Tag Archives: Mexico

Immigration – and Immigrants – Deserve Better

12 Jul

I am a loss to understand why a shrinking region struggling just to maintain its current population numbers is so bloody concerned over illegal immigration. WBEN demogogued the issue during the entire morning news today, and the whiny, phony parallels attempted to be drawn between Arizona and New York as border states were as appalling as they were weak.

First, let’s turn to the Arizona immigration law that the Federal Government has sued to strike down as an unconstitutional state usurpation of federal power to set and create immigration policy.

Two things have been brainlessly repeated without a smidgen of balance on local talk radio in Buffalo. The Arizona statute in question gives state law enforcement the power to demand – upon “reasonable suspicion” of undocumented status – that anyone present their papers to prove their identity and legal right to be present in the United States. Although racial profiling is expressly prohibited by the bill, it’s not shocking or deniable that this law is targeted squarely at Latinos. Arizona is rightfully petrified that the drug wars that have rendered Mexico an almost failed state might escalate on this side of the border.

Proponents of the law, when confronted with the fact that “papers, please” has not generally been used positively in the American vernacular, retort that legal immigrants must carry their visas or Green Cards with them at all times.

But citizens don’t. (That includes you, Puerto Ricans). Because this law in its implementation would specifically target one particular ethnic group at the exclusion of all others, and because it unfairly requires some US citizens – Latinos – to carry their passports or other proof of legal status in the US on them at all times, but not others, I believe it to be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, as well as federal supremacy grounds.

But to hear our local talk radio goons describe it, bingo-playing grannies get harassed at the Peace Bridge whilst Mexicans on the southern border are untouchable due to liberal bleeding-heartism. Have any of these cretins tried to cross a Mexican border post ever? In the last 10 years? The major border crossings into Mexico, and especially into the US are horrifically backed-up all the time. The scrutiny given to inbound motor vehicles at the southern border makes the trip in and out of Canada seem like a run through an EZ-Pass booth. And yes, you must present the same types of ID in El Paso as you do in Niagara Falls. The difference is that most of the Arizona – Mexico border has no natural boundaries and is an arbitrary construct of treaty. You don’t get a lot of swimmers from Canada into the US because the Niagara River is wide and has a nasty current.

But to compare our situation in WNY to the situation in Arizona is simply idiotic for another major reason. Canada isn’t a third world backwater with wave after wave of economic refugees swarming into, say, Buffalo for our wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright homes and chicken wings. And the reason why we treat the occasional bingo-playing granny to long lines at the border have to do with the fact that there is a distinct history of jihadist terrorists using the US-CDN crossing as a low-key entry point.

No, Tom. Sorry, Sandy. Regrets, Dave. Comparisons of legal border crossings at WNY bridges to illegal crossings in Arizona is so patently stupid and improper that I question your intelligence and that of anyone who agrees with you.

And chances are, the Bauerles, Pesolas, and DiPietros of yesteryear most likely came to the United States as economic immigrants – they came to this country to find their fortunes, or at least a better life. Oh, they’ll undoubtedly self-righteously proclaim that their ancestors came to this country as legal immigrants, as if the situation at the turn of the last century was somehow even vaguely analogous to that at the most recent turn of century.

During the time of Ellis Island, there was no such thing as applying for an entry visa at a US consulate abroad. Immigrants would come to the US on boats and basically apply on the spot for legal entry. If they weren’t mentally or physically disabled, chances were they’d be allowed to stay in the US. Our immigration laws throughout history have oftentimes been little more than shameful cesspools of racism and eugenics, aimed to control not so much numbers, but specific numbers of particular origin. But at the time of Ellis Island’s heyday, European immigrants could literally hop a boat and take their chances.

Such irony, to hear descendants of German or Italian immigrants heap scorn on a contemporary influx of refugees from our own hemisphere, who have overwhelmingly come here for the same economic reasons. Why is 2010’s Mr. Velazquez any more or less deserving of an American Dream than 1910’s Mr. DiPietro? Are Mexicans and Central Americans somehow unworthy or undeserving of the same opportunities as Poles or Italians were a century ago?

And let’s not forget that if every single illegal alien in this country was deported overnight, there would suddenly be a large vacuum of available menial jobs. You going to take it? Is your kid going to interrupt his WoW session to earn $7.25/hour cleaning toilets and sweeping streets?

Comprehensive immigration reform that resets the rules to reflect contemporary reality is what’s needed to help move this forward. We in this country are so focused on migrant laborers, that we ignore the fact that our idiotic visa policies help keep brilliant scientists out of this country, and they go to places like Canada, which welcomes them with open arms, opportunity, and free medical.

When the economy goes south, you can be sure that the weak-minded will take advantage of the afflicted, and reassure them that the fault lies not with a housing crash or credit default swaps gone bad, but they instead release that genie of subtly racist xenophobia that still seems to be socially acceptable in the US, and blame the Mexicans.

Facts Are Fun

29 May

The local tea party die-hards (the NYS Reform google group keyboard warriors) and wannabes (Tom Bauerle – a third-rate copy of humorous, real-life tough-guy Curtis Sliwa) have been reacting (as reactionaries do) to news that there will be some extra scrutiny of travelers at US-Canada border crossings.

That is, when they’re not suggesting that ID cards for guest workers under a proposed immigration reform program would be the “mark of the beast” as foretold in Revelations.

Conveniently forgetting that it was a competent customs official at a US-Canada crossing in Washington that halted the LAX millenium bombing during the Clinton Administration, the tea partiers complain – why should shoppers be asked questions at border crossings while the Mexican border is completely wide open? Bauerle went so far as to say one would be called racist for suggesting that the Mexican border be protected.

The Border Patrol watches for illegal crossers between the US and Canada, though, on a quite regular basis. Anyone living in WNY has seen Border Patrol vehicles and choppers from time to time.

Legal crossings between Mexico and the US are very frequent – especially for American managers who commute daily to maquiladora plants in Mexican border towns – and the questioning and scrutiny there is much more stringent than on the US-Canada border.

The Border Patrol is a branch of the U.S. Customs & Border Protection service operating under the Office of Border Protection.

The guys in the booths who ask to see your ID work for the Office of Field Operations, a completely different service of U.S. Customs & Border Protection.

In other words, it’s apples and oranges. Life is more fun when people know what the hell they’re talking about.

What’s Spanish for “Gastarbeiter”?

27 Apr

There are books’ worth of statutes, regulations, procedural rules, and background information on the issues of police stops. Generally, a cop can briefly detain you and ask you questions if he has a reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime. Definitions like “reasonable suspicion” get litigated because they’re open to so much interpretation.

The legalities and constitutional issues surrounding these types of police interactions are what separate us from police states. Nothing can be done arbitrarily or with impunity.

But Arizona recently passed a law allowing state law enforcement to detain and demand proof of citizenship from people who they reasonably suspect may be in the country illegally.

In other words, it’s a license for police officers to stop, detain, and investigate someone who “looks” or “acts” like an undocumented immigrant. There’s no question that it’s directed towards illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America, so it will exclusively be affecting the day to day lives of Arizona Latinos.

I guess this law is a whole lot easier than cracking down on people who illegally employ undocumented immigrants. It’s the lazy, unconstitutional way out. Unconstitutional because at its essence it requires Hispanic people present in Arizona to keep proof of citizenship on their person at all times and subjects them – and only them – to a “papers, please” police state reality. This law makes it a crime for a Latino person in Arizona to not always carry their immigration documents – Green Card, Passport. It’s not just a 4th and 5th Amendment problem, it’s also a massive equal protection issue. Irish immigrants, I suspect, won’t be subjected to these rules because…well, you know.

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What other ethnic group will we single out for especial treatment? The Republican Party makes occasional progress with Latino voters because they tend to be more socially conservative, but then they pass and support laws like this ones and drive them into the waiting Democrats’ arms.

Megan McCain leaves this thought in her piece:

Arizona is ground zero for the wingnuts. There’s a problem with illegal immigration and no one wants to do anything constructive about it so you get crap like this.

It’s no surprise whatsoever that the teabaggers, given a direct and palpable example of what an unconstitutional police state looks like, remain silent. Because it’s only bad when Democrats do it. Especially Democrats from Africa or Chicago or California who “pal around with terrorists”. Even George W. Bush recognized the need for comprehensive immigration policy reform, but was thwarted by those in his own party who are more narrow-minded (!) and refused to go along with anything that could be called “amnesty”. Because “amnesty” is an epithet, I guess.

First American Latino who gets detained will sue, and this law is not long for this world. It’s a shame that the United States’ immigration policy is mired in the 1960s, but God forbid we make tough decisions and change things to stem the illegality. A reasonable guest worker program would be completely acceptable, document the undocumented, permit these immigrants doing menial work you won’t do to do the work, send money home to Mexico, and be taxed on all of it.

Just over 30% of Arizona’s population is of Hispanic origin – twice the national average. 1/3 of the state’s population now has to carry citizenship papers on their person in their own country. Because some people of Hispanic origin are doing something bad, the lazy and stupid solution is to criminalize the entire population.

It beats thinking. Or problem-solving.

Sometimes, it’s not unlike the Buffalo mentality – see how everyone else does it relatively effectively, and then do the exact opposite.

There will be a march in Buffalo for immigration reform on May 1st, starting at Goodell and Main at 2pm, ending up at MLK, Jr. Park. Immigration is an important issue, and we’re hurting our own economic growth by keeping skilled people out. We’re also hurting ourselves and turning our backs on the Constitution when we single out particular ethnic groups for special police scrutiny.