Drawing Lines in the Immigration Debate

There comes a point in the U.S. immigration debate when I really question what ‘camp’ can I really fit under. It happens when advocates of undocumented students scoff at the lives and dreams of legal immigrants to the United States and support restrictions rather than critical reforms to the H-1 B program.

Senator Durbin–a great advocate of the necessary DREAM Act for undocumented kids–is nonetheless also the chief sponsor of a bill to curb H-1 B visas. I can’t stand behind Durbin when he sponsors one group of immigrants over another.

The H-1 B system is badly in need of reform–the tethering of the Green Card immigrant to her/his employer oftentimes becomes a decade-long exploitation with no guarantee of permanent residency down the road. And with cutbacks in education spending in the United States,  including little incentive to pursue careers in technology, where do employers go to find workers? It is no wonder that big business supports the DREAM Act, which would give employers a small pool of productive immigrants to hire. Without the act, we are left with businesses outsourcing jobs to countries like India. We are certainly better off with a system that allows for greater skilled labor migration to this country because immigration is no zero sum game. The presence of skilled immigrants has greatly benefited this country and enriched the lives of American-born citizens.

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'Illegal Immigration Does Not Happen in a Vacuum' – New York Times

Article here

Anti-immigration strategists call for tough enforcement policies, which have only exacerbated the phenomena of mixed-status families as undocumented immigrants stay in this country and raise children here rather than risk leaving and facing a 10-year ban. If not for this ban, I would not be living in the shadows of American society today.

Illegal immigration does not take place in a vacuum — it is inextricably tied to the search for cheap labor, the mirage of an American dream, and enforcement efforts combined with an outdated system of antiquated quotas and categories. The barriers to solutions will only multiply when we ignore these inconvenient truths.

I took the opportunity to rail against the 10-year ban rather than talk for the DREAM Act–I think Hiroshi covered that angle quite well.

I fail to fathom why my family came here, hence I cannot really provide a personal narrative that seems appealing. Maybe it was a combination of losing faith in the Fijian government, my Dad losing his job, my mom yearning for her family and my sister–who was already studying in the United States–wanting her family with her. No one thought about me. No one thinks about me. I am just supposed to go to school, earn as many degrees as I can and stay out of trouble (and this is when I can afford school). That is my ‘job.’ It may be a mess created by my parents choices like Mark Krikorian states, but are they really to be blamed for being attracted to the false idea of the American dream? Armed with very little intellectual capital, they tried their best to do things legally. They had no idea that the 10-year visa backlog would age me out. How could they? Even the average American is clueless about immigration laws, let alone the little nuances in them.

Tamar Jacoby certainly does a good job of fleshing out what we have here, regardless of the socially constructed categories of legal and illegal:

But the article is also a tale of incredible stupidity on the part of the United States. A father realizes he has an unusually gifted daughter and sacrifices everything to bring her to America. She grasps early on that she’s a star and defies the rules to prove it. The family stays together against all odds so she can realize her potential. What a boon for the U.S. — or so you’d think. But then we thumb our nose at all this striving and sacrifice, blocking the young woman cold and throwing away what she could contribute over her lifetime.

Imagine how this story would look in historical perspective. What if classical Rome had behaved as we’re behaving? “Talented people from all over the known world were attracted to the great civilization and traveled there, hoping to share their gifts. But the rulers declined their services, barring them from even minimal participation, trashing their innovations and turning away their talents.”

You’d say that great power deserved to fail — and you’d be right. What a colossal waste.

A waste indeed.

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Day 3 – Breaking the Fast

This morning I woke up completely weak and feeling faint. I suppose going to the gym and continuing to work is not a brilliant idea while fasting. Unfortunately, I have to break my fast tonight since I cannot afford to miss another tennis class (already missed 3 due to exams)!

As a result of this experience, I have renewed admiration for political leaders and activists that have used fasting as a means to achieve their goals.

So we had some nativist hate spam. Check this one out:

Fast til you die. Who cares. Not sure what your not eating really proves. So you don’t eat. Then what. The rest of us are supposed to take notice of you and your “cause” because you stupidly chose not to put food in your mouth? fail to see what this proves of resolves. Are your really helping anything or anyone by not eating? Let me answer…NO. Find a REAL solution…….help people that actually respect and abide by the laws of the land!

Performative contradiction anyone? I might also suggest spell check…

I want to see the Minutemen and other nativists fasting for their cause but my wish may go unfulfilled in this lifetime. So what is their REAL solution? Rounding up 12 million undocumented immigrants, putting them in detention centers and deporting them? Yes, I wonder how the economy will handle that net loss of productivity and spending. On this note, Richard Delgado, a law professor at Seattle University, has stated that the recent ICE raids and crackdowns have contributed to the soaring costs of basic food items. It may be a case of correlation does not equal causation error but does merit further investigation.

I hope more people–bloggers, activists, students–can fast at least a day to show their solidarity and support with the Encampment in Los Angeles.

Here are some videos from the actual camp:

Day 1

Day 3

If you are on facebook, consider joining the group and spreading word:

Please sign the Pledge today. Be 1 of 1,000,000 to vote and take action for immigrant rights.
http://www.fastforourfuture.com (english)
http://www.ayunoparanuestrofuturo.com (spanish)
http://www.therisemovement.org (organizers)

You can also send supportive messages and media:


Another Failed Nativist Sequel – Illegal Aliens Caused Financial Collapse!

The nativist hate-o-sphere is at it again. After blaming legal immigrants for causing global warming, now illegal immigrants are facing the brunts of their latest accusation. What is it? Why, don’t you know, those migrant workers, low-income wage-earners, illegals in the military, undocumented students struggling to afford college, caused the financial collapse of Wall Street, Main Street and are responsible for the foreclosures. Now we need a $700 billion dollar bailout for them! See what Quaker at DreamActivist has to say about this.

(Psssst, while the nation is conveniently distracted, lets also give DHS $4billion for overbudgeting on old technology)

Tancredo ran in the Republican presidential primaries on a platform devoted strongly against illegal immigrants (a noun, verb and ‘illegal alien’). He garned less than 1% of the vote but that has not stopped him from obsessing over those illegals and running around to ‘catch them.’ We cannot blame him though; forget ‘illegal aliens’, ethnic diversity is a sight for sore-eyes in his state so of course he is longing for rarity.

So, despite the fact that the last movie flopped, illegal aliens are responsible for the mortgage crisis, booms nativist Tom Tancredo, in a new theatrical sequel. Viewer discretion is advised. Strongly advised.

If these 38 million illegal aliens are in fact, attaining mortgages on housing property, that means they are buying houses (creating demand) and paying property taxes on them in the thousands annually. Wait, that cannot be right, ILLEGALS don’t pay taxes, they just reap all the benefits that belong to American citizens!! Which one is it Tancredo, ALIPAC, and the nativist blogosphere? Are you screaming double-bind with little room to wiggle? Did not think the erroneous claims all the way, did you?

Alleged anchor baby, Michelle Malkin is adamant that it is no coincidence that foreclosures have hit hardest in cities that are ‘illegal alien sanctuaries’ such as “Loudon County, Virginia, California’s Inland Empire, Stockton, San Joaquin Valley, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.” Even if we were to accept that these cities are largely hit due to illegal immigrant presence, we would still be making the mistake of assuming causation when there is in fact, only correlation.

The correlation is explained by the fact that the housing bubble created massive jobs for illegal immigrants in construction, who settled in those areas. Fueled by the boom, the INDUSTRY over-built using the old adage, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ The Census held that immigrants, legal or otherwise, are good for the housing market — they created demand and bought houses that otherwise may remain on the market, creating losses for builders. When the market started to unravel in 2006, the bubble burst as is a tendency inherent in the capitalist system, and thousands of undocumented immigrants in construction work found themselves unemployed with no ‘cushion paychecks’ and unable to afford mortgage rates. Now, do we blame companies and industries for overproducing or do we blame workers for simply doing the jobs they were given? The answer is simple.

For the more seasoned reader – Even if you believe that illegal aliens are to blame for some, even a tiny bit, of the mortgage crisis because lets admit it, we do have lenders who help straw buyers access loans, do consider that attrition through enforcement has created a self-fufilling prophecy. The idea of attrition through enforcement is to make life so tough for illegal immigrants that they would self-deport. Counties like Prince William and states like Arizona, Oklahoma, Rhode Island (flowing with illegal Canadians),  pride themselves for driving out ‘illegal aliens’ by getting tough on them. Lets deploy ICE in various cities, and round-up the working mothers of undocumented families in the thousands. It makes for great entertainment for the nativists, but the TRPs don’t translate into any sort of economic or social gain.

Guess what is left behind? Well, yes, the children have the huge mortgages on their hands now. But eventually, empty houses, bank losses upon ‘bailouts’ and no one to buy the homes in foreclosure since the overwhelming number of consumers do not have the capital to invest at this time. Well, congratulations to nativists and nativist policy-makers — if you are blaming illegal aliens for the ‘mortgage crisis’ three more fingers are pointing back at you.

Without immigrants, legal or illegal, we have even less demand for housing, and hence a falling rate of profit for the real estate bubble. BURST! If you want ‘illegal immigrants’ gone, be prepared to pay the price of huge losses to the economy. Don’t turn around and blame immigrants, legal or illegal, for the mess that they just may have cushioned or softened.

Exposing the Business of Immigrant Detention – CCA

I recently discovered a Reuters report featuring CCA (Corrections Corp of America)–the biggest privatized immigrant detention facility in the United States–almost gloating about the fact that these coming elections won’t make a difference to their company since there will always be a population that would need “service.” I wonder why the major newspapers and newswires in the United States missed this story–the UK Reuters link has been taken down since then but it is here for the timebeing.

“If there is any meaningful immigration (policy) change, I think there is going to be a population that is still going to have to be serviced.”

Why is the CCA so self-assured of continued business?

In the late 1990s, CCA overbuilt many detention facilities following the “if you build it, they will come” rule. According to Anton Hie, an analyst in the Nashville office of Jefferies and Co. who covered industry leader Corrections Corporation of America and its closest competitor, the GEO Group, “There was a lot of promise of new inmates that never came … It kind of all came crashing in.” States stopped contracting after high-profile escapes, riots and other scandals and subsequently, stocks came crashing down.

In 2000, the CCA had reported a net loss of $253.5 million but that is history with a 470% boom in immigrant detention over the past 15 years. CCA finally banged a lucrative deal that year–the former INS came to their rescue to house 1000 detainees at the CCA-owned San Diego Mesa Facility, and hence, saved the private detention industry from collapse, giving rise what Roberto Lovato and other prominent scholars call the migrant-prison complex. With 32,000 immigrants behind bars, some indefinitely await hearings, some commit suicide, some are dehumanized and abused, and others sedated with psychotropic drugs upon deportation, the numbers are only growing for ICE, CCA and sadly, the numbers behind bars. Today, the ICE, U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons account for 40% of CCA’s revenue (13% from ICE at $1.5 billion)–which controls a little under half the private prison beds in America. Last year, the CCA reported a net profit of $133 million.

The number of jail beds funded annually in congressional appropriations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

FY 2001: 19,702

FY 2002: 21,109

FY 2003: 19,444

FY 2004: 19,444

FY 2005: 18,500

FY 2006: 20,800

FY 2007: 27,500

FY 2008: 32,000

(Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

For more details and background story, see the Huffington post here.

“We are doing business with 20 different states around the country. I would say it’s probably 50-50, where you’ve got half the states where the governor is a Democrat and the other half is Republican,” COO and President Damon Hininger told Reuters from Nashville, Tennessee.
“I think we have shown a good track record that we can work regardless of who is in the capital or who’s in the governor’s office within various states,” said Hininger, who began his career at Corrections Corp as a correctional officer.

With the little time I had, I did some more independent research and found out that CCA has exercised it’s ‘free speech’ rights this year by contributing $15,000 each to the Republican and Democrat Senate and Congressional races for these upcoming elections as well as to several other individual races funds for a total of more than $60,000. The CEOs and managing directors have also made noteworthy contributions. Yes, Mr. Hininger, a little glance at your contributions and we know exactly what sort of ‘business’ you are doing to maintain a good track record with the different states regardless of their political leanings. (Keep in mind that this is just the CCA and other privatized prisons companies like Geo also contribute massively to skew the ‘democratic’ process in their favor).

On a related note, the artists from the Just Seeds collective have contributed about 100 murals to the upcoming Critical Resistance CR10 conference that has workshops, round-tables and panels to discuss strategies around fighting the prison-industrial complex. If you are in the Bay Area California, do check it out at Laney College this upcoming week.


Being undocumented is not a crime but when criminalizing immigrants makes $$ for corporations …

Here are some more useful resources on this: