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October 07, 2007

ICE criticized for "cowboy mentality"

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is finally trying the patience of the local officials who have to deal with the aftermath of aggressive and often indiscriminate ICE raids targeting illegal immigrants nationwide:

GARDEN CITY. N.Y. - Long Island officials complained loudly this week about a series of immigration raids, accusing federal agents of a "cowboy mentality" that could have put local police in harm's way.

The attack on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was so sharp that a congressman stepped in to try and broker a peace.

But such complaints are becoming increasingly common, with local officials from Nevada to Nassau County saying they are fed up with the federal war on illegal immigration. [AP]

Long Island officials are especially concerned paramilitary-style raids are endangering the local cops who collaborate with ICE.

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Good on the federal government, or at least parts of it, for getting serious about this.

I'm one of the most socially liberal people you'll ever meet, but I'm under no illusion that unrestricted immigration to the United States is a good thing -- and it seems to be especially hard on the poorer members of our own society.

"More than 1,300 criminal illegal immigrants were rounded up during sweeps in Southern California during the past two weeks."

Right on. That's a great start.

I realize the war on illegal immigration can never be won, but by rigorously enforcing our laws, and making the US an extremely unpalatable place to work for illegals by putting legal and fiscal pressure on the companies who hire them, we can help make the place better for Americans, not usurpers who tend to be extreme drains on social services.

Go to another country and tell them they have no right nor duty to regulate who crosses their borders, and they'd rightly laugh so hard they'd fall out of their chairs. Why is the notion that we have no right to do so in the United States a cherished belief of my fellow liberals, when all it does is make poor Americans poorer and enrich fat-cat plutocrats? Can anyone explain?

Just as I thought. I did hear the hoof beats of the nativist posse approaching.

And out of a touching concern, this time, for the poor and downtrodden. While I go off and fetch my kleenex, the Reader might to take a look at something on a related note:

http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/10/05/blackwater-newly-created-thug-caste/

Why is it any time an American states that we want our current immigration laws enforced and ILLEGALS rounded up and shipped out the "Nativist" card is played? Such a tired, pathetic and weak accusation. To be for the enforcement of current law and the deportation of thopse who enter this country ILLEGALLY does not make one a Nativist.

Why are people more concerned about these people who broke the law than they are helping the poor in this country? Poor blacks, white and latinos who are CITIZENS need access to jobs and social services that these ILLEGALS scarf up. Not to mention the enourmous drain ILLEGALS put on our already shitty educational system.

That being said, I am not advocating for nor defending these current raids. I think that ICE should spend their time looking for and rounding up the illegals who are criminals and gang members. At this point there is no use going after the people here to work and who have jobs. Let them be for now. Start with the worst of the worst.

"Why is it any time an American states that we want our current immigration laws enforced and ILLEGALS rounded up and shipped out the "Nativist" card is played? Such a tired, pathetic and weak accusation. To be for the enforcement of current law and the deportation of thopse who enter this country ILLEGALLY does not make one a Nativist."

Are you in favor of the expansion of legal immigration?

Richard, while I can agree in general on the necessity of the ability to control borders, there are good ways and bad ways to go about it.

From the article, this particular methodology involves child endangerment, and I will not countenance a government doing that. Also, I'm not certain that the numbers being provided can be trusted; at least one batch of numbers coming from the federal immigration people is being heavily disputed by the local police. I will not countenance a government lying about its results, either.

Third, I'm not entirely certain this should be a federal issue unless it can be shown that undocumented workers are showing up initially in New York and then dispersing to other states in such a manner that the other states are having greater difficulty detecting them for the fact that they came from New York. I'm more likely to buy the need for federal interference in a place like Texas or California, but generally I've started growing into the opinion that I don't really like the federal government interfering in any role other than the protection of the rights of its citizens or in inter-state matters.

"I'm one of the most socially liberal people you'll ever meet,"

In what sense do you mean this?

"Are you in favor of the expansion of legal immigration?"


I have no problem with it. Immigration is a positive thing if controlled.

Shame on Americans, and Canadians, who share the western history the word emerged from, for allowing "cowboy" to become a kind of curse word.

Cowboys have been an important part of this country's part of this country's past, and they're not all gone yet, not by a long shot.

"Cowboy" used in this context implies someone who is stupid, reckless, heedless, ignorant, destructive. The few "cowboys" I've met --from Montana and places like that-- are anything but that. They're smart, they tend to be good stewards of the land (though all are certainly not) and they are extremely hard working, at a type of physical labor, that would exhaust everyone here in four hours.

Don't know where the use of "cowboy" as a curse word started. I'd think from someone in Paris or New York that wouldn't know a cow or a horse if they tripped over one.

I don't know what I'd replace the word with, but I'd like the use of the word in this context to be retired.

na·tiv·ism (nā'tĭ-vĭz'əm) n.
A sociopolitical policy, especially in the United States in the 19th century, favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants.

The ugly side of illegal and unregulated immigration is that it does put downward pressure on wages. You hear for example farmers in california whining about how if it weren't for the illegals, they couldn't get anyone to pick their crops. What they mean is that they couldn't get anyone to do it for the wages they are offering.

Unfortunately, people on both sides blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. So it is possible that simply "working while brown" can get you rounded up, detained, and, yes, even deported*. But on the other hand, immigrant advocates claim that the legal and illegal communities are "enmeshed" and that members of these communities do not make serious distinctions in legal status.

*If you are mentally disabled and don't understand or can't explain what's going on.

Oh, and I meant to add that unfortunately, immigrant advocates, at least the ones that get on TV, make a very poor case that boils down to "I and people like me should be allowed to work in the US, and it's unfair for the US citizens or government to say otherwise." I really wish the people supporting more liberal immigration policies could get a better argument out there.

"In what sense do you mean this?"

I am socially liberal in that I support:

1) Complete, unquestioned, unrestricted reproductive rights for women, including abortions funded by government on demand, as well as a college education up to a PhD level paid for by the government for men and women.

2) Am a secular humanist, and not beholden to any religion.

3) Believe that we should provide more funds and services for our own citizens who are poor, underprivileged, downtrodden and/or otherwise screwed by the system in some way or other.

4) Support gay marriage, recognized as exactly equal to het marriage.

5) Support gays in the military, if a military there must be.

6) Support that all legislative bodies should be, at least, 50% female at any level. How would this be accomplished? No idea.

7) Am a member of the ACLU.

8) Am a member of the EFF.

9) Plan to join Doctors without Borders when I complete medical school.

10) Support nearly complete dissolution of the military, and all of that money going to build better infrastructure, social services, and institutions in this country (for the benefit of our own citizens, natch).

11) Support removing the heinous legal conceit of treating a corporation as a person, and forcibly disbanding many multinational corporations.

12) Favor repeal of all (and I do mean ALL) drug laws.

13) Favor reducing the prison population to 1/10 of what it is now by immediately letting out the vast majority of nonviolent offenders.

14) Favor having a higher tax rate on corporations that pollute more (as well as many, many other anti-corporate, pro-environment measures).

15) Wish to move the US (obviously) to more of a social welfare state system, found in most of Western Europe.

16) Believe that a fair and equitable legal immigration program should be created.

17) Get laughed at often enough in school for being a male feminist, and not afraid to talk about it.

Enough credentials for you? If not, I could go on for pages.

What I am not is a nativist, unless you mean a Native American nativist (lot of Native American heritage in my family.). What I am, however, is a realist, and I understand natively (heh) that adding an extremely large illegal population to already-strained social systems and institutions is the height of madness. Also, that adding a huge population of people willing to work for near-slave wages, and plutocrats overjoyed to let them do so, only harms Americans who would otherwise have those jobs at higher wages.

Too many of my fellow citizens are ready to raise a hue and cry about the rights of blessed illegal immigrants, meanwhile ignoring the downtrodden who are (gasp!) already citizens of our own country. Why? I have no idea. No one has ever been able to explain this to me.

But just because the US is more prosperous than another country that happens to be nearby is not, prima facie, a good argument for allowing the entire population of that country to decide to move here.

By most measures, Norway is more prosperous than the United States. Think that gives me an automatic right to move there? Do you think that they think that gives me any natural right to show up there, clamoring for social services and a slice of the North Sea oil profits?

Check back when you research that a little.

Re: “cowboys”. There are some hills near where I live on which cattle are pastured during summer. Come fall, cowboys show up to take the cattle to wherever they’re going for winter. It takes several days to get the job accomplished (very steep slopes). It’s done by seven or eight guys on horseback w/ lassos & whole nine cowboy yards – an anglo supervisor and the rest obviously Hispanic. Pastoral labor in the U.S. west of the 100th meridian started with Mexican vaqueros and it’s becoming so again.

As for illegal immigrants, I can’t get myself worked up to a fuming dudgeon over the fact that people move around to take up a life elsewhere. We’ve been doing that for 150000 years across six continents and all but the tiniest habitable islands. Settled people have frequently resented uninvited newcomers, but the notion of “legal/illegal” immigration is only decades old. (Not that unwanted newcomers have necessarily always been benign; e.g. the periodic irruptions of pastoral tribes out of Central Asia.) The only thing different now is that every last place on the planet is full up: there is practically nowhere left that remains uninhabited, or so sparsely peopled that the natives can be swamped or killed. (Excepting perhaps the Amazon basin, but that'll be wrapped up in another thirty years or so.)

Every country that has the slightest advantage in economic opportunity or political stability has economic and political refugees seeping in at every pore, who are resented just as much as immigrants legal and illegal are resented here. Italy has its Albanians, South Africa its Zimbabweans, Mexico its Guatemalans, the U.S. its Mexicans, and on and on. (Syria and Jordan I might add are already pulling the welcome mat out from under their flood of Iraqi immigrants, which sequelae will no doubt be as delightful as the happy course of the rest of our Iraq project.)

What we’ve got now is a worldwide lifeboat situation, which, coupled with hopeless economic disparity, political violence/oppression, and, increasingly, resource depletion and ecological degradation, movement of desperate people, their exploitation, and their frequent brutal treatment is a natural consequence. There’s not likely a single illegal immigrant anywhere in any country that would not obtain legal status if they could. Illegal labor doubtless does drive down wages, but so does legal outsourcing and clever schemes like converting American Micronesia into a sweatshop. Every kind of labor from picking fruit, to computer programming, to prostitution is in a global race to the bottom. With 6.5 billion people, limiting resources, and man’s infinite capacity for fucking up a good thing, it cannot be otherwise.

We, like every other country, have a right to protect our own, including the right to control immigration. We should not fool ourselves however, that in the long run, we, and every nation trying to seal up its borders are just King Canutes at the seashore. We should also not kid ourselves that we can carry out immigration control without stepping into a lot of ethical dog shit.

Not to interrupt the abstract conversation about liberal bonafides, but if Tom Suozzi of the New York State Republican party (speaking of a raid in a part of Long Island where Republican local officials have been running against immigrants for years) says ICE is getting out of hand, there really isn't any question that ICE is getting out of hand.

That they're targetting a group you don't like doesn't mean you should applaud what they're doing if it's not helping.

The "paniolo" or Hawaiian cowboy tradition has roots in Mexico and Spanish California as well.

They brought the guitar to Hawaii as well, with very good results.

John Kerry introduces the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act:

“The immigration raid in New Bedford earlier this year was a stark reminder of how easily these civil liberties can fall by the wayside. That is unacceptable. When people are treated inhumanely, entire communities suffer, including children and the elderly. I strongly urge my colleagues to take a stand against these injustices and support the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act.”

Kerry’s legislation would require Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to:

— afford access to state social service agencies to screen and interview detainees. A majority of the problems in raids across the country arose from the fact that people were too scared or intimidated to provide information to ICE agents. Social service agencies are better equipped to handle child and family needs;

— give sufficient notice to these state agencies so they can arrange for representatives who speak the detainees’ first language fluently and for any other services that may be needed;

— place aliens in detention within the jurisdiction of the local ICE field office (to the extent that space is available). Previously detainees, many of them nursing mothers, have been shipped off to facilities hundreds of miles away from their families to await a determination of their status;

Previously detainees, many of them nursing mothers, have been shipped off to facilities hundreds of miles away from their families to await a determination of their status...
Which is a polite way of saying that ICE rounds people up and ships them to detention camps hundreds of miles away without bothering to figure out whether they actually are illegal immigrants.

John Kerry may be using euphemisms, but at least he's taking action.

Please ask your Senators to support Kerry's "Families First Immigration Enforcement Act” for humane treatment.

Pretty much off-topic here - The "paniolo" or Hawaiian cowboy tradition has roots in Mexico and Spanish California as well.

Captain George Vancouver who shipped as a teenager with Capt. Cook when the latter discovered Hawaii (Right, the Polynesians discovered the place first, but you know what I’m saying.) returned to Hawaii three times, and thoughtfully -or so it seemed at the time- brought cattle obtained in California with him on the second and third visits. King Kamehameha decreed that his subjects were to leave the livestock unmolested to multiply, which it did forthwith. Predictably, the cattle soon became enough of a pest that the king commissioned riflemen to cull the herds. The first of the hunters, a Mr. Palmer, married a Hawaiian princess, thus acquiring some land, the Palmer ranch, on the Big Island, which grew to become one of the largest ranches in the U.S. Kamehameha also had some vaqueros imported from Mexico to teach Hawaiians ranching, starting the paniolo tradition, which business continues to this day. Cattle are presently shipped from Hawaii in “cowtainers”: modified shipping containers that can be transported along with standard cargo containers.

Sadly, the California/Hawaiian cattle were bred out of existence with stock later imported for improving the breed. That was the last of the California mission cattle (The same California Spanish cattle whose hides and tallow were sold to Americans to be sailed around Cape Horn to New England, as described by R.H. Dana in “Two Years before the Mast”.), which in California had been swamped to oblivion by imports of cattle a few decades earlier, first to feed the 49ers (though these were driven from the Southwest and were basically also Spanish cattle.) and later with English breeds brought with American settlers. California mission cattle also found their way northward, mainly to Oregon, but some as far as Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula, and Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. These cattle have also long since vanished. Some of the Spanish “criollo” cattle still live in the U.S. though: the familiar Texas longhorns, the Florida scrub or “cracker” cattle, and the Gulf Coast feral cattle of more mixed heritage once called “swamp” and now bred as “corriente” cattle. The latter two are smaller than the longhorns, wiry, tough little animals with variously shaped horns, though sometimes longish like their Texas cousins.

"Shame on Americans, and Canadians, who share the western history the word emerged from, for allowing "cowboy" to become a kind of curse word."

"Cowboy" can be used as a compliment or an insult, depending on circumstance. The word suggests an informal way of getting things done, outside official channels. The manager who forces an important reform through a stagnant bureaucracy will sometimes be described as a "cowboy", and in that circumstance the word will be a compliment. But the word is never a compliment when referring to law enforcement officials. When one thinks of the Wild West, one thinks of stories where people operated outside of the rule of law. The rule of law is more important than any possible bureaucratic reform. Even in the hypothetical situation where a society has to accept a stagnant law enforcement bureaucracy as the cost of maintaining the rule of law, a sane society would still choose the rule of law. Without it, a society has nothing but anarchy and rule-by-force.

Lindsay, I did a comment on "cowboys" and it sure seemed to me it appeared on the site, but now it's gone. What happened?

I'm sorry your comment got lost, Dock. I'm not sure why this happened, but I'll look into it. I certainly didn't delete for any reason. Feel free to repost it.

It's possible I accidentally clicked the wrong box when attacking the wave of comment spam that materialized while I was away in Vancouver. If so, I apologize.

Everyone: If your comments or trackbacks don't show up, please assume operator error or technical glitch. If you notice a problem, do drop me a line to make sure I'm apprised.

>Feel free to repost it

No, I stupidly didn't save it anywhere. And it was something I refined a bit. Foolish.

Maybe if I feel re-inspired.


>It's possible I accidentally clicked the wrong box when attacking the wave of comment spam that materialized while I was away in Vancouver.

Shit happens. It's an internet weakness that a single mis-stroke can throw something into oblivion.

Not quite on the money, but I'll go with it --

>The few "cowboys" I've met --from Montana and places like that-- are anything but that. They're smart, they tend to be good stewards of the land (though all are certainly not) and they are extremely hard working, at a type of physical labor, that would exhaust everyone here in four hours.

The lots of “cowboys” I’ve met – I grew up in Montana, a place like that – are typical of a wide-ranging working-class bunch. Some were smart. Some were dumb as a sack of spuds. All of them worked for stewards of the lands who were ranch owners. Some of those knew what they were doing, had visionary outlooks. Some could not care less. Some cowboys worked with stoic determination in dreadful winter conditions. Some goofed-off whenever they could. Some who worked hard drank hard. Some who goofed-off hard also drank hard. Some became grizzled gurus. Some quit when they were kids. It was a social role. I can make only two generalizations about cowboys – they were always short of funds, and they resisted any easy categories. The best of them would reject being put on a Reactionary Toys shelf with little Ronald Reagan figurines.

One of the things that got my grandmother off the ranch was the fact that in a world of cowboys there was no room for cowgirls. She was born in the final years of the 19th Cent. and grew up on a homesteaded ranch in Okanogan Co., Washington, within walking distance of the B.C border. Every summer, the culmination of all the past year’s work was my great grandfather, great uncles, and hired hands driving a herd to Spokane to be shipped by rail to the packing houses in Chicago.

Usually my great grandfather accompanied the cattle on the train to Illinois, sometimes bringing his sons with him. I clearly recall a note of envy and bitterness on the occasions my grandmother referred to the annual drive. Her childhood was spent on horseback, she and her siblings helped with all the tasks on the ranch as soon as they grew able to do so. The daughters did everything except drive the cattle to market. There was no real good reason, in my grandmother’s opinion, that the girls should not help with the drive.

My grandmother and great aunt Gladys eventually left for Seattle, to put themselves, respectfully, through nursing and secretarial schools. The remaining sister married locally and died giving stillborn birth to her first child. The ranch was sold during the depression with the proceeds going to buy some shacks that were rented to workers building the Grand Coulee Dam. My sister went to see the old house in the eighties. It had been boarded up and converted to a granary. None of the girls ever saw Chicago.

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