Tag Archives: visas

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to….America?

Signal-encryption of WhatsApp

Signal-encryption of WhatsApp

Denver    The modern world is a conundrum in an exploding time capsule. Every time we make the mistake of thinking that what we’re reading in the news is strange, exotic or frightening, we are still surprised when we trip over it, and it slaps us up the side of our faces.

I thought this as I read my email yesterday and got a delayed message from one of ACORN’s ace organizers in France. The first message was usual business, following up on this and that, but I scratched my head as he referred to an earlier message he had sent, as if I had received it already. And, later I did, and that was weird, and the message was disturbing. Despite his having a pre-approved visa to visit the United States, including spending a week in New Orleans later in August for extensive planning with me at our offices, he had been denied access to the airplane and told that his visa had been inexplicably revoked yesterday. He was hit by a bolt of lightning out of nowhere.

This has happened to me twice earlier this year as I was denied a visa renewal – with no explanation – to India. I’m the least paranoid person in the world. I assume “they” know everything and just keep on rolling, putting it in the category of something like a hurricane – past my ability to control or predict. Today though, I found myself reading closely a story in Wired about a crack encoder and rebel with many causes with the nom de guerre of Moxie Marlinspike who had developed a super encryption program called Signal which is embraced by all the right people and feared by all the wrong people. I’ve never been an encryption guy, partly because as a techno-peasant, who is still not sure Windows 10 is even a good thing and pretty certain I don’t have 4 to 6 hours to do the changeover, I always worry that if I encrypt my emails, I won’t be able to get in them, but all of this is getting worrisome to me. I also don’t like coincidences.

In this case maybe there’s an explanation, but in every case “maybe there’s an explanation,” but that doesn’t mean that the ways we want to rationalize events matches reality. On my India visa, I continue to hope that I just filled out the application incompetently, even though I applied twice with the same result, and my local Congressman’s office who promised assistance isn’t responding to my calls and emails anymore.

In France, in the wake of the recent massacre in Nice, the president had renewed a state of emergency through July 26th, which was the day my colleague was flying. Did he get caught somehow in that mess? He speculated that the fact that he had been in Lebanon and Syria a decade ago might have red flagged him in these crazy “end” times. Maybe work in Tunisia and Morocco were also a problem. Who knows?

And, that’s my point? Who knows how national security forces are working these days? The Obama Administration might not have gone all Trump on keeping people out of the USA, but when the French and Americans put their heads together and add an “excess of caution,” as they call it, with no explanation ever offered or available, maybe the Moxie’s and the rest of the gang are on the right track, and I’m the last citizen of Lulu-land.

Meanwhile, I read that Trump is asking Russia to get its hackers on the job to cough up more emails lost on Hillary’s server. If he were living on Pennsylvania Avenue, would any of us – I mean people like me – be able to travel at all?

What was the name of that encryption program, Moxie? Was it Signal? Is there a user friendly techno-peasant version for the rest of us?


How Critical is “Future Flow” to Labor Unions?

New Orleans    Senator Mark Rubio of Florida cautions that there may be much work to be done on a new immigration bill, but I really wonder if that actually means that he is not ready to slip from attention yet or is trying to drag a potential bill down with some of his own issues?  Optimism broke out when the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO seemed to come to some tentative agreements on “future flow” of immigrant workers into the United States.  Future flow refers to the number of visas that will be given annually to guest workers.  Classically, business wants more cheap labor, while labor resists pushing down more skilled wage rates by allowing too many foreign workers into the country.   This disagreement was critical to killing the bill proposed by Arizona’s Senator John McCain and others during the Bush Administration.

This is a classic issue between business and labor, but I wonder how much it is really a contemporary economic concern, especially for the declining membership of unions?

On the lower wage side of union membership, the United Farmworkers, who potentially would be most impacted by temporary visas for additional farm labor hearkening back to the bracero program years ago, have indicated for years their willingness to make a deal in this area.  The Service Employees, although not a member of the AFL-CIO, is at the table with Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, a former immigrant farmworker and UFW organizer in his youth, and SEIU has been a leader in advocating for immigration reform even though theoretically its lower wage janitors, landscapers, and others would feel the most wage pressure from lower paid, temporary foreign workers.  Many immigrant workers dominate the home construction industry and there is always hue and cry from construction unions about these kinds of issues, but in reality there is little job competition or wage pressure in the downtown, big development construction projects where unions still have density.

Furthermore, other than the increasingly, politically marginalized agricultural interests, the big drool for more visas comes from the high tech industry and its hopes of raiding top flight software engineers and other geeks from around the world.  None of these companies, aside from some legacy plant workers for Xerox, are arguably union, so more tech visas is not something that labor is going to care about much.

Reports indicate that the sugar in the deal for labor was raising the minimum wages of visa workers so that a higher floor was set.  This is a smart move!  Given that we can no longer pretend, as our membership numbers plummet, that we are really protecting members as opposed to just being a cranky, old uncle advocate, by raising the minimum wage standards, we both protect UFW and other unions and help whatever members we have left by giving our unions more leverage at the bargaining table to push up wages by arguing about compression coming from visa workers.

Finally taking a deep drink of reality, rather than having the vapors from our own nostalgia, may have allowed labor to make a good deal on immigration reform, and this is a good thing!