Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Arizona Governor's Veto Praised

A New York Times editorial praised Governor Janet Nepolitano of Arizona for vetoing a law that would required all local police and sheriff's offices to cooperate with ICE on immigration. (See yesterday's blog.) This would have made the whole state law enforcement over iton the image and likeness of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Maricopa (Phoenix) County posse. While the governor had used fiscal reasoning in the veto, most opposed to the law warned of racial profiling and harassment of Latino citizens.

The Inter American Development Bank which monitors remittances -- money sent back home by immigrants -- had recently surveyed 5,000 Latin Americans and has come up with a picture of the hardships they're experiencing with the slow-down of the U.S. economy. While the total amount of remittance have grown but at a reduced pace -- $45 billion in 2008 -- the number of those sending back money has decline. Two years ago the Bank reported three quarters of immigrant made remittances, this year less than half did. In delving into the reasons, it discover the usual -- more unemployment, lesser paying jobs, the need to hold two jobs just to keep up, blatant discrimination.. Also the Bank discovered that more immigrants are seriously thinking about going back. The findings came from legal and undocumented immigrants.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arizona Governor Nixes Cooperation With ICE

Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have required local police and sheriff departments to get training from Homeland Security on immigration and to cooperate with ICE in enforcement. The bill had sailed through the state legislation, so the veto has created an outcry. The governor explained that the real cost to Arizona of the bill would be $100 million. Immigrant advocacy groups and civil libertarians hailed the governors action. They were disturbed more by the danger of racial profiling and selective enforcement than by cost. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Immigrants: Want To Get Into The Country? Sing Or Have A wicked Curve Ball!

Congress has miserably failed to do serious reform of our immigration laws over the last years. As a consequence it has create much suffering for the undocumented worker who is welcomed here for his cheap labor, but not as a neighbor. Families trying to bring sons or daughters, brother or sisters, elderly parents in legally have a long wait. Young college aspirants who came illegally with their parents as young children and have been educated in our public schools saw their Dream Act shot down.

Notwithstanding that inaction and failure, Congress has not been totally inactive on immigration. Hearing the cry of wealthy entrepreneurs and the cry for entertainment, it is moving along some bills to allow various classes of immigrants immigrants into the country -- to pick tomatoes as the request of farmers, to entertain us at the Metropolitan or Grand Ol' Opery, to work in Silicon Valley for Google and Microsoft, to model the latest New York fashions, to sink baskets in the NBA or pitch curves at the local ball park. Congressional committees are sending up bills to make allowances for such high skilled and talented applicants for entry. Only they don't tell their constituents. (See LA Times article.)

Hardly At All!

The Legal Arizona Workers Act of last year was ballyhooed as the answer to a nativist's prayer and a model for other states in the light of congressional inaction. The law went in to effect March 1st after surviving a federal court challenge. But so far is has netted just about nothing -- save for Maricopa County (Phoenix) where law'n'order Sheriff Joe Arpaio who doesn't pussyfoot to illegals. He's nabbed a grand total of eight employers. The nativists believe the bill worker by scaring away all the illegals or intimidating the law-breaking employers. Perhaps. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sheriff Joe's Posse On The Move In Phoenix

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's posse will be carrying out what he calls "crime-suppression operations" in Mesa, AZ. Like his two previous drills with his mix of immigration-trained deputies and vigilantes, it was not asked for by Mesa's mayor and is not welcomed. That hasn't deterred Sheriff Joe, who argues he's only enforcing state law. He doesn't need permission of the locals to do that. Civil-rights and immigrant-rights advocates dispute that and are likely to take the issue to court. (See Arizona Republic article.)

An auto accident in Marshalltown, Iowa, in which an undocumented and unlicensed driver sideswiped a car, causing the death of a 90 year-old woman, has created a stir that reached the state legislature. The lower house has passed a bill denying bail to the undocumented charged with felonies and added employer sanctions.

Midwestern farm communities having been gradually dying over the last half century. That has stopped with the coming of meat packing and the undocumented workers accompanying it. Decaying downtowns have come to life with the newcomers. But the welcome hasn't been especially warm. A culture clash has led to friction and resentment, especially since almost half of the Hispanics are undocumented and poor in speaking English. Marshalltown itself is now a quarter Hispanic. For the American Gothics it's a shocking change. Out of frustration and real incidents as the auto crash in Marshalltown, states and municipalities are turning to measures like the no-bail bill. A similar law in Arizona is being challenged in the federal courts and working its way up to the supreme court. (See LA Times article.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Homeland Security Tries Again On The Virtual Fence

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had officially accepted the virtual fence built by Boeing along the border near Tucson, AZ, and now is throwing more millions of taxpayers' money at it to fix it up. (See Associated Press article.) If tinkering with the glitches doesn't work at $45 million, Boeing still has $850 million. That's the value of a "border security industrial complex". (See yesterday's blog.) And that's the cost of nativist hysteria.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Border Security Industrial Complex

As Dwight Eisenhower was preparing to leave the White House, his parting words were to warn of the "military industrial complex" -- an alliance of civilian and uniformed Pentagon functionaries and private corporations that lived off Pentagon contracting. Linda Valdez in the Arizona Republic fears a "border-security industrial complex" is aborning in the "virtual fence" being built across the Arizona desert. Boeing and others corporations are building it for Homeland Security. She reviewed thoroughly the recent report of the Government Accountability Office on the fence and concludes a very defective system is being delivered to U.S. government at the taxpayer's expense. In conceiving and constructing it the builders didn't even ask the Border Patrol what they thought of it. Most veterans of the border watch were skeptical. Now the country is stuck with at least 60 miles of a lemon. The billions that went into it -- and Valdez assumes will continue to go into future sections -- would have been better spent as developmental aid to Mexico and Central America. Improve social conditions, education and job opportunities that the billions could have bought in the villages would had been a more effective deterrent to migration.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More On LA's Special Order 40

A wide discussion on abolishing or revising Los Angeles' Special Order 40 followed the killing of a star athlete who was black by a Latino gang-banger who was undocumented. Special Order 40 forbids LA police from inquiring into one's immigration status. Generally the Latino community has resisted the idea of change -- as well as the LA Times, law enforcement, and some blacks. The nativists naturally have always favored doing away with Special Order 40. Blacks, reflecting their sense of being victimized by Latino violence, tend to seek some modification. The LA Times has been collecting reactions and published 40 opinions.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Benedict And The Immigrant

While the press has given early and large play to Pope Benedict XVI's sense of shame and remorse over the sexual abuse scandals and his meeting with victims, another theme of some importance has been muted. Benedict has praised the American church for its past ministry to immigrants and the consequent diversity of the American church. He also has urged the American bishops, priests, deacons, church workers and leaders to renew efforts to be a welcoming place for the immigrant. Benedict hasn't directly addressed the issues of the current debate on the undocumented, but he has laid down principles -- specifically, respect for the human rights of immigrants and the need of policy that supports family unity. That was enough to turn on Tommy Tancredo, who denounced Benedict's advice. On the same day that the pope visited the president, however, ICE made raids on Pilgrim Pride's chicken plants. That struck some American bishops as insensitive and contradictory to the welcome Benedict deserved. (See NY Times article.)

The NY Times added to its report on Benedict's instruction to the bishops and Catholics generally to be a welcoming church that often it is not. Over a million immigrants, for the most part raised as Catholics, are being attracted to evangelical churches as the truly "welcoming". The article is accurate enough. The American Catholic Church could try harder to be devise ways to be more welcoming. But as an historian, I think the issue is more complex. The real religious danger to the immigrant is more from a benign secularization. The same dynamic is working in the wider Catholic population. A recent Pew study on religious practice has shown that millions raised as Catholic have drifted away. Some to the evangelical mega churches -- like Tommy Tancredo; more into indifference -- thankful perhaps for the values of their upbring, but not too strict about the implications. There probably is a similar dynamic working among the evangelicals -- Latino or gringo. That shouldn't surprise us. What gave life and authority to main line Protestant denominations in the 19th century was evangelical enthusiasm. Now these denomination suffer along with Catholics as members cool in ardor, are better educated, aware of alternatives and so drift elsewhere. This is not an invitation to complacency, but rather to understanding. The issue for both Latino and Americans is how to make our old diversity, which Benedict recognized as our strength, new, so that American church indeed become a bridge for immigrants in passage to a new reality.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Homeland Security Secretary Visits The Border

An LA Times report accompanied Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as he tour the border from Yuma, AZ, to McAllen, TX. He was review progress -- or the lack thereof -- on the "virtual fence". The bugs were many and displeased the secretary.

The Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights has published two comic books -- one for Mexicans and the other directed at Central Americans -- highlighting the dangers of trying to get into the U.S. illegally. One danger graphically illustrated is the loss of legs by a migrant falling asleep and slipping under a train's wheels. Another is the ambushing of a group of migrants in the Arizona desert by thieves. The government hopes to distribute the comics widely. (See Arizona Republic article.) These comics follow an earlier one -- much protested by anti-immigrant groups in the U.S. -- released by the Foreign Ministry detailing how to successfully and safely navigate the journey north. Many observers of the migration from Mexico do not believe these books will be much of deterrent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Remittance To Mexico Decline

The economic hardship that has affect the U.S. because of the housing collapse is also having an impact on Mexico. This year remittances, money sent back home by immigrants, have declined by 7% from last year's record level. This is creating great hardship in Mexican villages, as reported by the Washington Post. Aging parents had come to depend on monthly gifts from children in the U.S. But as they loss jobs in the construction industry or lose homes to foreclosure they have cut the amounts sent back their parents. Even some who have used remittances to buy homes in Mexico are now selling them to gain cash. One ironic twist, while there has been some undocumented returning the Mexico because of U.S. hard times, is that the decline in remittance may spur more migration north than discourage it. People without support become discouraged, and have no hope of jobs in Mexico. So even the tight job market in el norte looks better.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

ICE Raids Poultry Plants Again

Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents raided five poultry plants of Pilgrim's Pride and rounded up over two hundred workers for deportation. But some of them will be held to face charges of criminal identity theft for using the Social Security numbers of other workers. These undocumented workers are liable to a five year prison term.. (See NY Times article.)

A NY Time's editorial takes to task the whole approach of employment enforcement to the problem of undocumented workers, It argues ultimately it won't work, only driving the undocumented worker further into the shadows and making them more vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Also Homeland Security would be depending on a faulty database in the Social Security Administration that could be as harmful to native workers and legal aliens.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vatican Support For Undocumented Decried

Nativist organizations are up in arms about a donation of $20,000 by the Vatican's Pontifical Commission on Latin America to a shelter in Ixtepec, Mexico, that feeds and provides lodging to Central Americans on their way north. The Minutemen even denounce it as "sinful". This comes as the pope is being greeted at the White House. Benedict had already forewarned, on the plane as he flew over, that he will be taking up the issue of immigration and barriers with the president. (See Arizona Republic article.)

After a brutal murder of some college students in Newark, NJ attorney general authorized state police to inquire about immigration status of those arrested for serious crimes. The killer in Newark was undocumented and out of jail on bail. If his status were known, he never would have been in the streets. Now lawyers and immigration activists are reporting that some police departments, especially in small towns and rural areas, are profiling Hispanics -- asking victims and witnesses as well as perpetrators about status. There are reports that passages are also being asked when a car is stopped for minor traffic violations. The NY Times editorially asks the NJ attorney general to restrain the rogue police departments.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ICE Recommends AZ Prison Program

The Arizona prison system releases undocumented prisoners who are serving time on lesser charges such DUI or minor drug offense to ICE for deportation. Prisoners with more serious offenses are made to serve their time and then are turned over to ICE. The Arizona Republic reports that ICE would like other states to adopt the same practice. Only New York has a similar practice. But even in Arizona, most local jails -- where most convicted serve these minor charges-- do not have a similar program -- save for Sheriff Joe Apraio's Maricopa County.

The murder of a black star athlete by a Latino gang-banger who also was undocumented has brought LA's policy of police not asking about immigration status -- so call Order 40 -- up for debate. Many black community leaders saw the murder of Jamiel Shaw II as indicative of black-Latino tensions. Blacks want Order 40 modified to allow police to make an exception for gang related crimes. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a black write, supports opening of a debate in an LA Times. column.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Showdown in Phoenix

The Associated Press reports that Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon has written to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to check whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has engaged in "racial profiling" with his "saturation patrols". On such occasions sheriff deputies and his deputized vigilantes descend on an Hispanic neighborhood and aggressively enforce minor laws such as tariff violations. In he process they check on the individual's status. Phoenix city police usually do not check. So the showdown between mayor and sheriff. The sheriff's policy has created a strong reaction from immigrant advocates and church groups, even referring to the saturation patrols as "police state tactics."

The Arizona Republic reported that Hispanic evangelistas on a retreat in a state park near Prescott were rounded up by Yavapai County sheriff deputies for being too noisy at night. Some were found to be undocumented and were deported. The evangelista pastor are now raising a cry that ICE is interfering with freedom to worship.

Associated Press also reports that 1.5 miles of the showcase fence near Columbus, N.M., turns out to be no great restraint to determined fence-jumpers.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Citizenship Can Be A trap For Immigrants

Citizenship and Immigration Services generally rejects about 80,000 applications for citizenship each year -- a little more now because of a record number of applications. Most are rejected because they are premature -- before the requisite 5 or 3 years after gaining permanent residency -- or because of a lack of the requisite English proficiency or failing the civics test. These can always re-apply. But some applicants are rejected and find themselves liable to deportation because of a technicality or some mistake in entering the country. These applicants probably would never have known they were out of status or never have been challenged, save for their desire to be citizens and their fateful encounter with CIS. The NY Times article documents one case of a Filipino doctor in Pennsylvania.

The Los Angeles Police has had for 30 years "Order 40" which prohibits officers from inquiring about immigration status. Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten reports that, in view of a murder of a star black athlete by a Latino gang banger, some in the city council want to modify Order 40 in the case of gang members' crimes. Rutten fears that this will raise the resentment of black voters and become an issue in the 2009 mayoral election.

Friday, April 11, 2008

LA Mayor to ICE: Go After The Real Culprits

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa has often advised Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop indiscriminate sweeps of companies that have generally good employment records and abide by U.S. labor law. Instead, he urges them to concentrate on firms that flaunt labor law, paying workers low wages and employing them in dangerous work conditions. (He also told ICE to go after undocumented criminals and gang bangers, but that creates another set of problems.) The LA Times supports the mayor editorially.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

287(g) -- What's That?

The NY Times editorially decried the growth of the 287(g) program of Homeland Security and asked that the participation of the Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff's Office"s participation be investigated by Congress. 287(g) authorizes the Homeland Security Secretary to enter agreement with local law enforcement agencies to assist ICE and carry out some of immigration enforcement. The largest such program is with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office presided over by the anti-immigrant Joe Arpaio. Over a 160 of his deputies have already been trained by ICE and he has gather 3,000 volunteer deputies to assist his uniformed force. The headline-graping round-ups of undocumented has deflected the sheriff's pursuit of real felons and is unwelcomed by some municipalities.

Monday, April 7, 2008

On American Insecurity -- Why The Fence?

LA Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez has an interesting reflection on "the fence". It's because Americans -- notwithstanding its wealth and power -- usually feels insecure about themselves. So the need for walls to keep the Mexican out.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

San Francisco -- The Immigrant Friendliest City

A number of cities around the country are careful not cooperate with ICE on its raids or not to deny many public services to undocumented immigrants. These are called "sanctuary cities" by friend and foe alike. San Francisco had declared itself one in 1989 and now is advertising itself as such. (See NT Times article.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Arizona: The Undocumented Are Leaving

Arizona has gained most attention on the issue of the undocumented -- at once the most traveled route for illegal entry and the most draconian in measures to stem the tide. Its get-tough approach seems to be working -- many immigrants are leaving of planning to leave the state. Still it is not without collateral damage to legal aliens and naturalized citizens. The new work restrictions, for example, depend on the faulty E-Verify system of the Social Security Administration, which sometimes lists naturalized citizens as undocumented. Also the aggressive policing of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio amounts, according to Hispanics, to racial profiling. Now the state legislature is thinking of mandating all police to cooperate with ICE. It's no wonder immigrants are fleeing the state. (See LA Times article.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

NJ Lawsuit Shines Light On ICE's Tactics

The Social Justice Law Center of Seton Hall University has taken ICE into federal court because it uses deceit (posing as police in hot pursuit of criminals) and "raw power" to enter homes without warrants. (see NY Times article.) Yesterday's blog reported ICE's "gentler' tactics at factories in Van Nuys, CA, but, when it comes to homes, a front door seems no restraint.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

NY Times Urges Congress To Undo Homekand Security's Environmental Challenge

When Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff waived environmental laws to speed up building "the fence", outraged environmentalists turned to the courts. The NY Times suggests rather they turn to Congress. It was Congress's Secure Fence Act of 2006 that gave the secretary his sweeping powers. Now it is Congress's burden to undo its earlier folly. It will not be easy in this charged anti-immigrant atmosphere.

Recently, when ICE made a raid in Van Nuys, CA, it took the trouble of alerting social service agencies and immigrant advocates so as not to have a repeat of last year's heavy-handed raids in New Bedford, CN. The LA Times commended ICE for its civility. Even when the agency was caught denying counsel to those it took into detention, it backed off. But the Times is not entirely convinced by a more compassionate ICE. These concessions would never have been made had not immigrant advocates, community groups, local and state agencies not protested loudly and embarrassed the agency. The pressure must continue.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Waivers Enrage Environmentalists and Property Owners

The Department of Homeland Security has promised to finish another 470 miles a fence on the southern border to add the already finished 309 miles by the end of the year. To do so Secretary Michael Chertoff will exercise authority given his office by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 to waive environmental laws. This has outraged environmentalists who argue that the fence will disrupt the migratory patterns of animals and disrupt the habitats of endanger species. Their law suit before the Supreme Court already challenges portion of the fence in Arizona. Now they will amend the suit to include the entire project. Property owners have long opposed the fence, because in divides their lands in bizarre ways. Ironically, their claims may get a more sympathetic hearing in this court than the environmentalists. (See NY Times article.)

The NY Times points out in an editorial that undocumented workers far from being a drag on Social Security actually contribute towards its solvency. They pay into it, but don't draw from it. The windfall is even recognized and anticipated by the the Social Security trustees.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rush On For Visas For High Skilled Workers

American companies can bring high skilled foreign workers in temporarily to fill jobs for which there are -- supposedly -- no available American workers. They come in on H-1B visas for three years, renewable for another three years. American firms must apply for these visas this week and the rush is on. So many application were made last year, Citizenship and Immigration Service stopped accepting them after the first day. There are only 65.000 such visas, down from as many as 165,000 in the past. High tech companies complain there are not enough to fill needs and so jobs have to be sent overseas. (See NY Times article and similar item in the Chicago Tribune.)

H-1B visas are very complex realities and very controversial. Americans are said to be bad in math and sciences and so the country is short on engineers and computer experts. The education problem may be real, but many challenge the supposed shortage of competent workers here. Companies are not pressed to search for Americans to fill jobs before submitting an application for foreign workers. In fact, the three largest companies submitting them are Indian. There is also the issue of "creaming" poor countries' talent -- creating incentives for the educated to come temporarily to the U.S. with hope of permanent residency.

Another issue is how well are the temporary workers treated when they get here. CIS is not very good at sharing information with the Labor Department which has some responsibility in overseeing the H-1B program. There are many complaints that employers do not pay the prevailing wage as required by law, string workers along with promises of green cards, and the like.

Congress is looking into the abuses of the law and reform should be part of a comprehensive immigration reform package. The plight of the undocumented, the immigrant seeking to bring in family members, the temporary farm worker suffer even greater indignities from an immigration law and administration totally out of whack.

Many od the undocumented who die -- crossing the Arizona desert or in auto crashes on the way to Iowa -- carry no identification and so are buried anonymously. As the Associated Press story reports, they are know only by a number.