Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"I'm not prejudiced toward Mexicans. It's the illegal ones who are the problem,"

A man named Dennis Barnes attended a Huckabee rally in Marshalltown, Iowa. During an interview after the rally he said "I'm not prejudiced toward Mexicans. It's the illegal ones who are the problem"

Perhaps people in the U.S. are looking at things more concretely these days... or maybe it's always been that way. But if you think undocumented people "are the problem" - you need to go back to school and take another government class. I know I have broached this subject before, but as one of my mentors used to tell me -- "sometimes you have to say something over and over again."

Barnes was talking about Mexicans. So we'll be specific.

If you look at unauthorized immigration from Mexico as a puzzle, then it needs a number of pieces.

1. At least 80% of the people in Mexico live below poverty level. There is a small middle class that is getting smaller. There rich are doing very well - especially in Nuevo Leon - I saw more big, new SUV's in Monterrey than I do in Houston. The people who work as domestic servants, or minimum wage workers (which is less per day than one hour of work in the U.S.)
can't survive - they immigrate to the U.S. because if they don't, their families could literally starve to death. If you don't believe me, ask a few people who came undocumented, and they will tell you that entire families have to live on 20 Dollars per week.

2. If a family doesn't have enough food, most parents will do anything - that also means American parents. How can people say that unauthorized immigration to the U.S. is a crime when people cross the border so they can survive. What else could drive a person to risk his/her life crossing a desert, being shot at by a Minute Man, or being placed for months in Federal detention centers.

3. Mexico was poor to start with, but things have gotten much worse for individual farmers since NAFTA was passed. They don't make any money on their produce. In addition, many thousands are losing their farms - mortgaging their properties to pay the coyote. Those that are deported once they arrive lose everything... no chance to make a living or to pay the mortgage. They literally have nothing to return to.

4. The only way the U.S. can maintain it's standard of living is by having undocumented laborers who require much less per hour than your usual American. Corporations know that- so do our Presidential candidates - but they are playing dumb in hopes of getting elected. Everything is about supply and demand - the U.S. demands low wage workers so the people keep coming.

5. Globalization- Technology - makes the world much smaller. People can go from country to country so easily - it's expected now. Don't think the U.S. is the only country that believes it has an immigration problem.

6. Due to current immigration law, very very few people can immigrate legally. U.S. immigration laws are antiquated. They are more like laws for the 1950s. If you are not a famous soccer star, the offspring of a former Mexican president, or a computer whiz with 3 college degrees you cannot come here. If you marry an American citizen, you have a chance, but these days that is getting much more difficult. For those who think all of Mexico is coming because their relatives are sponsoring immigrants - that is totally not reality. It takes from 8-10 years to immigrate when sponsored by a close relative. Plus, there is no such thing as an "anchor baby" -- the child could not sponsor his/her parents until they are 18. That's a really long wait to provide any advantage.

7. Having cheap or free labor is part of American heritage. Remember slavery? Remember share-cropping? Undocumented labor is just the latest phase of our labor history.

Race for '08: Latino influx the talk of Iowa

Issue reverberates as GOP candidates hunt for caucus support.

By Dave Montgomery -
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sacramento Bee

First in a two-part series.

PERRY, Iowa – In 1990, this tranquil prairie town in central Iowa had 47 Latinos. But after 15 years of steady migration from Mexico and Central America, Latinos account for more than a quarter of Perry's 8,000 residents, co-existing with the descendants of the white European immigrants who settled the farm belt community in the 19th century.

The demographic upheaval in Perry and other towns in Iowa, all hundreds of miles from the Mexican border, illustrates the extent of immigration into America's heartland.

Since 1990, the number of Latinos in Iowa has increased from 32,647, which was then 1.2 percent of the state's population, to 112,987, or 3.8 percent of the current population of 2.9 million. Some demographers expect the number to triple again in just over 20 years, increasing to 335,000 by 2030.

The trend has pushed illegal immigration into the forefront of presidential politics – at least among Republicans – as Iowa prepares for its first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 3.

The topic reverberates through town hall meetings and Republican debates, with candidates scrambling to outdo one another in getting tough on illegal immigrants as they compete for fed-up voters who constitute a broad and vocal chunk of the GOP political base.

"The immigration issue, just like security, is right at the top of the list," said state Republican Party Chairman Reinhold "Ray" Hoffman, adding that Iowans are "very frustrated" with what they perceive as unchecked illegal immigration to their state. "I've never been at a function when someone didn't ask about it."

'Something has to be done'

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has moved up in the polls, came to Iowa's immigration center on Thursday to appear at a rally in Marshalltown, the site of a highly publicized roundup of illegal immigrants at a Swift meatpacking plant just over a year ago.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee also crossed the state in a six-day bus tour that included stops in Marshalltown and other communities with surging immigrant populations.

"I'm not prejudiced toward Mexicans. It's the illegal ones who are the problem," said Dennis Barnes, 63, of Marshalltown, after attending the Huckabee rally.

Barnes said he worked for 19 years at the Swift plant but left in the 1980s as management began hiring Mexican immigrants at $3 an hour less than he was making.

"It's a big issue and something has to be done," said Robert Ames, a 58-year-old retiree who lives near Marshalltown. "There are too many illegals in here, and if we don't do something, there is going to be a bigger problem later."

'Salsa on the Prairie'

Perry's modern-day transformation, depicted in a documentary called "A Little Salsa on the Prairie," began less than two decades ago with a change of ownership of the local plant – the current owner is Tyson's Fresh Meats – and expanded as word-of-mouth and family connections brought more Latino immigrants.

Latinos settled in then-vacant homes in various neighborhoods, rather than in one area, blending into the community. Latinos make up 40 percent of the school enrollment, and many high school graduates have gone to college and returned. Latino-oriented services are enmeshed in the community.

Renaldo Morales, 50, originally from Nicaragua, moved to Perry from San Diego with his wife and three children in 1993. He's a part-time manager at Tienda Latina, a downtown store stocked with Spanish-language videos and CDs, Latin cuisine and stocking caps with the logos of Latin soccer teams. His 22-year-old daughter attends Drake University, and a son, 21, plans to go to college next year.

A more recent transplant, who identifies himself as José Sanchez, came to the United States from El Salvador three years ago and acknowledged that he doesn't have "papers." A sister-in-law picked him up in Houston and brought him to Perry, where he works as a janitor. His wife and two teenage children have since joined him.

Eddie Diaz, director of the Community Action Agency in Perry, said there undoubtedly are illegal immigrants in the community but the exact number is impossible to determine. But, legal or illegal, he said, they all share common goals: finding work, buying homes and pursuing "all the other issues in life."

Minuteman endorsement

With Huckabee moving to the front of the GOP pack, many Iowa voters are now closely scrutinizing his immigration positions.

As Arkansas governor, Huckabee embraced legislation to grant college scholarships to illegal immigrants but, as a presidential candidate, he has toughened his tone with a recently released nine-point plan. He told Marshalltown residents that he welcomed an endorsement by Jim Gilchrist, the controversial founder of the Minuteman Project, a self-described "citizens' vigilance operation" that patrols the border. Pro-immigration groups said Huckabee's plan and the Gilchrist endorsement demolish any perception that he's a moderate on immigration.

Nearly all GOP candidates have spoken out against "amnesty" – the buzzword for unconditional legalization – although they differ on details.

State and local leaders acknowledge that social acceptance of the cultural changes varies widely across the state.

"It's a very tough issue," said former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, whose administration pursued an orderly flow of immigration to avoid an economic decline. "Some communities have embraced this. Some communities are probably having a difficult time with it."
previously posted on Immigration Prof Blog


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