Category Archives: immigration reform

Tough Stuff at the Border for Asylum Seekers and Immigrants

New Orleans     The President is still running and running hard against immigrants and immigration, even though the issue has now fallen out of the top ten concerns for the American public. It seems a classic case of fighting the last war, rather than the current war, when Americans are focused on the cratered economy and pandemic which still seems spiraling out of control.

Shockingly, while our attention is focused on other pressing concerns, the tragedy of asylum seekers and the travesty of our current public policies are creating a human rights disaster at the border.   Sixty per cent of the American people in recent polls in fact do believe that the border should be hardened during the pandemic, which has given carte blanche to hard-fisted and draconian policies. Some 70,000 have been turned away at our southern border in recent months, and asylum seekers are being denied legal requirements to receive a hearing and be treated on a case by case basis.

I listened to an interview with a Guatemalan woman and her child who turned themselves into Border Patrol and were literally dropped in the middle of the night on the bridge over the Rio Grande without explanation or a hearing after being told they could not enter; the border was closed.  Mexican authorities finally took them off the bridge and dumped the pair in an overcrowded shelter.  US policies have also precipitated a crisis in Mexico where there is no place, plan, or resources to house swelling numbers of people there, and where concerns over spiking virus and economic problems are also being exacerbated by this desperate migrant stream.  This story was commonplace, not exceptional.

Immigration lawyers along the border are outraged at the government’s willful disregard of asylum laws.  Lawsuits are falling like rain over these practices, but meanwhile they continue unabated, and now largely outside of public scrutiny.

There has to be a better way.   Reading about the coming wave of climate forced migration in Central America and southern Mexico in a special edition of the New York Times Magazine based on extensive data and scientific modeling, it is clear that we haven’t seen anything yet like the crisis that will be coming.  Millions will be on the move over the next several decades with nowhere to go but north.  Harder borders and deficient or antagonistic policies will force terrible deprivation in Latin American countries hit by rising temperatures and reduced precipitation leading to crop loss and starvation.

Migration and asylum are different things, and current polices are treating them as one, which is a mistake. Right now, the administration is all blunt talk and hard fists, but this is not a sustainable policy.  We need to fix our border, and if we want to meet the challenge of migration, we need to help our neighboring countries with policies and resources that allow people to live and work in their home countries, rather than being forced to hit the road to survive.  We can’t put our heads in the sand and have that work, especially when the desert sands are expanding all around us.

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Please enjoy Revolution by Heartless Bastards.

Thanks to WAMF.

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Welfare and the Public Charge

Gulf Shores     NPR was forced to fact check the spokespeople from the White House on their claims about the latest actions against immigrants referred to as the “public charge” rule because of its inaccuracies.

The rule is pernicious.  It would bar green cards to existing immigrant residents of the United States if they received any form of public benefits including food stamps, welfare, and housing assistance.  By denying a green card, they would not be able to work legally, so this is an attempt to force them into the shadows, out of the country, or impoverish them fully.

The rule is subjective.  It allows the agencies of the government to guess whether an immigrant or applicant for asylum would need any form of public benefits in order to enter and become a permanent citizen.  If the government guesses that you might, it is seizing the authority to deny entry on the basis that this family, often having fled their home countries with little more than the shirts on their backs, might be a public charge.  The message here, besides the fact that this is arbitrary and capricious, is that we no longer are willing to extend our arms to the tired and dispossessed at the Statue of Liberty.  In Trump world, we only want the rich, white, and well to do.

The White House’s rationale for the latest Stephen Miller inhumane outrage was twofold.  First, that they were simply cleaning up an issue already decided by President Bill Clinton’s passage of the anti-welfare Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 changing “welfare as we know it” in the mid-1990s.  NPR noted that this was not the case.  It misinterpreted even the requirements of that punitive legislation, and was amended differently in 2002.  Secondly, they claimed these were the American standards and values in relation to immigrants for the last two-hundred years.  NPR made quick work of that since there were large periods of American history where we welcomed immigrants heartily and bestowed benefits to them.

This caught my attention since I happened to be reading a biography of another Arkansas political legend with a different attitude on welfare than Clinton’s, and that was Orval Faubus.  Central to Faubus first surprising upset victory in 1955 over incumbent governor Frances Cherry was his ability to paint Cherry as heartless on welfare.  Cherry, tone-deaf at the time, was touting the fact that he had pushed 10,000 Arkansans off of welfare.  Faubus campaigned all over rural Arkansas on the fact that Cherry was taking a couple of dollars a month away from people who happened to sell a couple of broiler hens or had stashed away a couple of dollars for a dress to wear in their coffin.  He beat Cherry on that issue.  Roy Reed, the author of the book, noted that Louisiana’s governor at the time, Earl K. Long, used welfare the same way in an election arguing his opponent was trying to favor the rich and take away funding for a crippled children’s hospital.

How did so much change so quickly?  It’s hard to avoid the answer, and it is race.  When these were poor white families both living in the South and knocking on the door wanting to come to America, we were all in.  Welfare was supported for the hard-working poor down on their luck or the hapless immigrant family fleeing terrible conditions.  Once politicians from Nixon to Reagan to even Clinton, were willing to racialize welfare as black, it was time to cut the benefits.  Now that Trump is able to paint immigrants as brown, it’s time to rewrite history.

Our history isn’t all roses on immigrants and the poor, far from it, but that doesn’t mean that the values of a majority of Americans weren’t far better than politicians are claiming today in order to justify the worst parts of our history and imprint their views on our future.

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Please enjoy. Asa’s One Good Thing.  Thanks to KABF.

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