Thursday, May 29, 2008

Federal Judge Voids Texas Law On Renting To Undocumented

A federal judge in Texas ruled unconstitutional an ordnance of a suburb of Dallas unconstitutional. The law required landlords to ask for documentation before renting. If the renter had none or could not prove he/she was here legally, he/she could not get the apartment. (She Associated Press article.) The ordinance had been approved by a referendum.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Corruption On The Boarder

The corrupt ties between drug, gun and people smugglers and government officials on the Mexican side of the border has been widely reported of late as rival gangs murderously fight over turf and the federales clamp down. Now the NY Times reports that such ties exist as well on this side of the border -- between the smugglers and personnel of Custom and Border Protection of Homeland Security. It comes as the Border Patrol is stepped up recruitment. Corruption along the border is not entirely new, but it has been growing in frequency and scope over the last few years.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Swift Justice" For Those Swept Up At Potville

When ICE pulled off its largest raid at Potsville, IA. (See post for May 13, 2008), it moved the detained to fair grounds in Waterloo. Not only was the raid and moving swift, the justice was as well. NY Times reports that 290 immigrants have been tried and convicted already. Most had asked for quick deportation, but they get it only after serving a few months for using false documents. The detained were represented by counsel, but many defense and immigration lawyers question the fairness of the process. They suspect some may have had grounds to appeal in immigration court. What was most disturbing in the process was that prosecutors escalated the offense by threatening the immigranta with criminal offenses of identity theft and using false documents. Usually their offense would be civil. The prosecutors demanded some prison time and immediate deportation. It most certainly was meant as a warning.

Meanwhile in California a state-wide sweep has netted over 900 for deportation. The targeted population were those who had ignored orders to leave the country. But in the process of knocking on doors, ICE agents were able to detain anyone in the house found without proper documentation. (See NY Times article.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Department Of Labor To Revise Temporary Visas

The prospect of worker shortages this summer in restaurants, seasonal food industries and landscaping has been loudly trumpeted by the affected business interests. The Bush administration has heard the call and is responding by revising the H2B temporary worker program. It will extend its definition of "temporary" from 10 months to 3 years. Also it will speed up the visa process and cut bureaucratic red tape. This is good for the industries -- you'll get your meal in the restaurant and have your bed made up in timely fashion. But is it good for the immigrant? The nativists dismiss the changes out of hand, but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus does as well. The H2B program has other problems as to what conditions workers are housed in, how fairly will they be recruited, how much they're paid and the like. But the caucus opposes the revision of the program as piecemeal. They believe it should beas part of a comprehensive immigrant reform. (See LA Times article.)

The Senate will hold hearings today on claims of the inadequacy of health care for immigrants detained by Homeland Security and ICE. Next week the House will take its turn. Congress is responding to a series of revelations of shoddy care and even death in ICE detention centers by the Washington Post and NY Times and CBS. (See Washington Post article.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Challenges To, And New Support For, The Fence

A new legal challenge to the fence by the Texas Borser Coalition (See post for May 17, 2008.) has led to renewed statements of support from Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, and other border enforcers. This comes with an admission that the fence will not stop more illegal entries, but it should cut them down. They note that apprehensions along the border have dropped -- as much as 69% near Yuma, AZ -- proof that the fence, with stepped up enforcement by the Border Patrol, is working. Homeland Security's thinking is that a drop in apprehensions is a drop in attempted illegal entries. That's a disputable point, since observers also see an increase in illegal entries around San Diego. (See NY Times article which contains a map of the fence.)

Immigrant smugglers do not ply their trade only along the Mexican border. Off Florida the coyotes use "fast-boats" -- once called "cigarette boats" -- to ferry Cubans and a few others. The number of such attempted "land falls" -- Cubans can stay if the touch U.S. soil -- has soared the last few years. (See LA Times article.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Los Angeles Times Urges Legislation On Medical Care For Detainees

The Los Times has urged congress to set uniform and adequate standard for the medical care of detainees being held by ICE for deportation or for court appearances. The Washington Post had published a series documenting the shockingly poor care detainees often receive. The Times urges passage of Rep. Zoe Lofgren's (D, CA) Detainee Basic Medical Care Act (HR 5950) which would set uniform standards and require prompt reporting of deaths.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ICE Plans Three Family Detention Centers

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of Homeland Security has asked for bids to build three "family detention centers." It already has two -- one on the east coast and another in Texas. The Texas facility, the T. Don Hutto Center, was the cause of a law suit by immigrant advocates over the substandard care given to children. ICE favors detention if there is a possibility of flight -- even that includes wives and children. As a consequence of the Texas suit, ICE had agreed to a number of changes -- like providing education. play time and toys for the children. These changes are to be factored into the new centers, but immigration advocates aren't happy. They see no need for them, since there are more appropriate ways to prevent flight -- halfway houses, electric ankle bracelets, intensive monitoring. The basic objection is that people who have not committed a crime -- entering the country without proper documentation is a civil offense -- are held for all practical purposes in jail. Yet some of the detainees, most children, had no say in crossing the border illegally; they were brought by their parents. (See LA Times article.)

Republicans had made some success in appealing to Hispanic voters. They were attracted by the GOP's position on abortion, tax breakers for small businesses, and support of the military. The GOP never attracted a majority of the Latino vote, but support was growing over the last few presidential elections -- especially as President George W. Bush was most inviting. The Sensenbrenner Bill and the Republican majorities in the Congress scuttled comprehensive immigration reform and jump on the nativist band wagon. In the 2006 congressional election Hispanic voter not only returned to the Democrats, but new voters came out of the shadows. John McCain's candidacy has not abandoned the Hispanic vote and has every intention of wooing it. He was the co-sponsor of comprehensive reform bill -- notwithstanding the hosility of Arizona GOP to the undocumented. Also his war record and patrotim appeals to Hispanics. The only problem is that he is running as a Republican. Hispanic hostility to the GOP has not waned. The now aroused Hispanic votes also will not be confined to a few issues favorable to a McCain canidadcy, but will judge him on poverty issues, education and discrimination. (See Reuters article.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Border Mayors Take Homeland Security To Court Over The Fence

The Texas Border Coalition, a grouping of mayors along the Mexican border, business owners and community groups, have filed a class action suit against Secretary Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security to stop progress on the fence. The suit charges, as reported in the Arizona Republic, to have "hoodwinked landowners into waiving their property rights for the construction of the fence. . ." Their lawyer, Peter Schey, claimed that Homeland Security did not properly advise landowners of their rights. The landowners were under-compensated as well.

The Missouri legislature adjourned with out passing a constitutional amendment to require proof of citizenship to vote. It was passed in the state house, but no action was taken in the senate before the end of the session. The NY Times reported that strong voices from around the state opposed the measure and may have scuttled it. There was no real real threat of non-citizens flooding into the polling places. Rather Republicans, playing on the anti-immigrant frenzy, proposed the measure to discourage the poor and elderly, who more likely vote Democratic, from going to the polls. (See post for May 12, 2008.)

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network posts a list on proposed legislation on immigration. It covers national, state and local.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Social Security Number vs Taxpayer Indetification Number

The perversity of the nativist frenzy in Congress, as the NY Times illustrates editorially, is manifest in the way it has structured the tax rebates. Rather than routing it through the easier, less costly and more secure Taxpayer Identification Number of the Internal Revenue Service, it chose to do it the less efficient use of the Social Security number. Most undocumented workers have TIN but are suppose to have a SS number. Aside from the fact the this number is less reliable, as the argument against the E-verify program's use amply demonstrates, the SS number excludes many non-immigrants. So not only are the undocumented unworthy of the rebate, many elderly and poor who pay taxes, but do not have SS numbers, are as well. The Times correctly points out llittle harm, and some good, could be done by letting the rebate slip to the undocumented. They paid the taxes and are likely to spend the money quickly. Isn't the whole idea of a rebate to be a quick stimulus to out sagging economy? No one will spend that rebate where it counts faster than the poor, including the undocumented. But as the Times points out this nativist animus has spread to almost everything Congress does, and in the process deprives many non-immigrants of benefits. The E-verify program being push in the SAVE Act (Secure America through Verification enforcement) does this most egregiously..

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Madame Governor vs Sheriff Joe

A flight -- perhaps rivalling the historic showdown at O.K. Corral -- seems to be brewing between Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County over funding his campaign to keep the streets of Phoenic clean of undocumented. By executive order the governor cut state funding that has been used by Sheriff Joe for his "crime suppression" -- read immigration sweeps. This action would cut nearly all the money available for personnel Arpaio had trained to staff the program. It is a none too subtle message that the governor has lost patience with the sheriff. The money was meant originally to cut gang-related crime and go after fugitive felons. Sheriff Joe rather diverted it to the sweeps that have been widely criticized as racial profiling. Meanwhile the fugitive warrants in Maricopa County have built up to 60,000 outstanding. The governor's action should now focus Sheriff Joe's attention to doing his job. Not likely! So far all it has achieved is more grand-standing by "the country's toughest sheriff" before the press. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ICE Goes Kosher

ICE raided the largest kosher meat-packing plant in the world in Postville, IA, and rounded up 300 workers. The raid was plotted for six months. ICE even sent in a wired spy to collect names and addresses. The number of arrest is probably not finished. The Democrat governor and local police were alerted to the raid and cooperated. But local business people were surprised and not too pleased. (See articles in NY Times and Chicago Tribune.)

That the slumping U.S. economy is hurting the Mexican immigrant worker was document in the decline of remittances sent back to Mexico. Further the Labor Department recently announced that Hispanic unemployment increased over the last year by 1.4% to 7%. Much of this is attributable to the decline in home building where Hispanics had accounted for 40% of the new workers over the last decade.

A NY Times article documents the impact of this on Dalton, GA, which is the carpet capital of the country. Forty percent of Dalton is Hispanic -- Guatemalans and others as well as Mexican. The factories that attracted the immigrant to Dalton, northwest of Atlanta, depended on, and flourished with, the home building boom of the last decade. When the housing bubble burst, the demand for new carpet plummeted, causing much job loss.

Many Hispanic families had taken the advantage of their new prosperity to become home owners -- made easy by taking out subprime loans. Forty-seven per cent of home loans to Hispanics were subprime. So with the loss of work and rising monthly payment, many Hispanic families are losing their homes to foreclosure. That's not limited to one industry towns like Dalton, but in Hispanic neighborhood around the country "for sale" signs are sprouting even before the spring weeds.

The conservative, even Libertarian, Manhattan Institute released a study comparing census material that argues current immigrants assimilate to the U.S. standards and values as quickly and as completely as the earlier immigrants of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Only the Latinos are doing it at a somewhat slower pace. The study's findings are not all that surprising to immigrant advocates and activists and immigration scholars..

But, as is typical of the right, it has flawed analysis, in that it assumes that the dominant culture (Anglo-Saxon American) is a constant -- as presumably that the new comer brings. Even in the first Melting Pot, the assimilation was not immaculate. Irish and Italians did not become Anglo-Saxons Americans -- much less Protestants or Republicans. They became Irish-American or Italian Americans -- and Catholic and Democrats for most part. Eventually they may have come to look Anglo-Saxonized, but really they became a "tertium quid" -- something new.

The Manhattan study wrings its hands over the slow pace of Mexican assimilation. They shouldn't hold their breath. When The community has come to be assimilated, Mexican-American will also be a "tertium quid". That itself is not bad for America, since that is what the dominant culture is. What the right forgets about our history, it should learn from demographics. Populations don't stand still. The diversity in this country predisposes it to more diversity.

Even those ethnic groups the study singles out as high assimilationists might resent being measured so extrinsically -- by wealth, education and citizenship -- but not by their courage and determination to make a new life in this country. To assume all that came from its assimilation to the Anglo-Saxon culture depreciates the values the immigrant carried from the old country. Jewish success in America did not begin when they met their first Harvard graduates. If anything, they experienced a lot of prejudice and discrimination in the melting pot. What carried them forward was respect for learning, compassion for the needy and a eye to opportunity. These they learned already is Eastern Europe.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Citzenship Test For Voting

The Supreme Court let stand an Indiana law requiring a photo ID to vote. The first victims of the resurrected law were some elderly nuns in South Bend. They had no driver licenses. Now Missouri plans to go one better by requiring evidence of citizenship -- a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport. Ever since a defeated California Republican congressman charged that his loss came at the hands of the illegal votes of the undocumented, the GOP sniffed an advantage.

In defending the purity of the ballot box, Republicans profess to cleans registration roles of rampant fraud -- hence the demand for photo IDs. Voter fraud is a criminal matter but has been as American as apple pie in 19th century. To believe the GOP its lingers on into the 21st. The old methods of registration, house visit by party workers to assure residence, etc. were areed and long-standing practices and used by both parties. Now the issue has reverted to some old nastiness. In the past poll taxes were used to exclude blacks from the vote. The new methods -- at least as Democrats claim -- are meant to discourage the elderly, the poor and minorities from voting. It's hard for them to come by photo IDs or documents like a birth certificate.

Arizona already has a citizenship verification system for voting. Missouri will vote on one soon and may have it in the state constitution by August. Some estimate this will cause as many as 240,000 now registered Missouri voters to be dropped. Twelve other states are thinking of similar measures. Do non-citizens actually vote? The evidence is mixed, but experts believe it to be a very minor problem -- compared to the cost it will take to administer the law and to the problems with voting machines. The intent of the proponents is to discourage the vote of the Hispanic minority. Project Vote, a movement to register and get out the Hispanic vote, already finds the Arizona law chilling. Registering the poor and elderly, blacks and Latinos is difficult enough. It may become impossible since they have problems getting or holding on to documentation. (See NY Times article.)

Some conservative House Democrats -- known as "Blue Dogs" -- have join forces with Tom Tancredo and his nativist GOP buddies to push the Secure America through Verification Enforcement (SAVE) Act. This bill would require all employers to verify that a worker has the right to be employed here. If the employer can't verify then the worker can't be hired or must be fired. The vehicle for verification would be E-verify -- this is a check of employment record with Social Security record. The system is already being utilized by 61,000 employers and has uncovered a great number of inaccuracies that threaten bother the immigrant and the native worker. Now hearings in Congress has raised the question of the burden the new responsibility of verification would cause for the Social Security Administration. Already the SSA is heavily burdened and running behind in many payments, notwithstanding its success in getting the monthly checks out. The time also is ominous -- just before SSA must confront the first retirees of the baby boom generation. Verification should not the SSA's job. The NY Times editorially advises Congress not to go there, but rather incorporate any enforcement into a comprehensive reform.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More On Homeland Security's Health System

The Washington Post, fresh from a Pulitizer Prize for its coverage of the neglect of wounded Iraq returnees at Walter Reade Hospital, is now taking on a series about health care -- or the absence thereof -- in the detention centers of ICE. The story of death and neglect was already broken by the NY Times. (See blogs for May 5th and 7th.) But the Post goes into greater depth -- six article with maps, videos and sidebars. CBS's 60 Minutes also aired a segment on the issue working with the Post.

The NY Times reports that both the Obama and McCain forces are planning in detail for the fall campaign. Both candidates' strategies will be wooing the independent voters and the Latino vote. The Times didn't consider a strategy for Hillary Clinton. In the Democratic primaries Clinton had done extremely well with Hispanics -- even in Illinois. Both Obama and McCain are viewed as generally friendly, but the Latino community had perceived some back sliding in the early primaries. Any other Republican would have written off Hispanics, but McCain assumes their vote is in play.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Curanderos -- The Undocumented's Underground Health System

An undocumented field laborer in the field of California's Central Valley is more likely, when injured or complaining of a stomach pain or cough, to go first to "a curandero" -- a folk healer who uses herbs, potions and incantations. Only as a last resort do they go to emergency rooms. Part of their reluctance to use to the fact the public health system is closed to them for the most part by law or by cost, part is the fact the immigrants prefer the old ways. Still a large part is the reluctance of local health systems in taking on the burden of care for them. There are clinics that will accepted the undocumented "no questions asked' and at a sliding scale of payment. But the fear that ICE is nearby always acts as a deterrent. The undocumented, largely because they underutilize the health system, are less costly then has been argued -- even the use of the emergency room which is open to them by law. An irony is that a curandero can be as expensive as a local doctor. This has often led the undocumented to self-medication. They might pick up drugs on visits back home or have friends bring them up. In either instance -- curanderos or self-medication -- is not a good system. Public health officials are worried not only about the quality of care but the dangers of infectious diseases. This is much like the drivers'-license myopia; it's ultimate impact can be on the general public. (See NY Times article.)

One way some immigrants chose to stay in the country is through weddings of convenience -- i.e., paying a US citizens to wed. A marriage license is not enough of a bona fides to convince ICE that the marriage is for real. The LA Times reports on a sweep in Orlando, Florida, that rounded up bogus husbands and wives. Some had payid as much as $10,000 for the sham wedding, a good quart of it going to the U.S. party. The wedding reception -- at least from the pictures -- had wedding cake, bridal gown, and banquet hall. All but guests, until ICE chrashed the party.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The "Lou Dobbs Effect" On The Democrats

This year looks very good for the Democrats, but with some House Democrats who captured their seats from Republicans in 2006 the "Lou Dobbs effect" is in play. Lou Dobbs is a CNN commentator who views comprehensive immigration reform as the next thing to Judas' betrayal. So these Democrats, generally more conservative than the rest of their colleagues, are supporting the Secure America through Verification Enforcement Act which mandates verification of employment, raises employer sanctions for hiring the undocumented and add more fence. There is not likely to be any repressive legislation on immigration before the election, but if the act comes to the floor of the House it would pass with near unanimous support from the GOP and from enough conservative Democrats. In their tight re-election campaign these Democrats want ads telling constituents how tough they are on illegals. But the real significance of this "mini-dissent" is that no real immigration reform will come quickly after a Democratic victory -- save perhaps for sweeping majorities in both chambers. (See Arizona Republic article.)

The U.N. Children's Fund reports that about 300,000 child under 15 years old are illegally working in Mexico's farm fields -- most of the produce of which goes into our salads. This is not acceptable to the Mexican government since it is contrary to Mexican laws. It's the result of the desperation of poor families. Since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) a new migratory pattern of farm workers has emerged. Peasant farmers from the poor southern states of Mexico were forced out of production by new competition. So they and their families moved northward to large vegetable farms encouraged by NAFTA for export markets in the U.S. As an Arizona Republic article documents, the children who were without schools or day care followed their parents into the fields. Their income eventually became essential to supplement famiiy income. As a result many children in this internal farm migratory force are poorly educated or even illiterate and are at risk of poor health and accidents. Eventually these children may join the trek north and be among a new and less capable undocumented population.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Arizona Evangelistas Fear Church Raids

The recent deportation of Hispanic Evangelistas detained while on retreat in a state park near Prescott, AZ, has created fear that ICE might take to raiding their chapels and store-fronts. Retreats in the bucolic regions around Sedona, Flagstaff and Prescott had become an important feature of Hispanic Evangelical worship and practice. Now they are afraid to travel there because vans filled with Hispanics create suspicions of sumgglers. But the fear has gone even to anticipating that ICE will set aside its policy of not raiding churches and church related activities. The retreat near Prescott was a church-related event. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Congress To Act On Health Care For Detainees

In response to a NY Times article (See posting for May 5th.) on the deaths of immigrants while in ICE custody, the chair of the House Immigration subcommittee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D, CA) announced moving along her legislative proposal that Homeland Security set unified health care standards for all detention centers and make public immediately any deaths. (See NY Times article.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Death In Detention

Immigration advocates have been going aggressively after ICE for the conditions under which immigrants are held in detention, waiting sometimes months for their cases to be resolved in immigration court. They are not criminals; their offense has only been civil. Yet this detention system is, the fastest growing form of incarceration in the U.S. Human rights groups have cited many grievances against it:
  • its hodgepodge nature (federal, local and now more often private centers),
  • distance from family and lawyers,
  • care and education of children detained,
  • unequal standards of conditions from center to center.
  • quality of health care,
  • access to the detainees by relatives, lawyer and even clergy
  • quick transfers without notification to immediate families or lawyer.

These are just the most egregious abuses of detainees' rights. Now the NY Times, in an investigative piece, reports on deaths during detention by ICE. In just short of two years ICE reports sixty-six detainees have died. The list of names released often were inaccurate in detail or misleading. The Times followed up on some of the names to flesh out those details. The story it uncovered is one of neglect of detainees and of silence or even misinformation to families and lawyers. The Times article follows in particular a case of African injured at a center in New Jersey who eventually died in a Newark hospital.

Many Cubans and Haitians have long come to the U.S. by sea. Now it's becoming something a phenomenon in the Pacific as well -- with the attendant perils. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mexico's Immigration Problem

Representative Tom Tancredo (R, CO), the loudest anti-immigrant voice in Congress, has chided Mexico for being hypocritical on immigration. Its president pleads for an open door on the northern border while the country seals its southern border. While it's not quite that simple, Mexico does have an immigration problem that belatedly it's beginning to address. The country was stunned when a U.N. human rights observer remarked that "the immunity with which Mexico victimizes Central American immigrants makes it the principal violator of human rights on the American continent."

The problem is that immigrants from across Latin America have being streaming across the southern border illegally -- most on their way to the U.S. But many stay as low wage workers and create the kind of complaints one expects from U.S. nativists about Mexicans here. Central American particularly complain of rough treatment by the police and the military. This has sparked investigation and action in the Mexican Congress. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Reports from around the country on those participating in the May 1st demonstration for immigrants' rights indicate that the numbers were down substantially. This was anticipated for a numbers of reasons -- fear among the undocumented of ICE, differences over strategy, and simply rivalries among the leadership. The demonstrations nonetheless were lively and the chief complaint was against the stepped-up ICE raids. (See NY Times article.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Demographics Go To The Hispanics

Census figure just released for 2007 continue to record the growing diversity of the U.S. Slightly more than a third of the country is already minority -- black, Asian, white Hispanic and Native American. And already five jurisdictions are "minority-majority" -- Hawaii, Washington, D.C., New Mexico, California and Texas. Demographers, on the basis of current figures, project the whole nation will be "minority-majority" by 2050. The great growth has been among the elderly -- mostly white -- and among children -- mostly minority. (See LA Times article.) One in four children under five is Hispanic, born mostly in the U.S. This is one of the source of concern and tension in the immigration debate. (See Arizona Republic article.) As these children become of school age, there is great demand for bilingual education or other services due to cultural and linguistic issues. The demographics clearly indicate the immigration debate will not end soon, only get more complicated.