Saturday, September 30, 2006
Just as they were heading out for the mid-term election recess, the Senate passed legistlation that will authorize the construction of a 700 mile double layer fence along sections of the U.S. Mexico border. This measure is but one bad decision of many, an act that will make the U.S. immigration problems go from bad to worse. To be fair, that's only if you're looking at the results of the beefed-up border enformcement that began in the mid 1980s. If you're not fussed about the small issues like, will it actually work, you probably won't see a problem here.
Since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Congress has taken steps to fortify our borders with more border patrol agents, more fencing, and more penalities for those undocumented workers who have been apprended. Yet here we are, in 2006, with an estimated 12 million undocumented persons living in the U.S. Ever wonder why the numbers of undocumented people in the U.S. has grown, despite our increased attempts to keep them out? Here's the answer: When the U.S. border becomes more difficult and expensive to cross, undocumented people, many of whom were once (and would still prefer to be) seasonal migrant workers are less likely to try to go home. Instead, they hunker down where they have settled, they put down roots, establish longer and deeper relationships, and eventually come to see the U.S. as their home.
So, to anyone who is out there celebrating the passage of the Border Fence Bill, remember that fences are more often set up to keep people and things in than to keep them out (remember the Berlin Wall?). We had a remarkable opportunity to renovate an immigration system that serves only the industries and businesses that are eager to hire pliable and vulnerable workers. It may appear that Congress has done its job, but as time will no doubt tell, they've just ensured that our undocumented population will grow.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The report notes that the Latino labor force is continuing to grow, largely because of immigration. Latino workers have the highest rate of growth of any other group, and these new arrivals have succeeded in finding employment.
You can access the full report at the link above.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
In some cases, local police are arresting immigrants who were changed with violent crimes, in others, immigrants were stopped for minor traffic violations. Although it is not clear whether this program will decrease undocumented immigration, it has caused considerable worry among immigrant communties where it is currently being utilized.
I cannot help to wonder why some local jurisdictions are anxious to enforce immigration law. It is clear that our current system is not working, and rather than taking this piecemeal approach, the nation (and local communities) would be better served by insisting that Congress take up this issue and work toward a solution. We should not have to wait for immigration reform simply because our leaders do not see it as a viable election year issue.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The report also addresses issues of national security in light of the current immigration debate.
This link will take you to a page where you can download the executive summary (free of charge) and order the full report.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
It seems fruitless to suggest that Herndon's leadership consider avoiding any move that would further inflame ethnic tension in this small community. The broader question is what in the world do they hope to accomplish with this move? The Virginia State Police have decided to not participate in 287(g), because they correctly fear that it will prevent immigrants from reporting crimes and coming to the police in time of need. I think we all agree our immigration system needs a major overhaul, and programs like this may allow communities like Herndon to feel like they have more control over their situation. Local approaches like 287(g), which is fragmented and does not address the central issues plaguing our our immigration system, however, will do little else but alienate Latino residents and delude others that "something" is being done about undocumented immigration.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Culpeper, like many other rural communities beyond the outer ring suburbs, has experienced significant growth in recent years. Today’s population of some 14,000 is an increase from 10,000 in 2000; the town’s total Latino population is estimated at 1,000 to 1,500.
It is not surprising that Culpeper is experiencing real growing pains. Much of the growth there can be attributed to suburban expansion as Washingtonians, ever seeking more affordable places to live, continue to move away from the city and inner ring suburbs. Town Councilman F. Steve Jenkins explained why Latinos are being singled out as the cause of the growth problem, saying, “ the demographics have changed the complexion of Culpeper, and I haven't been pleased with that."
That just about says it all.
Like many of Culpeper’s residents, I hate to see rural towns engulfed in suburban expansion, but I find his position disingenuous. Culpeper’s Mayor Rimeikis also noted that “[f]or the people who have lived here all their lives, the growth itself is very frustrating," he said. "We have a lot more traffic than we did before. There is overcrowding in the schools and just more people all over the place, and a lot of negative aspects that people notice with that growth."
The problems that Jenkins and Rimeikis attribute to Latinos is clearly misdirected. What about the 3,000 (presumably Anglo) residents who have moved into town? Do they not drive cars and send their kids to Culpeper schools? Do they not also strain local infrastructure?
If Culpeper’s residents want to “save” their community, they would be better served addressing the problem of sprawl in Culpeper County. Suburban development, not Latino settlement, is the culprit here. They should also be mindful of the fact that development also CREATES a need for immigrant labor (someone has to care for lawns and clean those McMansions while their owners are commuting 2-3 hours each day).
Monday, September 18, 2006
Our current immigration systems views newcomers not as temporary laborers, but as aspiring American citizens. In general, it's a good idea to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants, but citizenship should not be the only path for anyone who wants to work in the U.S.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
This is something that I have long thought was necessary. Last week I blogged on this very issue. It is the best long-term strategy to improve the status of immigrants in the U.S.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Perhaps that is changing. The New York Times article linked here describes the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, an apartment community for the older creative set. Like the retirees who flock to San Miguel, The Burbank artists colony acknowledges the fact that not every retiree aspires to a golf-course/shuffle board experience. And unlike more conventional creative projects for seniors, this program aims to provide opportunities for elders to apply their creative talents with new projects, rather than as a life review. The colony offers a variety of venues for artistic self-expression, including a digital film editing lab, a theater, drama classes, and art studios that are open 24 hours every day.
It appears that this colony is creating something akin to the lifestyle one has access to in San Miguel. The major difference: this is an apartment complex, and it appears to have no other outward focus other than artistic production. San Miguel's seniors, in contrast, have ample creative expression through the arts and community theatre programs, but also substantial efforts are dedicated to giving back to the community through charity.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Doug Massey and colleagues (1987) were among the first to develop this social network theory, which is highlighted in their book Return to Aztlán: The Social Process of International Migration from Western Mexico (UC Press).
Saturday, September 09, 2006
At the same time, these tough as nails anti-immigration Republicans has scaled back workplace enforcement during their tenure (down 95% from 1999-2003) and prosecuting employers who have undocumented men and women on their payroll (which is ALSO a violation of federal law); in 1999, there were 182 employers prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers, in 2003, only four were prosecuted. Then again, it's so much easier to blame the immigrant, so why bother?
C'mon guys, just admit it. We need a worker visa program.
Friday, September 08, 2006
There are several key reasons why this rally failed to pull in many protesters, the most notable being that immigration reform legislation, which seemed to be on the forefront of congressional priority in April, has effectively been tabled for now. With no real legislative threat or possibilities looming, there is little reason for the average immigrant to take a day off from work, take the kids out of school, and travel to D.C. for a rally. There was also no clear purpose, other than to follow up from April's rallies, thus there was little chance to attract a crowd. Finally, as a group most immigrants are paid by the hour; if they don't work, they don't get paid. Taking time off from work to do anything is unlikely unless it is viewed as a true necessity. To get immigrants out the door and into the streets, they need a compelling reason; the organizers yesterday obviously did not provide one.
Perhaps the most important reason the rally did not succeed is the perception that the immigrant presence on the street can be counterproductive. The April rallies seemed to have energized the anti-immigrant movement, but I disagree with Mark Krikorian, who is quoted in the Washington Post today, saying quite confidently, "The attempt to recreate the atmosphere in the spring has completely failed because the illegal aliens and their supporters have gotten the message that the American people aren't going to roll over for this amnesty bill." It's a fantasy to think that this issue is settled, or that citizens would be "rolling over" to support immigration reform. What is obvious is that there is not consensus about what to do about immigration at the moment. It's election season, and Republicans are fighting for their seats. They realize that they cannot win their elections taking a stand on immigration, so they've tabled it. That fact alone makes it clear that the issue is far from settled.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
For now, Mr. Calderón has considerable domestic issues to address, not the least of which is how to deal with an opposition movement, lead by his political opponent Andrés Manuel López Obrador. López Obrador has vowed to block Calderón’s inauguration in December.
Making this formerly invisible population visible is an important goal, and in that regard the spring rallies were an amazing spectacle and success. At the same time, for the movement to have teeth, organizers need to focus their efforts on voter registration. The challenge with voter registration is not convincing people that they need to register and vote, but that they need to become citizens in order to gain the right to vote.
I have worked with immigrants for over a decade, and I've found that many documented immigrants are reluctant to go through the naturalization process. This is not a reflection of their commitment to the U.S., but that the process is time consuming and complicated, and more resources need to be dedicated to assisting immigrants through the naturalization process.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
This morning the Washington Post reports that millions of Americans are overworked and unhappy, and although employers and employees agree that it would be best if Americans worked less (i.e., 40 hours per week), no one is willing to get off the treadmill and say enough is enough. When people do finally slow down, it's rarely a gradual decline. Instead, they just stop, which can be translated into "wife/mother stays home with the kids."
How does this lead to the "fast-pace" of retirement in the U.S.? While doing work in San Miguel, most everyone who had elected to retire there said that although their own lives in retirement were much slower paced than their working lives, their working friends and children were too busy to spend time with them, so they spent significant time alone. San Miguel offers something quite different and un-American: a group of people in their late 40s to 90s (and beyond) who are looking for friendship and ways to effectively contribute to society without working 80 hours a week.
The Post article also sheds light on the younger families who abandon the U.S. for a lifestyle change in Mexico: most workers feel like they can't be the first one to slow down (it looks bad), so they just bail altogether. If they've invested wisely, as many of these young families obviously have, then their years of working 60-80 hours per week translate into a comfortable life, and more importantly A LIFESTYLE, in Mexico.
Of course, we could make this choice here in the U.S., and change they way we work and live in the U.S., but as the Post article points out, the incentives to do so are not as strong as the push to keep working.