Tag Archives: fear

Themmigration Reform

A reasonable suspect

The only thing to fear is them themselves.
It is going around. There are at least ten other states, Utah, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska among them, considering anti-immigration laws in the same spirit as the one passed by Arizona (ThinkProgress.org). Arizona’s new law requires law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” So, what would make you reasonably suspect someone? Language? Accent? Skin color? Hair type? Height? Weight? Surname? Intelligence? Car type? Living conditions? No driver’s license? Proximity to the border with Mexico? All of the above? Yes, that would be profiling. Constitutional? No telling from this court.

Los Angeles May Day rally in support of reform and rights - Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The Arizona law requires that those without documentation prove they are in the US legally (show me your papers), and are also to be charged with criminal trespass, confined and fined, at least, $500. The federal government does reimburse states and municipalities for confinement, so this may be nothing more than a way to turn a profit to Arizona for running prisons – sorta like parts of Texas does, but that’s another story.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that this law is not just about racism, xenophobia, fear, blame, census-forced redistricting and political penis measuring. It is also about funding civic services including schools, public safety, indigent medical care, unfair job competition – and, the despised, but desperately needed, deficit-financed by our children, federal funding. What it is not about, is solving any long-term problem or cause, civil decency or human rights.

What Goes Around Comes Around.
How soon we forget. Much of the west has a pretty short and convenient memory. Issues about who belongs where and who owns what is a pretty new idea. Arizona, and all the lands from Florida to California, has a much longer history being part of colonial Mexico/New Spain, than the United States – about 300 years. When we started migrating into Florida and out west about 160 years ago, we didn’t much care that we were the immigrants without documentation. On second thought, perhaps, Arizonians do remember.

In 1803, we bought the Louisiana Territories, which stretched to the north to the Dakotas and west to much of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and half of Colorado. By 1810, the illegals from the US outnumbered the Spanish in Florida and West Florida (southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama) was annexed by that famously, over-reaching president, constitution-writing, James Madison. During the next decade, it became clear that the indigenous people who had lived in these territories for 20,000 years, were bad for business, so we began a century of genocide. Among the early annihilations were the Seminoles by an army commanded by Andrew Jackson, which launched his political career with this campaign in 1818. A year later, Jackson formally took control of Florida from the Spanish in an agreement to renounce all claims to Texas, but he didn’t mean it.

160 years ago, we were the illegal immigrants

By 1835, Jackson was dead set on getting all the land west to California. More accurately, he wanted California and didn’t much care about the rest. By that time, the US immigrants to East Texas outnumbered the Mexicans and declared their independence. Mexico, on the other hand, considered all of Texas still part of Mexico. The Texans, fearing they didn’t have enough guns, were bailed out by a free-spending Congress who forgave their debts and made them a state so they would qualify for all kinds of federal programs,  including fort building and war making. This really pissed off Mexico, so we got out our checkbook and offered a deal too good to refuse to buy most everything we wanted. The deal was turned down, so we picked a fight (there was no UN in 1846), won, and took what is now the western half of Texas, part of Colorado and all of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada. Which led, of course, to the civil war, but that, again, is another story.

My version of this history should indicate my bias that these Arizona children of principally European immigrants have an awfully lot in common with the Central and South American and Caribbean children of principally European immigrants.

Why is it that this issue has not been dealt with in Congress?
I dare say that immigration reform is the least popular initiative in America today. Everyone hates the problem and the remedy. There may never be 60 votes in the Senate to solve immigration issues.

Some of the issues:

    We have 108 miles of fence along our 1,969 mile southern border so far - should be finished in 2040

  • Secure our southern border. It is an almost ridiculous ambition to erect and guard the 1,969 miles we share, and yet, if we have laws, shouldn’t we enforce them? The current estimate for 700 miles of fence is $49 billion and would be expected to last just 25 years. Five years into it, we’ve gotten 106 miles finished (in those areas, immigrants must tunnel, use ladders or go around it) – at that rate, we will finish the fence in 2040, but then it will be worn out and need to be replaced. To date, we have also spent $1.1 billion on a seven mile virtual fence (high tech radars, cameras and motion detectors) that doesn’t work and are planning to build another 53 miles of it. The Obama administration has recently frozen funding until the private contractor can make it work or lobbyists can convince our government that it shouldn’t have to.
  • Path to citizenship. Their presence here breaks our laws which makes them ineligible to apply for citizenship. Should they return to their native country and apply, the application requires they affirm that they have not broken the laws of the US, which, of course, is the catch 22. They could lie, but our background checks are thorough and they would be caught. Any path to citizenship would require the ”A“ word – amnesty. Those supporting it have long included a call for a fine and penalty which wouldn’t be amnesty, but amnesty is what it would be called on Fox.
  • Sheer numbers. Depending on who is guessing, it is generally believed there are 10-20 million people living in the US illegally. Arizona entire population is 6.5 million, but, of course, those unlawfully present, don’t have two senators.
  • Family values. US-born children have rights to citizenship. Were their parents to be deported, do we split up the families?
  • Human rights. Among other issues, they have limited rights and protections in our courts and almost none in our immigration courts; are not allowed to vote; risk confiscation of property; are not legally allowed to work and if they do, are often are forced to work below minimum wage and without workplace safety standards; cannot legally obtain health insurance or a bank account; and are often victims of crime or preyed upon by nefarious business (for instance: check cashing companies) wishing to capitalize on their plight. Millions of them have lived here for decades, own property, operate businesses, attend church, obey laws and are frightened of detainment or deportation at all times. Tens of millions of people are living in a shadow economy without human rights and at odds with the ideals of American democracy.
  • Cost to provide services. Their children attend schools and sometimes require special language consideration; they use our hospitals, often as indigents; using fraudulent identification, many take advantage of food stamps and other government programs; government must pay for indirect services such as police and fire protection, roads, water, sewer, prisons, etc.
  • Armed services. They serve legally in our armed forces, but their status does not change upon their return.
  • Taxes and Social Security. Many pay only local sales taxes. Income taxes and social security can only be paid if they are using fraudulent identification.
  • Drugs and worse. Border crossings are all mixed up with drugs, violent crime, rape, forced labor, forced prostitution and the like.
  • Language. Many are concerned that undocumented workers don’t speak “American” and are afraid they’ll be called a name and not be properly insulted.
  • Jobs. US unemployment is around 10% and it is assumed it would be lower if workers here illegally would stop competing for jobs. Business on the other hand, needs these workers for specialized jobs, such as computer programming or picking Vidalia onions.
  • Employer enforcement. The Chambers of Commerce, who spend more than the national GOP or the national Dems on campaigns, don’t want businesses to get into the business of determining who’s here illegally.
  • The Central and South American and Caribbean standard of living. Until it improves, the faucet of aliens crossing our southern border won’t stop.
  • Blame. It isn’t healthy, but it is human nature.
  • Voting. Those gaining citizenship generally vote democrat.

How to solve it:

Incrementalism. Themmigration reform is complicated. The right says that thousand+ page bills are too complicated to be read, understood, spin, parse or pass. They are right. Short of some strategic major Senate scandals requiring resignation, illness or flip-flop, no omnibus bill is going to get to the floor. The right called for incremental bills on health care, finance and energy, why not take their bluff? Introduce a series of simple and separate bills addressing each of the issues. Bring a couple of important bills for vote. Something like:

  • Fully fund the fence even though it will never work, pay for more border patrols and the National Guard (as soon as they get home from Afghanistan), but require taxes on the the top 1% to pay for it.
  • Everyone here illegally, but with no felony criminal record, can pay an application fee that would go to the states, get a green card good for six-months and it comes with a method to pay social security and taxes. At the end of the time, they must either go home or apply for citizenship to get it renewed. During the time they here as documented workers, they would be required to do part-time community service.
  • Assuming no felony criminal record, parents, grandparents and siblings of children born in the US of illegal aliens, could get in the middle of the line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and four years of part-time community service.
  • Those here illegally under the age of 24, after serving in the US Armed Forces, would be in the front of the line for citizenship with no penalty or other requirement.
  • Everyone else here illegally, assuming no felony criminal record, can get in line for citizenship without fear of being deported or separated from their families in return for a paying an application fee and a one time $10,000 fine which could be financed, the proceeds of which, would go to the states, and eight years of part-time community service.
  • Business would have the responsibility of examining and reporting employee applicant status and be subject to a big fine for failure to do so – states would be responsible for ensuring compliance and collecting the fines.
  • Create a favored status for investment in Central and South American and Caribbean with all kinds of incentives the world might deem unfair, to raise their standard of living and give some of these people a chance to live in their own land and survive. Include in some extra incentives for Mexico to create a safety net for their people.

Simple and separate bills that get introduced, debated and voted on. Get them to the floor for an up, or down vote. The toughest wouldn’t pass. Some would, and that’d be a start.

The levels of irony should not be lost.

There’s never been a fence. If you have ever been in the Southwest, one thing seems clear: there is a lot of it and most all of it looks the same. Those lines we draw on the maps, mean a lot to those who draw them and profit from them, but seem pretty meaningless if you are just staring out on the prairie. It is little wonder that a person whose family is starving, doesn’t start walking north to the land of their fore-parents and a land where the majority of people are like them: hardworking, family-oriented, and children of immigrants in a new world.

“Civil disobedience” is a term coined by Henry David Thoreau in 1848 in an essay about his decision not to pay a poll tax to fund a war with Mexico and catching fugitive slaves. Civil disobedience. Isn’t an unenforceable, inexplicable and unjust law what all of the “us-versus-them” immigration debate is really about?

“Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power, using no form of violence. It is one of the primary methods of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form … it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement. …Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws. It has been used in many well-documented nonviolent resistance movements in India… in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution and in East Germany to oust their communist dictatorships… in South Africa in the fight against apartheid, in the American Civil Rights Movement, in the Singing Revolution to bring independence to the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and recently in the 2004 Orange Revolution and 2005 Rose Revolution, among other various movements worldwide.” – Wikipedia

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Wisdom from the dirt

Harriett & EdEd and Harriet have a zip line that begins at the top of a six-foot ladder tied to a 300+ year old live oak at one end of their backyard. It dead ends 100 feet later into a blanket padded tree at the other end.

High speed zipping through the yard while screaming at the top of one’s lungs is great fun, but not a team sport. Only one thrill ride can occur at a time. Fighting for who goes next gets old faster than they do. Watching is totally tame. Ed, who just turned nine and sister, Harriet, who turns eight next week, wanted more. Some way to scream louder. Get dirtier. And challenge the judgment borders of their visiting playmate/grandfather.

Perpendicular to the zip line was a swing. A traditional, tame, no-thrill unless-you-go-really-really-high, old fashioned rope swing. While Ed seemed happy enough for the moment to just zip, Harriet decided she wanted to do some target swinging. Me? Pushing my priceless granddaughter on a swing is always on the list of great moments. Target swinging? Well, I’ll play.

Imperfect timing with a swift push, Harriet tried to knock Ed off the zip line. Good game, but the zipper had a distinct advantage by controlling the timing. It was no match, however, for Ed’s knucklehead imagination. Pull out the indestructible, but years outgrown and abandoned, miniature John Deere. The game was now for Ed to zip to a spot in the yard, jump to land in the seat of the old toy tractor, while Harriet target swings to make him miss.

Were mom, dad or any grownup other than their aspiring geriatric playmate involved in the game design, a bad idea might have been quickly recognized and dismantled. But mom and dad were doing mom and dad weekend things which makes all of us mature-challenged happy that we aren’t doing the chores that enable our life of visiting glee.

It was a typical spring Saturday in Charleston. The early morning quiet while mom and dad pretend to sleep in. Morning children are wonderful. Sleep a perfect, but temporary antidote for the sugar and adrenalin of the previous day. Everything softer. The light. The sounds. Their skin. Their smiles. Their little voices. The pace of the play. And their imagination. Sweet doesn’t begin to describe these brief moments when they wake and are so perfectly beautiful and open to snuggling. Just to watch them wake makes any admission price worth it. Then the moment is broken and the routine begins.

Dress any way you want, mom is still asleep. Dash out the door for a walk or a bike ride or skateboard ride or a scooter ride to Starbucks for a Times that won’t get read, anything caffeinated with an extra shot for me, and anything they want as a price for being in the world with just them. Time to discuss important things. Share wisdom. Learn secrets. Discover magic. Trust. Imagine. Be. Watch them smile. Watch them look at the world. Wonder. Smile back. And listen to their fears and their delights. Window shopping on the way back while planning the day. As soon as the Half Moon Outfitters opened, we’d be back for the climbing wall.

The John Deere was now properly positioned within Harriet’s target area. Laughing uncontrollably, Ed takes his place on top of the ladder and grips the glide. Harriet, also laughing uncontrollably, is in position as high as her grandfather can hold her. Ed fakes his takeoff a few times. We don’t fall for it. The laughs and the dares continue. We exchange countdowns. We feign and double feign. Who is going to blink and go first? A stalemate? Nah, knucklehead takes off  – unabashed and unafraid.

Just as a passer leads a receiver, or a hunter anticipates the duck, we aim for spot of intersection and she’s off with a great push. Ed, in a surprise move, lifts his feet higher to be unreachable by the swing. Harriet adjusts her strategy. She takes out the John Deere with both feet. Ed, already released from the zip line, has no choices. He hits first with his feet. Then his butt. Then his knuckle head.

Target Swinging Crash SequenceSilence. Sanity and fear return. We run to him and beg to know if he is alright. Lying motionless in the black Charleston dirt, Ed says while smiling as only he can, then laughing,

“when you do stupid things, you gotta be tough.”*


Postscript: As a grandfather, my role is sometimes an arbiter, most often an observer, occasionally a catalyst, a teacher, an iconoclastic role model, a friend, a memory shaper, but mostly, a trusted and constant confidante and playmate. I’d never put them at risk, but I fear most that they will learn the fear the world seems to want to curse them with, before I can help them laugh at it.

When leaving, I promised to be more mature next time. Harriet, without missing a beat, begged, “No, it wouldn’t be as much fun.” Ed chips in, “lets go for three concussions next time.”


*Ed gave proper attribution for this quote to a neighbor’s dad who had said it while observing a similar Ed crash.

What's so great about being stupid?

The President of the United States of AmericaRemembering George H.W. Bush’s live speech on education to students in 1991, in which he asked a question still unanswered, “What’s so great about being stupid?”, school districts in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, are scrambling to protect our nation’s future. Fearing the children will learn Obama is: president, black, smart, reasonable and does not currently have horns or a tail; many districts have decided not to air the program. Others will require that parents sign permission slips before allowing the children to view the controversial program about the need to work hard and stay in school.

Following in the footsteps of Reagan and Bush One, Obama plans to speak directly to students. His address will be shown live on C-SPAN at noon EDT Tuesday and could have been seen by students unedited, uncensored and without benefit of Fox news providing speculation of what the President really was saying. Having grown tired of attending town hall meetings, totally bat-shit crazy parents all over the country are now demanding their school officials protect their innocent children from hearing such outlandish and unproven ideas involving hard work, goal setting and taking their school year seriously.

In Florida, GOP chairman Jim Greer released a statement that he was “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

“As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education–it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

Arizona state schools superintendent Tom Horne, a Republican, said lesson plans for teachers created by Obama’s Education Department “call for a worshipful rather than critical approach.”

Seminole County parent Steffani Martino, whose daughter is a student at Lyman High in Longwood, FL, said she might have her teenager skip school Tuesday. “I don’t side with anything Obama agrees with,” Martino said.

One program note: The White House plans to release the speech several hours beforehand, online, so parents can read it.

Photo Credit: Carrie Devorah / WENN.com

Change we can only believe in

carrier5America was founded on change, wasn’t it? Why is it so hard to change now?

Didn’t our fore-parents unabashedly give up their lives in the old world for a new start in a new land? Not really. While some adventurers and liberals came for the promise of a new start and riches in this new land, more came to escape their struggle against the monarchs and entrenched power of the old world or to escape religious persecution. Others came as indentured servants or to escape debtors prison. Many more were forced to come as slaves. Change is hard. Seldom voluntary. Often forced. And, typically, when other choices are worse, or no longer possible.

We like to give lip service that we are open to change, but we fight to our deaths to maintain and protect what is known and comfortable. It is human nature. We will work harder to not to lose something (pick one or more: ❑ money; ❑ power; ❑ possessions; ❑ prestige; ❑ love; ❑ status quo; ❑ beliefs; ❑ big cars ; ❑ guns; ❑ private health insurance; ❑ farm subsidies; ❑ political party affiliation; ❑ immigrant labor; ❑ electoral college; ❑ air and water pollution; ❑ oil subsidies; ❑ import taxes on sugar-based ethanol; ❑ tax cuts for wealthy; ❑ disposable containers; ❑ long patent protection; ❑ no regulation of hedge funds; ❑ no real regulation of Wall Street; ❑ miserly minimum wage; ❑ predatory credit card charges; ❑ alternative minimum tax; ❑ off-shore tax havens; ❑ tax subsidies for highways; ❑ stem cell research; ❑ drilling, mining and timber harvesting in our parks and wilderness areas; ❑ seldom disclosed stock options and exorbitant executive compensation; ❑ policies toward the southern hemisphere; ❑ Cuba policy; ❑ wall at Mexican border; ❑ Predator drones bombing civilians; ❑  independent contractors in war zones; ❑ no-bid Pentagon contracts; ❑ military weapons development we don’t want or will use but are in multiple states protected by Congress; ❑ domestic spying; ❑ exporting weapons; ❑ detention without trial; ❑ torture; ❑ genocide; ❑ nuclear proliferation; ❑ airport security lines; ❑ voter ID cards; ❑ polls only open on Tuesday; ❑ green lawns; ❑ war on terror; ❑ spam, etc.) than to change something, even when it is in our best interest. And the more you have or the longer you’ve had it, the more ferociously you’ll fight.

Our business leaders and politicians know this (so does cable news). They know how easy it is to create a constituency against change than for change. Just play the fear card. Turn on that primal fear of change and logic loses its voice. Facts become suspect. Us against them. Join the mob and kill the monster.

If change is so hard, how does it ever happen since we no longer persecute religious preference, have debtor prisons, monarchs, entrenched power, slavery or the opportunity of a new land? Good question. Coke got rid of sugar just by not telling us. Ditto smaller amounts of potato chips per pack. Digital TV passed because they made it so far in the future that no one cared (the future is here and it is too late to care). Poisonous drugs get removed from the shelf when we find out that enough of us have died. Ditto toxic waste. Election laws changed when enough people took to the streets. It took a war to end slavery and may take another one to end economic slavery. It took the depression to regulate banks, but only took the promise of an unlimited expansion to deregulate them. It took Al Gore to give us the internet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to get us computers, but it took porn sites, Facebook and Craigslist to get us high speed access. It took Bush and McCain to give us our first non-pink President. And, the almost-great depression to give us the economic prozac of TARP and the stimulus.

I haven’t answered the question of change ever happens. I “believe” change takes some combination of strong leadership; faith; common sense; promised treasure; compromise; luck; timing; spin; good marketing; patience; and the absolute promise of all out voter retaliation. Speaking in April to students in Turkey, President Obama said of change, “States are like big tankers. They’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in another direction. You turn them slowly, and eventually you end up in a very different place.” Have we started turning, yet? It sure looks like we’re heading nowhere.

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