Border journalist Charles Bowden has a gripping story in Mother Jones about a small town reporter who is forced to flee Mexico and seek asylum in the U.S. because his coverage offends the soldiers who are occupying his town as part of the president's war on the drug cartels.
The military is the biggest cartel in town, which is partly why the local general is so touchy about media coverage.
When the reporter, Emilio, arrives at the border with all his documents in order and his 15-year-old son in tow, he is immediately incarcerated in a private immigration prison:
Emilio eventually gets out, thanks to a crusading attorney, but only after an unnecessary ordeal.
Think how much it cost taxpayers to incarcerate this fully documented, law-abiding asylum-seeker and his young son.
Read "We Bring Fear".
Ruchira Paul reports that Indian guest workers are striking in New Orleans:
During our vacation a week ago, my daughter and I stopped by at the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. The organization is an advocacy group for workers involved in the reconstruction of New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina. The vast rebuilding effort led the US government to permit recruitment of foreign laborers who were accorded "guest worker" status for the duration of their employment but apparently not the same rights and protection that are guaranteed to domestic workers under US labor laws. Lacking safeguards, the foreign workers are ripe targets for exploitation and abuse by contractors.
The Louisiana guest workers group includes citizens of several countries. Among them are a few hundred welders and pipe-fitters from India, recruited by Signal International, a Marine & Fabrication Company, apparently with the lure of lucrative jobs and immigrant visas. The promise proved to be false and the Indian workers have done the unthinkable - they have launched a strike on foreign soil, demanding justice from the host nation and advocacy from their own embassy spokespersons.
Read the whole thing. Please circulate widely.
Twenty-four guest workers from Signal International have been on a hunger strike at the White House since May 14. Fifteen more hunger strikers will join them tomorrow and another fifteen will arrive on the 31st.
Various labor and civil rights organizations are supporting their campaign including D.C. Jobs with Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the AFL-CIO.
The workers are asking for the Indian government to press the United States for fair treatment. India has already pressed other countries to do right by Indian guest workers, including Malaysia and Bahrain:
"The Indian government needs to show the kind of courage with the US that it showed in labour talks with Malaysia and Bahrain," said Sony Sulekha, who is on hunger strike. "If we could sit down and talk with the US Congressmen, we believe our leaders can too."
"This hunger strike is a last resort," said Saket Soni, a worker's advocate who directs the New Orleans Workers' Centre for Racial Justice.
The workers are demanding that Indian parliamentarians press their US counterparts for a Congressional investigation into abuses in the US guest worker visa programme.
They also want the ministries of foreign affairs and overseas Indian affairs to press the US State Department to secure the workers' right to participate in a human trafficking investigation into Signal International and its American and Indian recruiters. [Hindustan Times]
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a class action suit on behalf of the Signal workers in March.
I reported on the plight of the Indian guest workers at Signal International last year. These skilled welders and pipe-fitters are being trafficked to the US under false pretenses. Fraudulent immigration brokers in the US and India promise them green cards and highly paid jobs. All of them go heavily into debt to come here. When they arrive, their wages turn out to be a fraction of what they were promised.
Worse still, they find out that their H-2B visas are only good for a short time. So, there's no way they can pay back the huge debts they've incurred. To make matters even worse, they are forced to live on company property with room and board subtracted from their wages. Many of these men have mortgaged everything they own to come here. Typically, they are in debt to loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest.
Desperation sets in.
I interviewed one Signal worker, a father of two, who attempted suicide because he was so overwhelmed by his situation. Guest workers at other plants in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida have taken their own lives.
Because of their living situation and their immigration status, guest workers at Signal are under 24-7 control by management. They can be sent home at any time, for any reason. Immigration authorities consider H-2B workers to be a major flight risks under these circumstances.
So, immigration authorities tell management to forcibly detain any worker they are planning on firing and deporting.
When Signal wanted to send two guys back to India for "making trouble" in the camp (i.e. complaining about working and living conditions) they sent company guards to detain the guys in a trailer at gunpoint pending deportation.
No matter where you stand on immigration, it's clear that what's happening at Signal and in guest worker programs all over the country is wrong.
Legal workers are being systematically abused and exploited all over the country and US immigration and labor authorities are looking the other way.
Antitax crusader Douglas Bruce kicked a newspaper photographer and was then sworn in as a state representative on Monday, but not while the House was in session, as he had demanded. Bruce later said he wouldn't apologize and said the photographer should be the one to say he's sorry.
Bruce, a Republican, backed down in his standoff with Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and members of his own party over Bruce's insistence that the full House attend when he was sworn in to fill a vacant seat.
He settled for a smaller ceremony when the House was not in session, which is standard practice for midterm appointees.
Carrying a family Bible, Bruce went to the House floor Monday morning as a guest of Rep. Kent Lambert, a fellow Colorado Springs Republican.
When Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano took his photo during the traditional morning prayer, Bruce, who was standing, brought the sole of his shoe down hard on the photographer's bent knee. A CBS4 News videographer saw Bruce make a kicking motion, but didn't see the actual contact.
"Don't do that again," Bruce told Manzano.
Later, Bruce refused to apologize.
"I think that's the most offensive thing I've seen a photographer do in 21 years," he said. "If people are going to cause a disruption during a public prayer, they should be called for it. He owes an apology to the House and the public." [cbs4denver, Jan 14, 2008]
Victor Davis Hanson recalls approvingly how they used to "assimilate" Mexican children in his hometown:
How did the old assimilationist model work? Brutally and effectively. In our grammar schools during the 1950s and 1960s, no Spanish was to be spoken on the playground—officially at least. Groups of four and larger were not allowed to congregate at recess. When we were caught fighting, nontraditional kicking instead of the accepted punching earned four, rather than two, spankings. A rather tough Americanism in class was rammed down our throats—biographies of Teddy Roosevelt, stories about Lou Gehrig, a repertory of a dozen or so patriotic songs, recitations from Longfellow, and demonstrations of how to fold the flag. “Manners” and “civics” were taught each week, with weird lessons about not appearing “loud” in public or wearing glittery or showy clothes, and especially not staring down strangers or giving people the “hard look” with the intent of “being unpleasant.” Our teachers were at times insufferable in their condescension as they disclosed the formula for “making it in America”—but make it in America the vast majority of these immigrants did. [City Journal, Spring 2002]
Read the whole thing. It's very revealing. I especially like the part about how armed Mexican gang members stole Hanson's oranges.
Update: Victor Davis Hanson gave a similar talk at the National Press Club in October, 2007.
Elana Levin of DMI has a great post on the netroots and immigration.
DMI's recently-updated report on progressive immigration reform makes some points that aren't repeated nearly often enough.
First, immigrants contribute a lot to the American economy, regardless of their status. We hear a lot about the costs of immigration, but the real picture is a lot more complicated.
On average, undocumented workers pay more in taxes than they consume in government services. Their payroll taxes help subsidize Social Security and Medicare because they pay in without collecting benefits.
As progressives, we can't ignore the ways in which the immigration system hurts the most vulnerable members of our society. A large pool of illegal labor drives down standards for everyone because in-status workers have to compete with counterparts who operate without benefit of minimum wage laws, health and safety regulations, or the right to organize. As usual, draconian prohibition creates a lot of problems of its own.
"Open borders" is a straw man. Nobody advocates that. Obviously, the immigration system is supposed to help some people come in and keep other people out. We can debate the criteria and the numbers, but ultimately that's what immigration is about. "Open borders" is a canard.
What we have now is an immigration system that doesn't even succeed at its stated purposes. We are not in control now. It's absurd to think we can regain control by mass deportation or a multi-billion-dollar border fence. These are simply not practical solutions to the problem.
Americans hate to be told "no." We assume that if there's a will, there's always a way.
Some people just won't believe physically securing the borders of our vast country won't deliver the results they're looking for. If you want to reduce the number of people who sneak into the country illegally, a fence is just a bad means to that end.
The Department of Homeland Security privately dropped its proposed "no match" rule over the Thanksgiving break, according to a statement issued by the ACLU:
SAN FRANCISCO – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abandoned its attempt to enforce its proposed "no match" rule that would improperly use social security records for immigration enforcement. In a late Friday afternoon court filing the day after Thanksgiving in federal court in San Francisco, DHS requested that a lawsuit challenging the rule be put on hold until March 2008. The government plans to publish a revised rule in December 2007 that it claims will pass legal muster.
The lawsuit was brought by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and labor groups to block the proposed "no match" rule which would require employers to penalize or fire U.S. citizens and legal workers whose social security numbers don't match up with the Social Security Administration (SSA) database. The lawsuit charges that the SSA database is fundamentally flawed and error-prone, and that the rule would result in the firing of countless legal workers as well as discrimination against those who look or sound "foreign." (emphasis added) [ACLU]
The government opted to take its plan back to the drawing board, rather than fighting to justify the flawed proposal in court:
The government’s proposal was a response to an indefinite delay to the rule ordered Oct. 10 by the judge, Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in San Francisco. Judge Breyer found that the government had failed to follow proper procedures in issuing the rule and that it should have completed a survey of its impact on small business.
He also found that the Social Security database the government would use to verify workers’ status was full of errors, so the rule could lead to the dismissal of many thousands of workers who were American citizens or legal immigrants. [NYT]
These errors are not trivial. Nearly 13 million legal workers could have lost their jobs because of errors in the database:
Some businesses welcomed the rule because it clarified what they had to do to avoid immigration raids. But the labor unions cited a report from the inspector general of the Social Security Administration finding that 12.7 million of the records of United States citizens in the agency’s database contained errors that could lead to them being fired. (emphasis added) [NYT]
The immigration authorities are zealots.
Estimates vary, but there are probably only about 6 million undocumented migrants working in the US today. So, DHS was willing to threaten 12.7 million legal jobs in the hopes of penalizing 6 million undocumented workers!
Now, remind me again, who's trying to take jobs away from Americans?
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.
Jeff Crosby describes how our current immigration policies are making jobs worse for everyone, including legal residents and citizens.
With ICE stepping up enforcement, employers are getting rid of their permanent staff and hiring from temp agencies instead. That way, the employer isn't legally responsible for hiring undocumented worker. Also, if ICE happens to snatch up a large percentage of your staff on any given day, the temp agency will just send more.
Temp jobs are worse than the permanent positions they are replacing. Temporary workers get paid less and get fewer benefits than staffers doing the same work.
In other words, ICE is taking people's jobs!