Monday, April 30, 2007

April is the cruelest month

---for academics, at least.

I'm finishing my semester (loads of grading, meeting with students, and last-minute faculty meetings), so I'll be neglecting this blog for a week or two. When I return, I will be en route to San Miguel, so check back by May 14 for the latest on my fieldwork adventures and lots of photos.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Thanks to Caren, I found the perfect assistant. Mil gracias, amiga.

Now I just have to pack.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back to Mexico

It's mid-April, and as the semester winds down I am also planning another field trip to San Miguel. My plan is to depart in mid-May, just after I submit my grades. It will be a crazy month between trying to tie things up here and plan for the work there, but it has to be done. This time I'll be working without the benefit of having my family along, as they have other obligations to attend to this spring.

I arranged a rental about six weeks ago. This time finding a place was much easier. I simply posted a request on a couple of discussion lists and got a barrage of available rentals. I decided to take a combination house-sitting/rental. It's a nice place in a good neighborhood, and I have the added bonus of my landlady's cats around to keep me company while I work.

Soon my well-oiled fieldwork machine has hit a snag--Felipe, my friend and field assistant in Mexico for many years, found a much better paying full-time job a few weeks ago. He had been a professor at a small Mexican college for many years (thus free to work with me during school holidays), but found this new position too good to pass up. It bothered me that I would not be working with Felipe this go round. He and I know each other well and we have had a comfortable working relationship. So, I was off looking for a new assistant.

I knew that process might be onerous. I will be in Mexico for nearly a month, but that is not so much time that I can afford to spend days looking for someone new to work with as I traipse through new neighborhoods and (at times) go door-to-door looking for informants. Once I go started, I was thankful that San Miguel is not a typical Mexican small town.

My first move was to contact all of my friends and colleagues in Mexico. I have several contacts in Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, and Puebla, but those cities are far enough away that I knew it would be difficult to find someone who would be free and willing to travel that far, even for a decent part-time job. I put in a few calls to colleagues who have done work with the University in Guanajuato, and to some of my old friends in Textitlán. Then I got a true inspiration: to call some of my gringo friends in San Miguel.

To be honest, I wasn't certain it would work. Last year it appeared that the foreign expat community did not have terribly deep networks with Mexican residents, but I am now questioning that assumption. I first called Caren Cross, the director and producer of Lost and Found in Mexico. She took on this task with a zeal I would expect of a best friend, although she and I have never met face to face. We have been corresponding by e-mail and talked on the phone once. To date, Caren has not only putting the word out that I need an assistant, she is also interviewing those women who say they are interested, clearly above and beyond the call of duty.

So, today as I consider my plans for my upcoming trip, I know that this visit is going to be much different from the last, and I am going to see a very different side of San Miguel. Being connected in San Miguel means something: there are people you can count on, even if you do not know them well. This has to be one of the major draws of living there.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Progressive discussion of Immigration Reform

It's difficult to find immigration blogs that are not simply rants against the undocumented. In fact, in most cases "progressive" is to much to ask. I'd settle for a discussion of immigration issues that is simply "not raving."

The link above will take you to Migra Matters--one of the best news information sources on immigration I've seen in months. I highly recommend its balanced reporting and streamlined approach to news summary.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Immigrant Image

On Monday, when I posted a memorial blog regarding Virginia Tech, I specifically mentioned that the post was not about "immigration, amnesty, or Americans who retire abroad." It turns out, this story has unfortunately taken hold as an "immigrant" story. This article from today's edition of Inside Higher Ed highlights how quickly this event became a conversation about immigration, ethnicity, and racial tension.

My only question is this: why is the conversation not centered on America's problem with gun violence?

Monday, April 16, 2007

White House and Congress release competing Proposals for Immigration Reform

The White House and Congress have released competing immigration reform proposals today. This article from Migration Information Source outlines the major issues in each proposal, as well as provides links where you can download the full documents.

Luto for Virginia Tech

Today's post is not about immigration, amnesty, or Americans who retire abroad.

I was perusing the web when I came across a breaking news story: a gunman had opened fire on the Virginia Tech campus this morning, at least one person was dead. An hour later, the estimated was 22.

As a college professor in Virginia, this incident obviously hits close to home. One of the beauties of campus life, particularly in Virginia, is that the campus buildings are open. Students, professors and visitors walk freely in a place that is very much part of everyday life, but nonetheless a world apart.

Today that world changed. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Virginia Tech community, as well as their families. The dark shadow of the events there touch all of us.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bush's push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Over the last few days, President Bush has been pushing his comprehensive immigration reform package. He's been chatting up the Democrats (Nancy Pelosi has told him he has to get his own party in line and muster dozens of votes before she's bring this to the floor for a vote),and he's been on the road throughout the southwest touting his plan.

Overall, what Bush has to propose seems reasonable, although there is enough here to please and annoy folks on both sides of the aisle. Here are the basics, according to the White House website:

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Accomplish Five Clear Objectives

1. Securing The Border

Securing The Border Is A Critical Part Of Our Strategy For Comprehensive Immigration Reform, And We Are Increasing Manpower And Improving Infrastructure And Technology At The Border. Since the President took office in 2001, we have more than doubled funding for border security – from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $10.4 billion in 2007. We have expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 agents in 2001 to about 13,000 agents today. By the end of 2008, we will have a total of more than 18,000 agents, doubling the size of the Border Patrol under the President's leadership.

Under Operation Jump Start, National Guard Members Are Supporting The Border Patrol In Texas, California, Arizona, And New Mexico. As we work to complete upgrades at the border, Operation Jump Start is providing the Border Patrol with immediate reinforcements. National Guard Troops deployed under Operation Jump Start are assisting the Border Patrol with surveillance, intelligence, construction, and logistics.

* Operation Jump Start Has Put More Manpower On The Border And Allowed The Border Patrol To Move 563 Agents Into Front-Line Positions. The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our Southern border is down by nearly 30 percent in 2007 from this point in 2006.

We Have Effectively Ended The Practice Of "Catch And Release" For Every Non-Mexican Apprehended At The Southern Border. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants caught crossing the Southern border are Mexicans, and virtually all are sent back home within 24 hours. For years, however, most apprehended non-Mexican illegal immigrants were released back into society on this side of the border – with a notice to appear at a future court date – because the government did not have enough detention space to hold them. The President believes this practice is unacceptable, and we have effectively ended it for every non-Mexican apprehended at the Southern border.

* We Have Added Thousands Of New Beds At Detention Centers Across The Country. Since the President took office, we have provided funding for 7,798 new beds to accommodate apprehended illegal immigrants – a 40 percent increase over 2001.

* We Have Expedited The Legal Process To Cut The Average Deportation Time. We are also making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate U.S. immigration laws.

2. Creating A Temporary Worker Program

We Cannot Fully Secure The Border Unless We Take Pressure Off The Border – And That Requires A Temporary Worker Program. By creating a lawful and orderly channel for foreign workers to come to America on a temporary basis, a temporary worker program would help reduce the number of people trying to sneak past the Border Patrol, freeing agents to focus on apprehending violent criminals and terrorists who pose a threat to our security.

3. Holding Employers Accountable For The Workers They Hire

Enforcing Immigration Laws At The Worksite Is A Vital Part Of Any Successful Reform. We are cracking down on employers who knowingly violate the law. To make worksite enforcement practical on a large scale, the President has called for the creation of a tamper-proof identification card for legal foreign workers and a better system for businesses to verify the legal status of their workers. By taking these steps, we will make it easier for businesses to obey the law – and leave them no excuse for violating it.

4. Resolving The Status Of The Millions Of Illegal Immigrants Already In The Country

The Administration Is Working With Democrats And Republicans To Find A Practical Answer That Lies Between Granting Automatic American Citizenship To Every Illegal Immigrant And Deporting Every Illegal Immigrant.

* The President Opposes Amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. It should not be given to people who entered our country illegally.

* Illegal Immigrants Who Have Roots In Our Country And Want To Stay Should Have To Pay A Meaningful Penalty For Breaking The Law, Pay Their Taxes, Learn English, And Work In A Job For A Number Of Years. People who meet a reasonable number of conditions and pay a penalty of time and money should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.

5. Finding New Ways To Help Newcomers Assimilate Into Our Society

We Will Honor The American Tradition Of The Melting Pot And Help Immigrants Assimilate By Learning Our History, Our Values, And The English Language.

* Last June, The President Created The Task Force On New Americans To Look For Ways To Help Newcomers Assimilate And Succeed In Our Country. Many organizations, from churches to businesses to civic associations, are already working to answer this call.

Reviews of Lost and Found in Mexico

Check the link above for a review of Caren Cross's recent film, Lost and Found in Mexico.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A New Twist on Local Immigration Regulation

In the last year I have often reported about local towns that have initiated ordinances that are aimed against immigrants, most often to discourage immigrant settlement and to harass others into leaving. This article from today's Washington Post points out an alternative: communities that have immigrant friendly policies. Hightstown, New Jersey recently passed an ordinance that functions like an immigrant bill of rights. Basically, the policy is a no-questions-asked position on immigration status; it allows Hightstown's undocumented residents to officially interact with local police and access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities.

It appears that Hightstown is one of a growing number of municipalities that self identify as "sanctuary cities."
In New Haven, Conn., for example, officials have prohibited police from asking about an immigrant's legal status, and in July the city will introduce municipal identification cards, providing undocumented immigrants with a "locally legal" form of ID that will make it easier for them to apply for bank accounts and sign rental leases. Overall, at least 20 cities and towns have approved pro-immigration measures over the past three years, according to the D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Analysts and advocates say almost as many -- including at least five in New Jersey, where about one in 17 residents is an illegal immigrant -- are considering similar resolutions.

It's an interesting development. Unlike the laws proposed by cities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, these communities obviously see immigrants as an asset to their communities and value their long-term relationships with people who will inevidebly be long-term members of the local community. At the same time, the fact that local communities see the need to enact these rules further points to a failed national policy.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Immigrants fill the gaps from out-migration

Immigrants are filling the voids in large metro areas as domestic residents continue to move further out away from cities and inner suburbs. in these contexts, immigrants are the only source of growth. Consider the following:

Between 2000 and 2006, the New York metro area (including the suburbs) increased by 1 million immigrants; otherwise the region would have lost nearly 600,000 people. During the same time period in Los Angeles metro area would have lost more than 200,000 residents, and the San Francisco area would have lost 188,000 and the Boston area would have lost 101,000.
Many demographers associate shrinking populations with economic problems, typically poor job markets or prohibitive housing prices.

"A lot of cities rely on immigration to prop up their housing market and prop up their economies," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The understanding here is that growth is good, and immigrants maintain growth in areas where citizens are not willing to live. But is this growth necessarily a good thing? Are there other ways to address population decreases without adding more people?

I am certainly in favor of immigration and, more importantly, immigrant civil rights, but I do not think it a good idea to assume that immigration is the answer to economic problems in large metro areas that are otherwise facing depopulation.

On the other hand, there are areas of the nation, such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that are not large metro areas and are depopulating to the point that there is no tax base. In these cases, immigration does solve a significant problem, and influse life into otherwise dead communities.