now, and tens of thousands will continue to work in San Francisco. And they’re generally a productive part of the economy and community. These immigrants already face barriers to attending college. The only thing that denying first-offenders job training does is increase the chance they will return to crime.

Yes, the L.A. Times was able to find one person enrolled in the program who went out and committed robbery and assault. He was the only one of seven undocumented people in the program who had legal problems while attending. The others were allowed to graduate, had their criminal records erased, and, given the overall results of the program, were far less likely than people who had served jail time to re-offend.

Unfortunately, the daily newspaper stories are just the latest attack on San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policy, which is supposed to bar local law enforcement from turning people over to federal immigration authorities. Mayor Gavin Newsom has backed away from the sanctuary policy — and now Harris is backing away, too.

The district attorney says that allowing undocumented immigrants into her program was a mistake, and that it’s been "fixed." That’s the wrong approach. Prisons and county jails in California are jammed beyond capacity. The cost of incarcerating all those people is staggering and helping to bankrupt the state. And the threat of deportation has created a climate of terror and desperation in immigrant communities, where families are being ripped apart and lives shattered by overzealous federal agents.

And the weak responses by San Francisco city officials are just empowering the radical nativists, who want to blame all of society’s problems on immigrants.

Harris did nothing wrong and has no need to apologize or change her program. Job training as an alternative to jail is good public policy — for citizens and noncitizens. She and Mayor Newsom ought to be defending the Sanctuary City laws instead of running away from them. If this is what it takes to seek statewide office, the mayor and district attorney would better serve their constituents by staying at home. *

Editor’s Notes



Lucy Dalglish, the director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is about as much of a national leader on open-government and free-speech issues as we have in this country. She’s been watching (and fighting) the battle against government secrecy for more than a quarter century as a reporter in St. Paul, a media lawyer, and since 2000 the head of RCFP. So when she sounds an alarm, it’s worth listening.

And at the annual conference of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, she warned that the decline of daily newspapers — something those of us in the alt-media often treat as a spectator sport, jeering at the losers who for years couldn’t figure out how to print news people wanted to read — is going to have a serious impact on open government.

The thing is, conservative, weak, and lame as so many dailies were, they have been the ones funding almost all of the major freedom-of-information lawsuits and organizations. The case law that protects the news media (including bloggers) from nuisance libel suits? That came from The New York Times. The law preventing the government from using prior restraint to block the publication of material it thinks might damage national security? The New York Times. The most important open-government cases in the nation? Mostly filed by medium-sized dailies like The Press Enterprise in Riverside.

I’m not here — lord knows, I’m not here — defending the likes of Knight-Ridder and Copley and Scripps-Howard, which are mostly very conservative newspaper chains that have decimated news coverage, kowtowed to the powerful, and screwed up a lot of communities. But Dalglish has a point: as the old guard in the media spirals into decline, who’s going to take up the free-speech and open-government banner — and by that I mean, who’s going to put up the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to file and defend these key lawsuits and keep these organizations alive?

"It isn’t," Dalglish said, "going to be Google."

The Chronicle ran a story June 29th talking about the growing discussion of the need to reform Proposition 13. It was mostly a political piece, looking at the popularity of the measure and the complications of trying to change a law that has pretty much defined public finance in California for 30 years.

Robert Cruickshank at Calitics.com brought up something in response to the Chron story that hadn’t really occurred to me:

"Since 1978," he wrote, "California has experienced two massive housing bubbles. The 1980s bubble, which seemed large at the time, was primarily focused on California and caused widespread unaffordability before the 1989 crash. The 2000s bubble was a nationwide phenomenon, but Prop. 13 played a role by removing a brake on housing inflation. If homeowners saw tax assessments rise in relation to their values, instead of being largely fixed at the rate at the time of purchase, it seems unlikely we would have had the enormous and destructive boom and bust in the housing market we witnessed."

So Prop. 13 causes high housing prices. Probably high rents, too. Worth thinking about. *

The massage parlor mistake


OPINION Taking advantage of the recent turmoil over the huge city budget cuts, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sup. Carmen Chu, have pushed though malicious legislation imposing criminal charges and restrictions on massage parlors. Many are outraged that this costly legislation was prioritized — we want to know why it was, and how much it will cost to implement. Lawyers are questioning its legality.

Under the guise of concern for women’s safety, Chu and Newsom falsely claimed that the law would stop sex trafficking. We’ve heard these lies before. Politicians who want to increase the criminalization of sex workers confuse prostitution, which is consensual sex for money, with trafficking, which is forced and coerced labor, sexual or otherwise. The reality is that most parlor employees work consensually and often collectively, without force or coercion. In Rhode Island, where indoor prostitution is legal, similar legislative maneuvers are in the works, also using the pretext of trafficking to make criminals of women working indoors.

Chu and Newsom claim they are targeting parlor owners, but by pushing the industry further underground, their legislation makes workers, many of whom are immigrant women, more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Workers will suffer most from the increased raids, arrests, and criminalization. Fearing arrest and/or deportation will mean fewer women will report rape or other violence and exploitation when they occur.

What is the real political agenda here? Chu and Newsom have said that the proposals "could make it easier to close the 50 or so city-licensed parlors suspected of selling sex." If and where sex is being sold, parlor closures would force women onto the streets — where it is 10 times more dangerous to work. Those who are arrested are likely to end up in prison — to the devastation of their children — or deported. What good reason is there to endanger women’s safety and break up families this way, especially during hard economic times?

San Franciscans question why, when most trafficking cases occur in the agricultural, construction, clothing, and domestic industries, anti-trafficking measures target immigrant sex workers working of their own free will. We suspect racist gentrification policies are behind this legislation. Developers will be allowed to seize land in the Tenderloin and downtown areas if massage parlors are forced to close. This deceitful, profiteering law imposes huge fines, criminal charges, and has a punitive clause making the parlors pay for unspecified enforcement charges against them.

Considering that not long ago, police were exposed for taking thousands of dollars from massage parlor workers, involving them in the licensing process creates fertile ground for increased corruption.

What is wrong with selling or buying sex if both parties consent? After all, 42 percent of San Franciscans voted last November for Proposition K, which would have decriminalized sex work, despite a campaign of fear mongering and misinformation by the mayor and district attorney. New Zealand successfully decriminalized prostitution six years ago to "promote occupational health and safety" and "protect from exploitation." There has been no increase in prostitution, pimps, or traffickers, and women are more able to report violence and insist on their rights. It’s time for San Francisco to do the right thing and stop criminalizing sex workers.

Rachel West works with the U.S. PROStitutes Collective.

Art listings


Art listings are compiled by Johnny Ray Huston.


Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin; 581-3500, www.asianart.org. Tues-Wed, Fri-Sun, 10am-5pm; Thurs, 10am-9pm. $10 ($5 Thurs after 5pm), $7 seniors, $6 for ages 12 to 17, free for 11 and under. "In a New Light: The Asian Art Museum Collection." Ongoing.

California Palace of the Legion of Honor Lincoln Park (near 34th Ave and Clement); 750-3600. Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5pm. $8, $6 seniors, $5 for ages 12 to 17, free for 10 and under (free Tues). "Surrealism: Selections from the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books." Work by surrealist poets and artists. Ongoing.

Cartoon Art Museum 655 Mission; CAR-TOON. Tues-Sun, 11am-5pm. $6, $4 students and seniors, $2 for ages 6 to 12, free for five and under and members. "The Art of Stan Sakai: Celebrating 25 Years of Usagi Yojimbo." Through Sun/5. "Watchmen." Illustrations, sketches, and comic book pages by Dave Gibbons. Through July 19. "The Brinkley Girls." Retrospective devoted to early 20th century illustrator Nell Brinkley. Through August 23.

Contemporary Jewish Museum 736 Mission; www.thecjm.org. Mon-Tues, Fri-Sun, 11am-5:30pm; Thurs, 1-8pm. $10, $8 seniors and students, free for 12 and under and members. "Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater." An exhibition of 200 works of art and ephemera. Through Sept 7. "Being Jewish: A Bay Area Portrait." Ongoing.

De Young Museum Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive (near Fulton and 10th Ave); 750-3600. Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5:15pm (Fri, 9:30am-8:45pm). $10, $7 seniors, $6 for ages 13 to 17 and college students with ID (free first Tues). "The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific." Mural by Miguel Covarrubias. Ongoing.

Legion of Honor Lincoln Park, 34th Ave and Clement; 750-3600. Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5:15pm. $20 adults, $7 seniors, $6 youths and students, free 12 and under. "Waking Dreams: Max Klinger and the Symbolist Print." Retrospective of the German Symbolist artist. Through Sat/4.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 151 Third St; 357-4000. Mon-Tues, Fri-Sun, 11am-5:45pm; Thurs, 10am-8:45pm. $12.50, $8 seniors, $7 students, free for members and 12 and under (free first Tues; half price Thurs, 6-8:45pm). "Austere: Selections From the SFMOMA Collection." Photography and architecture and design. Through Tues/7. "Otl Aicher: Munchen 1972." Graphic design. Through Tues/7. "Patterns of Speculation: J. Mayer H." German architectural studio. Through Tues/7. "Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’." Exhibition devoted to the photographic classic. Through August 23. "Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities." Show dedicated to the two popular American artists. Through Sept 7. "Art in the Atrium: Kerry James Marshall." Monumental murals. Ongoing.

San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design War Memorial Veterans Bldg, 401 Van Ness, fourth floor; 255-4800, www.sfpalm.org. Tues-Fri, 11am-5pm; Sat, 1-5pm. Free. "Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward." Exhibition dedicated to the icon. Through August 29. "Maestro: Photographic Portraits of Tom Zimberoff." Portraits of national and international conductors. Ongoing. "150 Years of Dance in California." Ongoing. "San Francisco in Song." Ongoing. "San Francisco 1900: On Stage." Ongoing.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission; 978-ARTS. Tues-Wed, Fri-Sun, noon-5pm; Thurs, noon-8pm. $6, $3 seniors, students, and youths, free for members (free first Tues). "Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth." Mixed media sculptural "soundsuits" by the Chicago dancer-turned-artist. Through Sun/5. "Through Future Eyes: The Endurance of Humanity." Contemporary work by ten artists, incuding six Young Artists at Work curators. Through Sun/5.


Cantor Arts Center Lomita and Museum, Stanford University, Stanford; (650) 723-4177. Wed, Fri-Sun, 11am-5pm; Thurs, 11am-8pm. "Appellations to Antiquity." 19th and 20th century works from the museum collection. Through July 26. "Pop to Present." Survey from the 1960s to the present. Through August 16. "Contemporary Glass." Modern glass works. Ongoing. "Rodin! The Complete Stanford Collection." Ongoing.

Judah L. Magnes Museum 2911 Russell, Berk; (510) 549-6950. Mon-Wed, Sun, 11am-4pm. $4, $3 students and seniors. "Memory Lab." Interactive installation allowing visitors to make family albums from their documents, photographs, and memories. Ongoing. "Projections." Multimedia works from the museums archival, documentary, and experimental films. Ongoing.

Oakland Museum of California 1000 Oak, Oakl; (510) 238-2200. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm (first Fri, 10am-9pm); Sun, noon-5pm. $8, $5 seniors and students (free second Sun). "Future of Sequoias: Sustaining Parklands in the 21st Century." Panoramic photos with commentary. Through August 23. "Squeak Carnwath: Painting is No Ordinary Object." A solo exhibition dedicated to the Oakland artist. Through August 23. "The Art and History of Early California." The story of California from the first inhabitants through the Gold Rush. Ongoing.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology UC Berkeley, 103 Kroeber Hall, room 3712, Bancroft and Bowditch, Berk; (510) 643-1193. Wed-Sat, 10am-4:30pm; Sun, noon-4pm. $4, $3 seniors, $1 students, free for 12 and under. "From the Maker’s Hand: Selections from the Permanent Collection." An exploration of human ingenuity found in living and historic cultures around the world. Ongoing.

UC Berkeley Art Museum 2626 Bancroft Way, Berk; (510) 642-0808. Wed-Sun, 11am-5pm. $8 adults, $5 seniors and young adults, free for members and 12 and under. "Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked Eye." Museum survey curated by Lawrence Rinder. Through August 30. "Human Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet." Collaborative exhibition. Through Sept. 27. *