Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Border arrests down from last year

It appears the number of border arrests is down dramatically from this time last year (34%). This change has border enforcement advocates arguing that the use of the National Guard troops along the border (which have been in place since June 15 of this year) and additional enforcement is deterring immigrants from trying to cross.


More likely, however, is the shift in the U.S. economy, which is now providing fewer jobs for immigrants than this time last year (see article below). If jobs are scarce, there is little reason to pay thousands of dollars to make the perilous journey north, which also would account for the decrease of border arrests.

No jobs, no immigrants

This article from today's Washington Post highlights a rarely acknowledged fact about immigrants: when jobs are scarce, they go home. As the metro D.C. housing market has slowed to a crawl, most of the area's best jobs for immigrants (documented and undocumented alike) have vanished, leaving these men and women with hard choices: move elsewhere, or go home.

As the article indicates, many choose to return home. If you're going to be unemployed, it's best to do so at home.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Story

During the holiday season, I like to believe that people are more willing to put aside their differences and see one another as part of the brotherhood of humanity.

In this spirit, I am reproducing a chapter from Enrique Armijo's M.A. thesis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Enrique's thesis is based on fieldwork he completed with Inglesia Unida in Chapel Hill. The full citation for the except that follows is: Armijo, Enrique. 2000. Un Pueblo Nuevo: An Ethnography of a Hispanic Protestant Community of Faith. M.A. Thesis in Folklore University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As you read, bear in mind that Armijo presents each of the paragraphs in the original Spanish text first, followed by the English translation.

The Story of María and José: Un Cuento de Navidad

The chapter that follows this conclusion is a reading, written by the youth of Iglesia Unida during a church camp in 1997. It tells of a pregnant Mexican woman named María, her Tijuanan boyfriend José, and their trip to North Carolina to find work and a place to live. As with the stories of many of the congregation members at Iglesia Unida, their journey is an eventful one; along the way their truck breaks down, they stay in a shelter, and they are visited by an angel. Like the other expressions of the church examined in this thesis, the story reveals how local and universal themes form a dialectic that leads to deeper understanding and articulates the informed convergence between life lived and faith felt.
In reading the story, I ask that the reader resist applying a strictly cultural lens of interpretation that can fog the deeper spiritual understandings that an example like this can provide. Like the songs, sermons, prayers, activism, and development discussed earlier in this thesis, the youths’ narrative shows not only how its themes are particular to the context at Iglesia Unida, but also how universal—when informed by the experiences of the members—these themes of spirit, struggle, and redemption truly are.

Enrique Armijo, M.A.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
October 2000


Un Cuento de Navidad
A Christmas Story
written by the children and youth of Iglesia Unida

Una joven llamada María se iba a casar con su novio que se llamaba José. José, originario de Tiajuana, vivia en San Diego y tenía su Green Card. En San Diego no había trabajo, y José (o Pepe, como le dicen sus amigos) decidió venirse a Carolina del Norte y buscar trabajo y un lugar donde vivir. Como ya no iba a poder cruzar la frontera para ir a ver a María, le tuvieron que hablar a un coyote para que la hiciera cruzar a ella y se pudiera venir a Carolina también.
Mientras juntaban el dinero, se les apareció un ángel. El ángel le dijo a María: "Eres muy dichosa, María. Vas a tener un bebé, tu hijo va a salvar el mundo.

A young girl named María was engaged to a guy named José. José was originally from Tijuana, but lived in San Diego and had his Green Card. In San Diego there weren't any jobs, so José (whom his friends called Pepe) decided to come to North Carolina to look for work and a place to live. Since he wasn't going to be able to run across the border to visit María any more, they decided to find a "coyote," to get her across the border so she could come to North Carolina as well. 1
While they were trying to get the money together to pay the "coyote," an angel appeared to them. The angel told María, "You are blessed, María. You will have a baby, and your son will save the world."

Un día les avisaron que era buena fecha para cruzar la frontera. Cuando iban en camino, el carro en que iban se arrunió y les pidieron mas dinero para completar el viaje. Como no tenían dinero ni para la gasolina, se quedaron esperando de que la familia les mandara una ayudita y tuvieron que pasar la noche debajo de unos árboles por varios dias. Y a María ya estaba notándosele el embarazo.

One day, they were told it was a good time to cross the border. When they were already in route, the car in which they were traveling broke down and they were asked to pay more money to complete the trip. Since they didn't even have money for gas, they had to wait, sleeping under some trees for several days, until the family could send a little more help. Maria's pregnancy was already becoming obvious.

Por fin les llegó la ayudita que esperaban, pero cuando llegaron a Chapel Hill, no encontraron ni trabajo, ni donde alojarse. José salió varias veces a buscar trabajo, pero en algunos sitios, el guardia de "security" ni lo dejaba entrar a hablar con la gente que estaba dando empleo. Pensaron que podían quedarse en un parque, pero la policía los desalojó. Fueron a la iglesia, pero estaba cerrada; terminaron en el "Shelter," pero solo se podían quedar unos días. María tenía miedo de decirle a nadie que iba a tener un bebé. Tenía mideo de ir al hospital, porque no tenía papeles.

At last the help arrived, but when José and María arrived in Chapel Hill, they couldn't find work or a place to stay. José went out to find work several days, but in some places, "security" wouldn't even let him in to talk to those in charge of hiring. They had thought they could stay in a park, but the police told them they had to get out. They went to a church, but it was locked; they ended up in the shelter, but they knew they could only stay a few days. María was afraid to tell anybody she was pregnant. She was afraid to go to the hospital, because she didn't have her papers.

Y fué así como nació el bebé de José y María: Tocaron en muchas casas, pues no querían regresar al shelter y que los mandaran al hospital. Fueron a la casa de Pablo, y Mario Alberto, y otras familias conocidas, pero no había ni un rincón donde hacerles un lugarcito. Pasaron un par de noches en restaurantes y tiendas que habren 24 horas hasta que María ya no podía caminar más. Fue con gran alegría que recibieron la noticia de que una familia, que tiene una trailer pequeña, había movido a los niños al cuarto de los padres y les había acomodado un cuartitio. Y fue allí que nació el niñito, y lo acostaron en un cajón que rellenaron de ropita vieja.

And this is how José and María's baby was born: they knocked on many doors, because they didn't want to go to the shelter and get sent to the hospital. They went to Pablo's house and Mario Alberto's house and asked other families they knew, but nobody had any room to accommodate them. They spent a couple of nights in restaurants and stores that are open 24 hours, but at last María knew she couldn't walk any more. It was with great joy that they heard a family who lived in a small trailer had moved the children into the parent's room and had agreed to let them have the small room. And that is where the baby was born. They padded a drawer with old clothes and made him a little bed there.

Cuando nació el bebé, toda la gente del area se enteró (al menos los que no estaba demasiado ocupados con sus regalos caros). Algunos oyeron música que sonaba como que ángleles estuvieran cantando. Otros siniteron grandes deseos de conocer a ese niñito que había nacido el 25 de diciembre, y le llevaron ropa abrigada, pañales, y algunos juguetes. Muchas familias se alegraron al ver que el niño era saludable, y se llenaron de esperanza, pensando que Dios de verdad estaba presente en este humilde hogar. Alguien dice que se escuchaba como un coro que cantaba: ¡Gloria a Dios, paz en la tierra a los que creen en el Señor!

When the baby was born, everybody in the area found out. (At least, those who were not too busy with their expensive toys.) Some heard beautiful music that sounded as if angels were singing. Others felt they wanted to go and meet this baby, who was born on the 25th of December, and they took him warm clothes, diapers, and some toys. Many families were happy to see that the baby was healthy, and they were filled with hope, thinking that God was truly present in that humble home. Someone says that you could hear a choir that sang: Glory to God, peace on earth to those who have faith in the Lord!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Exit Strategy

It is well known among immigration scholars that the majority of undocumented residents enter the U.S. legally (on a tourist or student visa, for instance) and simply overstay their visas. This was a great concern after Sept. 11, 2001, because the hijackers had entered the U.S. legally. From a security and immigration standpoint, therefore, it would make sense for the Department of Homeland Security to set up an immigrant exit tracking system to ascertain that people are leaving the U.S. when they should. It would also be a means to apprehend other unauthorized immigrants; right now, there are no official checks for anyone leaving the U.S., so if you are undocumented and want to go home, you simply have to buy an airline ticket and leave.

It appears that DHS did have a plan in the works, US-VISIT, to confirm the exit of people who are supposed to be leaving the U.S. when their visas expire. That effort has been abandoned.
As the Washington Post reported this morning:

US-VISIT is designed to detect criminals, suspected terrorists and visitors whose visas have expired by recording travelers' fingerprints and digital photographs when they enter and exit the United States. Having spent $1.7 billion since 2003, Department of Homeland Security officials say they have successfully recorded 61 million people entering the country through 115 airports, 15 seaports and 154 of 170 land ports.

But they cannot build an exit tracking system without spending "tens of billions" of dollars more and an additional five to 10 years developing the technology.

The program would also cause major traffic tie-ups at land crossing points. We simply cannot try to enforce our temporary visas; it would be too inconvenient and expensive. Keep in mind we spend "tens of billions" every month in Iraq.

For those of you who read here regularly, you know that I strongly believe that the reason why we do not have an effective immigration policy is simply because we do not want to have one. This is further evidence of that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A rare thing

This article from today's Washington Post details something that almost never happens: an employer has been charged for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. Ironically, it was the Golden State Fence Company. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This the same company that helped build part of the 14-mile fence between San Diego and Tijuana in the late 1990s. It's safe to say that the wall ever does get built on our southern border (and I sincerely hope it does not), it is likely that undocumented workers will build it.

Here are the details of the story:
Mel Kay, the company's founder, chairman and president, and Michael McLaughlin, another executive, agreed to plead guilty to charges of harboring illegal aliens. Kay will pay $200,000 and McLaughlin will forfeit $100,000.

The deal included jail time, but the length of the terms was not immediately known.

Jail time is unusual in such cases and the fines were thought to be among the largest. Last year, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into use of illegal immigrants at stores in 21 states.

It is extremely rare for a company to be criminally charged with hiring illegal immigrants, said Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., a group that advocates tighter immigration controls.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When worlds collide

Undocumented immigration is a problem. Identity theft is a problem. These are two problems we definitely do not want to build on one another--and it looks like they already have.

The big immigration news today is that ICE busted six meat packing plants yesterday, arresting the undocumented workers for, are you ready? Identity theft. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that this has not happened sooner, or more likely, that ICE has not caught on to this sooner. The reason? There are huge flaws in the main program employed by the government to help employers authenticate workers' identification document. For years, undocumented workers would show up with fake social security cards and matching IDs. They were expensive, but the reality was, no one was watching too closely. The current immigration system gives a wink and a nod to employers who hire undocumented workers, and all the employer has to do is say the checked the ID, and it looked okay.

The weak government ID requirements and poor coordination with the Social Security Administration have allowed undocumented workers to use fake IDs for decades. Things started to get dicey, however, when when workers file their income taxes, and so many do. They do this because in many cases, they have deductions coming to them. However, the IRS is considerably better at ferreting out forged documents than ICE, so they usually report back to the filer that their social security number is invalid, and they are not eligible for refunds. So, what's the next best thing? Using a legitimate social security number that belongs to someone else! I have to admit, there are horrifying implications here. What if even a fraction of the 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S. decided they'd like to by stolen identification? Does anyone else out there see that this is a business "opportunity" that we do not want to give to identity thieves.

The other significant issue that came from this wide-spread raid is this: the workplace is just as significant, perhaps more so, as the border in addressing undocumented immigration. It's a sad state of affairs, however, when the meat packers are not held responsible for their actions as well. In yesterday's raids, not one employer was arrested or fined, which means that the workers who replace those who were arrested yesterday are very likely to be...

(can you guess?) Undocumented.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Immigration in the News

The 109th Congress ended yesterday with barely a rustle. It's also the holiday season, so there has been little news on the immigration front. Still here are a few of the top stories circulating the nation:

Texas Governor Rick Perry pushes guest worker program and I.D.s
Mr. Perry, entering his second term as the Republican governor of Texas, is now emphasizing
federal officials should work toward providing I-D cards for immigrant workers that will allow them to freely cross the border. This plan would emphasize the "rule of law," and not reward those who break the law. This is a significant change for Mr. Perry, who is now more vocal about immigration than he was during his campaign. He said he would, "rather know who it is that crosses our border legally to work than not know who it is that crosses our border illegally to work."

Mr. Perry sounds like a seasoned Texan, meaning he's had to deal with immigration and undocumented border crossings long enough to have become a realist about the issue and how to address it.

Century Foundation Study: No Federal Action is Forcing States to Act
...and over-react. This study was widely cited last week, although the findings are less that earth-shaking. The rapid growth of immigrant communities in new destinations (those outside the U.S. Mexico borderlands) has forced state and local governments to tackle immigration problems, especially since the federal government has done nothing signficant to address the issues.
The study analyzed immigration politics in North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. You can find the full study at

Immigrant Voices
This article from Friday's Washington Post highlights an exchange program at Georgetown Day School with Annandale High (in Northern Virginia).
These emissaries from the
Annandale High School Hispanic Leadership Club faced a crowd they feared would be intimidating -- a few hundred students from the prestigious Georgetown Day School in Northwest Washington. Students at the private school have been studying immigration, and the Annandale teenagers are living it. So they came together for a town hall meeting in Georgetown Day's bright atrium.

Georgetown Day students listened as Carlos told of how his mother was pregnant with him when his parents slipped across the U.S.-Mexico border by jumping fences and hiding in sewers. Silvina Orellana, 16, said that her father was deported to her native Argentina and that she hopes he can come back someday. Before long, the teenagers were chatting freely about stereotypes, homecoming games and college plans.

The article goes on to explain that, once the students started chatting, they found they had a lot in common, and in some instances, promised to stay in touch. Bringing these students together was a simple plan that did much to further understanding about immigrants and their lives here in the U.S. Other school districts would do well to follow Georgetown Day's example.

Back in the Saddle

Dear Readers,

The worst part of the end-of-semester storm is now behind me, so I'm back to the blog. Stay tuned for an immigration update and a run-down on the best (and worst) websites for retirees who are looking for information about living in Mexico

Monday, December 04, 2006

Could you become a citizen?

It's a fair question, given the nation's anti-immigrant sentiment. Just how informed are the native born among us about the way our government works? As Borat might say,"Not so good."

The Washington Post has carried two articles on the new citizenship test. The first was printed on 12/1/06, and reports that the new 144 citizenship test questions are intended to help naturalized Americans understand how our system of government works. That's important not only for naturalized Americans, but the native born as well.

Which is why this morning's article, where a Post reporter went around asking the same citizenship questions of average American citizens, is both humorous and sad. It is also quite revealing. What the reporter realized is that a majority of the people he spoke with could not pass the test.

It might be time for Americans (the native born) to take a refresher in American civics. I certainly could not hurt the nation if we all better understood our constitution and the way the government is supposed to work.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Information on day laborers in Herndon

The site linked here is the official webpage of Herndon's Vice Mayor Dennis Husch. It provides links to the local and national news coverage surrounding the day-labor center controversy. The main page "Cyber Advisory Committee 2006-08" provides information about the town council.

Friday, December 01, 2006

'Tis the Season

For final exams, final papers, loads of grading, panicked students, and general chaos.

I'll be away from the blog for at least a week until I get my semester tied up. When I get back I'm going to do a comprehensive review of websites and information on retirement in Mexico.

until then,


Got false documents?

I know one place where they are no longer available here in Northern Virginia. Robert T. Schofield, a supervisor with Homeland Security in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, pleaded guilty yesterday to providing hundreds of undocumented immigrants false documents. Mr. Schofield made up to $10,000 per immigrant on these transactions, which the Washington Post reports most of his transactions were with Asian immigrants.

Unfortunately for Mr. Schofield, this is not his first brush with inappropriate behavior on the job. He was also reprimanded for having an "inappropriate relationship" with a woman connected to an INS criminal probe. He fled the U.S. after he was confronted about the relationship, then he proceeded to make $36,000 worth of unauthorized purchases on his government-issued credit card.

All of this should lead to some serious evaluations of the way that Homeland Security operates and its supervisors are supervised; in most of the low profile government agencies, simply making unauthorized purchases on the government-issued credit card is grounds for dismissal.

Mexicans and the U.S. Labor Force

The Migration Policy Institute released a new report yesterday on Mexicans and the U.S. labor force. The most arresting finding in the report is that 1 in 7 Mexican workers (or 14% of the labor force) is employed in the U.S. Other facts include:
▪ Mexican workers tend to be young men: About 77 percent of Mexican workers in the United States were under the age of 45 in 2006, and 70 percent of Mexican workers were men (compared to 52.5 percent of native-born workers).
▪ Mexican men had the highest labor force participation rates of both foreign-born and native-born groups in the United States in 2006, at 88.2 percent, while Mexican women had the lowest, at 47.3 percent.
▪ Only 5.8 percent of Mexican workers over 25 had a bachelorÂ’s degree or higher in 2006, compared to 30.6 percent of all foreign-born workers and 32.8 percent of native-born workers.
▪ Nearly one in three employed Mexican-born people (29.1 percent) worked in service occupations in 2006. In the same year, nearly 23 percent of Mexican-born workers were employed in the construction industry, more than twice the percentage of all foreign-born workers, and three times that of native workers.
▪ Mexicans living and working abroad sent home an estimated $20 billion in remittances in 2005, most of which came from the United States. These remittances equaled 2.8 percent of Mexico;s GDP and accounted for nearly 40 percent of the total $53.6 billion in remittances to Latin America.

2006's Top 10 Immigration Issues

Okay, end of semester or not, I can't keep away from the blog.

It doesn't help that there has actually been some news on immigration of late. The above link will take you to the Migration Policy Institute's website and a list of the top 10 immigration issues for 2006 (world wide). They include:

assimilation is replacing multiculturalism as a dominant paradigm of immigrant incorporation

US Immigration Reform: Better luck next year

All about Borders. Well, actually only the U.S.-Mexico Border. To the north we act as if we do not have one. The point is that as a nation we have become fixated on the border as the location of the solution for our immigration problems.

State and local governments respond to Immigration. Mainly as a response to failed national policies, localities like Hazleton, PA have enacted their own legislative "solutions" to immigration.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Day laborers in New Jersey

This op-ed from (a collection of articles from the NJ Herald News and The Record) discusses the problem of day laborers in North Jersey. New Jersey does not have official day labor centers. Instead, they have "muster zones," public property where men and women can congregate and wait for someone to hire them.

What is remarkable about this piece is its honesty. The author is frank about the fact that he would not want to live near a muster zone, nor would he be comfortable if his children were out playing near the sites where day laborers congregate. But he also understands that American citizens also benefit from undocumented immigration, and that this is a federal problem that effects local municipalities. As such, localities should not be trying to limit undocumented immigration or enforcing federal immigration law. He writes,
Municipalities should be pro-active in finding locations for hiring halls and muster zones that do not threaten the quality of their lives or put children in a perceived risk. Municipalities should also heavily fine and prosecute landlords who repeatedly violate zoning laws. Twelve people in an apartment is not an immigration issue, it's a public safety issue.

This op-ed is typical of many I've been reading from around the country since the elections. It is honest and well-reasoned. I do not agree with every point made here, but it points to a hopeful future for comprehensive immigration reform.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Will immigration harm America's Environment?

One of the more curious arguments against immigration I've come across is that it will harm the U.S. environment. Natural resources are limited, the argument goes,and adding more people will force the nation to build more houses, roads, schools, and eventually deplete our water and energy supplies. Droughts will ensue, then famine. Our cities will look like the gigantic cities of the developing world: there will be no clean water, we'll be wheezing from the air pollution, and raw sewage will run in the streets.

It's not a pretty picture.

This morning's Washington Post features an article on John Tanton (pictured above). Mr. Tanton has been fighting immigration for three decades now. He is 72 and a retired country doctor. In the last 30 years he has formed, led or contributed to more than a dozen groups that promote strict immigration limits. The Southern Poverty Law Center declared that "John Tanton...can claim without exaggeration that he is the founding father of America's modern anti-immigration movement."

That is not intended as a compliment.

His efforts have been tireless, but like other anti-immigrant activists (as I have been writing since the mid-term elections), he has given the impression that he is merely at the center of a ground swell of grassroots movements against immigration. In reality, his critics note, he is a masterful illusionist, making his one-man effort appear to be the will of many.

My issues with Mr. Tanton, and those who are alarmed by the immigration-environment connection is this: why are we afraid immigrants will destroy our environment when we're doing a pretty good job right now? How can immigrants be the problem when we allow developers to build cities in deserts when we know there are limited water supplies, and that eventually, such growth is unsustainable?

The truth is, our native population is doing a fine job destroying America's environment, and unless we check our own behaviors now, immigrants won't have anything to destroy. We should not simply argue against immigration reform because of the potential danger is poses to the environment. We should consider how our current failed immigration system influences many aspects of American life, and we should reform that system because it is failing all of us.

We should also drive less, consume less, and conserve more. To blame immigrants for our environmental problems (current or in the future) is simply absurd.

Herndon, again

The Washington Post, facing a very slow week (news wise) has returned to the issues surrounding Herndon's Day Labor Center, literally. Taking a human interest approach, but not looking at the actual people who are effected by the day labor center (immigrants), the article examines the DeBenedittis family, who are tragically "cast as adversaries" in the midst of the debate.

Here's the deal: Herndon's mayor, Stephen J. DeBenedittis, is squarely against immigration. He ran on an anti-immigrant platform, wants to eliminate the day labor center, and as he said in an earlier WP article, wants to "return Herndon to its roots." He has never been specific about what "roots" he wants to return to, but given his anti-immigrant tone, one can only assume is try to make it a Anglo farming community again. Mr. DeBenedittis has three siblings, one of whom works at the controversial day labor center, Jennie Albers. Caught in the middle is their father, Tony DeBenedittis, who is trying to stay neutral. So what we have here is a family disagreement. All sides, according to this article, insist there is no animosity in the family because the DeBenedittis siblings find themselves on opposite ends of the debate.

Why is this news?

As far as I can tell, it's not. This article does nothing to advance the public's knowledge of Herndon or the immigration debate. It does tell us a bit about the DeBenedittis family: the Dad seems like a nice guy, the sister appears to be an admirable humanitarian, the bother/mayor, well, let's leave it at "nothing new" here. To be honest, the public does not need to know about the inner workings of the DeBenedittis family, because it does not matter.

Here's a recommendation for the Post reporters: why not talk to the people who really are the center of this controversy: the day laborers themselves. Those of the voices that get overlooked in this debate, and they are the ones that we desperately need to hear.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mexicans in South Carolina

This article from the Charleston Post and Courier highlights a study of South Carolina's Mexican population. The study, undertaken by the University of South Carolina's Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies spent 2 years interviewing some 200 Mexican immigrants in the state.

Among the more surprising results from the study:

The immigrants were older than we expected and more educated. Mexican males had an average of nine years of education. Unlike Georgia, where most Mexicans have migrated from other parts of the country, the state's Mexican immigrants are coming to South Carolina directly from Mexico. This is particularly relevant because the state has the nation's fastest growing Latino population.

In other respects, the Mexican population parallels other growing Mexican populations in new and diverse places outside the U.S. borderlands. Most of the interviewees stated that they hoped to return to Mexico to live, and many have wives and children living in Mexico.

Like other studies of immigrants, this study also found that most Mexican immigrants in South Carolina want to learn English.

This study is an important contribution to the knowledge of Mexican enclaves in the eastern U.S. My forthcoming book, Beyond the Borderlands, examines a population of Mexican settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful for Immigrants

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and giving thanks. When I woke up this morning, I thought about the things I am thankful for: my husband and wonderful children, my extended family (and that we live close to one another), my job at a great university, and my supportive friends and neighbors. I am also thankful for America's immigrants. They touch my life, and all our lives, in ways that I know, and millions of ways that I will never know.

I'm also thankful for the volunteers who work with immigrants every day. For several years I volunteered with an organization, La Comunidad Hispana, in Kennett Square. My colleagues worked long hours, for salaries that were well below what they could have earned elsewhere, to assist the newly arriving immigrants and their families as they adapted to life in the U.S. It is not necessarily the efforts of the professional social service providers that reach out to our immigrants. This morning's Washington Post has a great feature article on Corey Meyers, a teacher at Arlington Virginia's Gunston Middle School. Ms. Meyers and her colleagues hosted a Thanksgiving luncheon this week to welcome new immigrant children and their families, and to introduce them to the American customs we associate with Thanksgiving.

So, as I prepare my contributions for my family's Thanksgiving dinner later this afternoon, I am also thankful for my fellow citizens who go out of their way to make our immigrants feel welcome here, and hope that others will follow their example.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mexico's Housing Boom

This article highlights a new service for retirees who are thinking about moving to Mexico. is a website that provides information on locations, real estate agents, and Mexican law to assist retirees in this process, which can be time consuming and confusing.

Based on the work I've done in San Miguel, however, I wonder how many people will actually use such a service. As I reported last summer, many retirees in SMA decided to move there on a whim, often buying their home during their first visit to town. Of course, SMA is not for everyone, particularly those who prefer beach front property. It may be more useful for retirees who are looking in less Americanized locations.

Immigration & American Opinion

Quinnipiac (Conn.) University just released the results of a nationwide poll on American opinions about immigration and immigration reform. The study was conducted in November and questioned 1,623 registered voters. The survey found that most American voters (69% versus 27%) favor a guest worker program for undocumented immigrants and allowing them to eventually work toward citizenship.

At the same time, those polled also want more border enforcement, as well as a means to keep undocumented workers from entering the country in the future, and 65% (versus 32%) also favored laws that would fine citizens for hiring undocumented workers.

This is certainly a positive development, as it will take a guest worker program and serious consequences for citizens who hire undocumented workers to make significant changes in our immigration system. What the survey did not ask, however, is how far Americans are willing to go to end the two-tier labor system that undocumented immigration fuels. A comprehensive and generous guest worker program that would give anyone who wants to look for work in the U.S. a legal right to do so, is probably the only way to truly end undocumented immigration.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kid Lockdown: Immigrant children and "proper" behavior

This interesting article from today's L.A. Times examines questionable rules put in place by apartment landlords who rent primarily to Latinos in California. The landlords have forbidden children from playing outside on the apartment common areas because they claim the children are unsupervised, litter, and sometimes destroy property (i.e., they damage shrubbery when they are playing soccer). When enacting these policies, landlords have fined families sums of $25 per incident when their children are committing the flagrant act of playing outside.

Okay, we all know that kids do things they should not from time to time. Even well-behaved children will occasionally damage things in the course of playing with their friends (or perhaps only my children do this?). Nevertheless, it is draconian to "ban" children from playing outside. If the landlords do not want their landscaping damaged, perhaps the answer is building a playground and creating open space that is designated as a "sand lot" for kids to play soccer and other team sports. Banning kids from playing outside is simply ridiculous.

Outside the Beltway: Immigration Op-ed

The op-ed section of major U.S. newspapers have overlooked immigration reform this weekend. Until the 110th Congress convenes next month, most of the arguments have been aired, now it's time to wait and see what (if anything) will happen next.

However, the op-ed pages of smaller regional newspapers are still writing about the issue, and the tone of these pieces offers an interesting look at the way that this issue has apparently turned across the nation. This article from the Palm Beach Post takes the interesting approach of looking at the border, not from the U.S. perspective, but from that of Mexico. It reports that last year Mexican authorities deported 232,157 illegal immigrants, most from Central America. The editorial goes on to suggest that instead of building fences, the U.S. should consider investment in the countries that send large numbers of immigrants north, with the goal of providing economic incentives to keep people from migrating in the first place.

Another op-ed of note was published in the Decatur Daily online (Decatur, Alabama). This piece is measured and well-reasoned, and takes the position the U.S. needs "thoughtful immigration reform." Imagine that, thinking about immigration reform before enacting it. What a concept. Seriously, this op-ed considers that central issues of the immigration debate, particularly the fact that the 12 million undocumented seem to be gainfully employed and that suggests that U.S. businesses need their labor.

These two opinion pieces are a far cry from the op-ed selections published in October and late November, which were more likely to bash immigrants than actually consider the issues. Such opinion essays suggest that opinions on immigration has changed, and that outside the beltway, citizens are ready to tackle this issue.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

From Pennsylvania: Time for Immigration Reform

This article published in the Centre Daily Times of Pennslyvania is a straightforward plea to the new congress: do not ignore immigration as you set your priorities for the 110th Congress.

So, this is a surprise?

Remember the presidential election two years ago, and how well the Republicans did with Latino voters? Remember that the President's brother, Jeb Bush, speaks Spanish fluently, and his wife is a Mexican-American? If you don't remember, don't worry. Two years can be a political lifetime, and according to this article in the Washington Post, the GOP has effectively destroyed their chances with Latino voters for now, and perhaps years to come.

The end result of the negative attack ads, where the party paraded nativist adds that blamed Latinos for job loss, crime (or worse, terrorism), being unAmerican and not adequately committed to the U.S., and otherwise ruining "our" country, is that now Latinos know that they cannot trust the GOP, and they spoke out in the mid-term election, coming out for the Democrats with between a 10-14% increase. In many cases, they probably shifted the election away from the GOP.

This election cycle Latinos learned a tough lesson about Republican politics: if they think it will win an election, they'll sell you out in a heartbeat. Even worse, they'll make you an enemy of the state, which is what many of the GOP candidates did in their anti-immigrant ads.

This might also be a good time to pause and remember the Census Bureau predictions for 2050: Latinos will be the majority population. If they are incorrect about this, as they were in 2000, then Latinos will most likely take the majority sooner. Imagine what will happen if that Latino majority is registered to vote.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

San Diego firm helps U.S. buyers find Mexican Real Estate

This article looks suspiciously like an advertisement in disguise, but it does discuss how much easier it is for Americans to buy property in Mexico. It also suggests that a person looking for a house in Mexico could easily do so on-line, but for heaven's sake DON'T DO THAT. Mexican real estate, and purchasing real estate, is a completely different process that what we're used to in the U.S. I have an older post on this subject {Educating SMA's future residents) that outlines the pitfalls of dealing with less than reputable real estate agents.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why the immigration issue didn't work (from the Weekly Standard)

This well crafted piece from Tamar Jacoby furthers many of the positions I've posted here in the last months. It comes down to this: nativism and xenophobia, the most extreme political positions against immigration, just do not convince the American middle that immigrants post the grave danger that the xenophobes and nativists believe they do.

The article also suggests that most Americans do not fear the immigrant "other," as many believed, but see these people as real men and women who contribute to our economy and help support our way of life. This may be the unspoken reason why anti-immigrant candidates lost so soundly last week.

Nativism & Vigilantism

I return today to the discussion of nativism, and will use an article from the Washington Post as an example of how nativism works in a contemporary context.

Nativism is a term that us used to the rage of emotions that are discernible as intense opposition or hostility toward an internal minority group based on its foreign or unAmerican heritage or connections. Nativism is a response that is more likely to emerge during times of increased immigration, such as the "classic era" of immigration," that took place between 1880 and the 1920s. Nativism is closely tied to feelings of nationalism and national identity; it draws upon broad cultural antipathies and ethnocentric judgments,and translates them into actions against people who are residents of the U.S., but are perceived as enemies of a distinctly American way of life.

Nativism has further been described as emanating from a deep cultural anxiety from a citizen population that worried that middle-class values would be inundated by immigrants that are moving into the U.S. in great numbers, and perceived to be inferior to the native population. This cultural anxiety, as it is referred to in the literature on the various responses to immigrant settlement, is the prevalent fear held in common by certain members of the citizen population, and often accompanies immigrant settlement in new and diverse places.

The article that I link here deals with nativism in the extreme. Roger Barnett, an Arizona rancher, is accused of holding an American family (of Mexican descent) hostage when he encountered them while they were on a deer hunting expedition. The court documents indicate that
the family said Barnett loaded an assault rifle and leveled it at the group, then harangued and abused the couple, their two daughters and the daughter of another family also named in the suit.

The apparent problem for Mr. Barnett and others who hold strong nativist positions, is that they assume that anyone who appears to be of Mexican descent, even when they are U.S. citizens, are potential "enemies" of his way of life. Nativism is not rational, but it is a phobic response to cultural and ethnic changes within American society that have resulted from immigration. What price will Mr. Barnett pay for acting out his fear? If he loses the civil lawsuit filled against him, it will be $200,000. He also has a criminal trial pending, however. If the outcome of that trial determines he violated the Mexican-American family's civil rights, it will cost him much more than cash.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Linking Immigration to Abortion?

This article from today's Washington Post is curious. It reports that a Republican-lead House Special Committee on Immigration panel in Mo. came to the conclusion that abortion is partly to blame for our immigration problems. How? Because women are ending pregnancies that could have produced more American workers.

The panel's report also says that "liberal social welfare policies" have discouraged Americans from working and have encouraged immigrants to cross the border illegally.

The Democrats on the panel refused to sign the report, calling it "delusional," but the Republican authors defended their position. Rep. Edgar G.H. Emery (R), the panel's chairman asserted,
We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers," he said. "You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers.

Following Rep. Emery's "logic," he is assuming that these 44 million potential workers would have be around to take the work today that is currently filled by undocumented workers. So, these Americans would be picking fruits and vegetables, cleaning the toilets at places like McDonald's and Disney World, mowing the grass and cleaning the houses of America's upper class. So, instead of importing an underpaid, disadvantaged workforce, the U.S. could have had the benefit of native-born workers filling those jobs, and life would be, what, better because of it?

It would be nice if political representatives could, just one time, address the immigration issues that we actually have to face rather than wasting their time (and our money) pontificating about issues that have no bearing on immigration whatsoever.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Proceeding with Caution

According to this morning's Washington Post, newly elected Democrats are hesitant to take up the issue of immigration reform. Fearing the issue is still too volatile, they sit poised to make the same mistakes that their Republican rivals made just months ago.

I think it is a good idea to take the time to debate the issue, and Congress should certainly hold hearings and talk to experts who have dedicated their lives to examining immigration, particularly the mistakes of the past. At the same time, stalling on making a decision about immigration simply because they're afraid of losing their majority (as the article suggests) is NOT what the nation needs right now. What we need is responsible leadership, and failing that, they are no better situated to win any more than their GOP brethren.

The news around the nation suggests that, although there will always be a loud minority that opposes immigration reform, the majority are ready to sensibly address it. This article from the Florida Times-Union looks at the perspective of employers in Florida who want to see major changes in national immigration policy. Similarly, many better informed citizens are becoming skeptical of what I refer to as the "fence fantasy," the dream that we can build a simple barrier with armed guards to keep people out. As long as their are jobs and employers wiling to hire them, undocumented immigrants will continue to come, regardless of the barrier.

To the newly elected Democrats I have only one message: proceeding with caution is fine, but you have to proceed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Up Next: Nativism

Going over the comments and e-mails I've received about the blog in the last month, it seems appropriate to dedicate upcoming posts to the topic of nativism. Many readers, particularly those who oppose immigrants and immigration reform, tend to use the word as if it were a positive attribution (i.e., patriotic, or pro navtive-born). I'll be away for several days for a family event, but will dedicate one or more posts on the term and its history vis-a-vis U.S. immigration history.

For now, I leave you with this link from American Heritage magazine, which discusses an earlier era of immigration to the U.S., the 1850s.

Bush moving forward on Immigration Reform

Clearly, immigration reform advocates see themselves as the biggest winners in the mid-term elections. This article from the Chicago Tribune outlines President Bush's plans for comprehensive immigration reform, including a temporary work visa program. The President assured President-elect Felipe Calderon of Mexico that he

would work for a "comprehensive" rewrite of U.S. immigration laws, including creation of a temporary-worker program for foreigners.

Immigration reform may end up being the one bright spot in Bush's second term.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Immigration Hardliners: Old News?

This article from the L.A. Times takes a look at Arizona's referendum on immigration, and concludes that residents are disillusioned with the hardline approach and want to see more nuanced and comprehensive solutions.

Laredo, Nuevo Laredo and the Border

This article from National Geographic discusses changing traditions in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo in light of increased border security.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Immigration and Society's "issues"

This article from Ruben Navarrette Jr. Outlines the major issues that should be discussed if the U.S. plans to have an honest immigration debate:
The country would have been better served by an honest discussion of matters indispensable to any meaningful debate of immigration policy:

Today's immigrants are not so different from those who came to America from Europe a century ago. The fact that the earlier wave came legally (there was no way to come illegally until the early 20th century, when Congress first took steps to limit immigration) didn't make them any more welcome at the time.

Then, as now, racism and nativism were intrinsic parts of the discussion whether or not people were willing to admit it.

Illegal immigration is a self-inflicted wound. Local municipalities complain about the cost of providing education, health care and other services to illegal immigrants and their children.
But they should at least be honest about the benefit their communities derive from the availability of cheap labor, which, in many cases, keeps local economies humming.

Despite popular misconceptions, Hispanic immigrants and their children, indeed, are assimilating just as they have been for generations. According to recent studies, they learn English and lose Spanish, adopt the common culture and shared values, and become Americanized.

Our dependence on illegal immigrant labor, combined with the fact that most of the job displacement has occurred with younger workers, confirms what Americans suspected: that, along with modern-day advances, our native-born young people don't have the work ethic they did a generation or two ago and that illegal immigrants pick up the slack.

Despite talk about the impact that illegal immigration has on working-class Americans, the untold story is the effect that illegal immigrants have on those in the middle and upper class. Illegal immigrants let Americans fulfill their earning potential while making accessible to the middle class what used to be considered luxuries reserved for the wealthy, such as nannies and maids.

And lastly, you can't control illegal immigration without cracking down on employers and you can't crack down on employers without going after the "casual user."

The day after our historic election, it is good to see article like this that begin the discussion. Readers, I'd be interested to know what you think of Navarrette's list.

The Weekly Standard the Morning After

I turn again to Fred Barnes for analysis of the post-election (GOP) post-mortem:

Already the wails of the immigration restrictionists are rising, insisting Republicans lost because they weren't tough on keeping illegal border-crossers out. Not true. The test was in Arizona, where two of the noisiest border hawks, Representatives J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, lost House seats. Graf lost in a seat along the Mexican border, where illegal immigrants flock.

What Americans want is a full-blown solution to the immigration crisis. And that will come only when Republicans come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program. If Republicans don't grab this issue, Democrats will.

Immigration was a big failure of Republicans over the past two years...

As I mentioned earlier today, it is time the nativist hardliners gave up their destructive rhetoric and accept the reality of a changing (and changed) America. If the folks along the border, who have to live with the realities of undocumented immigration in their faces everyday, turned their backs on the "enforcement only" strategies of the last congress, then the rest of the nation should take note. Short term stunts, like fences and border webcams, will not stop undocumented immigration, nor will it stop time, transporting us back to the era before immigration.

Another noteworthy point: 75% of all Latinos who voted yesterday voted Democratic. That should not be a surprise, but it should a wake up call for all concerned.