Friday, February 29, 2008

More On The Fence

Homeland Security has shot back at the Government Accountability Office that "the fence is too working" -- though with glitches. (See NY Times article.) The Washington Post had reported yesterday the poor GAO evaluation of the virtual fence being built by Boeing near Tuscon, AZ. (See blog for Feb. 28, 2008.)

The Justice and Peace Office of Maryknoll has published a helpful, 8-page guide to the elections -- US Election 2006: Loving Our Neighbor In A Shrinking World. As one would expect from Maryknoll, the guide takes the issues ina global perspective as seen through Catholic Social Teaching. It is available on line or in print. There is also a Spanish version.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trial Points Up Border Violance

It doesn't take this year's Academy Award winning film, "No Country For Old Men", to remind us that the U.S.-Mexican border can be a violent place. A trial beginning in Tucson, AZ, of a Border Patrol office accused of murdering an an unarmed undocumented man within steps of the border underscores it. (See NY Times article.) Some anti-immigrant groups have rallied to his defense, as they had previously made the conviction of two Texan Border patrol officers for shooting a drug dealer a cause celebre. Human rights and immigrant advocacy groups have complained about the growing violence along the border, and they argue that an acquittal would signal an official tolerance for increased violent enforcement.

Only last week Michael Chertoff, Secretary for Homeland Security. lauded the progress of Project-28 or P-28, the demonstration "virtual" fence being built by Boeing in Arizona. Now the Government Accountability Office, which is independent of the Bush administration, says P-28 not working. As a consequence, the project will be delayed. There were short-comings in the very design of the project and experience has revealed others. (See Washington Post article.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Criminal Deportations On The Rise

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been especially active recently, sweeping through the Upper Midwest rounding up "criminal aliens" for deportation. Some are caught in the net for minor offenses, such as driving without a license (the perfect Catch-22) or simply overstaying a deportation order. The quickened enforcement is the Bush administration's answer to criticism from the GOP right on immigration. But, as the Washington Post reports, the tougher enforcement is a strain the immigration courts. While Congress as provided for more enforcement -- even programs to monitor courts and jails for the "criminal alien" -- perhaps some kid picked up for puffing marijuana -- it hadn't allotted greater funds for immigration court. So as a consequence, aliens are getting quick -- and unfair -- justice in complicated cases.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Immigrants And Crime

Nativists complain that "illegals" are bring crime to the U.S. along with their cheap labor. The street gangs of Los Angeles are usually thrown up as evidence. A study of crime and incarceration in California debunks that claim. U.S.-born criminals vastly outnumber the immigrant criminals -- both in the streets and in the prisons. (See NY Times article.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Texas Below I-10 -- Whither The Hispanic Vote

Below Interstate Highway 10 in Texas is the heartland of the Hispanic voter. It was assumed that Hillary Clinton had a lock on that vote. But signs are that Barack Obama has been chipping away at her hold. (See NY Times article.) No matter who the vote goes to, the very fact that candidates are assiduously pursue it is another indication of the growing significance of the Hispanic vote. Even though the Republicans have squandered President George W. Bush's hard-earned progress among Hispanic voters when running for governor and president, the expected Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, is expected to sue vigorously for those voters. So in a general election, the interest of the Hispanic voters will be high and their votes might make the difference as to who goes to the White House and Congress.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life just released "a landscape survey" based on 35,000 interviews on the state of religion in American. It found religion to be in flux. Almost half those surveyed have changed faiths. The number of Catholics has remained "stable", largely due to the influx of immigrants. The survey estimates that one in three Americans were "raised Catholic" though only one in four identifies themselves as Catholic now. The survey does not tell us anything new, but confirms what most suspect.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Administration Adds Greater Fines And More Fence

Secretary Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security and Attorney General Michael Mukasey unveiled stiffer fines for employers who hire undocumented workers, as well as stepped-up prosecution of those employers who exploit such workers by violating labor laws. Also they expressed their satisfaction on the progress on "the fence". Already apprehensions at the border near the fence have declines significantly -- a sure sign to Secretary Chertoff that the fence is "an unbelievable deterrent". He signal out the P-28 system of land sensors and camera towers that Boeing has built near Tuscon, AZ. There are more than 300 miles of fence complete, and twice as much will be completed by mid-2009. (See LA Times article.)

Soon after 9/11 President George W. Bush issue an executive order putting non-citizens who serve in the U.S. military at the head of the line for citizenship. Thousands of veterans of Iraq have become U.S. citizens over the years, but like the rest of the naturalization process their applications are now slowing. Often the foreign sounding names of some applicants -- especially if they're Muslim-sounding -- win a prolonged check by the FBI. But most of it is due to the overall bureaucratic mess created by last August's rise in fees for processing application by Citizenship and Immigration Services. (See NY Times article.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Employer Sanction: Do They Work Or Don't They?

Suffolk County at the eastern end of Long Island, NY, was long a Republican bastion. Of late it's taken on a Democratic faith. The county executive and a majority of the county legislature is of the blue hue. And Suffolk County under the Democrats has taken on an aggressively anti-immigrant tinge. Some of the county laws and practices rival Hazelton, PA, Arizona and Oklahoma. But Suffolk laws also seem to demonstrate that anti-immigrant measures do not necessarily work. The NY Times reports that recent sweeps of construction sites to catch undocumented workers and to penalize their employers resulted in the grand catch of one worker. Notwithstanding the meager results, a Democrat legislator wants to extend the law to all employers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roswell, N.M.: Pursuit Of The Undocumented Into The Schools

Federal courts have upheld the obligation of the states to provide emergency health care and public education to the undocumented. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as a consequence, does not go onto school campuses. But in some towns, where local police monitor schools, it has been known to happen that school security turns over undocumented students for deportation. Such a case happened recently in Roswell, N.M., -- a town about half Latino, with 60% of the school children Latino. Not all are immigrant, and not all who took offense at the school security in turning the student over to the Border Patrol were immigrant. Some Hispanic families wonder if their children will now be subject to ethnic profiling. The issue has divided the conservative town and has outraged Latino students. Even thw school faculties are divided. (See LA Times article.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Citizenship Blues: NY Times Editorial

The NY Times editorial is correct -- you can tell where an administration's heart is, it's where it places its money. The Bush administration, when its grand compromise on immigration failed, quickly moved to give its priority to fences and workplace enforcement. As for a welcoming hand to the immigrant, it went from a hand-shake to a hand out for payment. As a consequence the whole naturalization process -- now founded on enforcement and pay-for-service mentality -- nearly collapsed.

The campaign of Barack Obama has electrified the young and they have provided the rockets that are shooting him past Hillary Clinton. This is the "millennial generation " -- born after 1982 and just coming to voting age. This generation, as Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais describe in their Millennial Makeover, are somewhat different from the baby-boomers and the Generation X that went before it. Forty percent are Afro-American, Latino and Asian -American; one in five has at least one parent who is an immigrant

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Phoenix Police Begin To Ask

Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the U.S., recently directed its police to start asking about immigrant status of those whom they arrest. Not everyone who comes in contact with the police will be asked about status -- those stopped for a routine traffic violation, a victim, a witness. Still the new regulation is a break with the pattern of large cities not to mix immigration enforcement with law enforcement. (See NY Times article.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Phoenix Raid Gives A Peek Into Smuggling Underworld

A joint raid by federal, state and county forces rounded up a major immigrant smuggling operation in Arizona. In doing so, it casted a little light on the seamier side of the movement of undocumented migrants across the border. (See NY Times article.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Immigrant Exodus

Already last year restrictive measures by localities against the undocumented immigrant had led to many fleeing to other towns or returning home. It was Brazilians in the the Delaware River Valley and Mexicans from Hazelton, PA. Many advocates of such restrictive laws welcomed the departures. But when the phenomenon appeared on a large scale, in Oklahoma or Arizona, notwithstanding the glee of the nativists, an economic penalty began to tell. (See NY Times article.) Not all of the exodus can be attributed solely to the punitive legislation. The slowing economy has both stemmed the flow of new immigrants from Mexico and stirred discouraged laid-off construction workers to look elsewhere for jobs. Still the chill among employers because of sanction and the despiriting impact on Hispanic communiyies have been very evident.

In the wake of the administrative nightmare created by the unprecedented demands for citizenship and for permanent residence, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has taken a step to speed up the process by moving ahead before all FBI background checks are completed. (See Washington Post article.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pew Reasearch Center Projects Immigration Growth

According to the Pew Research Center, provided there is no hostle exclusionary legislation or war, the percentage of the U.S. population that will be immigrants will rise from 12% in 2005 to 19% in 2050 -- almost one in five. The previous high point wan in 1910 -- 14.7%. Pew also projects that the White European based population will decline to 47%. The largest growth is expected to be among Hispanics, but by 2050 over two-thirds of them will ne native-born. Already 60% of Hispanics have been born here. Latinos will make up about 29% of the population in 2050. These project are greater than made by government agencies.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Undocumented Fleeing Oklahoma

As many as 1500 punitive immigration measures had be introduced in state legislatures last year. Among those that got through are Arizona's sanctions on employers of the undocumented and Oklahoma's that declares it a felony to harbor or assist them. As a consequence, an estimated 100,000 undocumented have fleed the state. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

At first the federal courts ruled against such state measures, arguing that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government. But lately, as the challenges appear in more conservative courts, the federal judiciary is sustaining the new laws. Most recently it was in Arizona, and before that in Oklahoma and Missouri. Nothing is settled because the decisions are on appeal, but these laws are in effect. (See NY Times article.)

The preference of Hispanic voters for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama has been attributed to their familiarity with the Clintons and Bill record as president. But Professor Mrian De Los Angeles Torres of UI- Chicago atributes it as much to Obama's conduct and clumsy handing to the Latino vote. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bush's Budget: $100 Million For Enforcement, Nothing For Citizenship

President George W. Bush offered his budget for fiscal year 2009. Budgets tells us more about Bush's priorities than what is going to get from congressional Democrats. It demonstrates where the White House will lean in the struggle to actually allot next year's spending.

The Associated Press reports that the administration will ask for $100 million for the E-Verify program that requires employers to check workers' documents with Homeland Security before hiring. He does not, however, ask any funding the relax the financial burden on immigrants seeking citizenship or a green card or family reunification. Since August those seeking citizenship had to pay fees of almost $600 and those seeking a green card over a $1000. To add insult to injury, they have to pay additionally for their own finger-printing and mug shot.

The dispute between landowners along the Rio Grande and Homeland Security over where to place "The Wall" seems to be coming to a compromise. (See LA Times article.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

California: Electoral Foot-print of the Latino

Media analysis of super Tuesday has underscored the significance of immigration as an issue and of the growing Hispanic vote. Even though John McCain didn't draw many Hispanic votes, his more moderate and sympathetic views on immigration continues to alienate him from the conservative GOP base. Even with Mitt Romney out of the race, McCain will still be under enormous pressure to reconcile himself to the right -- especially on immigration. That'll be a trick, since his strength is from the moderate GOP and independents.

The influence of the Hispanic vote is more clearly seen on the Democratic side, especially in California. Hillary Clinton drew twice as many Hispanic votes as Barack Obama. Together with women and older voters, Latinos gave her a substantial victory. (See LA Times article.) What attracted Hispanic voters was their familiarity with the Clintons and their unfamiliarity with Obama. The positions of both candidates, especially on immigration, are about the same and amenable to Hispanics. Obama was perhaps a bit late in recognizing the importance of the Latino vote. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

The long term significance, however, is not whom the Hispanic votes favor in 2008 but the large turn-out. In California it was 10% compared to 7% in 2006. The expectation is that with all the hyp from the primaries it will grow. But it's not just in the presidential nominating contest that the power of the Hispanic vote can be demonstrated, but also down to local races as well. In Cook County, Anita Alvarez won the Democratic nomination for state's attorney in a crowded field. She did garner the Hispanic vote on the Southwest and Northwest sides, but she also ran second in most city wards and county townships. This office has often been the most competitive between Democrats and Republicans, still Alvarez is an experienced and attractive candidate and likely to become leading Hispanic officeholder in the state. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bush Plans To Overhaul Temporary Worker Program

What Congress failed to do legislatively, President George W. Bush plans to do by changing the regulations that govern the temporary worker program -- the H-2A visas. These are generally given for migrant farmworkers to be here legally and to work legally. The rules are suppose to protect the migrant workers, but the execution of the rules has been spotty and has led to many complaints of worker abuse.

The comprehensive reform that failed in the Senate last summer include a title called "the AgJobs Bill" meant to reform the abuse and streamline the program. After the defeat of the grand compromise it was hoped the AgJobs Bill would be revived. The anti-immigrant sentiment and the ICE raids had discouraged many farmworkers from crossing the border. So there emerge a shartoge of such workers that there reports of fields and orchards going unpicked. (Note that most of the picker -- 70% by one estimate -- were undocumented.)

The Bush administration would relax the requirements for bringing in H-2A -- e.g., relaxing the search for American workers first-- and broaden the kinds of work they can do. This is likely to arouse the GOP right who have made exclusionary measures an article of Republican faith. But immigrant and farmworker advocates look warily at the initiative. Long experience with the shoddy administration of the H-2A program makes them wonder whether the relaxed regulations might not be solely for the benefit of the employers. (See LA Times article.)

Martes Sumpremo 2

The Washington Post inside-dope blog on the primaries, THE FIX, declared the Hispanic voter among the big winners on super Tuesday by delivering California, Arizona, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey to Hillary Clinton.

"Hispanics: As they did in Nevada's caucuses, Hispanics gave Clinton her margin of victory in several must-win states yesterday. In California, which was an emerging battleground between the two candidates, Clinton won Hispanics by 40 points -- a massive boost for the New York senator considering that Hispanics comprised roughly 30 of the Democratic in the Golden State. The results were similar in other states that Clinton had to have -- in New Jersey she won the Hispanic vote by 35 points, in Massachusetts by 20 points."

The significance isn't so much the choice of Clinton over Obama -- though perhaps the Democrats over the Republicans -- but what it means for the future. For Latinos this has been a watershed election. (The Washington Post also has an article on what Obama has to do to attract the Hispanic vote from Hillary.)

Washington Post

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Martes Supremo: Latinos And The Primaries

Already Latino voters were a significant factor in the presidential primary in Florida, giving their votes to the winners -- John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Their support in Nevada for Clinton was more ambiguous because of the delegate count. But on "super Tuesday" ("martes supremo" in East L.A.) their impact may be very significant. Over 60% of eligible Latino voters can go to the polls today. And it seems from the campaigning they will be going do so in record numbers. Last year over a million Latino immigrants applied for citizenship, and they made a point to registering to vote in large numbers at the swearing-in ceremony. The impact of that vote is easily deduced from the percentages of the electorate in delegate-rich states -- e.g.,California 23%, New York 12%, Illinois 8% -- they make up. That vote seems to be leaning to Clinton and McCain, but Obama has made his name competitive especially among younger Hispanics. (See NY Times article.)

This is all speculative. But the feeling is that this is a water-shed election for Hispanics. There is no mystery why. The reaction to the Senssenbrenner Bill led to the street demonstrations. Next the failure od comprehensive immigration reform and the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric gave the initial push to go to the polls. Now the emergence of sympathetic candidates in both primaries has also became a pull to the ballot. Hopes are high that the Latino voice will be heard -- not only on immigration, but also education, health care and jobs.

Some Hispanic activists, however, are wary that the enthusiasm of the primaries and even the general election will be little more than muscle flexing of the Latino voters, but will be followed by paltry results. The Democrats say they will move on immigration in the first year of the new administration. But that will depend on what kind of Congress accompanies the new president into office. Some Democrats, these critics warn, had earlier this year began putting "enforcement" before "a path to citizenship".

The task now is to step up the voter registration -- there are still six million unregistered but eligible Latino voters. The general election will be interesting if McCain is the GOP candidate -- and the GOP right is working desperately to prevent that. A McCain-Clinton-or-Obama race, while more friendly to the immigrant, will nevertheless need hard, firm and quick commitment to relief for the immigrant in 2009.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Black and Brown Voters

The first presidential primaries were in "white Bread country" -- Iowa and New Hampshire. It was followed by caucuses in Nevada where the "brown" or Hispanic vote was significant in giving Hillary Clinton a popular victory, though a draw in the delegate count. The black majority of Democrats in South Carolina went overwhelming for Barack Obama, while whites split between Hillary and John Edwards. It is assumed both groups of voters are expected to vote Democrat.

Now that "super-Tuesday" is upon us, the media has begun to speculate how the black and brown votes will fall. In many of the states -- and those that are richest in delegates -- there are significant numbers of the those voters. Both groups have been enamored in the past to the Clintons, but blacks have drifted off understandably into the Obama camp. The question arises whether Obama can attract significant numbers of those "brown" votes. He seems to be succeeding with younger Latinos as he is with most younger voters. But for most part he doesn't seem to be with older voters.

The question that really is of concern, though it has not been asked too loudly in public, is would brown voters support a black candidate in the general election. Some friction over the last few years in Los Angeles and the charge that black and brown challenge each other for jobs is the basis for the speculation. Articles in the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post seem to indicate it's more a case of brown voters not knowing Obama -- except for Illinois -- but they Know Hillary and Bill well..

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Immigration: McCain's Achilles Heel

The media has crowned Sen. John McCain the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but the rumbles from the conservative GOP seems to giving off a different message. They don't like his vote against Bush's tax cut, so much so that McCain has taken to promising to make it permanent. (It's meant to expire in 2010.) Throwing in a little "cutting of government" doesn't seem to help much. The sticking point with the conservatives, if we are to judge from attitudes in his home state (See Washington Post article.), seems to be his attitude on immigration. For a Republican, it's been countercultural for the right -- consorting with Ted Kennedy and no better than Hillary's position. Super Tuesday may staunch this bottom-up rebellion and cement the nomination for McCain. And it may not.

Friday, February 1, 2008

NAFTA Pushes Corn Farmers North

Mexico is finally coming around to one important obligation of the North America Free Trade Agreement -- lifting the high tariffs on corn and bean imports from the U.S. and Canada. The result may be a wave of cheap corn moving south and cheap labor moving north. Mexican corn farmers are currently demonstrating against the measure in the streets of Mexico City. (See NY Times article.)

There are more than two and a half million Mexican farmers raining corn on plots of less than 12 acres. It's enough to generate $3,000 to $6,000 in annual income. To survive the competition of corn from the U.S. or Canada, they need the help of the additional tax on the imports. While it might seem to contradict "free-trade" dogma and to reward economic inefficiency, in reality it's only "fair". That gringo corn has already been subsidized as part of U.S. farm policy. Cargill and ADM have their production costs pretty well covered by farm supports and so can unload their corn for a profit in Mexico. A further irony is that the ferderal government even covers the cost of facilitating the export. Such subsidies would be continue in the still unpassed farm bill before Congress.

Already corn imports have culled the ranks of small farmers and have precipitated last year's "tortilla riots" in Mexican cities. The impact of this last lifting of restrains on imports may precipitate a renewed wave of undocumented workers -- whether ther's a recession or no recession.