[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well. (To be linked at end of post.)]
On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP). Rep. Gutierrez said that the bill represents “the final push for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media. Seth Hoy at AlterNet breaks down some of the bill’s key points, which include a border security provisions, family unification, a legalization component, and improved detention conditions.
The legislation is an encouraging first step forward on the path to immigration reform. But many hurdles must be overcome before an immigration bill from the House or Senate becomes law, especially in today’s tense political environment. Outright antagonism from the nativist lobby or the far Right will be no small part of the challenge, no matter how concessionary the legislation is to Republicans.
In the absence of nationally legislated reform, many border states like Texas are attempting to fill in the gap. One of these cases is a town called Del Rio, as Melissa del Bosque reports for the Texas Observer. Del Rio’s new school superintendent, Kelt Cooper, has “an overarching concern about Mexican nonresidents attending [U.S.] public schools.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, acting under Cooper’s request, recently took a headcount of children crossing the bridge that connects Ciudad Acuña in México to Del Rio, Texas. No other border to the county was inspected similarly.
At Cooper’s order, Del Rio school district employees handed out fliers to drivers with students who crossed the bridge that morning, informing parents that their children were being withdrawn from school unless they could prove U.S. citizenship. If Cooper truly cared about his student body, he’d take a lesson from another school with a large immigrant population and harness the energy available to him, rather than sowing fear and division amongst the student body.
In AlterNet, David Bacon writes about the impact of President Barack Obama’s brand of immigration enforcement, which has been sold as hard on employers, but not on workers. A key part of this approach has hinged on phasing out the aggressive and visibly disruptive SWAT-style raids that were common in the Bush era and instead warning companies that their employment rolls would be inspected. But these employee audits are just another proxy move in the absence of sound legislative that guides how this country treats immigrants.
The “softer” raids are not, in fact, harder on employers. The audits that result in the loss of hundreds of jobs at a time often take place during or close to attempts to organize a union. The workers are let go and the companies—recent examples include American Apparel and ADM Janitorial—are given immunity. These selective raids and probes cannot drive every undocumented worker away. Furthermore, if the flow of cheap labor were to dry up, the U.S. economy would collapse. These audits are but “a means for managing the flow of migrants, and making their labor available to employers at a price they want to pay.”
Daphne Eviatar reports on Thursday morning’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing for The New Mexico Independent. The hearing, “ostensibly about how [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] should improve its immigrant detention system” revealed deeply divided convictions among attendees. Immigrants today are either “dangerous criminals” who need to be locked up and deported, or “hapless men and women” who only broke the law in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. These divisions need to be settled, as the incarcerated population has doubled in the last ten years.
Even if prisons were built in every state and were designed only to hold undocumented people, the problem is not solved. The flow of migrants from South of the border must not be viewed as a vacuum. It is a symptom of the economic imbalances between the U.S. and Mexico.
So is the case with climate change, as Michelle Chen reports for RaceWire. Today, immigrants flee toward healthier economies and are demonized as the cause of the economic storm that howls behind them. It is no different for those displaced by “environmental destruction,” which is “reshaping the flow of labor and people as they move from one endangered livelihood to another.”
Chen advises us to accept the “fluidity of human movement,” as the consequences of remaining stuck in today’s limited immigration dialogue are dire. “Migration stems from the convergence of environmental destruction and social inequality,” writes Chen. There’s not a fence in the world that can address those forces.