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.

Nativism Won't Win an Election

I've been watching Vernon Robinson's congressional campaign in North Carolina for several months now. One of my former students, now a North Carolinian, sent me a link to one of his political ads several months ago, and it was one of the most distasteful things I've ever witnesseed.

Basicallly, Mr. Robinson uses a number of nefarious strategies: he attempts to pit African Americans against Latinos ("you needed that job, but they gave it to an illegal alien"), to stir up nativistic fears among Anglos (with a Bilingual Only Help Wanted sign), and to intimate that Latinos come to the U.S. to burn the flag and molest children.

I considered doing a blog on some of the worst anti-immigrant ads used this election season, but in the end decided against it because I did not want to give these candidates any additional exposure. I am blogging this morning, after Mr. Robinson and many of his nativist fellows have found themselves shut-out (Robinson lost his election to Brad Miller by a landslide). Of course, this gives me hope. Hope that we can begin a substantial immigration debate in the country that is not motivated by a GOP that wishes only to manipulate the electorate. It also gives me hope that in this new era of immigration, more Americans have warmed to the idea of immigration, and more importantly, their immigrant neighbors.

It's Morning in America

Now that the elections have ended, I'm pleased to say that not only is it extremely likely that the U.S. will get an immigration reform law, the country has the opportunity to move in a new direction. I'm not naive, I just hope that the Democrats can get their act together, have a plan, and can take this opportunity and run with it.

But first things first. Bush is now not only a lame duck, he is going to spend the rest of his presidency in the proverbial hot seat. He has accomplished nothing with his second term, and immigration reform is his last chance to not only do something, but to do the right thing, before he leaves office.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

From the Weekly Standard

That's right, I read the Weekly Standard.

I have to admit, Fred Barnes, although a bright guy, disappoints me when he calls for more tax cuts, knowing that the country is going bankrupt. I've learned to lower my expectations.

The real substance of this article is Mr. Barnes take on immigration reform. He believes that the GOP could have hammered out a plan, coupling additional border security with a guest worker program AND a plan for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to "earn" citizenship.

Alas, it was not to be. As Mr. Barnes notes, "In the end, Republicans raised the immigration issue, touted it as a national crisis, stirred the nation's interest, then failed to come to grips with it." Although he does not state it directly, Barnes suggests that, in the end, stirring nativist hysteria will not serve the GOP well when the polls close tonight.

I can only hope he's correct.

Latinos flock to polls in response to Immigration Issues

This article outlines recent data that suggest that the immigration debate has pushed more Latinos to the polls than in past elections.

Immigration Reform: Views from South of the Border

This article published today on the Washington Post on-line edition considers the importance of immigration reform from a Mexican perspective.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Punitive Immigration Laws: An international perspective

This London-based immigration site gives an overview of the most punitive local immigration laws either passed or under consideration in the U.S.,and also describes the response by civil and human rights groups to these legislative actions.

Hispanic Voters: the Swing?

Hispanic voters could play a key role in four states where the the races are close. Analysts are watching the elections in Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey and Florida to see what difference this voting bloc might make.

Ibero-American Summit

This report from the Washington Post considers the position of Latin American leaders regarding U.S. and European immigration policies. The consensus is that there should be more efforts to develop economic opportunities in Latin American countries, as well as a comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.

Tales from the Chicken Bus

I would recommend that you check out David Argen's blog Tales from the chicken bus. He's a journalist that writes on a variety of issues, including expatriate retirement to Mexico. He's based in Guadalajara.

Suffering Fools

This Op-Ed by Fareed Zakaria was republished in the print version of today's Washington Post. His argument is clear and straightforward: 2/3 of all American favor immigration reform, even an amnesty/guest worker program for those who are here and currently undocumented. Immigration provides overall benefits to the economic situation of all Americans, even those who are unskilled and/or at the lower end of the wage scale.

The problem, a small vocal (I would add prone to hysterics) minority have managed to hijack the discourse on immigration, stalling any hopes of reform.

The good news? It is likely that tomorrow our congress will look much different from the one that adjourned in September. That shift, along with President Bush's desire to craft comprehensive immigration reform, make a legislative overhaul more likely.

Mr. Zakaria suggests that its time to stop suffering fools. The majority needs to push back on those who shamelessly use immigrants to their political advantage and the nativists who are afraid of cultural and ethnic difference. Immigration is a benefit for all Americans. Its time it has been acknowledged as such.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Voters Split on Immigration

For most of the U.S., the Mexico border is a distant place that most of us will rarely experience. This article from the El Paso Times (a major Texas border town) discusses the use of local law enforcement for immigration violations, and emphasizes that the town of El Paso is split regardling whether or not this is a good idea.

Long Journey Home

This story tells of an America that I remember from my youth. It also tells of an America today, but for very few. It is American as I would like it to be.

This Washington Post piece chronicles the days after 44 year-old Oscar Antonio Argueta, a documented immigrant and day-laborer, died suddenly in his home in Northwest Washington. It tells how his community here in the U.S. arranged to send him back to his parents in El Salvador for burial. They are much too poor to spare the money, but making a sacrifice, they believe, is the right thing to do. He was a faithful partner to his girlfriend, a beloved father to his son, and well respected compaƱero to his fellow day-laborers.

I wish this nation had more communities like Oscar Arguenta's. I remember having a community much like this as a child growing up in West Virginia. Like this group of immigrants, we cared about one another, supported one another in our times of need. We also talked to and spent time with each other. Today, in my affluent suburban neighborhood, we barely have time to say hello. Is my neighbor ill? suffering a job loss or depression? I do not know.

This is why, when I read about the folks in places like Herndon, VA and Hazleton, PA, I think, "I wish I lived next door to those people," but I don't mean those nasty American citizens who think a productive use of their time is spent hating and alienating their neighbors. I wish those day-laborers were my neighbors. They know what "community" and "family" means, and are willing to make the sacrifices to keep their communities and families together. In fact, I wish American looked more like this immigrant community, and I hope that as immigrants settle and incorporate themselves into our nation, they are able to make this mark on our lives. We desperately need it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Immigration Reform: Looking Back

This unusual article from the Chicago Sun-Times considers today's immigration debate in the context of the first true U.S. immigration reform acts of 1921 and 1924.

Border Film Project

This article describes the Border Film Project, an organization that hands out disposable cameras to immigrants and Minutemen alike (along with a postage paid envelope) create a photo diary of life on the U.S. Mexico border.

The project is remarkable in that it provides rarely viewed images of what it is like to cross the border from the migrant's perspective. The photos are poignant and at times, disturbing, but well worth your time.

The Minutemen photos are predictably narcissistic: pictures of mainly middle-age men sitting on chairs, watching. There are no photos of immigrant sightings or actual apprehensions, but the Minutemen seem to enjoy passing the time drinking beer.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Gamble: Delaying Immigration Reform

This article from the magazine Hispanic Business considers the possibility of backlash for Republicans and Democrats who failed to pass an immigration reform bill this fall. The article cites a Time Magazine poll that identified 68 % of Americans believe that illegal immigration into the United States is a "very serious" problem. Similarly a Pew Hispanic Center poll identified nearly 50 percent of their respondents said that undocumented immigrants threaten traditional American customs and values and are a "burden on the country." In addition, the article notes that many people are alarmed that nearly 12 million unauthorized immigrants now live in the United States, and that their numbers are increasing by nearly 1 million per year, which is five times as many undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1980s.

Republicans made a gamble in the last congressional session that the voters taking the hardest line on immigration are already Republican. Hard line tactics like the border fence and increase border security, the conventional wisdom goes, may not win votes, but it is likely to keep Republicans faithful and will encourage them to get to the polls.

Ironically, neither party seems to be paying much attention to is the Hispanics vote, estimated at 6% of the total U.S. voting population. This group of voters may not have a strong affiliation with either party. But the Republican hardball approach, coupled with the fact that so many conservative pundits are not shy about expressing their nativist positions, may turn Hispanic voters away from the GOP permanently.

The Border--online

The Minuteman Project has to be happy about this.

The state of Texas has put a live webcam of the U.S. border on the internet so that ordinary citizens can "monitor" it and then call in any suspicious activity, according to today's Washington Post. The cameras focus in on border "hot spots" that are known sites of illegal activity. You can go to the site right now at Texas Border Watch.

This is one in a series of projects that I affectionately refer to as the "rat hole" that the federal government employs to waste tax dollars in order to give Americans the impression that they are doing something about immigration when, in fact, they are doing anything they can to avoid ending the two-tier labor system that has been in place in the U.S. for over forty years. Businesses like an inexpensive, pliable workforce that has limited rights and can be disposed of at will. Common citizens like cheap groceries, landscaping and housekeepers. The problem is, as a nation we just don't want to have to see the immigrants who perform these services outside of the workplace, and we certainly do not want them to live among us. Isn't nativism grand?

Happy surveillance!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Immigration Crackdown

This article from the Christian Science Monitor gives more detail to the Altanta ICE crackdown that lead to ICE agents harassing U.S. citizens because they looked undocumented. The court case, which alleges that ICE officials "used 'Gestapo-like tactics' as part of a deliberate campaign of fear ordered by the Department of Homeland Security."

The sad reality about this raid, and other localized tactics that are designed to terrorize and aliente the undocumented, is that they also distupt the day-to-day lives of the citizens and legal permanent residents or anyone who might look like a Latino. The more serious issue is that ICE officers are accused of violating the civil rights of the undocumented and citizens alike. And while undocumented workers are violating federal law,
current federal workplace rules give anybody who is employed and drawing a paycheck certain protections, no matter their residential status.

What does an Undocumented Person look like?

That's the question that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Atlanta might want to start asking themselves. It seems that ICE officials arrested and harassed five U.S. citizens in Atlanta on Sept. 1 as part of a raid on a poultry processing plant, and are being sued for their nefarious behavior, which included pulling a Texas-born woman from her car and insisting that she was really Mexican.

No one should be treated like this, and the heavy-handed tactics documented in the case suggests that ICE officers need to reassess their John Wayne bravado when they are trying to apprehend undocumented workers.

Hazleton's Future?

This photo, of an abandoned store front in Hazleton, PA, may be a sign of things to come. This article from CNN highlights the controversy in the town, as well as provides an overview of the judge's ruling that temporary restraining order preventing the town from enacting its anti-immigrant legislation.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Immigration: the Real Issues

This article from the San Diego Union-Tribune is one of the best all-around immigration articles I've read of late. One thing is certain, the folks in California have been dealing with the immigration issue much longer than the rest of the U.S., and as such are less likely to become embroiled with the nonsense issues that seem to plague national discourse on the issues.

The major points:

  • Today's immigrants re not so different from those a century ago (in fact, neither is the native response to immigrants).
  • Racism and nativism are implicit parts of our discussions, even if we don't want to admit it.
  • The coup de grace of the article: illegal immigration is a "self-inflicted wound." We have an illegal immigration problem because we like having a pliable workforce to do the dirty work of the nation. Although local municipalities like to complain about the cost of providing education, health care and other services to illegal immigrants and their children, they should at a minimum be honest about the net gain their communities derived from abundant cheap labor. This ready supply of low-skilled workers keeps local economies growing, as the author notes, in places like Pheonix, Dallas, and Las Vegas, but this is no less true in Herndon, Virginia, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and most of North Carolina.

Immigrants, neighbors, & fellow citizens

In late August I blogged about Hazleton's then proposed laws that were designed to pressure undocumented residents to leave the town ( see Better "dead" than Latino? ). At the time, I predicted that the laws would have a negative effect on all Latinos in the community, and would perhaps drive Hazleton back into its days a dying former mining town.

This article from the Houston Chronicle outlines the changes that the proposed ordinances have had on local businesses, particularly those businesses owned and operated by legal permanent residents (for those readers who are rabidly anti-immigrant, I am referring to the people who have worked their way through the system). And, as I predicted, these laws have changed the nature of the community, so that all Latinos, regardless of their legal status, feel unwelcome. As Elvis Soto (a 27 year-old legal resident who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic a decade ago) remarked, "Before, it [Hazleton] was a nice place. Now, we have a war against us. I am legal but I feel the pressure also."

The anti-immigrant hostility in Hazleton is directed like a blunt force against every Latino in the community, not just the undocumented. The long-term consequences of this hostility will no doubt damage community relations. Perhaps the families who have settled in Hazleton will move on, leaving it to its former legacy as a dying town.

One thing is for certain, American nativism will have long-term consequences beyond Hazleton. The immigrants who live in the U.S. (legally or not) are part of our national community. They may become citizens themselves, or (like my own Italian grandmother) will be the parents and grandparents of citizens even if they decline the opportunity to naturalize.