Hating Immigrants is the Wild Card in the Electoral Deck

immigration_2280507bNew Orleans   Wow! It must have suddenly become hate-on-an-immigrant day and Hallmark didn’t prepare any condolence cards for the rest of us. In one day the lives of immigrant millions of families were cast into limbo with the split, no-decision 4-4 polling of the Supreme Court and the 52-48 so-called Brexit vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union. President Obama called the Supreme Court split decision, “heartbreaking,” and said the upcoming election would determine “what kind of people we are.”

Meanwhile the United Kingdom showed what kind of people they were, and it was a bit brutish and left little doubt that immigration and the attendant freedom of mobility within the European Union was the wedge issue driving them out of the EU. As reported in the Times,

With net migration to Britain of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of them from the European Union, Mr. Cameron had no effective response to how he could limit the influx. And there was no question that while the immigrants contributed more to the economy and to tax receipts than they cost, parts of Britain felt that its national identity was under assault and that the influx was putting substantial pressure on schools, health care and housing.

The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.

Prime Minister David Cameron will pay for the misjudgment and shortsightedness in calling the vote and the rejection at the polls with his job, offering his resignation after a couple of month’s transition to sort out the mess. There is pulling of hair and rending of clothes throughout Europe in trying to understand the “turning point,” the vote represents, but it is hard to see it as anything other than backwards. Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, is likely to press again for independence from the United Kingdom given this debacle.

Meanwhile in the United States the same mess is brewing. Trump of course said, “good for them,” joining the nativist on both sides of the Atlantic. Speaker Ryan who is becoming expert at the convoluted logic of politics claimed the no-decision was somehow a rejection by the Supreme Court of Obama’s executive authority around immigration, knowing that all of this awaits the appointment of a tie-breaking Justice in the hands of the next President. The Republicans once again proved how quickly tragedy can be converted into farce.

But what about the people, the immigrants themselves? The five million or more who were living on the bubble of this decision who were parents of citizens or children raised here, all of whom were hoping for some security and a path to the future? Advocates promised to mobilize, voter registration efforts were highlighted, but in the meantime, the “kind of people we are” will be the kind of people who break up families and deport record numbers of people from the United States, because our politics lacks both a heart and a backbone willing to make hard political decisions even when they are so clearly morally correct.


Is There any Silver Lining in Republican Class Divide?

10repubs-JP-01-ALT-master675New Orleans   The talking heads, the pollsters and pundits, and political reporters for the largest national newspapers, and one distinguished contributing editor after another have finally come to a consensus that this Donald Trump – Ted Cruz hater machine resonates with the red meat part of their base, and, worse, and these mad dogs want to be fed, rather than taken for granted by Wall Street, big donors, and the party establishment. They may not agree on what it takes to glue the pieces of their Humpty-Dumpty back together again or if that is even possible, but they at least agree that it’s broken, and there is now a class divide in their largely stale and pale base that they can’t just paper over and ignore.

Trump and Cruz and the fact that they are not fading away, even if they may have capped out on the growth of their base, spells trouble for all of the Republican establishment candidates and could put one of these mean boys in the final vote for President. A former Bush speechwriter and now senior writer for The Atlantic magazine in a recent issue makes the case that the establishment most critically misjudged the depth of antipathy the lower and moderate income part of their base, essential to their success in the West and South, feels about immigration reform. He argues that the megadomes in the wake of their defeat in 2012 thought all they needed to do was soften their hate speech around immigration reform and adopt the Jeb Bush “not soon, but someday” supporting immigrants and a path of legalization. Marco Rubio has recanted any role in immigration reform under the new calculus and Cruz and Trump want to go past security and engage in mass deportations. This is all very bad news and argues poorly for immigration reform in a Republican Congress, even if a Democrat is successful, and, friends and neighbors, not matter what you read, that’s never a sure thing!

On the other hand, the Trump base which is rebelling against the Republican establishment wants to protect Medicare, wants more guarantees that trade doesn’t mean the loss of good jobs, and wants to make more money from the jobs they have. None of this will make Wall Street, the donors, or the corporate chieftains and Old Guard of the GOP happy, but perhaps there is a silver lining that might bring some dividends to the rest of us for a change in a Congressional compromise.

More job protections for trade would win applause across both sides the aisle, if some of the elephants come heavy footing in our direction. There probably isn’t a groundswell for $15 per hour, but after more than an 8-year drought on raising the minimum wage, how can Republicans not deliver a real raise in 2017 for their base and ours? The rebels in their base are also clear that they aren’t crazy enough about their guns to want to fire them up on another war in the Middle East or anywhere else, and we can probably all agree on that as well. Protecting Social Security and Medicare are also issues where we could make progress, and for all of the storm and fury about Obamacare, the working class part of this radical, rebel horde is not willing to die hard without health care.

The radicals in the conservative’s working class base are being clear in the Republican primary finally and are saying they want theirs, too. Some of what they want meshes with some of what we want, and there might be some deals to be made on some issues, even if we have some mountains to climb on others in 2017.


Immigration Made Scary, Yet Again

refugeesNew Orleans  Republican scaredy-cats are embracing the contemporary adage, often attributed to current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, to never waste a good crisis. The tragedy in Paris has now been seized on by governors throughout the country clamoring to bar Syrian refugees from the United States, despite the fact that state governors don’t have two cents to do with immigration policies that are handled by the federal government. Politics being politics, Congress desperately wants to get in the act, so new House Speaker Paul Ryan has weighed in on the issue for what it’s worth and the red meat caucus will undoubtedly have a resolution on the floor soon.

But, let’s look at “just the facts, ma’am.” The Administration had announced an intention to accept ten thousand Syrian refugees in 2016 which is next year, but thus far despite the huge multi-year crisis which has displaced millions of Syrians in their civil war, now complicated hugely by the Islamic State, we have only allowed the smallest trickle imaginable into the country. A list of the top cities where Syrian refugees have settled in the four year period including 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2014 is headed by Houston with a mere 109 people resettled during that period. The rest of the top ten are Chicago, Louisville (Kentucky), San Diego, Atlanta, Tucson, Troy (Michigan), Glendale (Arizona), Dearborn (Michigan) and Elizabeth (New Jersey). In the number ten spot in Elizabeth there were only 47 people. Louisiana’s governor, fresh off the presidential trail, voiced his opposition to them coming into the state and there seem to have been less than twenty that have come in during the crisis. Needles in a haystack is an appropriate metaphor.

But, wait a minute. Is my reading comprehension going down? From what we know so far weren’t the terrorists implicated, and largely killed, in Paris mostly French and Belgium? Why are the Republicans not calling for us to close our borders to these two countries, our longtime friends and allies? What’s the cure for crazy? France, Great Britain, and a number of other countries, including the United States have documented hundreds of citizens who have jumped into the mayhem in Syria. Last I read we were counting more than 500. Caution needs to be exercised and passports reviewed, but why are we supposed to feel safer with a blanket ban on one country and its desperate refugees?

This seems another battle in the now old anti-immigrant fight on the right. Part of the issue as well is the drum-beating that some are unscrupulously engaging against Muslims. They aren’t like us, goes the argument, and maybe that’s a good thing, might be the rejoinder. None of these groups are assimilating.

Once again, just the facts, ma’am. A comprehensive report on immigrant assimilation in the US, finds that new immigrants are doing as well, if not better than any previous generation. The report looked at 41 million foreign-born, including 11.3 undocumented immigrants and their children born in the US about 37 million. The two generations total 25% of the US-population. 85% speak a language other than English at home, 62% of them speak Spanish. 50% say they speak English well, too.

Terrorism is an unconscionably hard problem, but before we allow demagoguery to plot the path forward, let’s focus on the real issues without blaming the victims.


Please enjoy Shoegaze by Alabama Shakes.  Thanks KABF.


Immigration Wedging Politics in United Kingdom Too

BNP-ImageNew Orleans    In the contentious midterm elections in the USA there were huge issues that were simply not core issues for the candidates. After all of the sound and fury about the Affordable Care Act, blah, blah, blah, the actual candidates seem to have come to grips with the fact that 11 million enrollees just might be on to something, so let’s tone it down. Where immigration has been a wedge issue for years and presidential candidates are still beating the drums, the story line on the midterm elections was more about the disaffection of Latinos with both parties because of the limited progress on any permanent immigration reform, than any sense that any candidates for either party were moving forward on the issue. President Obama reacted a bit to the news of Latino alienation by leaking more plans to maybe do something to ease the legalization process, but it just wasn’t much of an election issue.

Meanwhile immigration seems to be pushing the economy as a wedge issue in Europe.  The story line is confusing there as well.  On one hand there are regularly tragic stories of African immigrants trying to virtually swim their way to France and Spain.

And, then there is the United Kingdom where immigration is driving parties and people crazy left and right. The explanation is easy to grasp, but the party policies are impossible to understand. The weak economy has left too many finger pointing at new immigrants as job jumpers. The United Kingdom as a member of the European Union is part of the open borders program allowing anyone within the EU the ability to work in any of the member countries, and that’s the hot button that is being pressed in Britain. Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has been trying to play footsie with the issue in a dangerous game by vowing to put membership in the EU to a 2015 referendum, the same year his government is up again on the ballot. The United Kingdom Independence Party, known as UKIP, has played the Tea Party, hardcore anti-immigrant hater role and eaten away deeply at the Conservative’s right flank.

Cameron has some slow learning problems in understanding the position of the other EU countries, betting the long shot that they will grant Britain concessions for fear of losing them from the EU. Meanwhile Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose robust economy and deep pockets, pretty much puts her and Germany in the drivers’ seat in really calling the shots there, and has toughened her stand on the issue saying that the UK position is near a “point of no return” and holding that freedom of movement is one of the cardinal principles of the European Union.

Even Britain’s Labour Party seems to be buckling on the issue, as its leader Ed Milliband is taking fire from the right in his party worried about the defection of more of their white working class voting core to the UKIPpers as well. In recent weeks he has enraged the left by arguing that he would insist that new immigrants be subjected to tougher standards barring them social benefits and requiring more English language skills before allowing them to enter the job market.

What a mess!

With yet another National Football League game heading to London, as the NFL tries to branch out to England and all of this anti-immigrant blurting from politicians and Tea Party wannabes, it’s becoming clear where this is really going. What we can expect next it seems is that the UK will drop out of the EU, and start lobbying to become the 51st state in the United States of America, realizing that being anti-immigrant is the perfect approach to getting the nod to come in. If the EU is too liberal for them, the US is just far enough to the right to feel like home.


Ripping off Mexican & Caribbean Migrant Workers in Canada

Buenocurrency-transfer-compareds Aires One of the flash points in the USA immigration reform debate continues to be over the demand from farmers for help in their fields from migrant agricultural workers.  Recently  they left the Republican (and Obama Administration) consensus in droves as US-farmer organizations and Congresspeople bridled at the fact that employers, i.e. farmers, would have to pay steep fines for hiring undocumented workers.  The so-called bracero program has long been out of business in the US, which used to bring up seasonal workers from Mexico into the fields of California, Texas, and Arizona, and from the Caribbean to help in tobacco, cranberry, and other harvests in the Northeastern states.

ACORN International crack researchers led by Carleton University (Ottawa) volunteer, Amanda Sullivan, and ramroded by ACORN International and Edinburgh University (Scotland) super-summer intern, Melanie Craxton, stumbled onto a huge program though in Canada while researching remittance ripoffs as part of ACORN International and its federated partners on-going Remittance Justice Campaign (www.remittancejustice.org).   The Canadian SAWP is not an armed strike team, but 20,000 migrant workers from Mexico and the Caribbean Islands who are recruited through bi-national agreements and shipped up to the fields of Canada, largely in British Columbia and southern Ontario, as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.  Needless to say conditions are regularly reported as substandard and exploitive by our long-time partners, the UFCW and its agricultural workers organizing program which has been in the fields for years with these workers.

In fact the Canadian government extracts a 25% of wages share for taxes and the like which will never benefit these workers who will return home after a maximum of eight (8) months in the field.  Neither does the Canadian government seem to care much about how much money they actually go home with even though ostensibly that is one of the goals of this cooperative labor exchange.  The workers are in fact even chosen according to the SAWP criteria because they have stable families, and that means invariably they send significant remittances (about 50% of wages while in Canada) back home to their families.

The money transfer organizations of choice according to our researchers interviews are Western Union and a smaller, somewhat cheaper company called Vigo.  Either way a huge chunk of their checks are extracted by these MTOs, way over the 5% maximum demand that ACORN International has made as part of the Remittance Justice Campaign and that Canada as part of the G-8 has claimed to adopt as a world standard.

Talking to SAWP representatives though was like visiting Mars.  Yes, Canada collected its taxes.  Yes, the migrant workers made remittances home.  No, the governmental representatives had no idea how much was extracted by the MTOs of the checks, despite these bi-national agreements with Mexico and Caribbean countries.  It is impossible to escape the core immorality, even venality, of this predatory governmental operation.  The Canadian government gets migrant help for its agricultural enterprises, profits from taxes that can’t benefit the workers, and then turns a blind eye as predatory fees are extracted from the laborers before they return home with what little is left.

ACORN International and its federated partners like ACORN Canada, ACORN Mexico, and ACORN Dominican Republic, have stumbled onto a scandal and are busily preparing demands to force immediate change in these practices along the lines we have continued to make in recent months for cost caps and desperately needed regulations.  Without a doubt this is an outrage that demands the authorities finally listen and act!



20100920_dream_act_33New Orleans The California Supreme Court yesterday became one of the few bright spots in the dark tunnel that immigrants are facing for any kind of justice or resolution given the political storm clouds hovering everywhere.  The Californians ruled that it would be discriminatory to deny California residents scholarship support from state institutions because of their immigration status.  This ruling does not affect state and federal money, but protects an important financial aid program for immigrants in California where more than 50% of the students are Latinos according to some reports.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have also stated that they are willing to have a go at passing the DREAM Act in the lame duck Congress.   As I have said earlier, this is good politics but passage would be so surprising that it might end all controversy about whether or not there is a God.

The DREAM act has had the most heat on the streets.  Students have shown the courage of civil rights organizers during much of the year, even when the outcome was likely deportation to home countries that in many cases they had never seen or visited.

Let’s get some things straight.  The DREAM Act is not a free “amnesty” ticket for teens.  The language leaves rocks in the road and mountains to climb:

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the United States that was first introduced in the United States Senate on August 1, 2001[1] and most recently re-introduced there and the United States House of Representatives on March 26, 2009. This bill would provide certain inadmissible or deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning. The alien students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”[2] Military Enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment.[3] “Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated [according to the terms of the Act] shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act.”   (from Wikipedia with sources in the House and Senate language of the bill)

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