Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Immigration Kabuki

The best part of President Obama's ballyhooed immigration reform speech in Vegas today is that he'll lose his usual victimization angle. He won't be able to frame it in terms of "you and me against the world." (Congress) That is because one of those creepy bipartisan Gangs beat him to the punch yesterday with their own plan, with John McCain senilely admitting on behalf of the GOP that it's just a cynical ploy to shill for the Hispanic vote.

Of course, the Republicans' (and many Democrats') idea of immigration reform is to ramp up the 3,000-mile border militarized zone, concentrating first and foremost on stopping the Hispanic hordes with drones and guns before actually getting around to policies that are humane. Shoot or capture first, hand out the e-verify cards later. How much later is left up in the air. It depends on how profitable the enhanced border security is to the Military-Industrial Complex.

(Obama, according to the New York Times, likes the Senate plan, although he is said to be less than thrilled about more border security. But he'll go along with it anyway. Because it's bipartisan. And he'll talk about immigration reform as being "a call to arms." You can say that again, Mr. Gun Control Prez.)

It also boils down to how cheaply labor can be exploited. And as for the 11 million people already here without papers, they'll have to pay vague fines and back taxes before getting in line. They will still be subject to deportation, imprisonment in private, for-profit detention centers, still be ensnared by Obama's draconian "Secure Communities" police sweeps. Even those accepted as probationers will be denied public health benefits. They will be required to learn English and pass a civics test. (notwithstanding the fact that civics is no longer even part of the public school curriculum in many states.)

In insisting on the paranoid securitization of the borders, the Senators are of course ignoring the fact that fewer Latinos are even choosing to come here any more. Our economy sucks. The economies of Latin America are improving. Their income inequality is decreasing, while ours keeps getting worse. So I can't help but think that our politicians' pivot to immigration reform smacks of a ploy to enrich the CEOs and the defense contractors and Agribusiness and the gun manufacturers -- not to mention enhancing and further cementing the Homeland Security spy state. Xenophobia remains at the core, despite the Gang's claiming to be against ethnic profiling.

More Enforcement Against Fewer Immigrants?

Their border enforcement plan is not getting high grades from immigration activists. It is, they say, a typical wedge issue that appears designed to make immigration reform fail before it even gets started. Writes Vicki Gaubeca of the ACLU's New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, "Border enforcement policy decisions must include mechanisms that holds agencies accountable and provides oversight as well as reflecting the perspectives of border communities. Now is the time to halt further construction of costly, deadly and ineffective border infrastructure or unproven technologies, and stopping the expensive, overzealous prosecution of migrants through programs like Operation Streamline. This operation is a 'zero tolerance' border enforcement program that orders federal criminal charges for every person who crosses the border without documentation, overloading U.S. courts and undermining the best values of our judicial system."

It is telling that the reform plan being put forth gives precedence to both low-paid migrant farm workers and highly educated scientists and tech professionals who were trained at another country's expense. Follow the money. If you can serve the needs of the  plutocracy for cheap, you will be given a place at our great table of American exceptionalism. Otherwise, get in line and listen to the sound of a thousand Predator and Reaper drones buzzing over your heads.


Zee said...


I am not yet familiar with the details of the new “immigration reform” proposal, but I came to the conclusion long ago that immigration reform is necessary.

We have some 11 million “undocumented” people in this country, including many children and young adults who have known no other country. At this point it would be immoral to attempt any mass deportations, and impossible to do if such an action were ever seriously contemplated.

It is past time to legitimize these people as permanent residents in the U.S. , who are allowed to work like any other U.S. citizen, subject to U.S. labor law, and who can see a clear path to full citizenship in the end.

That process should not be overly onerous or expensive to those who “emerge from the shadows” and enter the process of “normalization.” Still, I believe that it is important that we know whom we are taking in. I endorse some kind of background check for every candidate for normalization. We don't need to add any more criminals to our population than we already have.

Beyond that, I'll have to wait to see the actual terms whatever legislation actually comes to the floors of Congress.

Still, I do have to strenuously disagree with your remark about “ paranoid securitization of the borders.” One does not have to live in a border state to understand that the Federal government has effectively lost control of Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate 10 despite Obama's recent efforts to secure the border.

This is a couple of years old, but here's a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sign posted in southern Arizona:


For those of you who cannot read it, here's what it says:


» Active Drug and Human Smuggling Area

» Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed

» Stay Away From Trash, Clothing, Backpacks and Abandoned Vehicles

» If You See Suspicious Activity DO NOT CONFRONT! Move Away and Call 911

» BLM Encourages Visitors to Use Public Lands North of Interstate 10

Not only drugs are coming across the border. Many “coyotes” who purport to be helping illegal immigrants to cross the border are actually intent on selling girls and young women into lives of prostitution.

I support legalization and taxation of all recreational drugs. With this single bold stroke we could put the cartels out of business and recover control of most of our southern border. (Not that this will happen any time soon.)

But as long as there is an appetite in this country for girls and young women forced into prostitution for the profit of others, human trafficking will stay with us.

I don't regard it as “paranoid” to secure our borders to put an end to this evil practice. And if control of our borders has the pleasant side effect of keeping wanted criminals out of our country, well, so be it.

James F Traynor said...

This whole border thing has gotten out of control. Mainly, I think, because of the drug trade, but I also think the Border Patrol could use a serious overhaul. There is a video and testimony from witnesses to the public beating to death (by a bunch of officers in public) of one of these people. What the hell has become of that?

James F Traynor said...

Here's the link.


James F Traynor said...

"The San Diego medical examiner later ruled the death a homicide and the San Diego police investigated the incident.
But no agents were charged after the U.S. attorney overseeing the case said the coroner found methamphetamine in Rojas' system and charged that the father of five had become violent and fought with the agents while in custody."

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!

Denis Neville said...

I agree that the border has gotten out of control largely because of drugs.

It is another case of “follow the money.”

Control is the answer. If the government really wanted to control the scenario, it would legalize drugs. Control the drug supply and demand and end the drug wars on the border. End the drug wars, empty the courts, empty the jails, reduce law enforcement, and cut off the money to all those damn politicians, who think more cops, jails, courts, task forces, special courts, armies, and drug wars are the only answers.

It won’t happen because there is too much money to be made – coyote wars and smuggling, gun trafficking, drones, DEA air force, Border Patrol surveillance systems, high tech border fences, private prison industry, etc., etc.. Follow the money.

Then there is the cheap labor: ‘We used to own our slaves; now we just rent them.’

Shortage of low-paid migrant farm workers? Use prison labor. Connect the dots between the tough, law enforcement policy and prisoners doing farm work. With tightening restrictions on migrant workers, farmers are increasingly turning to prisons. Never mind that prison labor undermines what unionized farmworkers have long fought for - to be paid based on skill and experience.

Stephen Colbert, after spending one day as farm worker, testified before Congress as to why “so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as a seasonal migrant field worker. It is really, really hard. You have to spend all day bending over. It turns out, and I did not know this, most soil is at ground level. If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make the earth waist-high? Come on, where is the funding?”

Colbert also realized why prisoners were not working as hard: “Turns out, Americans who’ve chosen a life of crime don’t have quite the same work ethic as Guatemalans who’ve walked through 500 miles of desert to feed their children.”

Zonie said...

Well over a decade ago, the number of illegal/undocumented immigrants was lowballed at 11 million even though there was widespread acknowledgment that the number was probably closer to 20 million or more at that time. The lower number was adopted and it's been mindlessly repeated ever since, as if there hasn't been a continued queue of border crossers over the years, not to mention all their babies born here in the past decade, making the total number of people/families affected huge.

Related to the warning signs Zee referred to, I wonder if people realize that the federal government has essentially ceded parts of our country for years by closing off federally owned lands to American citizens because they've deemed it too dangerous. When they don't actually close it off entirely, they post warnings of the dangers.

While all this has been going on over the years, the Border Patrol agents have mostly been sitting in their SUVs up in the towns and cities to the north where there are donut shops and restaurants. They typically stay far from the border and warn us to do the same.
So when the government claims the numbers of illegal border crossers are down, it only means they aren't being stopped, not that they aren't crossing.

Anyway, I am personally envious of how these border crossers have taken the bull by the horns. They knowingly took a risk and broke the US immigration laws (for their own good reasons), they screamed about the unfairness of the laws and publicly paraded and protested, and they've continued to loudly demand that the laws be changed to accommodate them. (Of course they've been fortunate that most are not even stopped, let alone checked for documents or felonies.)

These people should be given citizenship just based just on chutzpah alone! But is anyone else starting to feel like a putz? Wall Street banksters get away with breaking numerous laws and bribe legislators to write laws favorable to them, and now illegal immigrants break the laws and actually succeed in getting our government to listen and change the law for THEM, when they won't even listen or help us schmuck citizens. What are we? Chopped liver?

Denis Neville said...

What part of legal immigration don’t you understand”

Our immigration system:


James F Traynor said...

Our farm system would collapse without these seasonal and not so seasonal farmworkers. Ditto for most of the lawn and landscape companies here in Florida, and the construction outfits. It's been so for years. This is just another bullshit argument, like austerity, 'entitlements' (can't you just smell the Republican spin meister in the woodwork?) and all the other issues manufactured to keep our minds off the class war. For Christ's sake, wake up! Oh yeah, and they're going to take away your guns so you can't revolt. Barnum was right.

4Runner said...

Immigrants are often victimized by their fellow nationals, including the coyotes mentioned above by Zee. Down here in south Florida, smugglers are still eluding the Coast Guard and depositing human cargo on the beach. Riding in on a fastboat costs $10,000 per person cash upfront.
Because of "wetfoot/dryfoot", Cubans who make it ashore are entitled to a green card. And so there is a thriving market in counterfeiting Cuban birth certificates, for which the going rate is $10 k.
Not exactly a Grand Bargain for refugees, but a cool 10-grand bargain for the perps.

Denis Neville said...

Zonie asks, “Is anyone else starting to feel like a putz?”

I often think of my Irish ancestors, who fled British tyranny during the Irish potato famine. They too sought refuge in America, a place with a few cows, a garden, a house of one’s own, as far away from trouble as possible.

More than a century ago the Irish were not white, but ''Negroes turned inside out,'' while Negroes were ''smoked Irish.'' Irish immigrants were extremely poor and were forced to live in the slums of the cities. There they lived with the free Blacks. They socialized together. “White” Americans saw this as an indication that the Irish should occupy the same social status as Blacks. This gave rise to the above two derogatory terms used by the "white" Americans.

Irish immigrants were substitutes for slaves in the South. Gangs of Irish immigrants worked ditching and draining plantations, building levees and sometimes clearing land because of the danger of death to valuable slave property. Southerners explained the use of Irish labor on the ground that “niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard nobody loses anything.”

Early Irish immigrants were empathetic toward the plight of African slaves and maintained their long history of anti-slavery. However, their strong moral opposition toward slavery and the other social factors ostracized them from the mainstream "white" American society. In order to climb up the social ladder, the Irish felt they had to prove their "whiteness." To be accepted into America, the Irish were willing to work menial labor and servant jobs. The Irish and Blacks were pitted against each other for these jobs. To keep jobs away from Blacks, the Irish often joined unions that consisted primarily of Irish workers. To demonstrate their "whiteness," many Irish workers threatened strikes if Black workers were hired. "We won’t work with niggers! No nigger apprentices! No niggers!" There was physical violence against Blacks.

As Frederick Douglas stated, "The Irish, who, at home, readily sympathizes with the oppressed everywhere, are instantly taught when they step upon our soil to hate and despise the Negro."

Thus, the Irish went from being victims and opponents of racial discrimination to proponents. By doing so, they climbed from the bottom of the social ladder by disassociating themselves from Blacks at the bottom.

Because of my Irish heritage I am reluctant to demonize border crossers who risked death to sneak across the border to eke out a living and send money back home to their struggling families in Mexico.

We are all victims of the plutocrats and the “get out of jail free” banksters who laundered Mexican drug cartel money. The problems are social and economic, not criminal. Issues of poverty and grotesque inequality must be addressed. But don’t hold your breath in this inverted totalitarian state.

Zee said...


Quite a slow-moving flow chart to which you have referred us!

It is astounding that it can take years of waiting merely to be allowed to immigrate to the U.S., and an equal number of years to be allowed to apply for citizenship.

And for all the time wasted, are our immigration officials really doing any background checks of significance while these people wait patiently--or not so patiently--to come here?

Seems to me that one area where we could usefully expand the rolls of government employees would be to facilitate the review and approval of would-be immigrants.

Denis--any idea how long it takes for an immigrant to legally enter Western European countries with the intention of obtaining permanent residency and then on to citizenship?

Suzan said...

Thanks, Karen,

Great essay! Kabuki politics has been in in DC since the end of WWII if not WWI.

I'm with Zee.

Anyone know the answer to that question?


John in Lafayette said...

"There are deficit scolds, and then there are just plain annoying scolds."

That one will have to be included in your greatest hits album.

Friedman's a great one for stating the obvious. Anyone with half a brain has understood for a very long time that the pace of technological change is increasing at a geometric rate. But what Friedman doesn't get is it's only people like himself, who haven't grown up with technology, who think we're in some sort of crisis in this regard.

This speaks to what must be his insular existence, where he associates with people his own age and older; people for whom technology is simply something the "IT guy/girl" handles, and whose embrace of technology extends only to being able to use their iPhone to find the latest two-star Michelin restaurant.

Anyone who spends time with young people (and as a college professor I see them daily) understands they are much more comfortable with the rapid pace of technological change than people of my generation. It's simply something they've lived with all their lives. They don't see keeping up with new technologies as a sociological/economic imperative so much as just part of getting up in the morning. They're never taken by surprise by new technology; they're on the lookout for it. If Friedman would ever get out of his own little circle he might realize this.

Then again, why would he? These kids would understand immediately what Friedman's buddies do not: He's an immense fraud.

horace said...

So securing our borders is a crime now? And so is having immigration policies that is of benefit to the country by allowing people we need to immigrate faster?