Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Immigration Debate

Feeling the heat, Mr. DeBenedittis?

I woke to find this op-ed by Herndon Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis in this morning's Washington Post. As you can see, it appears that Mr. DeBenedittis feels a need to justify his actions of the past year, including a number of city ordinances that have been labeled as racist and anti immigrant.

In his letter, Mr. DeBenedittis assures us that neither he nor his community is racist. They simply want to follow the rule of law. What Mr. DeBenedittis fails to understand is that his anti-immigrant legislation does NOTHING to stop undocumented immigration, but it does harass immigrants (the documented and undocumented alike) and creates a hostile environment for everyone of Latino descent in his community.

DeBenedittis also should understand that we live in a era where citizens are skeptical about politicians and the inconsistencies between what they say and what they do. We're not likely to believe your words, Mr. DeBenedittis, when you tell us your community's response to immigration is not racist: those who have been watching Herndon over the last two years know the community's actions speak for themselves.

Calderón hopeful that new congress will enact immigration reform

During his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mexican President Felipe Calderón stated that he is hopeful that the new U.S. congress with enact comprehensive immigration reform, “With the new composition of the U.S. Congress there are greater opportunities and more potential for making progress on the immigration issue.” The Mexican President stated that it is essential to convince Americans that Mexico and the United States have “complementary” economies. “Mexico has manpower, and America has much capital,” Calderón said.

Speaking from the Institute of the Americas in San Diego on Thursday night, Doris Meissner, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner, said she would put the chances of getting an immigration bill passed during President Bush's term at “slightly more than 50-50."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Western Union: The Fastest Way to Pay a Coyote

This article from the Washington Post chronicles the state of Arizona's attempt to shut down immigrant smuggling organizations that operate in Arizona. The controversial attempt was initiated on Sept. 21, 2006. A warrant was issued to block all Western Union money transfers of $500 and above from 26 states with a significant population of illegal immigrants to a group of Western Union outlets in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. The plan also included issuing warrants to block money transfers through Western Union to nearby states such as Nevada.

For anyone who has worked with immigration populations, it is well known that Western Union is a preferred way to transfer money to family members in Mexico. It appears it is also a preferred way to get money to immigrants who are planning to cross the border illegally, so they can pay their smugglers, commonly referred to as "coyotes."

Western Union, unsurprisingly, sued to stop this process, arguing that it was not a crime to transfer money, and the company should not be penalized for what people do with the money once it is transferred.

Although the program has been an effective means to slow human trafficking, it is a stop-gap measure. A more effective means to eliminate this problem is to issue temporary work visas via the Federal Government. At the rates that immigrants are paying coyotes today (from $2500-5000), the government could collect this income, and cut coyotes out of the process.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Luto for Sue Reid

I was saddened to learn that Sue Reid, a longtime resident of San Miguel de Allende, passed away on January 11 in Houston. I met Sue last summer in the course of my fieldwork and she gave a wonderful oral history. An expert raconteur, Sue's insights about life in SMA were informative and entertaining. She will be missed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Obama on Immigration

I realized last night that, to be fair, I should also take a look at other Presidential hopefuls and their positions on immigration. I'll try to cover one candidate per day.

Obama is the current sweetheart of the Presidential hopefuls. He's young, charismatic and good looking, and seems squeaky clean when compared to his cohort. In fact, the best that the GOP rumor mill has come up with is that he was educated in an Islamic school in Jakarta. This is clearly another example of the GOP playing dirty (they actually tried to pin this on Senator Clinton. Certain "unnamed sources" asserted that the Clinton'campaign leaked the rumor, which by the way, is untrue). The only conclusion one can draw from this behavior, with the election two years away, is that the GOP is truly frightened of Obama and his chances in the race. Of course, they never miss an opportunity to go after Senator Clinton.

Ah--I digress. What are Senator Obama's positions on immigration? His senate website offers the following information:

Senator Obama shares the growing public concern about illegal immigration in the United States. The challenge facing President Bush and Congress is how to effectively stop the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders, better manage immigration flows going forward, and deal with illegal aliens who are already living and working in this country.

The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that identifying and deporting 11 million undocumented workers currently in this country would be both logistically impossible and highly disruptive to the American economy. Instead of mass deportations, Senator Obama believes that Congress must pass comprehensive, compassionate reform that reaffirms the rule of law and brings the undocumented population out of hiding.

The Senate Immigration Bill

Senator Obama played a key role in the crafting of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in May 2006. The bill, which President Bush supports, would provide more funds and technology for border security and prevent employers from skirting our laws by hiring illegal immigrants. The bill also would provide immigrants who are now contributing and responsible members of society an opportunity to remain in the country and earn citizenship. But not all illegal immigrants would be guaranteed the right to remain in the U.S. under this proposal; they would first have to pay a substantial fine and back taxes, learn English, satisfy a work requirement, and pass a criminal background check.

Senator Obama offered three amendments that were included in the Senate bill. The first amendment strengthens the requirement that a job be offered at a prevailing wage to American workers before it is offered to a guest worker. The second amendment makes it simple, but mandatory, for employers to verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. And the third amendment authorizes $3 million a year for the FBI to improve the speed and accuracy of the background checks required for immigrants seeking to become citizens.

A final consensus bill must now be negotiated to work out the differences between the House and Senate immigration bills. Senator Obama appreciates the serious ramifications of this issue – for American workers, Illinois communities, and immigrant families. He will continue to work with President Bush, his colleagues in Congress, and the citizens of Illinois to improve the effectiveness of our immigration laws and strengthen border security.

The first thing that stands out here is that Obama is not trying to distance himself from President Bush on this issue. That is good, because Bush's initiatives on immigration have been visionary and well thought out (alas--if only they could be on most other issues as well).

You'll also see that Senator Obama offered three important and essential amendments to the Senate bill last year. The first is pretty straightforward: guest workers cannot be offered a job until it is established that no legal resident or citizens are available to take it. The second and third are more significant: he would include a simple and rapid way for employers to establish that job applicants are indeed legal residents (I'm assuming here there would have to be an I.D. program) and more money for the FBI speed up background checks, which as I've mentioned here before, takes an abysmally long time and encourages families to come to the U.S. illegally so they can be together while they await their papers.

In short, Senator Obama is showing leadership on immigration and not simply acting like a candidate who wants a clean, and mediocre, platform.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

WWHD? (What Would Hilary Do--on Immigration?)

Now that Senator Hilary Clinton has officially entered the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, we have to ask, "what will Hilary do" on immigration? There is not much out there, as Senator Clinton has not been a major player in the immigration debate. I have found a few references to her critiques of the Republican-sponsored immigration "reform" bill (including s bizarre reference to making Jesus illegal), but not much of substance.

So, I went to Senator Clinton's official website, where she has a clear statement on many issues, including immigration. Here is her statement:

I am proud of America's commitment to welcoming immigrants. We are all immeasurably enriched by the contributions of immigrants who have come to this country to find the American dream through their hard work. That's why I led efforts for the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act, championed the Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act, and co-sponsored the DREAM Act, which makes it possible for hardworking young people to attend college. These measures recognize that all America is strengthened when immigrants have access to health care and education that will enable them to become fully participating members of our society.

I believe the Bush administration is failing to meet what should be the basic requirements of immigration policy: continuing our American tradition of welcoming immigrants who follow the rules and are trying to build a better life for their families, while strengthening national security in a post 9-11 world.

Our current immigration laws need to be reformed: we need a better solution to the question of illegal immigration which recognizes the conflict between the need to enforce the law, and the reality that too many employers are using undocumented workers today. That's why in the last Congress I was pleased to join Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and 60 other senators to cosponsor the Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefits and Security Act of 2003. Unfortunately, this bipartisan bill, which reflected a consensus among growers, labor and immigration advocates, was blocked by the Republican Senate leadership. Earlier this year, Senator Craig re-introduced this legislation, which I again cosponsored. I hope that this year President Bush and the Republican Senate leadership will finally support this legislation so that we can begin to address in a comprehensive way the significant challenges of illegal immigration that are confronting our nation.

This administration has failed to provide the resources to protect our borders, or a better system to keep track of entrants to this country. I welcome the addition of more border security, particularly on the Northern Border, with passage of the Intelligence Reform bill in December of 2004 – but it should not have taken more than 3 years after 9/11 to make this needed change, and there is still much more that must be done to keep America safe, including stronger inspection of cargo on ships and airplanes. Moreover, just two months after signing the Intelligence Reform bill with great fanfare, President Bush refused to provide the necessary funding in his Fiscal Year 2006 proposed budget sufficient to hire all of the border patrol agents that had been authorized. Fortunately, during the Senate’s debate on the budget in March of 2005, we passed an amendment to provide increased funding for border patrol agents. I hope the Republican leadership will support the maintenance of this funding, to provide the resources necessary to properly protect our borders.

It's obvious that the Senator was already preparing to run for the White House when she wrote this statement. She is careful to distinguish herself from the current administration, and is clear about what she sees as the shortcomings on the GOP approach to immigration. However, she offers nothing new of substance here. She is willing to work toward a bipartisan solution, which is obviously good, but she does not sound too different from her Republican colleagues in the Senate who are big on borders and short of work visas. She wants to welcome immigrants, but seems to forget that the nation has to deal with the undocumented as well as "welcoming immigrants who follow the rules."

This is obviously a big disappointment. Senator Clinton did not make the decision to join the Presidential race yesterday, and it's obvious that she has not spent too much time talking to people who have studied this issue extensively and could help her develop a strong platform on immigration.

I hope that she'll revisit this issue, and that the other Presidential hopefuls do the same.

Hazleton's Anti-immigrant Laws

Remember last year when Hazleton, Pennsylvania made the news nearly every day? You may recall that their mayor, Lou Barletta became an innovator in the practice of anti-immigrant ordinances and anti-immigrant sentiment when he and his Town Council passed a series of laws aimed at pushing undocumented people out of the town by making it illegal for landlords to rent to anyone without checking their immigration status, declaring English as the official language, and penalizing employers who hire undocumented workers.

You may also recall my blog post from last August about Hazleton's growth since immigrants discovered the town. Hazlteon is a former coal mining community, like many of its neighbors in Pennsylvania, it had been dying a slow death as it's younger generation left seeking decent employment and a better future elsewhere. Far from destroying the community, immigrants had revitalized the town. Like the Italians who settled there nearly 100 years before, the Latinos where giving Hazleton a chance for growth, and a future.

Unfortunately, Mr. Barletta doesn't see it that way, and like the 100 other municipalities in 27 states that have followed his lead and passed a variety of ordinances that are aimed at moving the undocumented (and perhaps the legal permanent Latino residents as well) out of these communities.

The Washington Post article linked above provides the following run-down on how these ordinances have been challenged:

Opponents of the crackdowns have fought back, mounting a half-dozen legal challenges _ all successful _ in Hazleton and places like Valley Park, Mo., and Farmers Branch, Texas. None of those municipalities is enforcing its law.

In some of the cases, state and federal judges have blocked the laws. In the others, the towns themselves have backed down, unwilling or unable to mount expensive legal battles.

After a federal judge blocked Escondido, Calif., from fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, the city council killed the measure and agreed to pay $90,000 to the opposing lawyers.

In the Valley Park case, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Barbara Wallace issued a restraining order and said there were "big holes" in the city's ordinance, which would target businesses and landlords.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues the measures trample on the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration. In issuing a temporary restraining order against Hazleton on Oct. 31, U.S. District Judge James Munley said there was a "reasonable probability" its package of laws would be declared unconstitutional.

Although most of the jurisdictions that have passed these laws have been challenged in court, it is expected that more communities will pass these laws in response to the inaction from the federal government. Even though the laws in communities that are facing legal challenges have yet to be enforced many Latinos, undocumented or legal, have already left. Latino business districts in Hazleton, Farmers Branch and Riverside, N.J., all report steep declines.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Border death

A border patrol office shot and killed a Mexican attempting to cross the border last week, according to a New York Times report. The immigrant, Francisco Javier Domínguez Rivera, a 22 year old native of Puebla, was shot as he and six others were being taken into custody by a Border Patrol agent. The shooting took place shortly after Domínguez Rivera and his companions crossed illegally into Cochise County in southeastern Arizona. Before he was shot, Mr. Domínguez Rivera scuffled with the agent, whose identity was not released, a Border Patrol spokesman said. Initial reports indicate the Mr. Domínguez Rivera was unarmed.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, condemned the shooting and asked for an official inquiry.

This was the first fatal shooting by a Border Patrol officer since August 26, 2006.

Come Legally, but wait

This is an interesting op-ed from today's Washington Post. It points out that even immigrants who take the "legal route" to residency here in the U.S. are often stymied by the long waits for their processing. It concludes:
America hardly encourages foreigners to enter and live in the country legally when simply processing their naturalization forms can take years. Citizenship and Immigration Services needs to cut its wait times by making a rapid transition to electronic forms and better organizing reform efforts.

New Coalitions for Immigration Reform

A new coalition of business groups and union leaders have banned together to work toward a comprehensive immigration bill this year. The Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007 announced its formation this week, "placing the force of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union and the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights group behind a unified lobbying effort to get a law passed before the politics of the 2008 presidential campaign make a compromise on the contentious issue unworkable."

Pressure has been increasing in the job market as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stepped up its workplace raids last year:

Business groups paint a dire picture of a U.S. economy without the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. The National Restaurant Association says jobs in food service are growing one and a half times as fast as the U.S. labor force. And the construction industry needs 250,000 new workers per year to replace its aging workforce, according to Associated Builders and Contractors.

Proponents of a plan to legalize undocumented workers say this year offers an important window. President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress have called immigration reform a priority, and the coalition considers a Senate bill last year that provided a path to citizenship for undocumented workers a blueprint for the policy. That legislation stalled in November when the House and Senate could not hash out a compromise.

Although in the past Labor and Business interests have opposed one another on the immigration debate, both see a benefit of working together for change because the current system is causing more problems than solutions, and while they agree that reform is needed, there are disagreements in what the details of a comprehensive reform package should look like.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Herndon's anti-immigrant law challenged

Regular readers may recall a series of articles that I noted here about the hamlet of Herndon, Virginia, last year. To recap: a group of predominately Latino men were gathering at a local Seven Eleven looking for day labor work. The men were a sore topic in the community, and everyone agreed they should not be congregating in the parking lot. As an alternative, community volunteers organized a controversial day labor center a few blocks away. The proposed center caused an uproar because some in the community believe that the day labor center encourages undocumented immigration. When local elections rolled around last year, a number of anti-immigrant politicians were elected to Herndon's town council. They proceeded to pass a number of ordinances to "discourage" undocumented immigration, one of which is an "anti-solicitation" law.

Today's Washington Post reports that the anti-solicitation law is currently being challenged in court, and similar jurisdictions around the nation are watching this case closely to see if their own anti-immigrant legislation will be similarly challenged.

The purpose the anti-solicitation ordinance was enacted in September 2005. It prohibits anyone in a vehicle from trying to hire someone standing on the sidewalk or street; it also prohibits anyone on the street from asking someone in a vehicle -- or who has just gotten out of one -- for work.

Attorneys for the defendant have asked that the case be dismissed on First Amendment grounds; solicitation, they argue, has long been protected by the courts as free speech. Specifically, they said Herndon's law is flawed because it focuses only on solicitation for employment, while leaving other forms of solicitation -- such as charitable contributions or the sale of goods -- unrestricted.

Similar laws have been successfully challenged in other cases across the U.S. For instance, a federal judge in California ruled last May that day laborers in Redondo Beach had the right to look for jobs on public sidewalks. In 2004, city police arrested 60 workers in a sting operation under an ordinance the city passed in 1987 as a traffic control measure.

Although Herndon's Town Council members are adamant that they can refine this law if it the current one is dismissed, they may have trouble crafting an ordinance that does not effect other types of acceptable solicitation, such as car wash fund raisers that teenagers often undertake, the Salvation Army bell ringers, or girl scouts vending cookies on local sidewalks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Immigration Raids Help African Americans--but not for long

I just came across this incredible article that appeared on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. It gets at a fundamental question about immigration and what it means for ordinary low-wage workers: what is the effect of undocumented labor on the unskilled labor market?

This article takes a in-depth look at the Crider Poultry processing plant in Stillmore, GA after the ICE raids that took place during Labor Day weekend, 2006. The narrative recounted here offers many lessons about the unsafe and often illegal working conditions that undocumented workers are subjected to in poultry plants. It also chronicles the story of an African American worker to came to work in the plant after the ICE raid produced a labor shortage at the plant.

What happened after the raid says much about the low wage labor market in the U.S., and how much American businesses are addicted to a steady stream of unskilled workers who have no rights. In other words, these employers are all too happy to exploit the immigrant workforce and break federal immigration law.

Although African Americans were willing to take the jobs that were vacated as a result of the ICE raid,, they were aware that they had rights and were willing to demand them. As a result, some workers refused to work in unsafe conditions, demanded better pay, and demanded that the plant actually allow injured workers to leave their work station after suffering an injury. Many of the African American workers were fired as a result of demanding their rights; today the plant is still short some 300 employees.

This article exposes the complexity of the immigration dilemma in the U.S., and demonstrates that undocumented immigration is not a border enforcement problem, but more a workplace problem.

Immigrant mistreatment

It appears that our government is not limiting its mistreatment only to "foreign combatants." This article from today's Washington Post reports on consistent mistreatment of undocumented people who have been apprehended by ICE.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Meatpacker Raids and Immigration Dysfunction

Last month while I was on hiatus from the blog, there were a series of ICE raids on meatpacking plants throughout the heartland. This article from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel examines how these raids point out the widespread dysfunction in our current immigration system.

(Another) Border Patrol Officer Arrested

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in a Tijuana-based human trafficking organization. This arrest is one of several that have occurred in the past six months.

Immigration and Violence

This article from today's Washington Post explores Hmong-Anglo relations in Wisconsin. A Hmong man was recently murdered, and it is suspected to be an instance of anti-immigrant violence.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Should undocumented residents serve in the U.S. Military?

As the war in Iraq continues to spin out of control, it is often noted that the U.S. Armed Forces are having trouble recruiting new volunteers to fill the ranks who will provide the personnel for President Bush's planned "surge." Despite recruiting shortfalls, Recruiters in Chicago and other cities across the nation have been turning away otherwise qualified volunteers for one reason: they are undocumented residents of the U.S.

Before igniting the cries of "foul!" from the nativist minority reading this blog, I need to point out that on July 3, 2002, President Bush authorized an expedited citizenship process for documented residents who are serving in the armed forces regardless of their length of residency (via Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

So far, this seems pretty straightforward: if you're undocumented, you can't serve. However, President Bush's order "also said undocumented immigrants could serve and apply for expedited citizenship, according to Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer and associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point." In this case, Recruiters know their guidelines, not the law, and they are inadvertently turning away potential eligible recruits.

There is no clear consensus on how the undocumented should be handled, however. Many in the DOD are adamant that a person must be a permanent legal resident to join the military, but that statutes on the books indicate that give the secretaries of each military branch the right to wave the residency requirement.

In all, the confusion surrounding the undocumented and military service points to the broader inconsistencies that the U.S. has toward their undocumented residents: when we need them, we have no problem using them. This is evidenced in our current policy on the undocumented in the even the President authorizes a draft. "An order signed by President Bush on July 3, 2002, requires undocumented immigrants to register for the Selective Service. If the draft was reinstated -- the Selective Service recently announced a comprehensive "readiness exercise" of its system, despite denials the agency is gearing up for a draft -- military services could draft undocumented immigrants. " Any foreigner who is drafted is allowed the right to refuse, but they then have to leave the country permanently and are banned from getting U.S. citizenship.

Keeping Busy in SMA

San Miguel de Allende's "heyday" as a hot tourist destination is about two years past. However, it is still possible to find articles from time to time from Canadians or Americans who have recently discovered the city for the first time. This article is an example of this.

Although there is not much new here, it is interesting that prices for recreation and lodging have not risen much in the last twelve months.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Aceptamos Pesos

There are places in Mexico where you don't have to worry about changing your money. In Tijuana and Cancun, even as far inland as San Miguel de Allende (at times), you're greenbacks might be welcomed.

In Dallas, Texas, it appears the opposite is true: at Pizza Paton, "acemptamos pesos" is now the part of daily business. The chain, which has 59 pizza shops started accepting pesos as legal tender for their pizza on Monday. The owner, Antonio Swad, expected to take some heat from the promotion, but he was surprised when he started receiving death threats.

It is not uncommon for businesses along the U.S.-Mexico border to accept both currencies, and a similarly, Canadian dollars are often accepted along the U.S.-Canada border.

The significance of this reaction is that a simple business promotion has become an immigration flashpoint, exposing American insecurity about the Latino, and Mexican influence on American culture.

Immigrant Lives: Three Sisters

Follow the link here to a wonderful NY Times series on three Mexican sisters who have immigrated to the U.S. and their life stories.

California California's Democratic Senators Propose a Path to Citizenship for Farmworkers

California's Democratic senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced legislation Wednesday that would put some illegal immigrant farmworkers on a path to citizenship and revamp a little-used agricultural guest worker program. Calling the measure a "matter of survival for farmers across the country," the L.A. Times reports.

In California, nearly 1 million undocumented laborers work California's 76,500 farms, making up about 90% of the state's agricultural payroll. The get tough policies initiated at the U.S.-Mexico border has left farmers scrambling for enough hands at harvest time. This has only be compounded as undocumented workers tend to leave agricultural work for higher-paying jobs in the construction, restaurant and hospitality industries, where they can easily secure better jobs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that losses for California would start at $3 billion a year and could climb as high as $4.1 billion if the labor shortage continues. At the present California farms generate $34 billion in revenue a year.

The proposed legislation would allow illegal immigrants who have worked in agriculture for at least 150 days over the last two years to receive a "blue card," which would entitle them to temporary legal resident status. A maximum of 1.5 million blue cards would be distributed over five years, when the program would end. They would be allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. To be eligible to apply for permanent legal resident status, they would have to continue doing farm work 150 days a year for an additional three years, or 100 days a year for an additional five years. Applicants would have to pay $500 and show that they are up-to-date on their taxes, and must not have been convicted of any serious crime.

The bill proposed by Feinstein and Boxer would also reconstitute the H-2A guest worker program, making it easier and less expensive for growers to use and to protect them from lawsuits. The current program is a bureaucratic nightmare and consists of more than 300 pages of regulations, requiring farmers to go through 60 different steps to get workers from abroad. At the moment, only 2% of all farmers use the H-2A guest worker program because it is so difficult to negotiate.

I applaud Senators Boxer and Feinstein for making this move to help their farmers, but I think we need to be realistic about how much long-term good this will do. Any "path to citizenship" means they are creating a path out of agricultural work. Why not create a temporary farm visa that is just that--a simplified way to legalize farm workers to want to work occasionally, then go home. Otherwise, the program will work like the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and feed the immigration pipeline with low-skilled people who will become permanent residents and then move onto better paying work.

Admitting Failures, Bush proposes more of the same

I know this looks like I am moving away from the stated focus of this blog, but President Bush's speech last night, and his proposal to send an additional 20,000 troupes into Iraq really does have a significant impact on the progress the country can make at home on immigration reform.

Bush's "plan" for Iraq is pure folly, a waste of human and financial resources. When we wake up in a decade are realize that our economy resembles that of Great Briton in the 1980s, we'll have Mr. Bush to thank for bankrupting our country and squandering our children's future America.

We can also thank Mr. Bush for focusing his attention where it certainly did not belong--on a country that posed no threat to our security (there were no weapons of mass destruction, and as far as I can tell Osama Bin Laden is still not in Iraq) and away from key domestic issues, like immigration, that are left unchecked and bubbling out of control. We have an immigration problem, people, and we should be demanding that our government address it.

And for the record, I'm not really interested in hearing from the pro-Bush contingent about how "brave" he's been for fighting for our freedom, or the crack pots who think that immigrants gotten us into our current domestic mess. Bush's war threatens our way of life and our freedom, and we have no one to blame but ourselves for the current state of affairs in the U.S. I welcome any well thought out, constructive comments to this and any post. I also put hate speech right where it belongs--in the trash.

I would heartily encourage everyone to take the few minutes you might spend posting here and use it to write to your congressional representative, or call the White House and press the President for change. That number is 202-456-1111.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Catch and Release

As I've noted here before, it is not unusual for an undocumented immigrant to apprehended several times in the course of their northward journey. New Justice Department data indicate that some undocumented have been arrested up to six times, and often their offences are much more serious that crossing the border. The charges, which ranged from traffic violations to weapons and drug charges, suggests that although law enforcement is effectively apprehending immigrants who have violated the law, the seriously dysfunctional immigration system has no consistent way of managing them. The article explains that lack of jail space is part of the problem:
For years, the government was forced to release thousands of illegal immigrants who were caught in the United States because of not enough jail space and other resources. But last fall, with immigration as a key election-year priority, Homeland Security declared it would detain 99 percent of non-Mexican illegal immigrants until they could be returned to their home nations. The policy generally does not apply to Mexicans, who are almost immediately returned to Mexico after being stopped by Border Patrol agents.
Interestingly, the Justice Department audit only examined data on immigrants who were arrested and released by local and state authorities before they could be turned over to Homeland Security to be detained or deported.

This leaves me wondering what benefit will come of local jurisdictions who are currently receiving federal training so they can attempt to apprehend undocumented residents in their communities? What benefit can it possibly serve to have local police arresting people who will most likely be released in any event?

For details on the ICE program to train local law enforcement, see this post from a few months ago.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

No Place like Home

Americans often overlook the fact that, despite how nice life can be in the U.S., most people have a natural inclination to prefer to natal homes. This article from the Washington Post examines the possible effects globalization on immigration as the final provisions of NAFTA are enacted. In the next two years, Mexico's markets will be opened to poultry imports from the U.S. Mexican farms will have to compete with American agribusinesses. Most chicken farmers in Mexico expect that this provision will effectively eliminate chicken farming in Mexico. If Mexico imports cheaper American poultry, thousands will lose their jobs. After that, what would be their next best alternative? Why, immigrating to the U.S., of course.

Ironically, Americans have consistently failed to see the link between globalization and immigration. Opening the international border for trade purposes by necessity opens it to just about everything else--communication, culture and labor. Thus, as trade routes open through treaties like NAFTA, so too do immigration flows.

Another interesting, and often overlooked, fact highlighted in the article: Mexicans who have not yet immigrated are necessarily interested in moving their lives north. Life in Mexico is certainly not as extravagant as life in the U.S., but it is rich in culture and community. If you take a look at the San Miguel Fieldwork Diary (see link on the right), you will see that thousands of Americans give up their lives in the U.S. for the same reasons. Life in Mexico is good, even more so for those who have lived their entire lives there.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Luto for Philip J. Maher

For those of you who have been following this blog since I began my fieldwork in San Miguel last summer, you'll recall my interview with Philip J. Maher, SMA's former Consular official. I'm sorry to report that Mr. Maher, who was an outstanding and insightful informant, passed away in San Miguel on December 23, 2006 after a long illness.