You may prefer to simply avoid all the arguing, especially since it’s over a bunch of lies. If so, allow me to share. The video is of some really angry guys in an argument with the Senator because, in spite of McCain’s pandering to white nationalism in ads that promise he’ll “complete the dang fence,” undocumented immigrants, at least according to said angry gentlemen, keep coming, and they’re coming to steal valuable benefits like welfare, social security, and medicaid.
The argument should serve as a demonstration of why Republicans should avoid inviting unwanted guests to their (Grand Old) party just because they’re short on the political equivalent of green bean casserole and artichoke dip. Once invited, it’s hard to get them to leave. In fact, since they’re not really there to make friends, they have nothing to lose in taking over the joint.
But while I found McCain’s frustrated reaction mildly amusing, I was much more interested in this town hall argument as a strong example of the irrationality of racism.
The angry guys attended the meeting to give Senator McCain a hard time. And why? First, they want a fence and tougher enforcement. Senator McCain, at least according to his own report, won $600 million in appropriations in order to build a section of fence (or maybe it’s a banana). But they want more because they believe a flood of immigrants is still coming over the border.
The reality, as I’m guessing you know, is that this isn’t true. Net immigration from Mexico is about zero at the moment mainly because of our bad economy. The lack of jobs in the U.S. is what’s keeping Mexican workers at home where, I’m guessing, it’s easier to be unemployed in a place where you’re not being demonized and persecuted.
The fact that workers are staying home in Mexico should tip us off to an obvious fact about Mexican undocumented immigration into the U.S. That is, that undocumented immigrants aren’t coming to get “stuff.” They’re coming to work.
The good news is that both the Senate and the White House seem to agree that a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented people in the country right now is necessary (the House seems less convinced, though they have yet to put out anything solid). But as it stands, the path to citizenship seems as though it will be rife with socioeconomic barriers. Both blueprints emphasize the need for undocumented people to “take responsibility for their actions” and pay taxes and a penalty (I’m guessing the U.S. won’t be taking any responsibility for a foreign policy that devastates economies in the global south and makes it so that folks have to come here for work in the first place). How steep will this penalty be? Who will be able to afford it, and who won’t? Moreover, the blueprints lay out a pathway to citizenship that includes a criminal background check. While on its surface this may not seem unreasonable, we need to be watching out for the details on what kinds of crimes will block this path. What will make a “serious” criminal? Will it include the kinds of crimes – sex work, petty drug convictions, theft – that low-income and undocumented queer and trans folks often turn to as strategies for survival? We know that convictions largely play out along lines of class, race, and gender identity, and if we’re not diligent about calling out the details of completing this path it’s likely that citizenship will remain inaccessible to many undocumented people.
After the application fees, fines, and background checks, immigrants who have cleared these hurdles will be given a provisional legal status, and will have to wait for existing immigration backlogs to be cleared before they are eligible for lawful permanent residency. Both blueprints have made it clear that during the time that immigrants have this provisional status, they will not be eligible for public benefits. While we don’t know exactly how long the wait between the provisional status and permanent residency will be, it seems likely that the wait will be at least a few years. Add to that the five-year bar – which forbids immigrants with legal permanent residency from accessing most public benefits for the first five years they have that status – and it becomes clear that for low-income undocumented people who are able to get through the initial hurdles, relief in terms of very basic needs such as health care and housing will not be coming any time soon. This is particularly disturbing when thinking of undocumented children and young people, who may literally go a lifetime without access to health care or food assistance.
Both blueprints emphasize that employers who deliberately hire undocumented workers must be held accountable. To do this, employers must be able to verify that their workers have the appropriate documentation to work, and herein lies the problem: in the past, verification systems (such as E-verify) have been rife with errors. As it happens, these errors disproportionately affect people who tend to change their names – that is, women and trans folks (possible extra bonus: being outed as trans at work!). Though the White House’s blueprint mentions a pilot program for people to check their own records and make sure that everything is accurate before applying to a job, it is unclear what recourse a transgender person, for example, might have for changing their information in this system.
But it is important to remember who and what kind of political action got us to a point where immigration reform finally seems inevitable after many, many years of need and just as many of political inaction. And here I have to give mad props to DREAMer youth, many of whom are queer, who have spent the last few years on an unapologetic campaign to get the country to face the fact that non-action on immigration is unsustainable by engaging in direct actions and refusing to give up and go away – even when the odds seemed so far out of their favor. If we are going to make immigration reform meaningful for queer and trans immigrants, we must stay steady on our hustle. We have to remain diligent in watching out for all the ways the most marginalized immigrants could be excluded from this process, and demand better for our communities.
So you’ve heard that the Senate proposed a bipartisan plan to reform immigration laws on Monday which proposes pathways to citizenship — as well as an increase in border patrol. While the question of how same sex couples will be addressed under the law is still up in the air, Bryce Covert for The Nation points out that there’s another group that was excluded from the proposal’s fast tracked path to citizenship: domestic workers.
Immigration is most definitely a feminist issue. As we’ve reported on this blog before, our nation’s blatantly discriminatory labor field reflects onto the domestic work sphere–a sphere that lacks even basic labor standards. The overwhelming majority of domestic workers are women, and workers of color make up 54% of the domestic workforce. 23 percent of workers are paid below the state minimum wage, and undocumented domestic workers are paid about 20% less than those who are U.S. citizens.
With the “papers please” provision of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration law now in effect, Bill Clinton roused an overflowing crowd at Arizona State University last week with a special shout out to the state’s “dreamers,” the highly organized ranks of undocumented youth seeking permanent residency either through education or the military (and sometimes both). Appearing on behalf of the former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, whose surging campaign to become the first Latino Senator in Arizona now leads in the latest polls, Clinton drew some of his biggest cheers for his support of the DREAM Act merely by calling it the “right thing to do.”
Welcome to the Arizona showdown.
Underscored by Gov. Jan Brewer’s latest act of defiance in denying state benefits to undocumented youth affected by President Obama’s deferral of immigration action against them, the Republican Party’s full embrace of Arizona’s immigration policy at its summer convention drew a clear line in the state’s sand. The “Arizonification” of America continues to frame the national immigration debate. It has cemented the state’s frontline image as so hopelessly wedded to a punitive approach of “attrition through enforcement” at any cost that “The Daily Show” once referred to Arizona as the “meth lab of democracy.”
Not that the headline-grabbing nativists, frontier justice sheriffs, neo-Nazi marchers, gun-toting militiamen and Tea Party political figures don’t exist in Arizona. But as the estimated 5,500 in attendance for Carmona and Clinton reminded the state, the fringe elements dominating the media and Arizona’s state house may have finally met their match. Case in point: An electrified citizens’ campaign has mounted the most serious get-out-the-vote effort against Joe Arpaio, the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff, in his 20-year reign.
The resurgence of this “other Arizona” signals a revival of the state’s century-old legacy of fighting against such anti-immigrant and thinly veiled racism, a movement that began almost as soon as Arizona’s entry as a territory in the mid-19th century. For example, in Tucson, the pioneering Mexican immigrant Estevan Ochoa not only salvaged public education but single-handedly faced down the Confederate occupation of the Old Pueblo. When the Tucson Unified School District dismantled its acclaimed Mexican-American Studies program in Ochoa’s hometown last spring, Latino youth were quick to rekindle his memory.
President Obama used a new word during the presidential debate on Tuesday night to describe the masses of immigrants he’s deported during his tenure. He called them “gangbangers,” as in:
"What I’ve also said is if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done."
The line was a curious one, given the reality of Obama’s deportation record, which has been marked by mass deportations to the tune of nearly 400,000 every year carried out at a clip unseen by any prior president. The Obama administration has defended its “smart” enforcement tactics by, as Obama did on Tuesday night, pointing out that it makes a point to deport those who have committed serious crimes and are a threat to their communities and national security. And yet, data collected over Obama’s tenure show that among the close to 400,000 people who are deported annually, far from being “gangbangers,” the vast majority have no criminal record whatsoever.
After his deportation, Montes travelled to his uncle’s home in a small town in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. It’s to this simple five-room house that Montes wants to bring his kids. With the support of his uncle and aunt and in the company of three young cousins, he says his children would be cared for and loved.
“I will give all that I have to my kids,” Montes said. “I married and tried to start a family. I did not imagine coming back here, but I would never abandon my kids and I want them to be with me.”
Allegheny County officials feel differently. “[The county] did not approve the father’s home for placement because water is hauled in, there is a concrete roof and cement floor,” reads a court document provided to Colorlines.com by Montes’s lawyer. The document is the county’s response to a “home study” conducted of Montes’s uncle’s home in Tamaulipas by the Mexican government. The Mexican consulate in North Carolina sent it to the Allegheny County child welfare department last June. The home study notes that the conditions in the home are “good” and states clearly that Montes’s “uncles would help care for [the children] and they would lend him a room inside the house to live in.”
Montes insists the house is a perfectly safe place for his kids.
“The problem they say with the house is that there is no water. But,” Montes explains, “there is clean water that we bring in to clean, drink, cook. We drink it everyday.”
Montes’s attorney, Donna Shumate, who was appointed to represent him when the children were removed from their mother’s custody, says that she thinks the department has a kneejerk reaction against placing U.S.-citizen children in Mexico.
“It’s not really subtle at all,” says Shumate. “They’ve pretty much said that they won’t place American kids there. He is a good father and the fact that he may be living in different standards now because he’s in Mexico should not prevent children from reunifying with their father.”