by Reynold N. Mason
Atlanta June 1, 2010 - In 2008, candidate Obama sailed into office on a tide of change. A Washington outsider only two years in the Senate, he was a fresh face as yet untainted by the rough and tumble of Washington politics. His appeal lay not just in his ample oratorical skills but in his promise to change government as we know it. He would veto earmarks for pet projects, reform health care, close Gitmo and end the war in Iraq. He would tackle climate change, and begin to end our addiction to foreign oil by developing clean renewable sources of energy.
The current crisis
But finding his administration in the worst financial crisis since the great depression, the President has been unable to deliver on his campaign promises. His sole accomplishment after nearly two years in office is health care reform, now the law of the Land. The battle over health care shook congress to its ideological core and caused fissures in the political landscape, making it difficulty for the President to push his agenda. Republicans found themselves on one side of the political divide, with democrats on the other. There are now deep ideological divisions, even among democrats. Bart Stupak held out against abortion funding in the health care legislation, and Dennis Kucinich was persuaded to lend his support, only after some arm twisting aboard Air Force One.
The American people, wary of the transformational change implicit in health care reform, rebelled. They made town hall meetings last summer, an unpleasant experience for politicians supporting health care. Some expressed their opposition to the health care mandate while others, satisfied with their health care coverage, opted to oppose the legislation because they wished to retain their existing health care coverage. Said George Will: “85 per cent had heath insurance and 95 percent of the 85 per cent were happy with it”. Polls showed Americans opposed health care reform by a fairly wide margin. And shortly before the final passage of the legislation, public anger was in full bloom. In Massachusettes, Scott Brown, a long shot underdog, running on an anti-health care platform, overtook and defeated his democratic opponent. The seat he now occupies had been held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy for more than a generation. State houses in New Jersey and Virginia were also captured by republicans.
The deficit, had ballooned from $1.6 trillion under President Bush, to a staggering $13 trillion. Republicans smelled blood in the water and Democrats ran for cover. Senator Chris Dodd, longtime force on Banking Committee, has retired rather than face voters.. In Utah, republican senator Bob Bennett, who voted for the stimulus, was shown the door at the republican party convention in his state. In the primary elections earlier this month, the political purge was in full throttle. Senator Arlene Specter who switched parties to escape republican wrath for his support of the Obama stimulus and health care was sent into early retirement. And in Kentucky, newcomer, Rand Paul, handily defeated establishment candidate, Secretary of state, Trey Grayson, who had the support of the republican party. In Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln, a reluctant supporter of healthcare, was forced into a runoff with lieutenant Governor Halter, in spite of strong support from democratic heavy weights Obama and Bill Clinton.
Voters on both sides of the political divide, angry about the deficit, Wall Street bailouts and jobs, are in the midst of a political purge. The prospects for incumbent insiders are dire. Many have opted to retire rather than face voters in November. Bart Stupak, after his brave anti-abortion stand and subsequent reversal, has retired; so has representative David Obey of Wisconsin. Even more ominous for democrats, (27) twenty-seven of their number, seeking re-election next November, are in districts viewed as tossups, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report. The only bright spot for democrats in last month’s primaries was Pennsylvania 12th, where Mark Critz, held onto his late boss’ seat. But Critz campaigned as an anti-health care, anti-abortion, and pro-gun candidate; he framed the issues as a protest against Obama.
Looking to November
Political attitudes are in a state of flux. Post health care electoral politics indicate a lack of loyalty to Obama. His coalition of 2008, new voters, blacks and hispanics has been split asunder by the political push and pull of emotional issues---jobs, deficits and immigration. Hispanics in particular, 67 per cent of whom supported Obama in 2008, are disappointed over his failure to deliver on immigration reform. Voters are reconsidering the role of government in their everyday affairs. The success of the Tea Party movement makes this evident, and politicians, feeling the squeeze, are cautious and more responsive. Democrats are running away from Obama in droves, even politely declining his help in their fledgling re-election campaigns. There will be a reckoning come November.
by Reynold N Mason
DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced earlier this month, that an El Paso County District Court has issued orders barring a Colorado Springs business, the Immigration Center, from defrauding consumers in search of assistance in obtaining or completing federal immigration forms. The Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Doucette and the Immigration Center in August 2009 accusing the company of engaging in deceptive practices, including claiming an affiliation with the federal government.
According to the complaint, the company advertised itself as being able to help immigrants obtain and complete various immigration forms in exchange for fees ranging from $300 to $700. Their non-refundable fees were identical to the fee the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services charges for filing the forms, which were available free of charge from the federal government. The Immigration Center also did not provide consumers with assistance from attorneys or anyone with expertise in immigration law. Under the court’s order, the business will be barred from engaging in immigration-assistance services and will be required to pay the state a total of $2.5 million in fines. The court also approved a settlement requiring the company to pay $85,000 in fines and restitution and blocking it from engaging in the business of selling government forms or providing assistance with those forms. The Immigration Center also did business under the names U.S. Immigration Center, ImmigrationHelpLine.org, U.S. Government Help Line, Liberty Legal Services, Maydene Media.
Since the passage of the Arizona immigration law in April, copycat laws have been passed in several states, making life more difficult for immigrants and creating a climate of fear in the immigrant community, even among those who have been long term, law-abiding residents on the US. Many, worried by the resurgent anti-immigrant mood in their home states, have been relocating to states less hostile to their status. After Oklahoma passed its anti immigrant law in 2007, Its authors said they were sending a very clear message: If you're an illegal immigrant, you are not welcome."I'm convinced illegal aliens will not come to Oklahoma, or any other state, if there are no jobs waiting for them." said state Rep. Randy Terrill ,who sponsored the law.."They will not stay here if there are not taxpayer subsidies and they certainly won't stay here if they ever encounter one of our fine state and local law enforcement officials," he added. "They'll be physically detained -- until they're deported." Immigrants, cowed by the law, left Oklahoma in droves seeking sanctuary in friendlier states.
In the curent athmosphere, immigrants are seeking every means to protect themselves and their families, and unscrupulous and bogus immigration outfits have been taking advantage. Immigrants needing assistance should beware. They are well-advised to seek out attorneys qualified and prepared to help with immigration issues.
By Reynold N. Mason
During his 2008 campaign for the Presidency of the United States, Mr. Obama promised an end to congressional gridlock and politics a usual. He said he would push for secure borders, increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and remove incentives to illegal entry. Most importantly, he promised a path to citizenship in any reform proposal, for undocumented immigrants living here.
But as of today, the President has not taken up the issue of immigration reform. Scared off like a gazelle spying a lion near his watering hole, he has taken cover in the thicket of election year politics. “Congress”, he says “does not have the “appetite” for comprehensive immigration reform at this time. Supporters say the issue of immigration reform has simmered for years on the back burner of American politics and Obama’s predecessors did not have the courage to face it head on. So why should he? He should; otherwise he will be seen as nothing more than the typical politician mouthing promises he has no intention of keeping; as one who heads for the hills at the echo of the first salvo in the battle he is sworn to fight. His Hispanic supporters, to whom he has given illusions of hope, will desert him; the anti-immigration forces will play to the fear and insecurity of the populace, and all hope for immigration reform will be doomed, perhaps for years to come, and the vicious cycle of try and fail, begun by Regan in 1986, will begin all over again.
All politics is local
Surely there are challenges to immigration reform. But face them the President must. Republicans, with enough votes in the Senate to stall an Obama push for immigration reform, must be persuaded to join the fight. The president must lead. He must persuade those who feel that other pressing matters now pending before congress should be given precedence over immigration reform, to join the fight. He must convince democratic bench warmers that they will pay a political price for frolicking into other issues while the issue of illegal immigration is tearing the country apart and eroding the bulwarks of traditional democratic support. Frustration, disappointment and disillusionment will drive the Hispanic voting bloc and its sympathizers away from the Democratic Party.
The electorate is energized as never before, and the decision to oppose or support reform will have immediate political consequences. John McCain, an erstwhile supporter of immigration reform who, with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, sponsored the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill in 2005, has seen the handwriting on the wall. To the surprise on many, he has voiced his support for the “papers please or I’ll arrest you” Arizona immigration law passed last April, making life difficult for undocumented immigrants in that state. Since then, he has increased his led over his challenger for his senate seat, according to Public Policy Poll. (PPP). Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, who signed the law, has since surged in the polls increasing her support from 53 percent to 73 percent among Republicans, overtaking all challengers. In 2004, McCain won re-election with 74 percent Hispanic support. Today, according to PPP, his support has fallen to 10 percent with Latino voters. The same survey found that Arizona Attorney General Goddard, the democratic nominee for governor, will lose to the republicans in a match up. Goddard opposed the new Arizona law.
In California too, Meg Whitman, candidate for governor has seen her lead in the polls evaporate under a withering attach from her opponent, Mr. Posner, who has attacked her on her opposition to the Arizona law. Now, Ms Whitman says,” I am 100 percent against amnesty. Period” The pressure on politicians in the local races has pushed unprincipled and opportunistic demagogues to shift their stance on immigration to take advantage of the anti -immigration mood of voters, and this has led to several states passing laws restricting immigration and making life more difficult for the undocumented. Riding the wave of public opinion, Sarah Palin weighed in last Wednesday on Fox saying ”I think every other state on the border should emulate what Arizona has done” Many have.
Past Presidents have gambled on immigration reform and lost. The most recent being Bush 44 whose plan went down in defeat in 2007. The question is, after the battle to pass health care, the unpopular economic stimulus and, keeping in mind the sordid history of past efforts at immigration reform, do Obama, Reid and Pelosi have the political will to take on immigration reform? According to an article by Reuben Navarrette on CNN.Com on line, the Obama administration is quietly laying the groundwork for immigration reform next year that includes amnesty. But the Hill News reported last week, that Ms. Pelosi plans to await senate action before taking up the issue. She clearly fears negative voter reaction and backlash against vulnerable democrats seeking re-election this November. She can run for cover but she cannot hide. She must face the issue . She must work to placate organized labor which opposes the guess worker plan and soldier with the President in this fight.
The President’s task is formidable, but he must not shirk his responsibility. He must lead his party in this fight to pass immigration reform, and he must persuade Republicans, playing to their conservative base, to join the fight. He must put immigration reform at the top of his political agenda, and he must stop paying lip service to immigration reform to score points with Hispanics. “I don’t have 60 votes in the senate” will not excuse his failure to act, and act soon. He must use his bully-pulpit for all it’s worth, and push reluctant democrats to lend him support. He persuaded Bart Stupak to lay aside his distaste for abortion funding and support health care legislation; he can persuade reluctant democrats to support him in his push to pass comprehensive immigration reform. “The fact is that the president of the United States came to office, in large part, because he supports wholesale reform of the immigration system. It’s time for him to make his promise a reality," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., the rest of the country echoes his call for action.
by Reynold n. Mason
America has come a long way since the naturalization Act of 1790 took effect, limiting US citizenship to “free white persons” of ‘good moral character”. In spite of that ominous pronouncement, the US has been a magnet for immigrants from nations across the globe. By 1950 the US popuation consisted of 55 million persons of foreign stock. Up to that time, most immigrants, 98 per cent, were Europeans. Today, 50 per cent of immigrants are from Latin America, and 12.5 percent of the US population were foreign born as of 2008,according to the US Census Bureau,
For the first time in our history illegal immigrants outnumber legal immigrants. In a weak economy and with unemployment approaching 10 per cent, immigration, an emotional issue to begin with, has become even more divisive. The need for reform of the country’s immigration laws is nothing less than dire. Yet congress and President Obama are handcuffed by the toxic politics of the issue. To push reform now is to anger conservatives who want more restrictive immigration laws; to fail to do so invites attacks from the left and the real possibility of losing Hispanic votes in the mid-term elections looming on the political horizon. President Obama recognizes this and has said bluntly, that he believed “congress did not have the appetite” to take up immigration reform this year.
But the flood of illegal immigrants, 12 million according to the US Census Bureau, has aroused passions, particularly in border states which have now begun passing laws designed to stem the tide of illegal immigrants by restricting access to driver licenses and other public benefits. The Arizona immigration law in particular, has drawn the ire of proponents of immigration reform, as well as those worried that it would legalize racial profiling. The ACLU has weighed in, filing a challenge to the law in Federal court, and sister states have imposed boycotts on Arizona in protest. Many feel illegal immigrants get undeserved services in short supply that should be reserved for citizens. In tough economic times immigrants are blamed for taking food out of the mouth of Americans because there isn’t enough to go around. Internet chat rooms are abuzz.. Said one comment: “Today I went to a free dental clinic; I was the only one of American descent. I was disgusted because there are too many people entering the country illegally and still being given access to government services such as medical, dental, welfare, housing………”
Others blame illegal migrants for taking jobs that would otherwise go to American workers. The truth is, most Americans would not work in bloody slaughter houses de-boning chicken, or on farms picking strawberries or lettuce at the wages paid to illegal immigrants. One man said this about his experience: “I worked in the cotton fields at least 8 hours a day 6 days a week in the early 90’s…… there were few blacks ……even fewer white folk and mostly Hispanics. It’s backbreaking labor for little pay……. I can’t see Americans going back to doing that type of work again unless the pay was significantly hire”[sic]
Others are unwilling to deal with the changes that immigration has wrought in our daily lives. In some localities, such as Buford and Norcross Georgia, even street signs are in languages unfamiliar to most. People are angry that when seeking customer service they hear a recording commanding them to “press one for English”. “I can’t stand to see people flying a flag here other than the American flag…. I believe that if you are here as a citizen or resident or whatever, there should be some attempt made to assimilate”. That comment on an internet forum yesterday expresses a gripe many have with immigrants.
But America is no longer the homogenous society it once was. Without conscious effort, we have adopted what is best from immigrants. Whether it’s Jamaican jerk chicken, pasta primavera or Hungarian goulash, most Americans have tasted the best cuisine brought to us by immigrants.
We should not expect immigrants to check their “cultural baggage at the golden gate” I feel this passionately. I am a naturalized American citizen of Caribbean stock. Need I turn my back on my Caribbean heritage and refuse to remit American dollars to my family back home? Must I disown Bob Marley and Sparrow or give up rice and peas for burger and fries to prove I’m a true American? I think not. Immigrants have made and re-made this country. A look back at history should put at our minds at ease. The Irish, Germans and Italians have all come, adapted and left their indelible mark on American culture. So too will our new immigrants. Our political leaders should work through this crisis by compromise and with compassion. Those who today advocate closing our borders, should they succeed, would simply sweep the problem under the dirty rug of prejudice. It will be less visible, but it will “fester like a sore” Enforcement will stifle immigration, but like Jim Crow or apartheid, it will not make it go away. To borrow the words of an anonymous internet comment: “I don’t see what’s so wrong about people having pride in their roots...I would sometimes be annoyed when I see a Puerto Rican flag in someone’s rear view mirror. But I come to respect and understand the pride that one has in their heritage... the great thing about America is that rest of us came from somewhere else first...” . Well said Anonymous.
by Reynold N. Mason
Atlanta May 17, 2010- Since the passage of the now notorious Arizona immigration law last month, poll after poll has showed, despite the boycotts and vocal opposition to the law, that the American public overwhelmingly support the law and want comprehensive immigration reform. Seventy (70) per cent of Arizona voters support their state’s new immigration law, empowering police to inquire about a person’s immigration status. Only twenty-three (23) percent oppose the law, according to Rasmussen. And across the US fifty (50) per cent favor the Arizona law and want it applied nationally. The mood of the country is further borne out by a CNN poll showing that two-thirds of Americans believe the law “should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens.” And a majority of Americans think the US should build a fence to keep out illegal immigrants. In the same survey, two-thirds said they think illegal immigrants are a strain on the US economy.
Clearly, immigration is an emotional issue that creates anxiety among Americans about changes in our way of life. That anxiety is beginning to express itself in a slew of anti-immigrant laws now passed or proposed in several states. “((The American people are scared,” said senator Cornyn of Texas, “they don’t understand why the Federal government isn’t doing more))” State senator Mike Delph of Indiana says his state should follow Arizona and pass a strict immigration enforcement law. In California, perennial anti-immigration politician Duncan Hunter has said that “children of illegal immigrants should be deported”. And last week Mayor Myers Berry of Albuquerque, New Mexico announced that police would now check the immigration status of every person arrested in Albuquerque, joining a growing number of cities that choose to enforce Federal immigration laws under the 287(g) program.
These laws are supported by the vast majority of Americans, especially in Border States, because they blame illegal immigrants for rising crime rates and other social malaise. Just last week in Atlanta Georgia, Jessica Colotol, in the US since the age of ten and, about to graduate from Kennesaw state university, was arrested on traffic violation charge and jailed, when a check revealed that she was undocumented. Politicians in Georgia immediately jumped into the fray passing a resolution making citizenship verification a part of the admissions process for all state universities. “We have an illegal immigration problem in Minnesota” says one Minnesota politician, introducing an Arizona style immigration enforcement bill recently. Indeed, we all do.
Immigration is a national issue and, this storm of anger will rage until President Obama and congress pass comprehensive immigration reform. Ours is a rich country and therefore will attract immigrants searching for a better life in much the same way it was a magnet for our foreparents fleeing persecution and poverty a few generations past. We must not let it be said of us, as Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar:
'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend……’
America, as pope Benedict X1V has counseled, “should welcome immigrants, share their hopes, support them in their sorrow and trials and help them flourish in their new home….this is what our fellow countrymen have done for generations, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” We should do no less.
By Reynold N. Mason
Atlanta, May 8, 2010. Last week, on the heels of the tough Arizona immigration law, that led to a storm of protests, demonstrations and and boycotts throughout the country, Senator Schumer introduced his proposal for Comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The twenty-six page proposal lays out a framework for CIR. He expressed confidence that “…the fundamental building blocks are in place for CIR. The proposal, arguably in response to the furor caused by the new Arizona immigration law, would preclude states from passing their own rules and imposing their own penalties relating to immigration. It provides important changes for families seeking to have their children and spouses join them in the US, and clears a path for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship.
Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants will have to register, and submit to processing. That would entail fingerprinting, and other screening for criminal records or links to terrorism. Those who pass screening will be given Lawful Prospective Immigrant status. (LPI). LPI’s will be able to work and travel outside the country and, after eight years can petition for Lawful Permanent Resident status (LPR), if they meet other criteria, such as English language proficiency, continuous residence and payment of all taxes.
Spouses and children of “Green Card” holders will be considered immediate relatives and would no longer have to endure the long wait in a visa the preference category.
• R-1 visas which cover ministers and religious workers will become more readily available;
• A new category, property owners, will be created for those who desire to build housing in the US.
• The H-1 visa will be made readily available to attract more foreign doctors and nurses into the country
• Farm and dairy workers, would be paid no less than thirty three percent more than the minimum wage and the cost of transportation from and back to their home country.
• Non-seasonal workers would be issued a 3 year visa which can be renewed once, for 3 more years. After that time they can apply to become LPR’s.
• The proposal is heavy on enforcement, and border security and provides stringent rules for employment. Employers will be required to verify the status of all applicants before hiring them, or face severe penalties. There will be a new tamper-proof social security card that will contain fingerprints and other biometric data. This will be known as BELIEVE (Biometric Environment of Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment).
• Visitors, who overstay their visas, will be tracked and deported; a data base will be created to keep track of every entry and exit into and out of the country by B visa holders. This will be known as VISIT (Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology)
• Under the Visa waiver program (VWP) countries whose nationals habitually overstay their visas will lose their privilege altogether.
Prospects for passage
((The prospect for adoption of CIR is unclear)). Senator Lindsey Graham, who has worked with Senator Schumer on immigration reform for several months, has withdrawn his support because he wants to push for the passage of energy and climate change legislation ahead of CIR. He has said he will not support the bill this year.Others have voiced oppositions well. Labor unions, a perennial voice of opposition, is preparing to do battle. Backers of CIR are hopeful, but there are doubtful that congress will push CIR in an election year. The consensus is however, that CIR is a question of when not whether it will pass.
By Reynold N Mason
Atlanta, May 2,2010 - Last week Arizona enacted, perhaps, the toughest immigration law in the country. Any suspected undocumented person unable to prove legal status with “papers’’ faces arrest and a fine of $ 2500.00. Critics have assailed the measure from every front. The state now can only watch as its global reputation is tarnished by these attacks, many of them unfounded. Critics have decried Arizona’s efforts as meddling in Federal businesses. They have savaged the state for looking on undocumented immigrants as second class by mandating that they carry proof of legal status, they say the law legalizes racial profiling. But Arizona’s hands were forced because the Federal government was not minding its business.
The torrent of adverse reaction to the law was as swift and unexpected as a mid-west tornado. Sister states feeling the budgetary squeeze have enacted similar legislation with nary a column of notice in the liberal press. Oklahoma for one, in 2007, enacted a law, HB -1804, cutting off undocumented immigrants from state services and making it a crime for anyone, including citizens, to transport or assist undocumented immigrants. Where was the outcry then? Where were the now vocal critics who are painting Arizona black?
Emboldened by the flood of sister state boycotts, law suits challenging the law and calls to isolate Arizona and leech out its economic life blood, as punishment for its audacity and effrontery, Mexico has now stuck its nose into this family squabble. President Calderon, perhaps pleased that the world’s attention is now focused on Arizona , rather than on his country’s ongoing drugs war, has promised more than just talk,” we are going to act”, he promised last week. True, blood is thicker than water, and Hispanics may understandably feel that this law is a kick in the guts of their paisanos. But our family fight should be allowed to continue no further. San Francisco, Washington DC. and the other sister states and cities should knock it off. Arizona does not deserve to be made the pariah and scapegoat for Federal indifference to the plight of border states. The blame lies elsewhere. Instead of vilifying a sister state, activists, if they truly want immigration reform, should to look to the Federal government and channel their outrage, spewing like magma from a long- simmering volcano, in the direction of Washington DC.
Eric Holder, now threatening to challenge the Arizona law is a day late and a dollar short. He has come to the table with unclean hands, those same hands on which the Federal government has sat for years, while Arizona, Texas, California and other border states flailed helplessly in the face of a tsunami of illegal immigrants flooding their states and taxing scarce resources. Yes, we are a country of immigrants, and immigrants have been the engine of American progress. Our credo is immortalized by these words at the base of our most treasured monuments, the statute of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
But the politics and demographics of immigration have evolved since the Irish, Germans and Italians came through Ellis Island. The new comers are our brown-skinned neighbors from the south, and they have come with the same object in mind. Now, however, Americans realize that the cost of the country’s present level of immigration is enormous and increasing. The Center for Immigration Studies put the cost of illegal immigration at $29 billion in 1995. States are grappling with the lack of a Federal solution.
States carry the burden
In 2007, there were 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. An increase of 39 per cent over 2000. In 2002 SenateResolution 95 put the cost of managing this issue at $$13 billion. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, (EMTLA) states are required to treat undocumented immigrants without regard to their status or their ability to pay. The cost in 1997 was $3.2 billion and is surely more today. Add to that, $28.6 billion to educate the children of undocumented immigrants from K-12, and the desperation of Arizona and other border states is understandable. Many have accused Arizona of racial profiling, of singling out Hispanics for special treatment. They are wrong.
Arizona law is not motivated by race
In signing the law governor Jan Brewer said this; “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses. Kidnappings and drug-related violence compromise our safety and quality of life” Any honest appraisal of the situation in Arizona, would lead to the conclusion that this is the crux of the matter. It is an effort by the state to cope with the effects of a problem that everyone admits is no longer tolerable. What is Arizona to do when Mexican drug war that has, so far, cost over 21,000 lives, spills into Phoenix and Tucson and causes collateral damage to social infrastructure? One and a half tons of marijuana is confiscated by an authorities every day in Arizona on route to cities in the north. Phoenix has seen an increase in drug-related murders and kidnappings and its hospitals are flooded by those victimized by the violence. “There have been numerous officers and deputies killed by illegals in Arizona” says Paul Bateau, Pinal County Sheriff, “violence in Arizona has reached epidemic proportions.” More than one-half of all illegals apprehended last year, were arrested in Arizona, and 17 per cent of those had criminal records.
Looking the other way
In 2004, Immigrants paid $2.4 billion into the cash coffers of the US treasury. Allowing for costs to the Federal government for enforcement and education, the treasury is left with a positive balance of $1.4 billion, according to the Immigration Policy Center. Politicians in Washington decline to enforce the law because they want to gain favor and attract votes of America’s largest minority group, Hispanics. Businesses that hire illegals pay them slave wages with no benefits, leaving the employers with huge profits.
It is against the law to hire illegals and businesses face fines under the law if they are caught in the occasional raid. But that’s just the cost of doing business. Not a dime in was collected from fines imposed on businesses that hired illegal in the entire year, 2004. Washington just looks the other way. Ilegals are an enormous benefit to our economy, paying, according to TIME $7.0 billion into social security in 2005 alone. This amounts to a “bailout “of social security by immigrants. Washington lacks the will top cut this life line.
The Way Forward
The way forward is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Congress must adopt Comprehensive Immigration As Soon As Possible (CIRASAP) offered by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHP). President Bill Clinton, with no elections in his future, has said “I don’t think there’s any alternative, but for us to increase immigration. I just don’t see a way out of this unless that’s part of the strategy” Republican Senator, Abraham Spenser has said that …’we must balance the needs of families and employers, and extend a safe haven to those fleeing persecution, freedom and opportunity is the cornerstone of American society, and immigrants continue to embody that freedom.” That is the way forward. Washington must mind its business not neglect it and attack Arizona because it seeks to pick up the pieces from a broken Immigration policy.
by Reynold N Mason
Washington DC - April 27, 2010 - By now, all the world knows about SB-1070, the notorious Arizona law that makes it a crime to travel anywhere in the state without “papers”. To violate this provision of the law is to risk jail, plus a $2500.00 fine. Arizona is home to 460,000 Hispanics. No one believes that police would stop a white man and demand he present his “papers” or even harbor the vaguest suspicion that he might be undocumented. The 70 percent of Arizonians support this law do so, because they do not feel threatened by it. The slings and arrows of this law are aimed squarely at Hispanics.
It is time for Americans who value freedom, justice and fair play to become good neighbors and fight this despicable law tarnishing the global image of the State of Arizona. This enactment is a betrayal of MLK, Mandela, Gandhi and countless millions who waged war on prejudice and discrimination. Black South Africans did not end apartheid by themselves, they had the support of anti-apartheid movements across the globe, from Europe to North America, who held rallies, signed petitions and organized boycotts and sit-ins. They had the support of big business, corporations who pulled out of South Africa or ceased making loans. Those among us who admire the sacrifices of MLK, Gandhi and Mandela must be willing to follow their example.
We must remember why they fought. American blacks in particular, should bring their bitter experience and skills honed fighting Jim Crow, to the front line in the battle of Arizona. Our Hispanic brothers now face the might of an anti-immigration machinery aimed at making worse, the plight of those who are least advantaged. That is as wrong as it is unjust. We must not stand by while Arizona violates the civil rights of Hispanics under its power. It is true, that for the time being, the legislature holds all the cards. But so too, did Ian Smith, B.J. Voster and Peter Botha. Yet, in spite these despots, apartheid was discredited and its machinery of racism dismantled . Then as now, rightists legislators are joining forces with ideologically driven elements and are using the judiciary and the police to enforce their will. Let us be thankful that Arizona is a democratic state, with democratic institutions. We must use them to repeal this law.
Politics as usual
We must push for comprehensive immigration reform now, not wait for the time when Washington insiders think it politically expedient. Harry Reid, in a tough fight for re-election in his home state of Nevada, has read the writing on the wall, he says he‘ll push immigration reform, now. The 25 % Hispanic population in his home state of Nevada will be heard from come November. ((The White House is paralyzed and afraid to move on comprehensive immigration reform without Republican support)). Even the erstwhile John McCain, he, who with Senator Kennedy in 2005, sponsored the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which called for a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship, has flipped. In the fight of his political life against an anti-immigration rightist, he has drifted right. Republican senate point man Mitch McConnell, on Fox News Sunday, said he didn’t think the time is right for immigration reform; “not while we have 10% unemployment and drug wars across the border”. This sentiment was echoed by Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, who believes that other issues pending in congress must take precedence over comprehensive immigration reform. It’s no longer the back of his bus; it is the back of the line.
But there are hopeful signs. The debate over comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has galvanized the Hispanic community. Hispanics the world over, have begun to speak out in support of their Arizona brothers. Hispanic leaders, like representatives Paul Grijalva and Luis Guttierez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, (CHP) have been vocal in their opposition, and Hollywood celebrities, among them, George Lopez, Eva Longoria and Ricky Martin have taken to Twitter to express their views. Ordinary citizens are finding ways to express their outrage. The Miami Herald reports that Jesus Serrano, an independent trucker, is organizing a trucker boycott. Since forty percent of all Mexican products come through Nogales, an effective trucker boycott could raise the price Mexican products this side of the border. Phoenix Mayor, Phil Gordon, says he anticipates a drop in business because of this law. That’s a good start. Together, Americans of conscience opposed apartheid and defeated Jim Crow, so there’s no reason to celebrate discrimination today in Arizona. Congress must take up CIR now. It must pass comprehensive immigration reform for America’s secutiry and prosperity (CIRASAP) that many say “secures our borders, secures our nation and keeps families together”
by Reynold N Mason
Fifty years ago, 69 people were killed and 180 were injured protesting laws that required them to carry “passes” at all times or face arrest. The place was Sharpsville, Republic of South Africa. The apartheid system had enacted the “pass Law” to limit the movement of blacks in white areas of the country. Fast forward to 2010. Arizona enacts a statute known as SB 1070, on April 19. It now awaits only the signature of governor - Brewer to put it into effect. In much the same way as apartheid, this bit of legislative chicanery is designed to limit the movement and numbers of Hispanics in the state. Sounds familiar?
According to the U S census Bureau, 30 million Hispanics, 11 per cent of the population, called the US home in 2000. By 2007, that number had reached 45 million, 15 per cent of the population. In 16 states, the Hispanic population exceeds 500,000. The irony is the very people who thought the apartheid pass laws oppressive and discriminatory, who used economic sanctions, demonstrations and boycotts to bring an end to apartheid, have now taken a page from the apartheid law books. Like pass laws, the Arizona statute makes it a crime for an undocumented person to simply be in the state, on either private or public property. It is now a crime to invite a known illegal alien into the state or perhaps sit down to dinner with such a person. The law forbids teaching undocumented persons in schools, harboring them or conferring any state benefits upon the unfortunate souls. This provision mints new criminals out of law abiding citizens who may sit down to dinner with their newly- arrived sibling. As repugnant as this legal prohibition might appear, more invidious still, is the provision of the Arizona “pass law” that gives police the authority to question people about their immigration status and, to arrest them for trespassing should they fail to show, the sacred piece of officious paper that says: “’you have the right to be here”
Let’s not forget that failure to produce the pass on demand was a crime in Sharpsville too, for which thousands were arrested and jailed. And to be sure the law is carried out to the fullest extent, it grants every citizen the right to bring suit if he/she feels the authorities are not enforcing the law to the fullest extent. (Section 11-1051) In addition, the police are indemnified by the state, should they be sued for acts done in enforcing the law. Have no fear we got your back. The “Houdini Hispanic” who evades the dragnet however, will be cut off at the pass. He must eat, and so must work. But when he tries to solicit work on the street corner he risks jail, because it is now a crime for undocumented persons to seek work in Arizona and a crime too, for any one to employ such a person.
Will the courts save us?
The 4th Amendment to the US constitution has, for years, been employed by the courts to beat back invidious and hateful discrimination. The police have been required to prove that they had reasonable suspicion to stop any one perceived to be an illegal alien. How to tell an undocumented Hispanic from one born in the US…..that’s where the rubber meets the road. This is “stealth racism”, plain and simple, with “plausible deniability.” No, we are not racists; we are simply enforcing the law enacted by our august legislature. This is rank racism masquerading in legal garb, under a policy designed to target Mexicans. Arizona will have the dubious distinction of being the first state to legalize racial profiling. Previously, overt racism has now taken sophisticated guises. Police will not have to admit their true motives (no need for the KKK) because they can now operate behind a veil of authority conferred by SB-1070, which shields their conduct against the dreaded appellation: “racist cop”. In the shadows, behind their veil of law and authority, police can now heap indignities that bespeak hostile intent toward Hispanics, with impunity.
The new law legalizes ethnic profiling, and targets Hispanics, for suspicion of crimes based on nothing more than their race and ethnicity, or in this instance, group characteristics they believe to be associated with undocumented aliens. This is nothing if not “the use of ethnicity to determine whom to stop”. This approach is replete with constitutional peril. The New York garment workers settlement highlights this conundrum. After INS agents arrested 2,907 undocumented workers, they testified that they relied on the workers appearance, language… speaking Spanish or, English with a Spanish accent, appearing to be South American, and wearing clothes not typical of America and foreign sounding names. Ninety-six per cent of the workers arrested were Hispanics.
Admittedly, illegal immigration is a problem, and a thorny one at that. But that does not justify racial or ethnic discrimination. In the Brignoni-Ponce case, in 1975, the US Supreme Court, recognizing the illegal immigration problem, said that it was reasonable for the INS to use Spanish ethnicity near the Mexican border as a basis for detaining a person. But this may not be the only basis. This ruling may have outlived its usefulness because of the changes in the US population. This limited circumstance does not authorize Arizona to grant its police broad and unlimited power to stop and question Hispanics under the SB-1070 without reason to suspect that they have violated the law. Where would that leave Hispanics who are US citizens or legal residents?
True, twelve million illegal aliens create economic and social problems, such as increased demands on schools, hospitals and recreational facilities. But resorting to knee-jerk legal panaceas is not the answer. We must consider the public interest along with the interference the law will occasion upon individual liberty, when, for instance, a father is accosted by police at his son’s soccer match, or at the school bus stop or grocery store. No reasonable person will begrudge the police their privilege of searching someone believed to be armed and dangerous or, to detain a person when there is information that that person is carrying illegal drugs. But to countenance an affront upon law abiding citizenry, as this law does, without any suspicion that a particular person has done something wrong, would permit open season on Hispanics in Arizona, legal or otherwise. Being Hispanic in Arizona (BHA) would become as precarious as driving while black (DWB).
Large numbers of Mexicans, both native born and naturalized citizens share ancestry and physical characteristics. This alone cannot be justification for stopping all Hispanics to ask about their legal status. We need to follow the example of our Sharpsville brethren and stand against this injustice.
“……no man should be required to do what the law does not require; nor to refrain from acts which the laws permit. There are acts which the Federal, or State Legislature cannot do, without exceeding their authority. There are certain vital principles in our Republican governments, which will determine and over-rule an. apparent flagrant abuse of legislative power” [.....Justice Chase (1798)