I get e-mail: Beto O’Rourke on the border, and immigration

February 19, 2019

Beto O’Rourke, and Henry, at rally in El Paso, Texas, for reform of immigration laws, for more business, for less oppression. Photo by Nick Oza, USAToday, via El Paso Times

People wonder what Beto O’Rourke is going to do. He set new standards for ethical campaigning in the race for the U.S. Senate in Texas last year, refusing to go low even when polls showed he could win that way, and came the closest to unseating a Republican statewide office-holder in a couple of decades.

More important, Beto inspired a loyal corps of voters and campaigners to get out and change things.

One of my campaigning colleagues called this morning, alerting me to an e-mail from Beto on February 18, 2019, the first since thank-yous after the election in November.

Beto put heft to his comments in El Paso last week refuting claims from the White House that El Paso is a city in crisis, with bumbling leaders. O’Rourke mustered the facts, and held on to the inspiration. His message, below.

Ed,

The President came to El Paso last week. He promised a wall and repeated his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose. With El Paso as the backdrop, he claimed that this city of immigrants was dangerous before a border fence was built here in 2008.

Beyond refuting his comments about border communities like ours (El Paso was one of the safest communities in the United States before the fence was built here), about walls saving lives (in fact, walls push desperate families to cross in ever more hostile terrain, ensuring greater suffering and death), and about immigrants (who commit crimes at a lower rate than those Americans born here), it’s worth thinking about how we got to this place. How it came to be that 11 million undocumented immigrants call America home, how we came to militarize our border, how we arrived at such a disconnect between our ideals, our values, the reality of our lives — and the policies and political rhetoric that govern immigration and border security.

El Paso Times, 2003

I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges we face are largely of our own design — a function of the unintended consequences of immigration policy and the rhetoric we’ve used to describe immigrants and the border. At almost every step of modern immigration policy and immigration politics, we have exacerbated underlying problems and made things worse. Sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes with the most cynical exploitation of nativism and fear. Much of the history of immigration policy (and the source for the graphs that I’m using) is powerfully summarized in a report entitled “Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policy: Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America” by Douglas S Massey and Karen A. Pren.

In 1965, the U.S. ended the bracero farmworker program in part because of the substandard wages and conditions in which these Mexican workers labored. And yet, after decades of employing this labor, with our economy dependent on the laborers and the laborers dependent on access to the U.S. job market, the system of low-cost Mexican labor didn’t go away. Many of the same Mexican nationals returned to the U.S., returned to the same back-breaking jobs, only now they were undocumented. Ironically, despite the intent of the 1965 law ending the program, they enjoyed fewer protections and wage guarantees in the shadows as they continued to play a fundamental role in our economy.

As this same population converted from being documented to undocumented a wave of scary metaphors was employed to gin up anxiety and paranoia and political will to employ ever more repressive policies to deter their entry. It was good for politicians and newspapers, terrible for immigrants and immigration policy. Thus began the “Latino threat” narrative. As Massey and Pren write:

“The most common negative framing depicted immigration as a “crisis” for the nation. Initially marine metaphors were used to dramatize the crisis, with Latino immigration being labeled a “rising tide” or a “tidal wave” that was poised to “inundate” the United States and “drown” its culture while “flooding” American society with unwanted foreigners (Santa Ana 2002). Over time, marine metaphors increasingly gave way to martial imagery, with illegal immigration being depicted as an “invasion” in which “outgunned” Border Patrol agents sought to “hold the line” in a vain attempt to “defend” the border against “attacks” from “alien invaders” who launched “banzai charges” to overwhelm American defenses (Nevins 2001; Chavez 2008).”

The fear stoked by politicians produced the intended paranoia and political constituency demanding ever tougher immigration measures. The result of this was not to stop undocumented immigration. Instead it caused the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to grow.

Here’s why: as we made it harder for people to cross into the United States, we made it less likely that once here they would attempt to go back to their home country. Fearing an increasingly militarized border, circular patterns of migration became linear, with immigrants choosing to remain in the U.S., many of them ultimately joined by family members from their home country.

This government-created condition continued to feed on itself:

The “sustained, accelerating accumulation of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement operations produced a massive increase in border apprehensions after the late 1970s, when the underlying flow of migrants had actually leveled off. For any given number of undocumented entry attempts, more restrictive legislation and more stringent enforcement operations generate more apprehensions, which politicians and bureaucrats can then use to inflame public opinion, which leads to more conservatism and voter demands for even stricter laws and more enforcement operations, which generates more apprehensions, thus bringing the process full circle. In short, the rise of illegal migration, its framing as a threat to the nation, and the resulting conservative reaction set off a self-feeding chain reaction of enforcement that generated more apprehensions even though the flow of undocumented migrants had stabilized in the late 1970s and actually dropped during the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

This would only get worse.

El Paso Herald Post 1981 — source Patrick Timmons


After terror attacks in the 1990s and in 2001, the Mexican immigrant was a ready scapegoat for politicians, and the intensity and brutality of enforcement and deterrence measures increased. In the face of terrorism that originated in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the United States chose to conflate the war on terror with immigration from Mexico and Latin America.

With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 the number of deportations skyrocketed, with nearly 400,000 sent back to their country of origin in 2009 alone. Not one of the 9/11 terrorists entered through Mexico — and yet Mexicans bore the brunt of this country’s immigration response to the terror attacks. Last year, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism found that “there are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.” This year’s report found much the same: “there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”

In addition, walls and fences authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 pushed migration flows to ever more treacherous stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 4,500 human beings died crossing the border from 2006 to 2017. Far too many of them children.

In recent years, as Mexican migration slowed and then reversed (more Mexican nationals going south to Mexico than coming north to the United States), and as total undocumented immigration reached its lowest levels in modern history, the country was met with the challenge of tens of thousands of Central American families fleeing violence and brutality to petition for asylum in our country.

This too is an unintended consequence. Our involvement in the civil wars and domestic politics of Central American countries, in addition to our ability to consume more illegal drugs than any other country on the planet while leading a military- and law enforcement-first drug control policy, has helped to destroy the institutions of civil society necessary for those countries to function. They can no longer protect their citizens, and their citizens are coming to us.

And how do we meet this challenge? The President, using the same racist, inflammatory rhetoric of years past, seeks to build a wall, to take kids from their parents, to deploy the United States Army on American soil, to continue mass deportations and to end the protection for Dreamers. In other words, he seeks in one administration to repeat all the mistakes of the last half-century. And with past as prologue, we know exactly how that will end.

Not only will it lead to thousands of Americans losing their farms and ranches and homes through eminent domain to build a wall despite the fact that we have the lowest level of northbound apprehensions in my lifetime; it will lead to greater suffering and death for immigrants who are pushed to more dangerous points of crossing; it will fail to meet the legitimate challenge of illegal drugs that are brought to this country (the vast majority crossed at ports of entry); it will further erode our humanity and our standing in the world; and it will not do a single thing to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers coming to this country.

But we still have a choice. In this democracy, if in fact the people are the government, and the government is the people, we still have a chance to prove it.

We can decide that we’ll get past the lies and fear, focus on the facts and human lives in our midst, and do the right thing. The end goal is a stronger, safer, more successful country. Critical to achieving that goal is having immigration, security and bilateral policies that match reality and our values.

  1. Extend citizenship to the more than one million Dreamers in this country. Not only those who are in our classrooms but those who are teaching in our classrooms; those who are keeping our country safe around the world tonight; those who contribute more to our communities than they’ll ever take.
  2. Give permanent legal protection and a path to citizenship to their parents, the original Dreamers.
  3. Bring millions more out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship by ensuring that they register with the government and gain status to legally work, pay taxes and contribute even more to our country’s success.
  4. Make us safer and more secure. Significantly reduce illegal drug trafficking and stop human trafficking by investing in infrastructure, technology and personnel at our ports of entry. The ports that connect us with Mexico are where the vast majority of everything and everyone that ever comes into our country crosses.
  5. Increase the visa caps so that we match our opportunities and needs (for work, for education, for investment, for innovation, for family reunification) to the number of people we allow into this country. Ensure that those who want to work in jobs that we can’t fill can legally come here and legally return to their home country.
  6. Fully accept our opportunity and responsibility under our asylum laws to welcome those whose own governments can no longer protect them — including women fleeing abusive relationships.
  7. Address visa overstays (which accounts for the majority of undocumented immigration) through better tracking of and notification to visa holders (a first step could be text message reminders) and fully harmonizing our entry-exit systems with Mexico and Canada (when a visa holder exits the U.S. and enters Mexico, we will then know that they have left the U.S.; currently, if they leave through a land port of entry we literally have no clue if they are still here or have returned to their country of origin).
  8. Make Latin America and specifically Central America a top foreign policy priority — stop relegating it to second-tier status — invest the time, talent and resources to assist in the development of the domestic institutions that will allow these countries to thrive and offer their citizens protection and economic opportunity. It is the only long-term solution to the number of asylum seekers and refugees coming to this country.
  9. End the global war on drugs. An imprisonment- and interdiction-first approach has not worked, has accelerated the erosion of civil society in much of Latin America and has militarized a public health issue to the detriment of all concerned.
  10. Speak with respect and dignity when referring to our fellow human beings who happen to be immigrants and asylum seekers, who in so many cases are doing exactly what we would do if presented with the same threats and opportunities. No more “invasions”, “animals”, “rapists and criminals”, “floods”, “crisis” — dehumanizing rhetoric leads to dehumanizing policies. We cannot sacrifice our humanity in the name of security — or we risk losing both.

Last week, we welcomed the President to one of the safest cities in the United States. Safe not because of walls, and not in spite of the fact that we are a city of immigrants. Safe because we are a city of immigrants and because we treat each other with dignity and respect. A city that has the opportunity to lead on the most important issues before us, out of experience, out of compassion and out of a fierce determination to see this country live its ideals and rise to its full potential.

El Paso/Juarez


We can learn from the errors of our past, have the courage to do what’s right while we still have the chance, and ensure that the President doesn’t commit this country to making mistakes from which we may never recover.

It’s up to us.

Beto

What do you think about immigration and actions Beto proposes? Comments open; as Beto asks, speak with respect, please.


Beto O’Rourke: Texas doesn’t need a wall

October 29, 2018

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Tex (El Paso), explains how his name came to be Beto, to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Tex (El Paso), candidate for U.S. Senate, explained how his name came to be Beto, to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.

From his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Beto explains how he got the name Beto more than 30 years ago in El Paso, and why Texas does not need a wall against Mexico:


“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon)” with Arlo Guthrie and Hoyt Axton

June 21, 2018

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Deportations plague much of recent U.S. history. It never works out well for the U.S., on the whole, especially mass deportations.

Hoyt Axton and Arlo Guthrie joined to sing Woody Guthrie’s account of one catastrophic deportation incident.

A more urgent version of the song, by Lance Canales and the Flood, featuring the names of the 28 who died.

More: 

 


Making America great will make us free?

June 19, 2018

The great Lalo Alcatraz put truth in his cartooning pen. Damn, that hurts.

Lalo Alcaraz cartoon, what he saw at the child detention centers, June 19, 2018. Or something like that. Please share, he asks, for our #MAGA friends.

Lalo Alcaraz cartoon, what he saw at the child detention centers, June 19, 2018. Or something like that. Please share, he asks, for our #MAGA friends.

Sadly, Lalo Alcaraz got it right. How many steps down the road must a man take before we call him lost?

Shake of the old scrub brush to The Mexican Judge, Lalo Alcaraz hisownself.

 


Myth of the criminal immigrant

March 30, 2018

Turns out the more immigrants the U.S. gets, the lower the crime rate.

Myth of the immigrant criminal in two charts DZjiVVXXUAAbHIl

What else are anti-immigrant advocates fibbing about?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Tyler Fisher (@tylrfishr).

 


O, say! Does that woman’s lamp still burn beside the golden door in 2017?

October 28, 2017

Liberty gazing out at about 265 feet above the water of New York Harbor. Image by Statue of Liberty Tickets

Liberty gazing out at about 265 feet above the water of New York Harbor. Image by Statue of Liberty Tickets

Liberty was dedicated to the people of the United States on October 28, 1886. She’s 131 years old today.

Liberty stands gazing out at about 265 feet* above the water of New York Harbor, a fixture there since construction in the 1880s.

The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.

The Statue of Liberty has been a fixture in the U.S. and American psyche, too.  Excuse me, or join me, in wondering whether we have not lost something of our former dedication to the Statue of Liberty, and the reasons France and Americans joined to build it.

Poem-a-Day sent Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” out this morning (Poem-a-Day is a wonderful service of the American Academy of Poets — you may subscribe and I recommend it).  There it was, waiting for me in e-mail.   My students generally have not heard nor read the poem, I discover year after year —  some sort of Texas-wide failure in enculturation prompted by too-specific requirements of federal law and state law, combining to make a slatwork of culture taught in our classrooms with too many cracks into which culture actually falls, out of sight, out of mind; out of memory.  I fear it may be a nationwide failure as well.

Have you read the poem lately?  It once encouraged American school children to send pennies to build a home for the statue.  Today it wouldn’t get a majority of U.S. Congressmen to sign on to consponsor a reading of it.  Glenn Beck would contest its history, Rush Limbaugh would discount the politics of the “giveaways” in the poem, John Boehner would scoriate the victims in the poem for having missed his meeting of lobbyists (‘they just missed the right boat’), and Sarah Palin would complain about “an air-bridge to nowhere,” or complain that masses who huddle are probably up to no good (they might touch, you know).

Have you read it lately?

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde - Wikimedia Commons image

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde – Wikimedia Commons image

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

AAP makes poems available for iPhones, too, and you can see how it appears, phrase by phrase.  “The New Colossus” takes on more of its power and majesty delivered that way.

Is the Academy of American Poets playing politics here?  In much of America, there is an active movement to nail shut the “golden door,” to turn out a sign that would say “No tired, no poor nor huddled masses yearning to breathe free; especially no wretched refuse, no homeless, and let the tempest-tost stay in Guatemala and Pakistan.”

Would Americans bother to contribute to build a Statue of Liberty today?  Or would they protest against it?

Does that lamp still shine beside the golden door?

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; Robert N. Dennis Collection, New York Public Library.  The arm was displayed to encourage contributions to the fund to build a pedestal for the statue, from private donations.

_____________

*  I’m calculating Liberty’s gaze at about 40 feet below the tip of the torch, which is just over 305 feet above the base of the statue on the ground.  The base is probably 20 feet higher than the water, but this isn’t exact science we’re talking about here.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save


Signs of Life: Decks, not walls!

March 5, 2017

Wisdom in signs.

Churches say, ‘Don’t build a wall, make the table larger.’

This company puts it in terms more people will comprehend.

A sign of better things to come? Image found on Facebook, tracing back to a Willamette Week Instagram account; where is this company and this sign?

A sign of better things to come? Image found on Facebook, tracing back to a Willamette Week Instagram account; where is this company and this sign?

“Forget the Wall! Build a deck, invite everyone over.” A battle cry for our times.

I wonder where this photo was taken? It says “Milwaukee Lumber,” but I traced it back to an Oregon newspaper, Willamette Week.

Better question: Where are the decks?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kathryn Knowles.

Save

Save


%d bloggers like this: