Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bush on Immigration Reform

This is an interesting article that outlines the President's bold immigration reform package that is woefully unpopular with most in his party. The author outlines the Bush immigration plan and poses the following question: will the President do the right thing [on immigration] or do the thing that gives his party the political advantage?

Courts Block Hazleton's Anti-immigrant Laws

Last month I blogged about the local laws proposed in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. All were designed to discourage undocumented immigrants from living in town. Judge James Munley (U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania) issued a temporary restraining order against the Hazleton City Council. This ruling prevents the town from enforcing its Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance.

One third of Hazleton's population (total 31,000) is Latino. The restraining order is in effect until November 14.

One Million and Counting (Americans in Mexico)

This article notes that the American retirement population is Mexico is growing quite rapidly, and changing things a bit too much.

Boomer Retirement Migration

This article on Boomer retirement looks at the new retirement community, the "active adult community," something that is being created in the U.S. and has some of the same features of places like San Miguel de Allende.

8% Decline in Border Arrests

This article from the Washington Post is a more comprehensive discussion in the "landmark" decrease in border arrests reported by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. As I noted last night, the number of apprehensions at the border says nothing of the number of people who are attempting to make it through, nor does it give an estimate of those who have made it through.

A point to remember: since Bush has been in office, there have a record low number of workplace raids to flush out undocumented workers. This is not because the numbers of undocumented workers in the U.S. is down, but that the administration did not make it a priority to raid workplaces in the first place.

Does anyone else smell political hype in the run-up to the mid-term election?

Herndon seeks leadership change at day-labor center

Just when I thought the immigration news was getting boring...

This morning's Washington Post reports that Herndon's Town Council is looking to change the management of the town's controversial day-labor center. This is, of course, a thinly veiled attempt to move the center out of town, one step at a time. The plan is to find a management company to run center like an employment agency, which will check each day-laborer's documents to ensure they are legally eligible to work in the U.S. At the same time, Herndon's leaders are looking for a new site for the center.

Here's the problem: 70-80% of those who hire the day-laborers are local residents looking for a handyman, according to the center's statistics. That means that even if Herndon's esteemed mayor, Stephen J. DeBenedittis, is successful at moving the center or effectively shutting is down, the local residents are going to continue to look for day-laborers, and the problem will most likely move to another ad hoc site, like the 7-Eleven.

Rather than harassing day-laborers, everyone Herndon's leadership could use their time more productively by focusing their efforts toward congress and pressing their representatives to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fence Folly

This NY Times article covers the three big deceptions associated with the border fence bill: 1) that a fence will be built; 2) that a fence will help; and 3) that the alternative Senate bill was weak, or an amnesty sell-out.

It really does pay to get the facts before you make up your mind about immigration issues. Comprehensive reform is what we need, the fence is pure folly.

Decline in Border Arrests

This Fox news article is one of several circulating the news that the border patrol apprehended fewer people last year. Arrests fell 8.4 % in fiscal year 2005, the first decrease since 2003. The decreased number of arrests took place after the border patrol added 1,900 agents to patrol the border.

I guess the obvious question is this: did the decrease in arrests necessarily mean a decrease in crossing? Or are the undocumented just slipping past the beefed up border patrol?

Homeland Security Chief Advocates Guest Worker Program

Michael Chertoff is quoted in this article advocating a guest worker plan. He notes that without a guest worker program, getting control of the border will be "very, very difficult."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bush throws GOP candidates a bone

Today President Bush will sign the Border Fence Bill in a ceremony that is likely to grap headlines and boost the lagging campaigns of many a GOP congressional race. Although he is rarely a voice of reason, the President nevertheless made a compelling case for his comprehensive immigration reform package and guest worker program, which he (correctly) believes would be more effective that throwing away $6 billion on a fence.

As I've noted before, it is unlikely that this project will be funded in any event.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How to Deal with your Community's Immigration Problem

This story from today's Morning Edition highlights a cross-border program in North Carolina. The Program, called Latino Initiative, sends local policy makers to the home communities of North Carolina's undocumented population so that they can better manage the immigration situation in their communities.

The bottom line: once local officials start heading south of the border, their perspectives on the immigration situation broaden, and they realize that there is very little a local official can do to stop undocumented immigration.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bribery on the Border

This L.A. Times article gives a comprehensive look at corruption on the U.S.-Mexico border. It seems that as border enforcement has increased, smugglers lure our border agents into looking the other way with generous bribes.

So much for fortifying the border.

Undocumented Children

Today's Washington Post ran this article on undocumented children who are detained along the U.S. Mexico border. The system that cares for the children, part of HHS, tries to reunite kids who have attempted to cross the border with their parents. In many cases, however, the parents or other relatives are undocumented, and are reluctant to risk getting apprehended and deported themselves. In many cases, the children stay at these centers and eventually have an immigration hearing and returned to their home country.

Like so many articles run by the Post on immigration, this one offers no perspective to the issue it reports. For instance, although the number of children attempting to cross the border has risen significantly in the last few years, it has been a long tradition for young men (from about age 13 on) to make their first trip to the U.S. for work, regardless of whether their fathers are working (or have worked) in the U.S. The significant change is the gender undocumented children. In the past, families would simply not allow daughters to try to cross the border, as it is much too dangerous.

It appears that the increased security at the border is actually encouraging young people to migrate. Once they make it into the U.S., the parents of these children are unlikely to go home for visits, because crossing the border has become very difficult. When their children are old enough to try the trip, they head north so that they can be with their parents.

The article also makes a passing comment about parents sending babies across the border with coyotes (who escort immigrants across the border). What they do not discuss is why someone would send their baby across the border. When I was living in Mexico in 1999, I met a woman who I will call Sylvia who had received papers for herself and all of her children, except for her infant daughter. Her husband had received amnesty in 1986 through the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and the family had waited seven long years to reunite. Despite the fact that they had worked with the system, the INS refused to make an exception for the baby, and told them they would have to wait possibly another 6-8 years for her documents. Given this option, Sylvia decided to send her infant daughter across the border with a cousin so that they could live together in the U.S. while waiting for the baby's papers. This man not be the reason why all parents send their infants across the border with coyotes, but my guess is that many are in this situation (otherwise, they would cross the border with the baby themselves).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Blog Hiatus

I'll be away to the American Folklore Society's annual meetings in Milwaukee, WI this week. I'll be back blogging on Monday October 23.

Mapping Nativism

I discovered the Center for New Community, an organization that tracks immigration issues and promotes human and civil rights, through this article in the Wall Street Journal. The interactive map I have linked here provides a state-by-state breakdown of identified nativist groups and their recent activities. Not surprisingly, nativism is on the rise in states and communities that have seen significant growth in their immigration populations.

The "Border" that divides Arizona

This photo from the NY Times Magazine is one of the borders that currently divides politics in Arizona. The cities pictured are Nogales, Sonora (in Mexico) and Nogales, Arizona.

The article linked here weaves through the complicated politics of immigration in Arizona.

Friday, October 13, 2006

300 Million and counting

This article from today's Wall Street Journal outlines the issues surrounding our population growth. Their conclusion: 300 million is not a problem, 400 million will be (when we reach that point in ~35 years).

The issue is not growth, which is a consistent characteristic of the American Republic, but the disparities that are likely to result in income, education, and ultimately, opportunities. Most of the newcomers are immigrants, and are poor and have less access to education and other opportunities. They are also likely to settle in concentrated areas within 50 miles of the coasts, which will exacerbate the problems we experience (but tolerate) now: sprawl, traffic, and congestion.

The other problem is the drain of our natural resources, most significantly water.

The WSJ nevertheless suggests that immigration and growth are positive, and reflect a thriving economy:

Most demographers and economists agree that the economy probably can handle the growth -- and may even need it. The U.S. population has grown 50% since 1967 when it hit 200 million. But the size of the economy, as measured by the production of goods and services, is up 217%.

Baby boomers are reaching age 60 at the rate of 8,000 a day and are leaving the labor force even faster. That retirement-age population will grow 120% over the next 35 years, while the working-age population that will be available to replace them is expected to increase just 20%.

In short, those immigrants are going to be paying my (and others') social security, and keeping economy moving forward. I'm not thrilled about the sprawl, but that's a problem we should be dealing with now, and regardless of how many people come to the U.S.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Culpeper Backs Off

It turns out that the hype we've been reading in the Washington Post about Culpeper and their anti-immigration proposals have been more of a one-man show than a broad community movement. Today's Richmond Times Dispatch reports that when Councilman Steve Jenkins put forth his proposals to hire enforcement officers to do bed inspections in the town's homes, his motion did not even receive a second from the Council.

This turn of events can be interpreted at least two ways. People in town, feeling the media pressure, have backed away from the nativist proposals. It is also entirely possible that the Post irresponsibly reported Mr. Jenkin's personal opinions as the opinions of the entire community.

Either way, Jenkins has vowed not to give up. The article notes that he has recommended that the Council hold a public hearing on illegal immigration, and he plans to ask council at next month's meeting to consider forming a task force to study the local impact of undocumented immigrants and he would like to see representatives from the court system, schools and hospitals serve on his proposed task force.

Based on his lack of support so far, it seems unlikely that Jenkins will have much success. Perhaps he should look for another scapegoat for his community's perceived problems.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Border Backfire

As we move into the final weeks before the November election, the polls suggest that in the key border states, the decision to take an enforcement only approach to immigration reform may cost the GOP seats.

In Arizona, Minuteman volunteer and Congressional candidate Randy Graf has consistently taken a hard-line enforcement approach to immigration reform. He assumed that frustrated voters in this border state would overwhelmingly support his approach.

It appears he may have miscalculated.

Graf's opponent, Gabrielle Giffords favors a comprehensive immigration reform, much like the one proposed by President Bush. Graf has been endorsed by John McCain, but the GOP cancelled roughly $1 million in planned television advertisements they had planned to run from Graf. At the moment, polls show Giffords pulling ahead slightly.

It appears the people who actually live next to the U.S.-Mexico border realize that a fence would not stem undocumented immigration, and would like to see a more comprehensive approach to the issue.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Immigrant Sanctuary

Allentown, Pennsylvania has decided to take the high road in the immigration debate. An ordinance was put forth before the city council to make Allentown a " city to be seen as a place where immigrants are welcome and have full civil rights." Similar proposals have been put forth in Erie, PA, Trenton, NJ and Princeton, NJ. The idea is to create an environment where the undocumented can apply for legal permanent resident status.

The Gringa Wireless

I was invited to participate on the Hilary and Friends broadcast on Washington Post Radio this morning. Joining me was F. Steve Jenkins of Culpeper, VA. I was happy to participate in the broadcast, although I would have preferred to have time to ask one follow-up question to Mr. Jenkins.

His position is this: undocumented workers have no right to live in the U.S., much less Culpeper. As such he feels justified in leading a movement against all Latinos in Culpeper. So this is my follow-up question: what does an undocumented Latino look like, and more importantly, how do you know that the Latinos in Culpeper are undocumented?

Walls of Doubt

This article from today's Washington Post furthers the argument that building a border fence is more akin to political folly than a solution for undocumented immigration:
"This is the feel-good approach to immigration control," said Wayne Cornelius, an expert on immigration issues at the University of California at San Diego. "The only pain is experienced by the migrants themselves. It doesn't hurt U.S. consumers; it doesn't hurt U.S. businesses. It only hurts taxpayers if they pay attention to spending on border enforcement."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Old Culpeper is Long Gone

I just got back from a long weekend in West Virginia. My friends have a lovely little cabin in the woods in Morgan County, and they generously let me use it for the weekend as a writer's retreat. I love Morgan County and it's county seat, Berkeley Springs. My husband and I used to spend weekends there just after we married, so for 20 years now it's been my get-away location of choice.

Sadly, things are changing all too quickly in Morgan County. Washingtonians who can no longer afford the high-priced suburbs are moving west in droves. Developers are buying up old farm properties or wooded acreage, cutting down trees and putting in subdivisions with tract housing. The countryside is not nearly as lovely as it once was, and the traffic on the weekends is noticeably worse than I remember when I was a newlywed. The people of Morgan County are putting up a honorable fight, placing little outhouses in their front lawns in an effort to "Keep Morgan County Rural." Like many of Morgan County's residents, I hate to see this little corner of West Virginia fall the the creeping sprawl of Washington, DC. I also know that the Morgan County of the late 1980s is gone, and there is no turning back.

It appears that Culpeper, VA is having similar growing pains. The Washington Post ran another article about growth in the community and how many of the long-term residents are frustrated with the in-migration of Northern Virginians, and the ways the town has changed as a result. One would expect Culpeper residents who value their small-town way of life would take a stand against rampant development, but they haven't. They've decided to take a stand against the town's small Latino population instead.

It's hard to imagine exactly what Culpeper's Councilman Steve Jenkins hopes to accomplish by going after Latinos in his community. As I blogged just a few weeks ago (Avoiding the Crowd: Immigrants and Zoning in Culpeper, VA), of Culpeper's 14,000 residents, only approximately 1000 are Latinos, making it clear that Latinos are not the source of change in this community. Nevertheless, Jenkins has decided that he cannot change the development patterns, but he can go after immigrants. The article reads,

Jenkins realizes that the moneyed arrivals from the north are not going anywhere. But maybe, he says, just maybe, something can be done about those from the south. "It's a much easier issue, because it's black and white," he says. "I don't get it when people say immigration is a gray issue. You're either legal, or you're not.

I disagree with Mr. Jenkins about dealing with immigration as an "easier issue." If it is so simple to deal with, why have we avoided doing just that? Immigrants are here illegally because they have no realistic means of becoming legal permanent residents or acquiring work visas, which is precisely why the U.S. needs comprehensive immigration reform.

Regardless of what he wants to accomplish, Mr. Jenkins needs to understand that harassing immigrants in his community won't turn back the clock. The Culpeper of his youth, much like the Berkeley Springs of my youth, is long gone. If he wants to preserve some semblance of small town life in Culpeper, he should focus his efforts where they might make a difference: working toward zoning laws in his county to preserve open space, talking to his neighbors about the benefits of land trusts, and lobbying Virginia's legislature to put the brakes on development state-wide.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Into the Wilderness

I'm off to a remote location in West Virginia for the holiday weekend. I'll be back blogging on Wednesday, October 11.

Please feel free to post comments in my absence, I will moderate and publish them when I return.

The Spell of San Miguel

This month's Atlantic features another "discovery of San Miguel" article. No new ground here, but it points out that as the city grows and becomes more agringado, it will appeal to more people like this author (monolingual and with little knowledge or experience of Mexico), and no doubt spur on emigration and settlement of retired gringos from the U.S.

Withering Border Fence

It looks like the border fence may become a no go even soon than I had hoped. An article in today's Washington Post reports that although Congress authorized the building of the border fence, they are not likely to pay for it. The report reads in part:

The fine-print distinction between what Congress says it will do and what it actually pays for is a time-honored result of the checks and balances between lawmakers who oversee agencies and those who hold their purse strings. ....In this case, it also reflects political calculations by GOP strategists that voters do not mind the details...

In short, the GOP leadership in Congress has managed to stir up xenophobic hysteria in an attempt to motivate their base, convinced that their constituents "do not mind the details."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Gringo Invasion, Part II

The news on U.S. immigration is slim today; nothing grabs the headlines a GOP pedophile sex scandal, I suppose.

Just to keep things interesting, I thought I would blog on this article from The Dallas Morning News, about the other immigration problem: the old gringos who are flooding into Mexico for retirement:

What few people – at least, outside of Mexico – have bothered to notice is that while all the nannies, cooks and maids have been heading north to tend the luxury lifestyles of irate Republicans, the gringo hordes have been rushing south to enjoy glorious budget retirements and affordable second homes under the Mexican sun.

Yes, in former California Gov. Pete Wilson's immortal words, "They just keep coming."

For those of you who are just tuning in, this blog has a two-fold purpose: to highlight current news and hopefully further the debate about U.S. immigration reform, and to consider the consequences of American emigration to Mexico. The U.S. State Department estimates that the number of Americans living in Mexico has soared from 200,000 to 1 million (or one-quarter of all U.S. expatriates) in the last decade. My fieldwork in San Miguel de Allende is part of a long-term study of this phenomenon. If you would like to take a look at my field diary from this past summer, follow the first link to the right.

More agriculture woes

This article from the St. Petersburg Times outlines expected labor shortages in Florida in the upcoming strawberry season.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Need a job?

It appears that the anti-immigrant moves within the U.S. are working, but alas, creating some unintended consequences. According to today's Washington Post, farmers in California cannot find enough laborers to pick their fall harvests. Why is it that able-bodied Americans have not rushed in to take advantage of these opportunities? Probably the same reason why citizens left farm labor years ago: it's back breaking work and pays poorly (and it always has).

Farmers quoted in the article explained the situation like this: as the border tightens and crossing becomes more dangerous, expensive and difficult, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit are reluctant to back to Mexico, fearing that will not be able to return when they want to do seasonal work. As an alternative, they settle in the U.S., take year-round jobs that pay more and are less laborious than farm work. These jobs include construction, landscaping, and hotel service jobs.

There are other industries that offer low barrier to entry work which pays well. These industries also depend on immigrant labor and, "are also concerned about the overall availability of labor given demographic trends…" and added, “But agriculture is the warning sign, if you will, of structural changes in the economy."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Border Patrol: Fences won't work

This brief article from the Washington Post outlines why a border fence is impractical and likely to fail as a deterrent for undocumented immigrants. The reasons? The border is lined with a number of dry creek beds along the Arizona-Sonora border, which are prone to flash floods during the rainy season. The barrier would also have to traverse the Huachuca Mountains and other craggy ranges west of Nogales, Arizona, where the the ravines and bluffs are inaccessible to cars and trucks. The fence is also likely to simply push immigrants and smugglers to other crossing points that will have less scrutiny.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hispanics and the 2006 Election

The Pew Hispanic Center today released a new fact sheet indicating the number of Hispanics that are over 18 years old and U.S. citizens, and thus eligible to vote in the upcoming election.

Here's the quick and dirty: the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 17 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in November, which is a 8.6 % of the total population of eligible U.S. voters.

Hispanics today constitute 14.5% of the total U.S. population. You can download the complete report from the link above.

Throwaway Lives

This three-part series from the Chicago Tribune explores the risks Latino workers in the U.S encounter on the job.

Another Perspective on Herndon

from the Op-Ed page of the Washington Post.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Illegal, but Essential

This article from today's L.A. Times highlights the realistic dilemma that the anti-immigration folks just do not want to acknowledge: undocumented immigrants are a driving force in the U.S. economy, and if they were to stop coming the economy would suffer. The author provides solid economic data regarding the net benefits of immigration for the U.S., and counters the argument that the undocumented take jobs from documented and native-born U.S. residents.

What will Herndon Accomplish?

Herndon, Virginia's Town Council has decided to move forward with ICE's Section 287(g), a program which will train local police to apprehend suspects who may be undocumented immigrants. The provision, yet another political stunt to beguile citizens into thinking that something fruitful is being accomplished with the nation's immigration enforcement, has succeeded only in frightening Herndon's immigrant population, according to this article in today's Washington Post.

What will this move accomplish? Some of the undocumented residents who now reside in Herndon may move into other communities that are not so hostile toward immigration and ethnic diversity, but Herndon cannot turn back the clock, nor can their local police stop the demographic shift that has been taking place in the nation for the last 25 years. They can harass their Latino neighbors, they can frighten them and compel them to move on, but anyone who has been following the Herndon controversy knows that some of the residents there have been able to accomplish all of this without employing 287(g).