Friday, December 28, 2007

What kind of American values would appreciate the plight of undocumented immigrants?

'The general welfare'

The eighth in a series of editorials examining American values and the candidates for president.
December 28, 2007
Los Angeles Times

Most Americans cherish an abiding conviction that we live in a land of opportunity -- for all, not just a few. We often wrap this conviction in the mantle of liberty: Because we are free, we can pursue our dreams, change our lives, change our world.

But there are prerequisites to opportunity. To live productive lives, we must enjoy health. We must have access to the knowledge we need to be successful. And we must have a sound understanding of the rules of the society we live in.

With this editorial, we consider the presidential candidates' positions on healthcare, education and immigration, issues that may seem unrelated but that, in starkly immediate ways, determine our ability to pursue our American values -- notably, promoting the general welfare


The candidates may be forgiven if they seem unable to find solid footing for their views on illegal immigrants. Voters appear to be unsure themselves. They tend to oppose social services for illegal immigrants, but a majority favor a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million already here.

That's not as contradictory as it might seem. In fact, voters seem to be aware of some of the complexities surrounding illegal immigrants in this country. Undocumented workers contribute more to the nation, in the form of taxes and willingness to take low-paying, unattractive jobs, than they cost. The benefits and costs, however, are unevenly distributed. Employers and consumers gain from the low wages; federal and state governments receive the income tax paid on wages. But the burden illegal immigration places on society tends to fall at the local, not national, level.

That's why supporting comprehensive immigration reform -- the stand of most Democratic candidates as well as this page -- is a start, but only a start. Voters aren't buying simplistic solutions such as building a fence the length of the border or issuing some form of identification. In their neighborhoods, they see houses where one family used to live now sheltering several immigrant families. As a result, their schools are overcrowded. The children, whose parents often don't speak English and sometimes can't read, need extra help, and the schools are in trouble for their low test scores. Kids drop out of school, and crime rates go up. The expenses that employers avoid by not offering undocumented workers health benefits fall to local emergency rooms and community clinics.

With no certain answers, candidates must at least raise the hard questions or risk seeming hopelessly out of touch with these day-to-day realities. Only Clinton has mentioned the idea that the federal government, which has failed in its job of restricting illegal immigrants while accepting their income tax payments, might use some of that money to compensate affected communities for the related costs.

Nor have Republican candidates -- who have been tripping over each other to prove they're the hardest on illegal immigrants -- offered a more pragmatic platform. The border fence might reduce the numbers of new immigrants, but it won't stop them, especially when two of five illegal immigrants [pdf] already here entered the country legally and overstayed their visas. A lack of driver's licenses hasn't discouraged them either. It has simply put more unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the roads.

Among Republicans, only Giuliani and McCain still talk about allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. The others pretend that 12 million people have been living -- most of them working -- in this country without playing an appreciable role in its economy. Even Huckabee, known for favoring state scholarships for illegal immigrants, now says the best route is to throw them all out within four months, then give them a chance to apply for return. Among the questions we'd like to see addressed: Would that be before or after they finish their college degrees?

Next: "The Blessings of Liberty" looks ahead to The Times' endorsement of a presidential candidate. The complete "American Values" series can be found at,0,710619.story?coll=la-opinion-leftrail

A response to the LA Times editorial of December 28, 2007

Pide Los Angeles Times a aspirantes a presidencia abordar reforma migratoria
Agencias / La Jornada On Line
28 diciembre 2007

"Los indocumentados contribuyen más a EU (en forma fiscal y en asumir trabajos mal pagados y poco atractivos), que lo que le cuestan", consideró el diario.

San Diego. El diario Los Angeles Times pidió en su editorial de este viernes a los precandidatos presidenciales estadunidenses abordar la reforma migratoria como fórmula de bienestar para todos los estadunidenses.

"Los trabajadores indocumentados contribuyen más a la nación –en forma de impuestos y disposición para tomar trabajos mal pagados y poco atractivos-, que lo que le cuestan", declaró el rotativo.

Agregó que "los costos y beneficios" de esas aportaciones de los migrantes "están mal distribuidas. Los patrones y consumidores ganan por esos trabajos de bajos salarios, los gobiernos estatales y federal reciben los ingresos de sus impuestos".

Los Angeles Times opinó que sin una reforma migratoria las escuelas tienen que operar con programas especiales para niños que hablan idiomas distintos al inglés.

El cotidiano indicó que aunque muchos electores estadunidenses se expresan opuestos a otorgar servicios públicos a cerca de 12 millones de indocumentados, la mayoría desea una reforma migratoria que les permita la legalización y tener la ciudadanía estadunidense.

Por otra parte, los electores "no aceptan soluciones simplistas como una barda de la extensión de la frontera o que se tenga que usar alguna forma de identificación".

"Sólo (la pre candidata demócrata, Hillary) Clinton ha mencionado la idea de que el gobierno federal, que ha fallado en su trabajo de restringir la migración indocumentada y al mismo tiempo ha aceptado esos impuestos, pueda usar parte de ese dinero para compensar a las comunidades afectadas", agregó.

El periódico expresó que entre los pre candidatos republicanos hay una "competencia para probar quién es el más severo contra los migrantes indocumentados".

Añadió que sólo el ex alcalde de Nueva York, Rudolph Giuliani, y el senador de Arizona, John McCain, "siguen hablando de permitir a los indocumentados ganar la ciudadanía; los otros suponen que 12 millones de personas han vivido en el país y la mayoría trabajado sin aportar a su economía".

Stomping on the DREAM ACT: Power by Temper Tantrum

The Houston Chronicle blog "Texas on the Potomac" has a post about people's attitude towards immigration. Even though the issue is plastered all over CNN and other major news outlets, a new George Washington University Battleground Poll found:

"no surge in public concern about immigration. Indeed, the number of people concerned about immigration remained statistically unchanged -- rising from 10 percent to 11 percent -- from July to December [2007]."

If you listen to Romney and certain other candidates you would think this poll is all wrong. However, George Washington University is not Berkeley and is not anywhere close to the most liberal place in the U.S. - Poll results from GWU should be more credible to your average Republican.

If the GWU poll is correct - and I have every confidence that it is - only 11% of the U.S. voters believe immigration is the #1 problem in this country. What a surprise. Listening to Lou Dobbs you would think that immigration is everybody's obsession. If it is only 11% that means a small percentage of voters were those who inundated the Senate during the Comprehensive Immigration Reform debate. Unfortunately, Senators tallied up the number of calls, not how many people were calling... During the debate (which I watched and taped) a number of senators stated that the public had spoken - the fax machines and phones were burning up from so many Americans showing their anti-immigration opinions. I guess they were wrong.

It is sad to think that only a few people who can scream very loud kept the DREAM ACT from being passed. Of course it took a number of senators who lacked courage to accomplish this.

Texas on the Potomac
Houston Chronicle
December 28 2007

Immigration has been the hottest issue on the presidential campaign trail in frigid Iowa, as Republicans try to outmuscle each other in their attempts to portray themselves as the toughest foes of illegal immigration.

Do voters share the candidates' passion for the issue?

The answer, according to a new George Washington University Battleground Poll, the answer is not exactly. But public attitudes are far more complex than the simplistic campaign rhetoric about sealing the borders or deporting people illegally in the U.S.

When voters are asked to identify the number one problem facing this country, 11 percent named immigration, according to a poll of 1,013 likely voters surveyed by Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group. Immigration placed third behind the economy and the Iraq war.

The poll finds no surge in public concern about immigration. Indeed, the number of people concerned about immigration remained statistically unchanged -- rising from 10 percent to 11 percent -- from July to December.

While immigration remained a major issue to one-tenth of the electorate, the economy and taxes doubled in importance as the Iraq war dropped as top issue from 23 percent to 13 percent.

So why all the talk in the GOP primary?

The answer: angry men. Twenty-two percent of Republican men consider immigration their top national issue. And since men are more likely than women to attend GOP primaries and caucuses, the top issue of Republican men must remain on the radar screen of would-be Republican nominees.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said that in an "anxiety economy," immigration could become an important issue to Americans who fear losing their jobs to foreign competition. "You do see some blue-collar voters expressing more concern about immigration," she said.

However, other voting blocs are far less interested in immigration. Only 5 percent of Democrats, 9 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republican women show concern about immigration.

Republicans also must weigh the political cost of alienating Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing demographic group in the country.

In 2006, GOP candidates across the U.S. tried to capitalize on illegal immigration but saw their share of the Latino vote cut in half. "We did poorly in handling the immigration in an effective way and that hurt us among Hispanic voters," said Republican pollster Brian Nienaber of the Tarrance Group.

If his party doesn't change its tone, there could be "angry recriminations" in 2008, Nienaber added. "I don't know if that's going to be the best thing for us in courting the Hispanic vote this fall."

Posted by Richard Dunham at December 28, 2007 12:01 AM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The double bind of employer enforcement

An employer "clampdown" on the hiring of undocumented immigrants in some ways is very logical - people won't come to the U.S. if there are no jobs to come to. Yet, what happens to the people that are already here? Since the loud voices that influence national politics have ordered there will be no "amnesty," millions will lose there jobs, some unfairly because of inaccuracies in the social security system. Companies will be without workers and the economy could collapse (really). Sounds like a dire prediction -

As has been mentioned many times, how many 2rd and 3rd generation Americans would want to work at a meat packing plant. If you really think there would be crowds waiting to be hired you need to visit a plant today and see how many employees are missing fingers and part of their hands.

The problem is so global. A law that regulates employment of citizens and authorized residents is only a fraction of the problem. Considering the state of the world, globalization is currently something we can't stop - as is immigration.
Posted on Wed, Dec. 26, 2007
Bosses elude worker crackdown
Miami Herald

In its announced clampdown on companies that hire illegal workers, the federal government has arrested in the last year nearly four times the number of people that it did two years ago, but only 2 percent of those arrests involved criminal charges against those who hired the workers, according to a year-end tally prepared by the Department of Homeland Security.
Fewer than 100 owners, supervisors or hiring officials were arrested in fiscal 2007, compared with nearly 4,900 arrests that involved illegal workers, providers of fake documents and others, the figures show. Immigration experts say the data illustrates the Bush administration's limited success at delivering on its rhetoric about stopping illegal hiring by corporate employers.

''Why is it that hundreds of bar owners can be sanctioned in Missouri every year for letting somebody with a fake ID have a beer, but we can't manage to sanction hundreds of employers for letting people use fake identities to obtain a job?'' said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former state prosecutor and member of the Senate homeland security committee.


Democratic political consultants have advised the party's lawmakers -- who already are on the defensive about immigration policy -- that the Bush administration's failure to more aggressively target powerful corporations may be a vulnerability for Republican Party candidates who are seeking to make immigration a campaign issue.

Bush administration officials have promised to strike at the job ''magnet'' luring illegal immigrants into the country, a goal supported by experts across the political spectrum. ''The days of treating employers who violate these laws by giving them the equivalent of a corporate parking ticket -- those days are gone. It's now felonies, jail time, fines and forfeitures,'' Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a Nov. 6 news conference.

In a year-end review this month, Chertoff added that an enforcement crackdown will ''make a down payment on credibility with the American people,'' whose ''profound public skepticism'' about government efforts to control illegal immigration helped kill a broad, White House-backed overhaul in the Senate this summer.

But even though DHS has ratcheted up its enforcement effort, this year's 92 criminal arrests of employers still amount to a drop in the bucket of a national economy that includes 6 million companies that employ more than 7 million unauthorized workers, several analysts said. Only 17 firms faced criminal fines or other forfeitures this year.


In one October case, Richard Rosenbaum, the former president of Rosenbaum-Cunningham International, a Florida-based nationwide cleaning service, pleaded guilty to harboring illegal immigrants and conspiracy to defraud the government, agreeing to pay more than $17 million in restitution and forfeitures.

For decades, political opposition by the businesses that rely on such workers has helped water down the laws and other tools needed for a more sustained effort.

Late in the Clinton administration and early in the current administration, the number of illegal immigrants arrested in worksite cases fell -- from 2,849 in 1999 to a low of 445 in 2003 -- but there has since been a rebound. The number of criminal cases brought against employers fell from 182 to four over that time. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ICE reported the 92 criminal arrests including 59 owners and 33 corporate officials, human resources workers, crew chiefs and others in the ``supervisory chain.''

Of the remaining 863 criminal arrests, nearly 9 in 10 involved workers and other people accused of identity theft or document fraud, money laundering, providing transportation or documentation to illegal workers, or other crimes. Criminal fines and other payments grew from $600,000 in 2003 to more than $30 million in 2007, but they were dominated by a few large payers.

ICE Director Julie Myers, who served as chief of staff to Chertoff when he led the Justice Department's criminal division from 2001 to 2003, wrote in response to McCaskill's criticism last fall that it takes time to build criminal cases, and that DHS' tougher, criminal enforcement approach is ''fundamentally different'' than the weak administrative fines and pin-prick raids that resulted from a congressional backlash against actions against corporations in the late 1990s.

McCaskill called such arguments an excuse for not punishing big-money business and farm interests who want cheap labor, effectively penalizing law-abiding business owners and exploiting illegal immigrant workers.

''The reality simply doesn't match their rhetoric,'' McCaskill said , who began pressing ICE to release the employer statistics in September.

The destructive nature of blaming

from web page -


Photo by Armando Franca, AP

Aragonés who writes for Mexico City's slightly left wing JORNADA writes of population disasters because of anti-immigration laws. It is interesting that she presents this today. While La Jornada talks about an immigration crisis from not having "enough people" the NYT publishes one on having "too many people." Yesterday the NYT (paper copy) had an article in its Science Times "Who is to blame when societies fall?" Accompanying the article is a photo of scores of human skulls. The text next to the photo reads: "Jared Diamond says a factor in the 1994 Rwanda genocide was that the country had let its population outstrip its food supplies." Now don't you think that people will take seriously what Diamond is saying - didn't he win the Pulitzer Prize? Doesn't he have a PhD... If Diamond says that a country "let its population outstrip its food supplies." that is enough to get the Minute Men really moving... its the perfect excuse to get rid of undocumented (and documented) immigrants... may even intensify the anti-immigration hysteria.

The On-Line NYT has hidden the photo in the 2nd page of the article. Maybe the editors realized what they did. A couple of journalism lessons (if you really want to be ethical): 1. Remember that sound bite statements are generally taken seriously by most people. 2. These same people usually do not read the rest of the article that will provide a context for the statement. I'm sure the NYT already knows this, but it doesn't hurt to remind them

NYT "Who is to blame when societies fall?"

Ana María Aragonés

Estados Unidos en peligro
La Jornada -UNAM
Mexico City

Estados Unidos, líder en la economía mundial y uno de los principales países en el desarrollo de la economía del conocimiento, se encuentra en peligro. No porque estén cerca nuevos ataques terroristas, no porque Irán, Venezuela y Cuba, parte del “eje del mal”, estén yendo por caminos inaceptables sin que pueda detenerlos, no por Osama Bin Laden, sino porque algunas regiones estadunidenses se están quedando sin trabajadores, debido a que su población está envejeciendo a consecuencia de la falta de remplazo poblacional por las bajas tasas de natalidad. Ésta es una de las gravísimas realidades que vive el país vecino, y si no acepta flexibilizar sus políticas migratorias y otorgar amnistía a los indocumentados, esas comunidades van a desaparecer. El propio secretario de Comercio de Estados Unidos afirmó que “sin migrantes, simplemente no tenemos suficientes trabajadores, punto”.

Un ejemplo de esto es la situación que se vive en Dakota del Norte, estado conocido por su importantísima producción agrícola y ganadera, y sobre todo en lo que se refiere a la producción de cerdos, que ha sido reseñada en forma muy interesante en un artículo aparecido el 26 de noviembre en USA Today.

De acuerdo con el demógrafo Richard Rathge, en este estado se vive una de las más severas crisis demográficas que azotan al país. Entre 1990 y 2000 la población sólo creció en seis de los 53 condados. El problema es que mientras los granjeros se han reducido, la dimensión de las granjas ha crecido. Es decir, el promedio en 1940 era de 250 hectáreas y en la actualidad de 650 hectáreas. La consecuencia ha sido que todos los servicios que sostenían la vida de esas comunidades, iglesias, escuelas, hospitales, supermercados, restaurantes, etcétera, están desapareciendo por falta de población.

Según el Censo, el porcentaje de población de Dakota del Norte en edad de trabajar (25 a 54 años) está por debajo del promedio nacional y se situó en 40.5 por ciento para el año 2000 y la proyección para 2020 es que descenderá a 33.4 por ciento.

La alternativa para evitar que estas comunidades queden finalmente abandonadas es crear industrias y diversos proyectos productivos que generen trabajos bien pagados para atraer a la mano de obra nativa. El problema es que se trata de un estado cuyo promedio de ingreso por familias está por debajo de la media nacional, esto es, 39 mil 233 dólares al año, lo que es un obstáculo para atraer a trabajadores nativos. Por lo tanto, los pobladores temen que de llevarse a cabo esos proyectos productivos sería un imán para los migrantes hispanos, sobre todo indocumentados. Y ante esa eventualidad, que es posible, los pobladores prefieren irse muriendo poco a poco antes de “romper una barrera cultural” que podría salvarlos de desaparecer.

No hay duda de que todo el mundo sabe que los trabajos mal pagados los realizan los indocumentados, y además que resultan fundamentales para la economía de algunos estados, sobre todo ante el envejecimiento de las poblaciones. Simplemente en Dakota del Norte hay 10 mil trabajos esperando contratar mano de obra. No obstante, se ha desatado una fobia antinmigrante pocas veces vista en Estados Unidos.

Lo que habría que preguntarse es: ¿quién tiene la culpa de que se haya extendido una verdadera sicosis y una falsa percepción de los trabajadores indocumentados? En primer lugar, los propios patrones para los cuales estos trabajadores suponen enormes beneficios, y mientras más difícil les hagan la llegada, serán más vulnerables y precarios, lo que repercutirá favorablemente sobre sus ganancias invirtiendo muy poco. Por otro lado, los congresistas, quienes se deben a esos mismos empresarios, granjeros y patrones, y si quieren ser relegidos tendrán que continuar con la misma estrategia. Y por supuesto los medios hacen su trabajo apoyándolos, lamentablemente.

Que los candidatos a la Presidencia de Estados Unidos pongan en el centro del debate a la migración es simplemente buscar un chivo expiatorio sobre el cual se vayan todas las miradas y así evitar debatir en el contexto del propio sistema, mismo que ha perdido toda legalidad y por lo que ha sido severamente cuestionado por la comunidad internacional ante los últimos acontecimientos.

Se atreven a señalar a esos trabajadores indocumentados como un problema de seguridad nacional, cuando justamente la amenaza no son éstos, sino la falta de ellos. Y esto sí puede convertirse en un problema de seguridad nacional al tener que enfrentar la muerte de las comunidades.

image of deserted city:

photo of skulls:

Why is there so little rational discourse on immigration?

The following article from the WP describes the current situation in Arizona. The state has joined Prince William County for having more angry people than anywhere else in the U.S. As I read the comments on the article I am continuously dismayed that people have so many facts wrong, are so angry, don't see undocumented immigrants as people.

Immigration Ground Zero
In Arizona, the fruit of Congress's failure
Wednesday, December 26, 2007; A20
Washington Post

THE NEW ground zero in the debate over illegal immigration is Arizona, where the nation's toughest and potentially most far-reaching crackdown on undocumented workers and their employers is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The Arizona law, passed resoundingly by the state legislature after Congress failed to enact immigration reform last summer, penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants by suspending their business licenses for up to 10 days; ; on a second offense, the business license would be revoked -- what Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has called a corporate "death penalty." Thus the Arizona law may become a test case for how much pain a state is willing to endure, and inflict, in the name of ridding itself of a population that contributes enormously to its economic growth and prosperity.

Illegal immigrants have flocked to Arizona for years to fill jobs that native-born people don't want. While the state's unemployment rate remains low, undocumented employees comprise an estimated 9 to 12 percent of the state's 3 million workers. Companies in agriculture, construction and service industries rely heavily on illegal immigrants, and any successful attempt to drive them out will have economic repercussions that may be severe.

In construction alone, Judith Gans of the University of Arizona has estimated that a 15 percent cut in the state's immigrant workforce would result in direct losses of about 56,000 jobs and some $6.6 billion in economic output. The direct loss to state tax revenue would be approximately $270 million. The study, and others like it, including in Texas, refute the arguments that illegal immigrants are an overall burden on state economies because of the education, health care and other services they require; in fact they contribute heavily to economic growth.

That explains why so many business owners were livid in June when the U.S. Senate killed legislation to provide an eventual path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants already living in America; to create a legal mechanism to satisfy the national economy's annual appetite for hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers; and to tighten enforcement of existing sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers. That political failure has spawned hundreds of state and local attempts to deal with illegal immigration, including Arizona's.

The Arizona law illustrates the self-defeating hazard of addressing one part of the problem -- enforcement -- without also recognizing the plain reality of America's need for immigrant labor. It was enacted and is taking effect in an atmosphere of extreme emotion, ugly diatribes in the blogosphere and occasional street scuffles -- the sort of environment that defeats rational discourse. It is likely to be enforced with gusto in and around Phoenix, the nation's sixth-largest city, by an ambitious state prosecutor who is urging citizens to blow the whistle on offending companies -- anonymously if they wish -- and by a county sheriff whose stock in trade is hounding, arresting and helping to deport immigrants whose behavior or appearance suggests they may be here illegally.

Although the authorities are paying lip service to their commitment to fair enforcement, they are in fact contributing to a situation tailor-made to enable racial profiling and false, defamatory or vengeful reports by those who might harbor a grudge against an employer. Already, in the weeks before the law is to take effect, there were reports of businesses considering moving out of state or reconsidering in-state expansion plans, as well as hundreds of illegal immigrants pulling their children out of school and seeking work elsewhere.

There is little clarity about the law itself, which is being challenged in court by major business associations, Hispanic groups and the American Civil Liberties Union. The statute was sloppily drafted, and Ms. Napolitano signed it at least in part because she feared an even more draconian ballot initiative by immigrant-bashers (who are trying to organize one anyway). While Ms. Napolitano believes the law applies only to workers hired after Jan. 1, Andrew Thomas, the Maricopa County (Phoenix) prosecutor whose purview includes most of the state's population and workforce, says it applies to any employee on a firm's payroll, regardless of hiring date.

Reasonable suspicions exist that many companies will continue hiring and paying illegal workers off the books to evade the law's sanctions, which may give rise to a sizable underground economy and encourage exploitation of vulnerable workers. The system of verification that employers will be required to use to check workers' status relies on a federal database whose error rate regarding non-native-born Americans is believed to be as high as 10 percent -- and for which Congress has appropriated no funds beyond next year. All in all, a recipe for chaos and confusion.

Arizona has undergone explosive population growth in recent decades, along with sharp demographic change. At least 14 percent of the state's 6 million people are foreign-born, more than twice the percentage in 1990. Much of that growth can be explained by illegal immigration; the 620,000 (mostly undocumented) noncitizens in the state in 2004 were almost four times the number there were in 1990. The shift has contributed to a rise in nativist and outright racist sentiment, as well as to legitimate concerns about the effect of so many illegal immigrants -- most of them from one poor country, Mexico -- on neighborhoods, crime rates and municipal budgets.

In responding with this law to the popular anger and anxiety about illegal immigration, Arizona may have been within its legal rights; the courts will decide that shortly. But the price the law will exact is likely to be severe -- to the state's economy, to thousands of immigrant families and, very likely, to the civil rights of legal Hispanic residents who will come under unwarranted suspicion. Those costs may cause Arizonans to question the prudence of their state lawmakers and highlight the folly of Washington's failure to come to grips with illegal immigration.


"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


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Death on the Border

It is said that the number of deaths is much high than what the PRI Camara de Diputados is reporting


Murieron este año 562 mexicanos en la frontera: PRI
Ciro Pérez Silva
La Jornanda - UNAM
24 diciembre 2007

El PRI en la Cámara de Diputados informó ayer que durante 2007 ocurrieron 562 muertes de mexicanos que intentaron cruzar la frontera con Estados Unidos y que unos 560 mil paisanos emigraron este año a ese país en busca de empleo, destaca un documento de trabajo sobre migración elaborado por esta bancada legislativa.

“Es una cifra superior incluso respecto de alguno de los años de gobierno de Vicente Fox, y eso a consecuencia de la nula generación de empleos y la ausencia de una política migratoria de protección por parte de México”, aseguró Edmundo Ramírez Martínez, del grupo de trabajo en materia migratoria de la bancada tricolor en San Lázaro.

Destacó que al finalizar 2007 el saldo para los migrantes es negativo respecto de su intento por cruzar la frontera; además, se ha incrementado el número de mexicanos que buscan el sueño americano, principalmente mujeres, jóvenes e incluso niños.

“Unos 560 mil mexicanos salieron este año hacia Estados Unidos, la mayoría arriesgando su vida y cientos encontraron la muerte”, insistió Ramírez Martínez.

En el gobierno de Felipe Calderón es evidente que poco o nada se avanzado para revertir la sentencia a muerte de 54 mexicanos que se encuentran en Estados Unidos. “Es un tema inexistente en la agenda con el vecino país”, agrega el documento.

Ramírez Martínez, coordinador de dicho grupo de trabajo, señala que además de los ya sentenciados, existen otros 118 casos de mexicanos que están en la antesala de la muerte en Estados Unidos, es decir, que sus casos pueden derivar en la pena capital.

Give up my Rolex for a DREAMER!? Part II


The idea of giving small gifts, or no gifts has been on my mind for a few days. I had to walk into Bed, Bath, and Beyond* last week and could feel the desperation as the other shoppers pushed their carts around in this store that seems to have everything. The store was prepared for that desperation, the aisles were so narrow (not normal for them) - maybe they were trying to stuff as much as they could in front of the shoppers in order to sell more.

While the U.S. media is always talking about poor, uneducated, or undocumented Latinos, they mostly ignore those who are not in these categories. Yet, there are so many around that have finished college and/or made lots of money, drive a BMW or a Lexus and (of course) have a Rolex.

It happened at my house. My Dad was really poor as a kid, started working full time when he was 9. As he became a financially successful adult it was very important for him to have lots of luxury items. It's true he worked very hard for all that he had - but the need to have a material display of this wealth was the most important part of this equation.

I learned well from him. I had a Concord watch (that I can't find anymore) and for many years I drove a fancy car with big monthly payments and lived in what my cousins would call a very fancy neighborhood.

This is all said in the past tense, but it's not about some big religious conversion. It's that reality began to dawn on me, especially since I've been working on the DREAMER project.

Most Latinos who make it to the middle (or higher) class want these fancy things (well, probably most people do). A watch or a ring will cost an inordinate amount. Instead of a new Honda Civic, it's a Lexus, or a BMW, a Navigator or (God forbid) even a Mercedes.

Well I have a proposal for all of us that can buy ourselves those fancy things.

How about next Christmas, instead of buying your wife that diamond ring, get her a more modest gift and donate a few thousand dollars so that a DREAMER can go to college? A number of DREAMERS I know never got their financial aide this year. They were told the applications were incomplete, but weren't informed of this even when they had turned them in many months before the deadline - some people are guessing the applications were stalled on purpose. In many states, there is no financial aide for DREAMERS. In 42 states of the union there is no in-state tuition.

Better yet, if you really need a new car, avoid the flash, look for better gas mileage (you will appreciate this later). If you save $10,000-20,000 - think of how many DREAMERS could go to college on that money?

I know you are going to say, you don't have that kind of cash, you pay the car in payments. Well then start a savings account "in payments" - once you get a few thousand together, find the kid that wants to go to school, is a DREAMER, has good grades, and lots of potential. If you think you can't find one, ask a few high school counselors - eventually you should find one (like David Johnston at Lee High School in Houston) that know exactly where the money could go (Lee High School has had a number of valedictorians who were DREAMERS)

If you want to give it to a charity - the NYT recommends you check to see if most of the donations go to actual services or scholarships.

Merry Christmas

*Disclosure: I admit, I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy a Christmas present that was over $20.00

Rolex image:

DREAM Act rally:

Give up my Rolex for a DREAMER!? Part I

Sinter Klaas

We exchanged gifts last night (Christmas Eve) at my parent's house. When my Mom and Dad were younger and more financially solvent, the gifts were big, flashy, and expensive. Now that they are older, it's little things that are exchanged; socks, candy, DVD movies. We all were just as happy this time - with the small gifts - as we were when the gifts all cost over $200 or more a piece.

On Sunday, the 23rd my daughter told me she needed to buy three more gifts. She wanted me to go with her so she "wouldn't suffer alone." We went to Target. The whole thing was strategically planned. Before we left the car we repeated to ourselves the things we had to buy: 2 movies, a scarf, and a video game. We entered the store, rushed past the people to the movies. In less than 10 minutes we had everything. Then we approached the long lines at the check out. Thank goodness Target was prepared... they were organized too, lots of registers open. We each stood in separate lines and the one who got to the register first would pay (with my money either way). We made it out of the store in less than 20 minutes. We were shocked and very happy.

The new way of gift giving at my parent's, and my last minute venture into the capitalist world two days before Christmas made me think about the whole idea of Christmas. My daughter says she no longer likes Christmas. To her it's all about buying things. I think she has a point.

The NYT has an article today about the old Saint Nicholas. During St. Nicholas' time people give gifts to those who really needed it. For example, in the late Byzantine era, "surplus" female children were often sold into slavery... It was a tradition for those with money to provide money to the families to prevent the daughter from being sold. Christmas was not about giving gifts to everyone around you. The author says he is not so happy with out modern day Santa Claus.


December 25, 2007
St. Nick in the Big City
New York Times


ST. NICHOLAS was a super-saint with an immense cult for most of the Christian past. There may be more icons surviving for Nicholas alone than for all the other saints of Christendom put together. So what happened to him? Where’s the fourth-century Anatolian bishop who presided over gift-giving to poor children? And how did we get the new icon of mass consumerism in his place?

Well, it’s a New York story.

In all innocence, the morphing began with the Dutch Christians of New Amsterdam, who remembered St. Nicholas from the old country and called him Sinte Klaas. They had kept alive an old memory — that a kindly old cleric brought little gifts to the poor in the weeks leading up to the Feast of the Nativity. While the gifts were important, they were never meant to overshadow the message of Jesus’s humble birth.

But today’s chubby Santa is not about giving to the poor. He has had his saintly garb stripped away. The filling out of the figure, the loss of the vestments, and his transformation into a beery fellow smoking a pipe combined to form a caricature of Dutch peasant culture. Eventually this Magic Santa (a suitable patron saint if there ever was one for the burgeoning capitalist machinery of the city) was of course popularized by the Manhattanite Clement Clarke Moore published in “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” in The Troy (New York) Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823.

The newly created deity Santa soon attracted a school of iconographers: notable among them were Thomas Nast, whose 1863 image of a red-suited giant in Harper’s Weekly set the tone, and Haddon Sundblom, who drew up the archetypal image we know today on behalf of the Coca-Cola Company in the 1930s. This Santa was regularly accompanied by the flying reindeer: godlike in his majesty and presiding over the winter darkness like Odin the sky god returned.

The new Santa also acquired a host of Nordic elves to replace the small dark-skinned boy called Black Peter, who in Christian tradition so loved St. Nicholas that he traveled with him everywhere. But, some might say, wasn’t it better to lose this racially stereotyped relic? Actually, no, considering the real St. Nicholas first came into contact with Peter when he raided the slave market in his hometown and railed against the trade. The story tells us that when the slavers refused to take him seriously, he used the church’s funds to redeem Peter and gave the boy a job in the church.

And what of the throwing of the bags of gold down the chimney, where they landed in the stockings and little shoes that had been hung up to dry by the fireplace? Charming though it sounds, it reflected the deplorable custom, still prevalent in late Roman society when the Byzantine church was struggling to establish the supremacy of its values, of selling surplus daughters into bondage. This was a euphemism for sexual slavery — a trade that still blights our world.

As the tale goes, Nicholas had heard that a father in the town planned to sell his three daughters because his debts had been called in by pitiless creditors. As he did for Black Peter, Nicholas raided his church funds to secure the redemption of the girls. He dropped the gold down the chimney to save face for the impoverished father.

This tale was the origin of a whole subsequent series of efforts among the Christians who celebrated Nicholas to make some effort to redeem the lot of the poor — especially children, who always were, and still are, the world’s front-line victims. Such was the origin of Christmas almsgiving: gifts for the poor, not just gifts for our friends.

I like St. Nicholas. You can keep chubby Santa.

John Anthony McGuckin is a professor of religious history at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia.

Monday, December 24, 2007

McCain Surging - Tough Immigration Stand Not Helping Giuliani & Romney

Senator John McCain

Romney is slipping in New Hampshire - Giuliani goes to the hospital. Some would say that they are not conservative enough for their fellow Republicans. Could it be their Nazi-like stance on immigration? Who would want a President that is so hateful (haven't we already dealt with enough?).

There are other reasons they are having campaign problems. McCain is surging in the polls again... it is said he lost voters because of his immigration stance. But he is back on - maybe he is showing more ethics and compassion than the others. He remains a politician and has jumped around on the issues - but at least he is not a hate-monger and he publicly states he is against torture.

He comes out swinging in the Granite State as a poll finds McCain on his heels. Huckabee is making gains in Iowa.
By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 24, 2007

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. -- As recently as last week, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney seemed to be holding a secure lead in New Hampshire, even as he was losing ground to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa.

But a Boston Globe survey released Sunday showed that the former Massachusetts governor's numbers were slipping in the Northeast as well: Romney, the poll said, now holds a 3 percentage point lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire, down from 15 points in November.

The threat to Romney's early state strategy -- which aimed for a one-two win in Iowa on Jan. 3 and in New Hampshire on Jan. 8 -- appears serious enough that Romney has started criticizing McCain by name at a time when most campaigns are trying to stay positive.

At a Peterborough town hall Sunday, Romney tried to differentiate himself by telling voters that he wanted to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent.

"Right now, Sen. McCain and I are both battling for your support and your vote. He's a good man, but we have differing views on this," Romney said. "He voted against the Bush tax cuts, he voted against eliminating the [inheritance] tax forever. . . . I believe in pushing taxes down."

In 2001 and 2003, McCain did reject the Bush tax cuts as too tilted toward wealthy Americans but now says he would make them permanent.

McCain's senior advisor, Mark Salter, fired back that Romney's remarks stemmed from his angst over McCain's gains.

"Welcome to Mitt Romney's bizzaro world, where everyone is guilty of his sins," Salter said in a statement. ". . . Give it a rest. It's Christmas."

At an "Ask Mitt Anything" forum Friday night in Rochester, the candidate was questioned about whether his position on the Bush tax cuts had shifted. In 2003, the Boston Globe reported that he had told Massachusetts lawmakers he would neither support or oppose the Bush tax cuts.

Romney told the audience that as governor, he did not weigh in "on federal issues."

"Sen. McCain is different. He voted against tax cuts twice. I was the governor of a state, not a senator," Romney said.

McCain, who won the 2000 New Hampshire primary, was heavily favored here going into the 2008 presidential contest. But many conservatives were angered by his moderate position on immigration, and some liberal supporters were troubled by his close association with the Bush administration's Iraq war strategy.

Romney's well-organized campaign took advantage early on, going on the air with his first television ads in February.

But McCain's campaign has gained momentum of late with several newspaper endorsements, including the conservative Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, the Portsmouth Herald on the state's coast, and the Salmon Press, which publishes 11 smaller newspapers throughout the state. He also won the backing of Romney's hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, and the Des Moines Register in Iowa.

Romney took an unusual hit Sunday in New Hampshire from the Concord Monitor newspaper, which ran an anti-endorsement editorial calling Romney a "phony" who "most surely must be stopped."

"If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats," the Monitor's editorial said. "If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."

The Romney campaign dismissed the editorial board as "a liberal one on many issues" that disagreed with a number of Romney's conservative views.

On Sunday, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said that the "tightening at the top" was natural as election day neared and that the campaign always had predicted New Hampshire and Iowa would be "competitive."

A number of voters who turned out Sunday to see Romney said they were still undecided. Among them was Stephen Gagnon, 49, an auto body worker who decided to stop by Foodee's pizza parlor in Milford to shake Romney's hand.

Gagnon said he was deciding between Romney and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who "performed well under . . . the ultimate pressure" of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But, he said, Romney may do a better job turning around the economy.

"He gets stuff done," Gagnon said. "He turned [Massachusetts] around. The state was broke. The state is traditionally known for having problems. . . . [He] cleaned it up."

After watching Romney in Peterborough, optometrist Marilynn Ezell said she was drifting back to McCain, whom she supported in 2000. She had crossed him off her list because "he went a little too far" on the immigration issue. "I've been listening to him again, because I hope maybe he's listened to the American public and understood that we don't want amnesty" for illegal immigrants, Ezell said.

"I couldn't respect anybody more than McCain."

Times staff writer Scott Kraft in Rochester, N.H., contributed to this report.


ICE Incompetence: An Un-Constitutional Detention in New York

Holding Pattern
Another kind of 9/11 victim, Narinder Singh spent more than five years locked up for no crime at all
by Chris Thompson
The Village Voice
December 18th, 2007 6:58 PM

Along Central Avenue, in one of the more pleasant stretches of Jersey City, a small convenience store lies a block from the neighborhood cop shop. The shelves are mostly bare, with just a few jars of cold cream and nail polish, but most people only come in for smokes and lottery tickets anyway. As the elderly black and Asian customers scratch away at the cards beneath the fluorescent tubes, they shove their cash at a pleasant Indian man pushing 40, with a baseball cap, a beard, and a constant, reflexive smile on his face. None of them know that he just got out of prison.

Well, not prison, exactly. Although he was never accused of committing a crime, Narinder Singh spent years locked up in an immigration detention cell, courtesy of the federal government. He was beaten by a fellow inmate, spent time in the hole, and lived in a pod with 40 other men, deprived of sunlight, his own reading material, or much more than an hour of recreation time a day. Serving no sentence, Singh never knew when or if he would get out. Almost every day of his confinement, he called his wife and friends in Astoria and asked how this could happen to him. Suddenly, in August, the federal government let him go, and he was back on the streets, just like that. But the inevitable results of being locked up for so long continue to afflict him.

"I got my own business before," Singh says in his broken, Punjabi-inflected English. "And I have good life. And I got a good apartment there. We pay like thirteen-hundred dollar for that apartment—one bedroom. And after [detention], my wife, she not able to pay that much rent by herself. And then she move somewhere. And there is—I spend a lot of money to make up my apartment." Singh tallies up the damage: the temporary driver's license and bank account he lost; the credit-card debt; the legal bills; the furniture his wife had to sell. "Everything is gone. We lose everything. It's like we start all over again."

In the spring of 2002, in the fervid months after the 9/11 attacks, Singh flew to India, where his mother had just died. When he returned, an immigration official at JFK suspected that his marriage was a sham to gain permanent-resident status, and he began proceedings to deport Singh. Because Singh had been questioned in an airport—technically crossing a border—immigration law allowed for Singh to be detained indefinitely as his case made its way through the system. As immigration officials lost his paperwork for months, or sent his case to other jurisdictions, Singh was transferred from one facility to the next, waiting for what was always supposed to be a few more months until everything would work out. Without having committed a single crime, Singh ultimately spent five and a half years in what amounts to federal prison—one of the longest detention spells in recent history.

Singh's story emerges at a time when the nation's immigrant-detention system has been rocked with burgeoning scandals. As the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) struggles to process 275,000 annual detainees, critics and government inspectors have deplored the unsanitary conditions and the lack of due process at detention facilities around the country. Twelve months ago, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General issued a report that detailed the inhumane conditions, substandard medical care, vermin, and undercooked food found at five randomly sampled detention centers, including two in New Jersey. This summer, ICE officials acknowledged that 64 immigrants had died in detention since 2004, many for lack of adequate health care. Last month, an ICE agent was arrested on charges that he raped a Jamaican detainee. And in a particularly sensational case, ICE officials recently dragged a Honduran immigrant from her infant, who was still breast-feeding. The incident prompted agency head Julie Myers to order the woman's release and to issue new guidelines prohibiting the detention of new mothers if they don't represent a flight risk.

In the face of such stories, the Senate amended the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Bill to add an Office of Detention Oversight to the Department of Homeland Security. But since the bill died in Congress this summer, nothing was ultimately accomplished. And according to Aarti Shahani, the co-founder of the New York immigrant-advocacy group Families for Freedom, the detention system is not just an overcrowded, unsanitary mess. Because detention is a civil procedure, she says, detainees have no right to legal counsel and often can't contact lawyers or their families to help them. The very nature of the system is designed to put them at a disadvantage.

"Even though it's purely civil, there's a punitive aspect to that," Shahani says. "Detention helps the government secure a win, because it ties the hand of the immigrant. You're talking about a proceeding that could result in lifetime exile, but you have no public defender. When you're locked up, it's not like you just stay in one facility that's close to home—you're tossed around the country. And you don't get to take your records with you. Figure that being an immigrant, English is your second or third language, and the stakes are very high."

With an estimated 630,000 illegal immigrants who have ignored deportation orders and are at large today, few would disagree that some sort of detention system must be in place. But thanks to a disorganized, overcrowded bureaucracy, no one knows how many detainees are improperly or arbitrarily imprisoned for years. With no effective audit of the detainee population available, there's no way to know just how many immigrants have stories like Narinder Singh's.

Singh flew to New York in 1997 to visit a few uncles, but took one look at the city and decided to take a stab at living here. Since he already had a pharmacy degree from a university in India, he enrolled at St. John's University to work towards the equivalent degree in the United States; meanwhile, he worked the counter at his uncle's deli in Queens. In 1998, Singh met and married an American citizen, but divorced after a few years. Meanwhile, he found to his dismay that college costs were high and had to drop out.

In 1999, while working at the deli, Singh met Laura Pickering, who worked at a nearby bar. "She used to come here in my store and play some Lotto and drink some beer," Singh recalls. "Talk about this and that stuff. She used to come my to apartment, and we stay two, three years, then we got married."

Andrew Thomson, a maintenance worker on Roosevelt Island, lives around the corner from Singh's old deli; his father Eddie, who died recently from a heart attack, was best man at Singh's wedding. "He met her working at the store, you know?" says Thomson, who attended the reception. "She was just a neighborhood lady; they became good friends, and they took it from there. . . . It happens, you know? People fall in love. Like I said, you don't even have to be the same color—you can be the same sex nowadays and it's all right. But he was in love with that girl, I know that."

In 2000, Singh applied for permanent-resident status based on his marriage, but the process was slow, and years went by without any progress. Meanwhile, he gave up on the deli and started driving a cab around town. He met his friend Gujral Grewal while on the job, and the two of them decided to buy a business together. "We went to Alabama to look for businesses; we looked for businesses all over. I traveled all over with him," Grewal says. "We just wanted to run a small business. None of us could buy it by ourselves. So we just pooled it together to start it that way. It's what immigrants do. We were looking at gas stations or grocery stores."

But then Singh's mother died, and he had to lay her to rest in Punjab. His friends warned him that in the wake of 9/11, it might not be the best time to be a South Asian walking around in airports. "We told him not to go during that time, because of what was happening with the government," Thomson says. "But if you were told your mother was dying and this was the last time you could see her, what would you do?" Singh got permission from the federal government to leave the country, and off he went.

On April 15, 2002, Singh flew back to JFK, where his wife was waiting to pick him up. But an immigration official began to ask Singh questions about his marriage. Hours went by, and Laura demanded to know why her husband was being detained. Over a speakerphone, he heard officials threaten her with prison for participating in a sham marriage.

ICE officials refused to comment on Singh's case because there is still an outstanding deportation case against him. "It's ICE policy not to comment on any aspect of file information for a case that is before a court," says spokesman Mark Thorn. But according to immigration-court documents, the immigration officer found numerous discrepancies between Singh's account of the marriage and his wife's. In addition, the officer called Singh's home number and reached someone named "Victor," who claimed he lived there. According to Singh, that was actually his friend Nirvail Singh, who was visiting the couple but didn't speak English very well and misunderstood the officer's questions. The officer concluded that the marriage was a fraud and ordered Singh deported. Singh says that he then spent 48 hours chained to a chair.

"I cannot use the bathroom," he says. "The next day, the officer come. . . . He say, 'OK, what you decide? You have to go back.' I say I not decide to go back. I have to see wife. I have to see my lawyer. He say OK. And he not do anything for next day, next shift. . . . I can't sleep, I can't eat anything. Forty-eight hours after that, they put me in detention center."

Singh was in lockup at Brooklyn's Wackenhut detention facility for months, waiting for his case to come before an immigration judge. Meanwhile, immigration officials conducted a more thorough Stokes interview (named, like the Miranda warning, after the case that created it, Stokes v. INS) of Singh and his wife, to determine whether their marriage was legitimate. During the appeal on October 9, the immigration judge reviewed the interview and ruled that the marriage was initially valid—however, he added, he found that the marriage was no longer viable. Since Singh's official permission to leave the country and return was based on his marriage to an American citizen, and since that marriage was now fraudulent, he had lost the right to re-enter to the country and therefore would have to be deported.

According to Singh's attorney, Sandro Paterno, his wife didn't show up for the hearing, and that was probably what moved the judge to rule against him. But Paterno says that Laura Singh was simply too afraid to attend. "After being threatened at the airport, after going through the Stokes interview, and being accused of being a liar and threatened with five years in jail. . . she didn't go to the hearing," Paterno says. Today, Laura Singh is unhappy that her husband is talking to the media and declined to comment in detail. "We've been trying to stay low, but whatever," she says. "It's a lot of work, trying to get our life back together."

Despite failing to attend the hearing, Laura worked with Singh's lawyers to appeal the decision, while Singh cooled his heels in detention for five more years.

Narinder Singh: “I had not committed any crime. . . . I have to be detained more than five years—for nothing, no reason!”
photo: Filip Kwiatkowski At least Singh had a lawyer. According to David Leopold, the national vice president of the American Immigrant Lawyers Association, countless detainees who don't have legal representation can vanish into the prison network, especially if they're transferred from New York down to county jails in the South, which are increasingly being rented out as detention centers. "People can get lost in the system, quite literally like a file," he says. "It's quite scary for somebody who doesn't have somebody on the outside like family or an attorney."

According to Judy Rabinovitz, who runs the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, everything changed after 1996, when the Clinton administration and a Republican Congress passed new immigration laws. "There was a whole push toward mandatory detention, so the '96 laws are much more restrictive. And since then, it's been making sure more people are locked up—and post-9/11, it's even more. . . . Right now, there are about 30,000 detention beds. In 1992, there were 6,000 detention beds."

The detention system has now become so unwieldy, Leopold says, that the case backlog has slowed the adjudication and appeals process to a glacial pace. And because detention is a civil proceeding, certain constitutional rights are not guaranteed—such as the right to a speedy trial. ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs did not return phone calls seeking comment on this issue.

Narinder Singh experienced this administrative chaos firsthand. Immediately after the immigration judge ordered his deportation, Singh's lawyer and his wife filed an appeal. Immigration officials didn't respond with an opposition brief until March 2003, more than four months later. But more than a year passed before it became obvious that Singh's appeal paperwork had simply been lost by the government, and the mistake cost him 18 months of his life.

During that time, in 2004, Singh was moved to a new detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and a cell with about 40 other detainees from every corner of the world. He had cell mates from Nigeria, Cambodia, and Uzbekistan. Few of them spoke adequate English, so they had to communicate in gestures.

"It's nothing to do but sit on my back all day," he recalls. "All the time, I just pray—that's all. Most of the time, I have nothing to do over there." And the shackles and security, Singh added, left him feeling so degraded that he wouldn't let his wife or friends visit him. "If anybody try to visit me, I start crying. I say, 'I don't want to let them visit me—not anybody.' It's better I call everyday, I tell my wife. I say I can call her."

The only thing he and his father could do, Singh's friend Thomson says, was listen sympathetically. "We thought he was gonna get out right away," he says. "Like an error in the system, like a glitch. But that glitch turned into years and years. All we could do was provide an ear for him and help him stay strong. Because he was calling all the time, telling my dad, 'Eddie, I don't know what to do.' "

After years of appeals and deportation proceedings, federal officials suddenly decided to release Singh this summer. Nothing about his status had changed, but Singh's lawyer believes that a federal judge had made inquiries about why his detention had lasted so long.

And just like that, Singh was free. Paterno picked him up outside the Elizabeth detention facility and drove him back to Astoria, where his wife and friends were waiting. At a welcome-home party in a backyard in Queens, Andrew Thomson saw Singh for the first time since 2002. "At first, he didn't look the same, so nobody recognized him," Thomson recalls. Then it hit him: Singh had lost about 50 pounds. "He got caught up in that 9/11 chaos. I just don't like the way the government handled that situation. They ruined his whole life. He's not the same now."

Singh has moved back in with his wife, in a studio apartment in the same Astoria neighborhood. Four months after his release, his experience still galls him; it will probably gnaw at him forever. "Yeah, I'm very angry," he says. "Because I had no reason to be detained. I had not committed any crime. . . . There is nothing wrong with me. I have to be detained for more than five years—for nothing, for no reason!" But he says he's not going anywhere. "My wife is here," he says. "I have to stay. What can I do in [India] now? I have nothing there."

Meanwhile, Singh's deportation and permanent-resident cases continue to grind on at a glacial pace. Last month, Singh received notice from the Board of Immigration Appeals that someone had misplaced his deportation file. They'll try to find it, the letter said, but they might just have to start the entire deportation proceeding—the Stokes interview, the examination of the family's financial records—all over again.

Almost six years later, Narinder Singh's nightmare may be about to return.

previously posted on Immigration Prof Blog

Beware in Scottsdale Arizona

Immigration Prof Blog Posted this information yesterday:

Scottsdale police logging immigration status
Carol Sowers
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 23, 2007 12:00 AM

With pressure mounting across the nation to crack down on illegal immigration, the Scottsdale Police Department is seeking the citizenship of every arrested suspect and holding undocumented immigrants for federal immigration officials.

Sgt. Mark Clark, a Scottsdale police spokesman, said officers are not acting as immigration officials.

But under a new policy, officers are documenting calls they make to federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents about suspects and logging details about their immigration status.

"If we arrest someone and then find that we called ICE and they put a hold on them, then we know they have been deported and are back again," Clark said.

Scottsdale police didn't have that crucial information in May 2006 when they unknowingly released a 22-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant on a minor charge.

Sixteen months later, in September, Erik Jovani Martinez, shot and killed Phoenix Officer Nick Erfle. Police later killed Martinez after he stole a car and took a hostage.

Scottsdale's unknowing release in May 2006 of an illegal immigrant turned cop killer led to far-reaching policy changes.

"That caused us to look at what were asking suspects," Clark said.

Since Oct. 15, Scottsdale police are asking every arrested suspect about their citizenship and are logging calls to federal immigration officials to create a data base of possible illegal immigrants who may turn up again in Scottsdale.

In May 2006, Scottsdale police picked up Martinez for reportedly assaulting his girlfriend. But they released him on the misdemeanor charge, not knowing that he had twice been deported.

No record of status check

After the September officer killing, Scottsdale officers realized they had no record of whom they spoke to at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix, where they previously had inquired about Martinez's immigration status.

Councilman Jim Lane, who contacted police after Martinez killed Erfle, said he believed there was "a strong feeling among police to avoid the (immigration) issue."

But now, Lane said, "I think we have facilitated some change in response to an issue, as tragic as it was."

Mayor Mary Manross also supports the change, saying that because every suspect is questioned about citizenship, there is no whiff of racial profiling.

"I would not tolerate that," Manross said. "I think the chief has struck the right balance to do what we want to achieve."

Clark said at the time officers released Martinez in May 2006, they had no reason to suspect Martinez was an illegal immigrant, even though he wrote on his arrest sheet that he came from Mexico.

Past checks not routine

Martinez had been in the U.S. since he was 18 months old and spoke unaccented English. Clark said Scottsdale officers didn't routinely call ICE because the federal agents were shorthanded and could not respond.

Eduardo Preciado, an assistant ICE field officer in Phoenix, acknowledged that the agency was short-staffed until about a year ago when it added agents to man phones and to assist local-law enforcement agencies.

"Now we respond to every call," he said.

Clark said ICE agents come as often as Scottsdale police need them to pick up suspected illegal immigrants held temporarily in the Scottsdale jail.

3 are linked to break-ins

Last week, ICE agents picked up three suspects. They were arrested Monday, by Scottsdale police, who linked them to break-ins in Phoenix and developed information that they may be in the U.S. illegally.

"They come whenever we call them," Clark said of ICE agents.

That pleased Scottsdale Councilman Bob Littlefield, who urged beefed-up immigration enforcement by police during a speech at a recent Republican Party forum.

When he later learned that Scottsdale is holding suspected illegal immigrants for federal authorities, Littlefield said, "I can support that."

U.S. deports 273,289 Immigrants in 2007

La Patria - the rejecting mother

In Spanish, the word for a nation is Patria. To me it seems like a feminine word. La Patria is a mother, one's home country. Sort of like the woman represented in the Statue of Liberty. She is strong, holding a lamp, providing light for her children, those immigrants that she is (was) taking in.

America as a mother has decided to reject some of her new children. She says that it's because there are already too many in the house. But she may have a different motivation. It's like she had genetic testing on the child before birth... and these children aren't up to par... so they are ejected. They may be too dark, too poor, too uncouth. They just don't fit the image she has for her family.

She has decided to eliminate those who have been with her for years. She forgets that they have developed relationships and attachments - that such a rejection creates trauma for everyone.

Mother Patria is creating a generation of motherless children. How many of the 273,289 are mothers who left American born children behind?

Divided by Deportation
Unexpected Orders to Return to Countries Leave Families in Anguish During Holidays
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 24, 2007; B01

It was 5 a.m. when immigration agents knocked on the door of the Diaz family's neatly kept house in Baltimore County, with the twin plaid couches and the Lord's Supper woodcut over the kitchen table. Edwin, 13, and Cynthia, 8, woke up just in time to see their mother put into a van and driven away. The moment several months ago changed almost everything about their quiet, close-knit life.

"Since that day, nothing has been the same," said Miguel Diaz, 42, a construction worker and labor union representative from El Salvador. "I know my wife made a mistake all those years ago, but we have worked hard, lived decently and never caused any trouble. Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime? Her place is here with us, with her children. What kind of society is this that would suddenly take her away?"

Edwin, listening somberly on the sofa, said it was especially hard having his mother gone at Christmastime. She was not here last week to hear him sing "Jingle Bells" in the school chorus or to arrange her ceramic manger tableau of animals and wise men. "She always did it a certain way," he said. "In the end, we decided not to put it up."

Fidelia Diaz is one of thousands of illegal immigrants and longtime residents who have been deported this year -- cornered by complicated pasts that caught up with them long after they thought the overburdened immigration system had conveniently forgotten or magically forgiven them.

Many, like the 38-year-old Salvadoran woman, crossed the border illegally when they were young, single and eager to find a better life. Others came as tourists and overstayed their visas, keeping a low profile or moving frequently to avoid detection. Some were snagged in raids on factories or farms; others were tracked down by "fugitive operations teams" armed with decades-old deportation orders.

Still others committed immigration offenses, such as marriage fraud or traveling abroad without permission, that were suddenly rediscovered and disqualified them when they attempted to apply for legal status years later with help from lawyers who were not fully aware of their pasts.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 273,289 foreign-born residents have been sent back to their native countries for immigration violations in the past year.

Many had been in the United States only a few weeks, but countless others had put down roots, taken out mortgages and raised families by the time the law-- and the recently beefed-up immigration enforcement system-- came back to haunt them.

"I know this is a politically sensitive issue, an emotional issue. But we have to enforce the law, and the law is very clear," said Michael Keegan, an ICE spokesman. "It states simply that if an individual is out of status, having a U.S.-born child does not qualify the parent to gain legal status. Even if they have relatives who are U.S. citizens, the law doesn't bleed over to give them the same rights."

Immigration judges have limited discretion to consider family circumstances and homeland conditions, but if a deportation order has been issued-- no matter how long ago-- and the illegal immigrant has failed to appear for the hearing, that person is considered to have already had a "day in court" and is not eligible for special consideration.

In some cases, an immigrant's past catches up with him at an especially difficult moment. Samir Saleh, an Israeli hairdresser, came to the United States in the 1990s as a tourist and married a young American woman in what was later ruled a case of immigration fraud. He appealed the ruling but eventually divorced, remarried and settled in Cleveland.

Last April, Saleh was deported to Israel for immigration fraud, just as his second wife learned she had terminal cancer. His attorney, Philip Eichorn, said he filed for a temporary visa on humanitarian grounds so they could be together for the holidays, but it was denied last week. His wife, now bald from chemotherapy, made a decision.

"She told me, 'I am done with this country. I have a little time left, and I want to spend it with him,' " Eichorn said in a telephone interview Saturday. "They were really in love. You couldn't stage the joy on her face in their wedding photos. She left for Israel yesterday."

For illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes, deportation is both legally automatic and more efficiently enforced than in the past. Immigration officials say they are working with every federal prison and many state and local prisons to ensure such inmates are deported after serving their sentences. In 2007, about 89,000 such people were deported, Keegan said.

Sometimes, however, immigration laws end up punishing people who appear to have led exemplary lives. The case of Esperanza Ramirez, 62, who was deported to Mexico in October, has stunned the network of relatives and friends in San Diego to whom she was a quiet but indomitable role model.

Ramirez, who crossed the Mexican border illegally in 1979, spent the next 27 years working as a hotel maid, avocado packer and office cleaner to put seven children through school. They earned degrees, found good jobs, got married and produced 12 grandchildren.

Along the way, her daughter Norma Chavez said in a telephone interview, the family made attempts to obtain legal immigration status for her. First they obtained a temporary work permit, which was extended repeatedly. Then they applied for legal residency three times, gathering support letters and waiting for hearings. In September, Ramirez was told to report to the U.S. consulate in Ju¿rez, Mexico, for an interview.

"I guess it should have raised a red flag, but we all thought she was going there to pick up her green card," Ch¿vez recounted. "Instead, the consulate told her the application had been denied and that she was barred from returning" to the United States for 10 years. "Just like that, she was gone," she said.

Now Ramirez is living alone in the village the rest of her family left years ago. The children call her often, and she tells them she is doing fine, but Chavez said she was sounding "a little sadder" as the holidays approached. "We always have tamales at Christmas, but she's the only one who knows how to make them," Chavez said. "Now we are trying to figure out how to do it ourselves."

Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has seen many cases of unjust and destructive deportations. She said that although immigration enforcement is "an important priority, our laws are so broken that enforcement ends up targeting the wrong people. Families are being ripped apart, and people are being deported for decades-old conduct that they have since rectified."

For immigrant families with young U.S.-born children, the deportation of a spouse or breadwinner presents especially wrenching difficulties. Miguel Diaz said that his children miss their mother terribly but that there is no way he would send them home to be with her. In Baltimore, they are immersed in science and math, church and sports. In El Salvador, they would be surrounded by poverty, crime and gangs.

"It is no place to raise a family, with so much insecurity. Even without her, they are better off here," said Diaz, who plans to apply for U.S. citizenship so he can sponsor his wife for legal residency, which could take 10 years. "This is very hard, and very unfair, but we will get through it," he vowed. "We are a strong family, and this will make us more united."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogging, Boundaries, and Immigration

A few days ago, in, Andrew Leonard published an interesting piece on blogging and immigration. The analogies are so interesting, I couldn't resist. He is noting how many people (including the very important George Borjas) think the competition from blogging is destroying journalism... that bloggers are a sorry bunch who basically just express biased opinions - and can't even write well. - All this because the Net has no boundaries.

This is part of what Leonard has to say:

"To think that one can turn back the tide of competition unleashed by the Net is a lot like thinking that in a globalized world one can ameliorate the wage impact of illegal immigration by building a border fence or by passing laws imposing strict sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants."

Boundaries are a big deal to many people. Remember what happens at international borders (esp between the U.S. and Mexico) - In college departments, the boundaries between disciplines are clear and contentious. Being inter-disciplinary is sometimes considered a dangerous position - because no one knows who or what you really are.

We as human beings have an intense need to label and classify things. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the world's move towards globalization has left many of us confused. As in the case of the DREAMERS, talking about an issue regarding boundaries - who are DREAMERS? They were born on one side of the boundary, but their lives are incorporated on the other side and they have no specific category they can display - Obviously the U.S. Senate does not like that - (if you can't identify, don't let them in).

Well, to lessen the ambiguity of this blog... I am not a DREAMER - but my father would have been if the term DREAMER was used in the 1930s. I write the blog for several reasons - 1) I like to write and don't like the hassle of finding "the right thing to say" so that newspapers will publish my op-ed pieces. 2) my research experience has allowed me lots of information many people don't have access too - so I'm performing (I guess) a public service 3) As I've gotten to know DREAMERS these past couple of years I can't help but want to find a way to help out. As Leonard says, bloggers don't need a lot of money, they just need a computer and time... That I have, due to the nature of my career. The time issue works out perfectly. I'm researching a book on DREAMERS and its like I'm writing for my project when I publish a post.

A last word on blogging and objectivity. Some commentators believe that bloggers are more biased than "professional journalists." After watching CNN's lead newsman Lou Dobbs - no one can tell me that paid journalists are more objective. Don't say that Dobbs is an isolated example... no matter what anyone says, journalism can never be totally objective - nowadays - "journalists" like Dobbs are proliferating and rarely provide fair reporting.- remember the Iraq War? the media's dull complacence about George W. Bush's incompetency? the broad national interest in radio announcer Rush Linbaugh - even after it has been known that he has a serious drug addiction - how do the conservatives explain away that one?

Journalism could say that I'm sneaking over its fence, but I disagree... There is a big hole in the fence and I'm sending my message signal through that opening - Leonard could say that I'm over-focused on the DREAM ACT (as he says that Borjas is very anti-immigrant) - but that is ok.... it's all subjective anyway. Plus, like some of the commentators to Leonard's article mentioned -- if its bad writing, no one will read it.

What's the difference between bloggers and illegal immigrants?

You can't build a fence to stop bloggers from tearing apart the fortress of mainstream journalism. Thank goodness
Andrew Leonard

Dec. 17, 2007 | Of all the bonafide economists who blog regularly, Harvard's George Borjas gets the award for Most Single-minded Focus. Borjas' issue is immigration, especially illegal immigration. If you're looking for academic support for the thesis that immigration depresses the wages of native-born American workers, he's your man. He's also concerned about the cultural impact of Mexican immigrants (legal or illegal) who he thinks are not as likely to assimilate with mainstream America as has every other previous wave of immigrants to the United States. He's very consistent -- you will have to look long and hard to hear a good word about immigration in his posts.

The current political climate provides plenty of grist for blogging on immigration-related topics so naturally "The Borjas Blog" has been hopping. But it's hard to know what to make of one recent entry comparing bloggers to illegal immigrants.

According to Borjas, there is "an important self-serving economic motive at play" when journalists decry the effect of blogging on traditional news-reporting.

It doesn't cost all that much to become a citizen journalist: a computer and your own time is about all it takes for you to start reporting your view of the world to whoever wants to read it.

The laws of supply and demand suggest that the rewards to being a Journalist would drop because anyone can now start reporting news and opinionating a la Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. It's as if the Journalistic profession has received its own influx of illegal immigrants -- increasing competition, lowering rewards, and creating havoc along the way.

Maybe now the Journalists will learn how those workers affected by immigration have long felt.

A a former freelance writer, reporter, editor and now blogger, I found this passage interesting for a couple of reasons. Journalists -- or at least those journalists who ever competed in the freelance market or interned at a publication for laughable pay -- have always understood the challenge posed by competition from people willing to work for low wages. No one needs a license or accreditation of any kind to be a journalist, and a distressingly large number of people are willing to work for free or close to it. Just the sight of a byline in print (or online) is compensation enough for some. One result of this is that per-word pay rates for freelance journalists have hardly budged over the decades, except for the very top tier of publications.

Even more intriguing, however, are the political implications of Borjas' analogy. I would submit that most journalists who honestly accept what the Internet means for their profession understand that there is no way to go back to the way it was before. The barriers to entry, such as they were, are gone forever. Old business models are no longer applicable. Competing successfully in this environment will require being really good at whatever one does -- whether that be blogging, investigative reporting, breaking news reporting, financial analysis or what have you. And even if done well, the financial rewards may indeed be less lucrative than in ages past.

Maybe this explains why more journalists would prefer to write about single-payer national health care than border fences.*

To think that one can turn back the tide of competition unleashed by the Net is a lot like thinking that in a globalized world one can ameliorate the wage impact of illegal immigration by building a border fence or by passing laws imposing strict sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants. The work forces of China and India and eastern Europe and of course Mexico have joined the world economy just like bloggers have joined the media universe. In both cases, technology has played a huge enabling role, and, unless the world experiences a truly massive and unprecedented energy crisis, that technologically-midwifed change is not going back in the bottle. In a globalized world, massive disparities between the living standards of individual nations will create more pressure than ever before for some kind of equalization, whether that means workers finding their way from the developing to the developed world, or capital headed in the other direction. The nations that are ultimately most likely to thrive in this challenging new environment will have to be really good at whatever they do. It could just be that having a national health care system and a extensive safety net might make a county better able to compete than attempting to protect the status quo by building up walls.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. Previous waves of globalization, most notably that which crested before World War I, have receded. Maybe nationalism will triumph over the technologically mediated one-worldism. I'll tell you one thing -- a relapse into trade wars and protectionism and ethnically-based Exclusion Laws will certainly keep the bloggers busy. But the weird thing about Borjas' post is that to compare bloggers to illegal immigrants is to implicitly acknowledge that fence-building is not going to work as a long run solution for ensuring economic prosperity in the United States. And we know that can't have been Borjas' intention, because his other posts have made abundantly clear that "securing our borders" is his first priority in any discussion of immigration policy.

On the Net, some of us just chuckle at such an idea. Borders? What borders?

*(I have no statistics on which to base this assertion.)

-- Andrew Leonard