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Last month, I posted about Arizona’s SB 1070 Anti-Illegal Immigration Law and its damaging repercussions regarding racial profiling.  As discussed, such a law also clearly contributes to discriminatory, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant sentiment nation-wide.  But what’s infuriating and very important is that this association between immigrant populations and increased crime is entirely fabricated.  As this awesome article details, more immigrants, contrary to what a lot of folks might have you think, actually reduces violent crime.

This is not just a matter of random correlation being mistaken for causation. A new study by sociologist Tim Wadsworth of the University of Colorado at Boulder carefully evaluates the various factors behind the statistics that show a massive drop in crime during the 1990s at a time when immigration rose dramatically. In a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the June 2010 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Wadsworth argues not only that “cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in homicide and robbery,” which we knew, but that after considering all the other explanations, rising immigration “was partially responsible.”

To deny that reality and ignore its implications is likely to make life more dangerous all over America, diverting resources away from the fight against violent crime and breaking down the hard-won trust between cops and the communities where they work.

Click to read the rest of the article!

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On April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed Senate Bill 1070 into Arizona state law. SB 1070, also known as the ‘Anti-Illegal Immigration Law,’ has drawn ire from people across the country, from immigrant rights organizations, to the ACLU, and condemned by President Obama as “misguided.”

The bill calls for arrest and possible detainment of people “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the US.” What exactly is “reasonable suspicion”? Seems to me like a pretty vague condition upon which to base an arrest.

But what’s scarier still is the provision that “[a] law enforcement official or agency… may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution.”

Implicit in this stipulation is that race actually CAN be a contributing factor in arrest, investigation, or detention of someone, regardless of legal status. Abuse of this clause will disproportionately affect people of color, specifically Hispanic and Latinos, given the large number of Mexican immigrants in Arizona. No one should have to worry about “looking illegal.” It amounts to nothing short of mandated racial profiling.

This past Sunday was May 1st: May Day, International Workers’ Day. Given the necessity of immigrants (legal and illegal alike) to the labor force in the United States, it makes a lot of sense for a demonstration against the Arizona bill to take place on May Day. In DC, several thousand demonstrators rallied in Lafayette Park. After speeches, testimonials, songs, and chants, the demonstration culminated in a sit-in in front of the the White House and the arrests of 35 activists, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

Obama still has yet to act on a comprehensive overhaul after claiming immigration reform as a top priority in 2008. If nothing else, SB 1070 has galvanized immigration activists nation-wide to action.

Clearly, immigration reform can’t wait.

Click here to send a letter to your representative condemning the Arizona’s SB 1070!

Click here to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder!

And finally, here’s a poem by Joseph Ross, a poet/activist, about Arizona’s Law SB 1070 (courtesy of the folks at Split This Rock from earlier this semester).

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference in Syracuse, NY on the Right to Water.  While I was there to present my work on women and water, I learned a lot about water issues, in particular the idea of the  right to water being a human right.  Most people would agree that water is essential to life (I’m not sure there is anyone who would dispute that specific fact) and that access to clean, safe, water is important for the quality of life.  Where this conversation gets interesting is in the discussion about the right to water as a human right.  Human rights are heavily debated and contested throughout the world, from country to country, and can include any kind of bias like racism, classism, sexism, etc.

Quick example: Rocio Magana presented her work on the criminalization of water at the conference. This is a summary of her work.  Along the border between Mexico and the United States, many migrants have to pass through the Sonora Desert.  Humanitarian groups have been placing gallon water jugs at various points in the desert (part of which is a national park) and have been charged with littering.  This is the final attempt to find a charge that would stick so that the groups would no longer place water in the desert.  Without the water, the migrants die of dehydration, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses.

Is the right to water a human right? And if so, who deserves that human right and who decides who deserves that right? These are just some of the many questions that really struck me while I was at the conference, and I’m sure there will be many more questions now that I am home!

After reading the NYT-published essay by interpreter and professor Erik Camayad-Freixas about his experience interpreting after the biggest ever raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), I felt physically ill and was seized by an intense fear for the people I work with. Despite being a total news junkie, I didn’t read the essay by Camayad-Freixas (this post’s title is a quote from it) until today, when Amanda posted about it.

Here are a couple of parts that stood out to me, mainly for their visceral awfulness:

Echoing what I think was the general feeling, one of my fellow interpreters would later exclaim: “When I saw what it was really about, my heart sank…” Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras
were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound (only a few journalists came to court the following days, notepad in hand). Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí…), some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment. They all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside from their Guatemalan or Mexican nationality, which was imposed on their people after Independence, they too were Native Americans, in shackles. They stood out in stark racial contrast with the rest of us as they started their slow penguin march across the makeshift court. “Sad spectacle” I heard a colleague say, reading my mind. They had all waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury and accepted instead an information or simple charging document by the U.S. Attorney, hoping to be quickly deported since they had families to support back home. But it was not to be. They were criminally charged with “aggravated identity theft” and “Social Security fraud” —charges they did not understand… and, frankly, neither could I. Everyone wondered how it would all play out.

[…]

Postville, Iowa (pop. 2,273), where nearly half the people worked at Agriprocessors, had lost 1/3 of its population by Tuesday morning. Businesses were empty, amid looming concerns that if the plant closed it would become a ghost town. Beside those arrested,
many had fled the town in fear. Several families had taken refuge at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, terrified, sleeping on pews and refusing to leave for days. Volunteers from the community served food and organized activities for the children. At the local high school, only three of the 15 Latino students came back on Tuesday, while at the elementary and middle school, 120 of the 363 children were absent. In the following days the principal went around town on the school bus and gathered 70 students after convincing the parents to let them come back to school; 50 remained unaccounted for. Some American parents complained that their children were traumatized by the sudden disappearance of so many of their school friends. The principal reported the same reaction in the classrooms, saying that for the children it was as if ten of their classmates had suddenly died. Counselors were brought in. American children were having nightmares that their parents too were being taken away.

[…]

This worker simply had the papers filled out for him at the plant, since he could not read or write Spanish, let alone English. But the lawyer still had to advise him that pleading guilty was in his best interest. He was unable to make a decision. “You all do and undo,” he said. “So you can do whatever you want with me.” To him we were part of the system keeping him from being deported back to his country, where his children, wife, mother, and sister depended on him. He was their sole support and did not know how they were going to make it with him in jail for 5 months. None of the “options” really mattered to him. Caught between despair and hopelessness, he just wept. He had failed his family, and was devastated. I went for some napkins, but he refused them. I offered him a cup of soda, which he superstitiously declined, saying it could be “poisoned.” His Native American spirit was broken and he could no longer think. He stared for a while at the signature page pretending to read it, although I knew he was actually praying for guidance and protection. Before he signed with a scribble, he said: “God knows you are just doing your job to support your families, and that job is to keep me from supporting mine.” There was
my conflict of interest, well put by a weeping, illiterate man.


Go read the whole thing [pdf]. Even if you don’t think you can stomach it, read it anyway. This is really happening. Here.

Under current US immigration law, a person with HIV is barred from entry into the United States and barred from becoming a permanent resident.  The U.S. is one of thirteen countries that has such a harsh restriction on the admission of persons with HIV.  The other countries include: Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Qatar, South Korea, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Russia, and Sudan.

Normally the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) makes a determination as to whether a certain disease is communicable and a danger to the public’s health.  Unfortunately, the United States’ immigration laws specifically lists HIV as a communicable disease that does not allow entry.  This section of the U.S. immigration does not specifically mention any other disease.

A bill pending before Congress would strike HIV from being specifically mentioned under the immigration law.  Instead, the determination would rightfully be made by HHS.  The bill has a good chance of becoming law this year.  It should be carefully watched and supported.

I have posted articles and arguments in favor of the grant of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian in the past.  Given the extensive coverage of the food crisis in Haiti I feel an additional post on this topic is appropriate.  As outlined by a Washington Post editorial on April 2, 2008 Haitians should be a "slam dunk" for being granted TPS status.  At the very least this Administration should give an explanation for not granting TPS status to Haitians, a group that meets all the legal criteria for this status.

If you have the time, please call your local Congressperson and urge them to support Rep. Hastings bill that calls on the President to grant TPS status to Haitians.

The U.S. should temporarily stop deportations.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008; Page A18

THE UNITED STATES occasionally grants immigrants from countries in extreme economic or political turmoil "temporary protected status," or TPS, which means U.S. removals to those countries will stop for a specified period. The designation is given to people from countries or parts of countries that have ongoing armed conflicts, recent environmental disasters or other conditions that prevent nationals from being returned home safely.

On all these fronts, Haiti is a slam dunk. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it has been battered perennially by political instability, financial hardship, violence, hurricanes, earthquakes, AIDS, bad luck and worse leadership. The U.S. State Department warns Americans who are visiting Haiti about the "chronic danger of violent crime," all the while repatriating Haitians to a death zone. Still, when Haiti applied in 2004 for TPS, it was turned down for undisclosed reasons. Last month, Haitian President Rene Preval wrote to President Bush requesting TPS for Haitians who are unlawfully in the United States, and Mr. Bush should grant the request.

Suspending deportations would allow Haiti to spend its limited resources on economic and political reconstruction rather than on social services for deported people. In Haiti’s fragile economy, remittances from nationals abroad equal about a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Allowing Haitian nationals to temporarily stay in the United States, in other words, would be a sort of cheap foreign aid, leaving undisturbed one of the few things keeping the country afloat. This is not just a humanitarian issue, though the misery there makes a compelling case; stability in Haiti, which is only a boat trip from Florida‘s coastline, is in America’s interest, too.

Critics contend that granting temporary protected status to Haiti will open the floodgates to more undocumented Haitian immigrants. But TPS applies only to a country’s nationals who are already in the United States at the time TPS is declared, and the burden of proof is on them to verify their eligibility. TPS designations given to Somalia, Burundi, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Sudan don’t seem to have enabled more illegal immigration from those countries.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) has introduced legislation to extend TPS to Haitians, and the proposal has obtained bipartisan support from politicians across his state, which has the largest Haitian-born population in the country. Immigration policy is too radioactive right now for anything to happen on Capitol Hill. Fortunately, under current law, TPS can be granted by the executive branch alone if the president feels a country would benefit from having some time to breathe. While a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would say only that Mr. Preval’s letter is "being evaluated," we hope Mr. Bush will take a positive stand. After all, on March 17, Citizenship and Immigration Services renewed Somalia’s TPS for another 18 months with little fanfare. The people of Haiti deserve the same generosity and sympathy granted to other deserving countries.

Over the past year the number of Cuban refugees arriving in the United States has increased.  Much of this increase is due to speculation and insecurity on the island nation about what life will bring after Fidel Castro’s death.

Under United States’ policy, Cubans who reach American land are generally allowed to stay (dry foot).  Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, refugees who remain for a year and one day are eligible to adjust their immigration status to that of a legal permanent resident (green card).  Cubans who are stopped by the Coast Guard at sea or stopped short of the American coastline are repatriated to Cuba.

Recently, Cubans are seeking freedom in the United States by traveling through the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico instead of the shorter route to Florida through the Florida Straits.  Smugglers are using this alternative route due to increased patrols by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Smugglers are paid thousands of dollars per refugee, sometimes up to $12,000 per person.  These smuggling operations are a lucrative business and incredibly inhumane.  Many times smugglers will demand more money just as the coast line comes into view.  Those refugees who are unwilling or unable to pay are forced to jump out of the boat and swim.  Sadly, the smugglers are paid by Cuban family members living in the United States who are either unaware of the danger their relatives will face or are willing to assume the grave risk to reunite their family.  Time magazine has recently reported about deadly turf wars among criminal gangs in Mexico that control these smuggling operations. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1704913,00.html

During this past week:

The above examples occur every week in South Florida.  The United States’ absurd policy towards Cubans encourages refugees to pay thousands to smugglers and risk their lives attempting to reach the shores of the United States. 

During the U.S. Presidential debate there will be no discussion about the wet foot/dry foot policy.  The Cuban community overwhelmingly supports the Republican party, largely due to their tough stance against Castro and promises to continue the harmful and outdated economic embargo.  These same Republican candidates who propose fences across the Mexico border will never discuss the wet foot/dry foot policy that allows migrants, from a nation officially listed by the U.S. State Dept. as supporting terrorism, to remain in the United States for fear of losing the strong support they maintain among the Cuban community in South Florida.

I do not propose a tougher policy against Cuban migrants.  I only propose that there should be a national discussion about a policy that is more humane than the current one.  Sadly, as awful as the results from the wet foot/dry foot policy can be, it is a much more fair and reasonable policy than the one that Haitians confront.

I had two thoughts when I read this article: 1) This study highlights the global impact of U.S. immigration.  An impact that is wholly ignored in the domestic immigration debate. 2) The admission that this study was conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank to determine how to "leverage" these remittances is frightening given the IDB’s history of using their funds for political influence. (paragraph 5).

Migrant workers worldwide sent home more than US$300 billion in 2006, new study finds 

Migrant workers sent home more than US$300 billion to their families in developing countries in 2006, according to a study released today in Washington D.C. by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

“This figure, which is a conservative estimate, shows that the seemingly small sums sent home by migrant workers, when added together, dwarf official development assistance,” said Kevin Cleaver, IFAD’s assistant president.

Donor nations provided almost $US 104 billion in aid to developing countries last year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Remittances are generated by some 150 million migrants who send money home regularly, typically between US$100 and US$300 at a time, and mostly from industrialized nations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Donald F. Terry, general manager of the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund, pointed out that migrant remittances also surpassed foreign direct investment in developing countries, which last year totaled around $167 billion, according to the Institute of International Finance.

“Generating information about the scale of remittances is the first step towards lowering their costs and improving our ability to leverage these flows to achieve a greater development impact,” said Terry, whose fund has been analyzing remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean since 2000.

Cleaver and Terry presented the study, Sending money home: Worldwide remittances to developing countries, and a map produced by IFAD, the first one to show remittances on a worldwide basis and to highlight the rural share of these flows.

According to the study, in 2006 Asia was the top destination of remittances, receiving more than US$114 billion, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (US$68 billion), Eastern Europe (US$51 billion), Africa (US$39 billion) and the Near East (US$29 billion).

Taking nations individually, India received the most (US$24.5 billion), followed by Mexico (US$24.2 billion), China (US$21 billion), the Philippines (US$14.6 billion) and Russia (US$13.7 billion).

Of the countries covered in the report, 59 receive more than US$1 billion a year in remittances and 45 receive more than 10 percent of their GDP from their expatriates.

The IFAD study, which was carried out in collaboration with the IDB, based its figures on official data from governments, banks and money transfer operators, as well as on estimates of informal flows, such as money carried home.

IFAD, a specialized United Nations agency that fights poverty in rural areas in developing countries worldwide, underscored the finding that more than one third of these remittances flow to families in rural areas, where poverty tends to be worse than in cities.

“For IFAD the most important thing to look at is how to channel this money so that it contributes to prosperity in rural areas,” said Cleaver. “One of our priorities is to improve poor people’s options by finding ways to cut transaction costs and link remittances to other financial services such as savings, investments and loans.”

While remittances are mostly used for basic necessities such as food, clothing and medicines, between 10 percent and 20 percent is saved. However, too often these savings are hidden in homes, stuffed under mattresses or in cooking pots, rather than put to work in financial institutions, constituting a major missed opportunity for local economic development.

Over the past few years the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund has encouraged microfinance institutions, credit unions and banks that cater to lower-income clients to provide remittance services in Latin America and the Caribbean. As a result of increased competition, transaction cost have fallen sharply for money transfers to major urban areas in this region.

"It’s always been harder to expand financial services beyond cities. Operating costs are higher, communications more difficult, clients poorer, few and far between. But remittances can be a key for credit unions or microfinance institutions to offer more services to rural clients. This is the kind of solution the IDB-IFAD partnership seeks to promote," added Terry.

The study and the map were released on the eve of the International Forum on Remittances 2007, which will take place on October 18-19 at the IDB’s conference center (1330 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.).

The event, cohosted by IFAD and the IDB, will bring together migrant associations, financial institutions and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the impact of these flows on development and rural economies, as well as to explore the links between remittances and banking, technology and microfinance.

IFAD is an international financial institution dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries. Through low-interest loans and grants, it is currently supporting 191 rural poverty eradication programs and projects worth a total of US$6.6 billion.

The IDB is the largest and oldest regional development bank and the leading source of multilateral financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. Its Multilateral Investment Fund promotes private sector development in the region, with an emphasis on microenterprise.

The United States may be the great melting pot, with our myriad of
ethnicities, but we are hardly the only country to worry about
immigration.  I’d even say that while we have a lot to work on, the US
does comparatively well on the Immigration Scorecard.  C+, B- maybe.

Europe, on the other hand, has a whole range of immigration policies
from a warm welcome to fire and pitchforks (figuratively of course… I
hope).  We should pay attention to Europe’s response to immigration
because their efforts and complaints mirror many of our own.  So today I
present to you two European countries, one that has a disappointing, xenophobic
policy, and one that I give a full two thumbs up; Switerland and Ireland.

For being in the heart of Europe, and clearly marked by a mix of several
cultures including German and French, the rampantly racist political messages
that are floating around the country shocked me at first.  Three white
sheep stand on one side of the border.  The other side of the border
stands a black sheep, clearly prohibited from crossing that line.  The
message is clear and is gaining ground with many Swiss.  "The message
of the party resonates loudly among voters who have seen this country of 7.5
million become a haven for foreigners, including political refugees from places
like Kosovo and Rwanda." Says the New York Times (10/08/2007).

There are many reasons why so many Swiss are in favor of absurd immigration controls,
such as a required 12 years of residency to even be considered for citizenship
and mandatory identification cards, Researching them gave me an eerie
reminder of my life as an ethnic and national minority in Japan. Much like Japan, the “official” reasons for
xenophobia in Switzerland are security. They claim that immigrants, especially from poorer Eastern Europe or
Africa, are more likely to engage in crime.

This argument both countries give to the world is weak however. Statistically speaking crime is higher in
this demographic, but so is poverty. It
is more difficult for immigrants to find the jobs they need to raise their
positions and become stable members of society, when employers look for
citizenship and exhibit racial preferences.

Looking at Ireland, we can observe how a welcoming society, while not free
of issues, can greatly change the people immigrants become for the better. Time Magazine detailed in their September 17th
issue, the life of Rotimi Adebari, a man straight out of Africa who settled in
Ireland, became a citizen, and recently won the mayoral election in his adopted
town. The full article can be read
here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1659713,00.html

While even Adebari admits that since his immigration, times have changed in
Ireland, we can see two paths in this debate; segregation and exclusion which
leads to immigrant vilification and increased instability, or we can see
cooptation, where countries make immigrants welcome residents in their own
right, and immigrants respond by adopting patriotism and passion for their new
land.

The United States is stuck somewhere in-between these
two policies. Can we have the fortitude
to get beyond petty apprehensions and underlying ethnic tensions to embrace new
citizens, or will we never see an end to the regulations, the walls, the
attempt at isolation that limits us as a nation?

I found a very interesting article in today’s Christian Science Monitor.  It details illegal immigration.  But it’s not about Mexicans entering the United States, which you see all over CNN and Wolf Blitzer.  Rather, the story depicts the tale long before the U.S. border is in sight.  According to the National Migration Institute, “the number of Central Americans caught attempting to get into Mexico rose to 240,200 in 2005 from 138,000 in 2002…but [the number] is
expected to rise sharply to 205,000 this year”.
In an effort to prevent this trend, backed by the U.S., Mexico is set to increase its security measures along its southern border between Chiapas and Guatemala.  What is disappointing about this announcement is that the focus is clearly shifting from improving its legal and actual treatment of illegal migrants from Central America to creating a more U.S. style fortress.  This is not the way of progress; in fact, this is reversing the Mexican Government’s attempt to improve the quality of holding facilities and detention centers  and lessening the harshness of immigration laws that call for two years minimum of prison time to a lesser infraction.

Most of all, the Mexican Government should focus on not the symptoms of illegal immigration into the country, but rather the root causes of the phenomenon: illicit drug trade, gangs, official corruption, and general lawlessness that has plagued Chiapas state for sometime.  The energy placed into evaluating the security of the southern border could easily be applied to better addressing these insecurities.  Perhaps the United States should also be rethinking their immigration policy as well.  But, like in Mexico, people will find a way in – probably not in a safe way.  It is a government’s job to ensure that human rights and human lives are upheld.  I think that important point is very rarely articulated in mainstream media today.

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