THE ECONOMY FALTERS and desperate denizens of a sizable nation tack to the right, back away from the light, throw coins at half-crock cops to purchase stronger locks, to erect more dank and shadowy holes in which to imprison the vulnerable soul, tunnels through which we channel our own unmentionable goals, call the hungry a danger, shackle the stranger, build an industry upon the back of the humble—again. The small figure of she who might one day herself hold a torch, welcoming once again that fierce spirit that through the ages moves; to find food, to find space, to find hope, to find life. We only recognize this spirit in statues, it seems….
And amazingly, the very aunt of our own President—himself a child of immigrants—Zeituni Onyango from Kenya, continues to fight deportation. It’s hard to comment further. That idea itself kind of blows the mind. As well as the fact that there is such pressure upon the POTUS to be One of Us (meaning, not black) that he must be careful to avoid being seen acting in the name of an immigrant…even someone who helped raise his own siblings. Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy are permitted dynastic dynamics, but Obama, the post-racial president, must turn his back to a family member fighting to simply stay in the same country as he, and all while living in public housing and recovering from paralysis caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Onyango fled violence in Kenya. She claims as much and I, for one, give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s because she gives the same reason that drove one of the women in my own family to cross international borders and thus came to the U.S.A. Though I guess this benefit of the doubt is something just about any article on Onyango refuses to do, oddly. Often, these writers pretend a guessing game of wondering what she is stating as reasons to fight deportation are “this time.” (Love of public housing in the USA? The lovely cold shoulder of her nephew?) As if her plea to the government is just some sort of fad going around in Senior circles! One week it’s Shuffleboard and the next it’s, oh, Applying for Asylum.
And then sadly, you have sites like this, where apparently anyone can scratch out an article—even one loaded with venom and phrasing so anti-crafted as to cause unintentional laughter. Citizens who lament that Onyango “won’t be alone” in her cause, joined by all the many, many others who exist in a nation “that refuses to properly secure its borders” etc etc etc ad nauseam.
How Do You Reason With Those Who Bring Irrationality?
This is a question worth posing, as Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is centered—or skirted around continuously—in the national dialogue. Because too many actors pretend reason, but they don’t partake of it themselves. That’s one thing I mentioned recently in my interview with Cuéntame. Ofelia, the associate producer (unless I am mistaken), at one point asked me what do you say to those who are of the “English Only” crowd? I answered something to the effect that we could speak about it culturally, or historically, or rationally…but it would be hard to imagine any of these approaches bearing fruit in those cases.
People who fume about having to press a damn button on a phone so that their language is preferenced aren’t there to be rational. People who bristle and froth at the sound of a language—that many of us American citizens find beautiful and part of our own culture and identity and history and familia—are not there engage in good faith arguments with you.
Which is why I don’t engage in lengthy debates with commenters who come here wielding tried and true phrases that indicate a hostility bereft of the openness that a true dialogue requires. And yet, some have made the point that you (or I, rather) should engage in these sorts of maddening threads so that the next person coming along to read—who may be open to persuasion— can read “both sides” and make up their mind.
Now, I don’t have the temperament or calendar space to do this kind of thing. Let these disingenuous agents of loathing go vent their spleen on their friends, their mailman, their dog, their other internet foes, whomever. But to the person who writes an article claiming, as if a given, that this is a country that “refuses to properly secure its borders,” and thus ends up with an undocumented population, I spend no time. Their argument makes clear that they are simply virulently anti-immigrant, and thus, Anti-American. Were they speaking/writing in good faith, they could not utter such a thing. Because even if you build a hundred-foot wall of slick steel around the entire nation—even if you blocked out the sun with a national kevlar superdome—you would still have all the undocumented people who overstayed visas, for just one example. So it’s not about Properly Sealing the Border. (Why do I always see a massive roll of saran wrap when I hear that phrase?)
But again, this person is not interested in a real dialogue. And I know I’m giving the hack way too much space, here, but I’m after Dude because this is exactly the kind of clutter we don’t need in the debate. The shallow, leering, amateur post pretends to condemn the President for a lack of sensitivity and generosity of spirit (!) and all while it offers up the most snide and petty paragraphs possible!
Then again if you want a lens that spits on immigrants and the idea of immigration reform, those (and these) are the types of articles you will seek out, or stick with. You will embrace writers who reference Rep. Luis Gutierrez’ (D-Ill) assessments of the movement on reform as “cynical sniping” or who, refer blithely to a person—someone whom others may call amigo or mama or papa—as “illegals.” (Alternately, here is another post from the same site that is written without all the sneer.)
And finally, Wikipedia offers us some insight on one possible reason why a host nation may have reason to deny that a potential immigrant such as Zeituni Onyango actually faced violence in their homeland:
In response to the outcry following popular knowledge of the Holocaust, the newly-established United Nations held an international conference on refugees, where it was decided that refugees (legally defined to be people who are persecuted in their original country and then enter another country seeking safety) should be exempted from immigration laws.  It is, however, up to the countries involved to decide if a particular immigrant is a refugee or not, and hence whether they are subject to the immigration controls.
The Slur of “ILLEGAL” is Much Loved by the Unintelligent—
—and we know that. But it is also a trademark of Progressive Hypocrisy. That is, if you call yourself a Progressive, you really can’t call other people “Illegals.” So writes, and rightfully, Prerna Lal. Lal rips off a rant that is as sharp as it is heated, and even through the humor, one simple fact is clear: it is dehumanizing not only to use such a term for humans, but also to imagine yourself grand enough to apply it to the unwilling objects of your decision.
Given that these people think it is liberal and even progressive to label certain marginalized groups against their wishes, we actually do not think the term liberal or progressive attached to these bloggers is accurate enough. It certainly carries a bias. We should try to come up with a name for this particular social group that is more neutral and reflective of their behavior.
“Illegal bloggers” is inaccurate. It is not yet illegal to label, categorize and castigate a marginalized group against their wishes. These bloggers can decidedly revert back to calling Blacks Negro, using Orientals for Asians, and fags for people in the LGBT community anytime it becomes politically convenient.
Brian-deficient and heart-deficient bloggers is also not too accurate. They have brains and hearts–they just don’t use them for the most part.
Nor is Prerna satisfied to bring these insights and passion to bear on the blogosphere. The co-founder of DreamActivist.Org, a nationally renowned activist group that pushes for the passing of DREAM Act legislation, levels her gaze on the Schumer-Dobbs coalition. The first point she makes is to sardonically explain what has been taking Schumer so long and why he has reneged on earlier statements about introducing a bill by Labor Day:
Now we know what is taking Senator Schumer so long! He has taken on the project to educate himself and the hero of the Latino community, Mr. Lou Dobbs, on matters of great importance, ranging from immigrant leprosy to birth certificate verification measures. A new and improved Lou Dobbs supports immigration reform and his input is gravely necessary for a just and humane reform. The strong winds of change are certainly buffeting us all into grave uncertainty.
Churning Stew on the Stove of Stalled Reform
How’s that for an original metaphor? But what I’m getting at is the tumbling sea of emotions in the pro-migrant blogosphere as well as the immigration reform activist’s sphere. After the State of the Union speech, the chips continue to fall…um…into the stew…and…okay, ditch that metaphor. I’m feeling queasy.
What’s the deal, right? Why the sudden eruption of emotion and articles simply because Obama reaffirmed his commitment to immigration reform in a setting one could argue it needn’t be discussed at all?
Because the tide of disappointment that so many held in check when the first year of Obama’s presidency ended without any real motion on reform, has now been loosed by 38 words that seem to revere nothing so much as the vision of an ultra-punitive world, fringed by ICE angels and powered on the humming and broken rails of E-Verify and Secure Communities. That is, a salute to enforcement-only is nothing to feel warm about, especially coming from a man who seemed to weave campaign speeches from the very starry fabric that embroiders our own anthems.
You Down With GOP? Well, You Know Me…
At the Guardian, one Stewart J. Lawrence describes the lay of the land as he sees it, and “the word on the street” (or his street) is that “immigration reform is dead.” Lawrence offers arguments why this is not the case in Obama Must Not Panic On Immigration, and much of his hope here relies on the GOP.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. furthers that case, reminding us that there is interest on both sides of the aisle in passing immigration reform. He peppers the post with sprinkles of sharp reminders to the Democrats: Let’s remember that it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, who helped thwart immigration reform both in 2006 and 2007, Navarrette, Jr. writes.
I made a related appeal on November 08 of 2008 at The Sanctuary.
Republicans, want to win many of us Latinos back? Forge your new Resurrection plan and fashion at its core a new view on (im)migrants. Create an immigration reform proposal that stops the raids right away and creates a path to citizenship and lays off of the punitive and hostile vibe that looms over so many Americans and is just goddamn reasonable, for crying out loud. And if you beat the Democrats to it, I will start praising you on this blog. Regularly. And wholly independent of my own efforts, you will gain a whole lot of votes.
That was late 2008. Now, in this moment when so many voters who came to Obama for immigration reform are feeling disillusioned, the point is even more salient.
At Huffington Post, Internet Tabloid Site, we can find a positive piece penned by Eliseo Medina (Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)) insisting that “Now is the time to step on the gas” for immigration reform.
[E]very day that Washington fails to deliver a real solution, we will continue to see a rise in hate crimes, heightened fears and growing divisions in our communities. This is not the path to restore America’s greatness.
And what those who are fighting for this cause can bring with them (in addition to a lot of heart because they will need it) are facts. Duke Reed at promigrant.org is one of the best at calling up the history and the ins and outs of this process and here are two recent posts that offer up a lot of information. Free of charge!
The Criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Here is a nice youtube montage of the march. I featured this same march recently in a News With Nezua episode called La Marcha. This YouTube video gives a better feel for just how many showed up, however.
Kafka’s Cops Are On the Watch
And so we come to the one part of “immigration reform” that Democrats and Republicans and Obama and NumbersUSA all agree on: beefing up ICE. If you follow this blog, you know what ICE is. And if you don’t, please type those letters into the search box atop the page to learn more.
Today, the hyper-constitutional para-police outfit raided an Anne Arundel County restaurant and despite’s ICE supposed internal policies, refused advocates requests to interview the workers prior to processing. Perhaps ICE was afraid someone might inform the workers of any rights they had.
People are protesting today outside ICE to demand that the federal government comply with the law and allow the detainees to speak with attorneys. [From email:]
WHAT: Protest Outside Baltimore Federal Building to Demand Constitutional Rights
WHEN: Thursday, February 4, 2010; 3:45 pm
WHERE: Federal Building, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21201-2825
Michelle Chen of RaceWire covers a new report by the Urban institute that tracks the experiences of 190 children and 85 families who have been swept under the hammer of ICE’s unrelenting family-smashing agenda in recent months. The Urban Institute found the obvious, that “indefinite separation from one, or in some cases both, parents ruptured the family structure economically and socially.” What’s not, perhaps, so obvious is that these ruptures do not disappear, even once relief is brought to the situation.
Chen also mentions a report recently commissioned by the American bar Association that highlighted “major structural problems” in the immigration justice system. This is one to note for those who claim some divine relief can be found in “following the law,” as the law itself in this case is hopelessly mired in contradictions and gaps that have never been reasonably met with legislation. It’s time to do this right, lest these tears in families and in courts widen and deepen.
At the end, Chen touches on the Department of Homeland Security’s multibillion 2011 budget, which “contains no moral accounting for the collateral costs of exclusion.” I touched on the budget myself, indirectly, in the last News With Nezua: The Thirty-Eight Words, when I mentioned ICE being the only place one could easily discern any kind of attention coming from the White House. VivirLatino peers into the actual numbers and breaks down the pathetic disproporationality that exists between ICE’s funding and other elements of immigration.
I also mentioned secret prisons. For more of this, definitely read The Nation’s piece, America’s Secret ICE Castles. AlterNet and some other independent sites also carried this, though it doesn’t show up in any mainstream news sites. Surprising? You’d think something like this would concern US Citizens. And if it were not all about prisons that house brown people, I’m quite sure you’d see a lot more action on it. But that is the way of our nation right now.
“We Can Make Him Disappear”: Immigration Officials Are Holding People In Secret, Unmarked Jails
In addition to publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is holding prisoners in 186 unlisted, unmarked locations, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces.
December 19, 2009 | “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International’s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”
That’s the Department of Homeland Security. They present the absence of workplace raids as some kind of sign of progress, when really the purpose of ending those was simply to escape what was becoming public attention to obviously grim tactics. If that kept up, ICE may have been forced to be accountable to many things. It was a bandaid move to distract from infection. Yet, the underlying agenda, abuses, and criminality remain.
I guess when I read through DHS’ budget, what I was struck by was that the thinking apparently is that only weapons, x-ray vision, and impermeable fences and software that peers into databanks can keep us safe; offers a country “security.” It is very sad that this is the thinking in 2010. Because my way of seeing it is that ICE is making our nation extremely insecure, day after day after day. No…it takes much more than force and fear to sustain a society. But apparently we have not learned that yet as a whole.
The Washington Post reports on Army vet Rennison Castillo’s case against ICE for wrongfully imprisoning him and not acting on his pleas to simply check his Social Security Number (seems this “Security” word is tossed around a whole lot! I do not think it means what you think it means!) The judge in the case has rejected a request fro the goverment to simply dismiss the case. Wouldn’t that be nice? Um, justice? Nah. Just…dismiss it.
Anything goes, in ICE’s eyes. Which is why we really have to drag them into the glare of the public eye so they can answer for their crimes and hushed collusion with agencies that need to be scrutinized and regulated if not undone completely. One piece of this has been tackled recently by The National Day Laborer Organization (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Together, they have filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (FOIA), for information pertaining to ICE’s sweetly-named and stinkingly-misnomered “Secure Communities Act.”
Despite ICE’s congressionally sanctioned goal of prioritizing “dangerous criminal aliens,” the Secure Communities program is overly inclusive–and in fact targets individuals who have never been convicted of any crime.
We see pushback too, in other places. The Colorado Independent reports that the “network” of ICE facilities that has blossomed in Colorado as of late are drawing “increased attention” from local lawmakers and human rights organizations. Over 100 ICE detainees have died in captivity since ICE was created in 2003. So far in Colorado alone, at least four and as many as nine “subfield” offices have been found. “Subfield” is another way of saying “secret” in this case. These detention centers that are making money on the backs of immigrants are owned by corporations like WackedOutHut Wackenhut, the infamous Wackenhut. Forbes might praise the cashraking abilities of WackassHut (after all, more than $133 per day per person ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at!) but the rest of us wonder how to feel about rescuing our economy with the stolen coin of another person’s pain. And that’s assuming that making WackoffHut rich benefits our economy at all….
And seventeen years after the ACLU commissioned a two-year study of the unassuming Varick Street Detention Facility in Greenwich Village, NYC and found that the detainees were “denied fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercise throughout their incarceration and … denied meaningful access to legal counsel and to the courts while in jail,” the facility is moving. To New Jersey. Because it’s cheaper. So…I guess in some cases, ICE does understand that you have to cross a geographical borderline because the costs of staying where you are interfere with your operating normally. Imagine that.