Immigration

Stardust

Scientists, philosophers, and techno-electronica musicians agree on one thing: We are all made of stars.

You see, the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, “as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff.”

It’s all very poetic, and either humbling or self-aggrandizing (depending on your point of view).

But a recent study has revealed that our origins are even more exotic than we thought. The research showed that “humans are formed from matter that flew billions of miles from another galaxy.”

Scientists now believe that “half of the atoms around us — including in the solar system, on Earth and in each one of us — come not from our own galaxy but from other galaxies, up to one million light years away.”

Basically, what happened a very long, long time ago is that supernova explosions threw out “huge amounts of matter from galaxies, spreading it throughout the universe … on powerful galactic winds.”

Seriously, how cool is that?

The scientists say that this new theory reveals the degree to which everything in the universe is connected. They add that because half of our atoms came from some distant supernova, “we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

On a cosmic level, at our most basic, we are all truly immigrants.

 


A Subtle Hint

Clearly, our flaming oil spill of a president can’t go a week without lashing out at Latinos. That’s no exaggeration.

We are still struggling to process the pardoning of Arpaio, and how it illustrates nothing less than pure contempt for Hispanics.

But now Trump has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — which puts “an expiration date on the legal protections granted to roughly 800,000 people known as DREAMers, who entered the country illegally as children.”

Of course, Trump’s defenders insist that he hasn’t killed DACA, because there is a six-month phasing out of the program, and Congress still has the option of addressing the issue, and blah blah blah.

Let’s stop the foolishness.

This was a cruel, wrong, and inhumane action that has no discernible benefit to America (unless you count “a potential $60 billion loss in tax revenue to the federal government and $280 billion hit to economic growth” as a good thing). Hell, even many Republicans support DACA.

Obviously, killing the program cheers up Trump’s base of racists and hard-right supporters. But more than anything, it is a petulant foot stomping by a bigot who just doesn’t like Hispanics terribly much. It is the shrieking of a black-hearted man who sincerely believes that “most people aren’t worthy of respect” and who suffers from a “profound fear of his fellow human beings — at least ones who don’t resemble him.”

And through all this, I have to wonder about those Latinos who still support Trump.

What additional evidence do they need to realize that this guy is not their buddy? What are they seeing in Trump that the rest of us are somehow missing?

Does Jeff Sessions have to show up at their front door, demanding that they pack up and get the hell out of the country, before they will acknowledge how much this administration loathes Hispanics?

Hey, don’t rule anything out.


Debunked

We all know math can be scary. In fact, I recently wrote about how intimidating all those numbers and figures can be.

But math is never more terrifying than when it crushes our deeply held beliefs and contradicts our political agendas.

For example, a recent study has shown that despite all the screaming and cries of calamity from the right wing, immigrants are not taking Americans’ jobs.

no-stealing

The study “found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.” Basically, this means that when the GOP candidate for president slams immigrants — especially Latin American ones — he has no idea what he is talking about.

Of course, we all knew that already, but it’s nice to have hard data confirming that the guy is a lying shithead.

In any case, the report went on to state that immigration is “integral to the nation’s economic growth” because immigrants “bring new ideas and add to an American labor force that would be shrinking without them, helping ensure continued growth into the future.”

Specifically, high-skilled immigrants, especially in technology and science, have a significant “positive impact on Americans with skills, and also on working-class Americans. They spurred innovation, helping to create jobs.”

Furthermore, by flipping this argument on its head, we see that the GOP candidate’s plan to deport undocumented workers “would result in four million lost jobs by 2030.”

OK, so it’s settled that immigrants are not stealing jobs, and in fact, they may be kickstarting the economy to create new ones.

But what about that side claim that immigrants cost the US government bazillions of dollars each year in handouts and “free stuff”?

Well, the math is a little fuzzier on this one, and it may be true that recent immigrants cost more in government expenditures. However, any deficit is gone by the time the second generation (i.e., kids of immigrants) enters the work force, and “by the third generation, immigrant families contribute about $223 billion a year to government finances.”

The bottom line is that the net effect of immigration is positive, especially when one looks at the long term.

So I’ll ask again — don’t you just love math?

 


The Pivot That Wasn’t

He did not turn over a new leaf. Instead, he planted another disease-ridden, toxic tree.

Yes, last week, the GOP nominee for president gave a much-anticipated speech on his favorite topic — immigration — that was supposed to illustrate his softer, more nuanced approach to the issue. In theory, we would see a Trump who was free of vitriol and rage and more respectful toward immigrants and Latinos.

Ha-ha, just kidding — the guy double-downed and “baited a fired-up crowd with red-meat rhetoric” about all those illegals before trotting out his dumb-ass idea about a giant wall.

Now, anyone who has actually paid a millisecond of attention this campaign season should not have been surprised that Trump was never going to abandon the right-wing base that has gotten him this far.

And yet, there were people who were shocked — shocked, I tell you — that Trump didn’t get all nicey-nicey.

woman-with-shocked-expression-gesturing-with-hands

In particular, “for many Hispanic conservatives who had advocated passionately for Trump, the speech was not merely a disappointment, but a betrayal.”

I don’t know what is more perplexing: the idea of Hispanics advocating passionately for Trump, or the fact that these same self-deluded souls really believed Trump was ever on their side.

Apparently, many Republican Latinos seriously thought that Trump would “address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately” and “lay out a plan for dealing humanely” with undocumented immigrants.

Excuse me for getting snide, but I must ask these Latinos the following: What the fuck ever gave you that idea?

I’m truly baffled how anyone could be confused about where Trump stands on immigration. And I’m awestruck at the mental contortions that a conservative Hispanic had to undertake to read something into Trump’s words that implied he would ever be reasonable about the issue.

It’s as if the previous year of relentless racism and belligerence wasn’t enough for them. What part of “they’re rapists” is vague to you?

To be fair, there does seem to be genuine confusion about the specifics of Trump’s approach. Indeed, Trump’s advisors have tripped over themselves trying to ascertain whether there will or won’t be a deportation force.

Quick aside — say what you will about Obama or Clinton, but I don’t recall a time when their advisors were forced to painfully decipher their policy positions to the American people. I mean, Obama and Clinton are adults, and they can speak for themselves. As opposed to Trump, who is nonstop when it comes to insults and threats, but needs others to explain his actual ideas. Of course, that’s exactly how one deals with a toddler.

In any case, maybe Latino conservatives can drop the wishing, hoping, praying that the GOP will finally listen to them. They need to just be honest about their self-loathing, like everybody’s favorite Hispanic, Marco Gutierrez, who founded Latinos for Trump. As we all know, Gutierrez recently warned us of an ominous future where taco trucks are on every corner, never putting together that this might actually be pretty cool.

Hey, the guy may be a laughingstock and horrific human being, but at least he knows what he stands for.

 

 


A Sort of Madness

You can imagine my alarm when I first heard the term “immigrant psychosis.”

Evidently, this was a very real issue back when Ellis Island was booming, and lots of Italians and Irish people were coming off the boats and making everything in America all weird and strange and different.

Psychologists of the time identified a malady common to the recent arrivals, and these professionals dubbed it “immigrant psychosis.”

Today, we know it by a more common name: Homesickness

Yes, most of the American doctors were generations removed from their immigrant roots, and they had no experience living someplace new and exotic. As such, the concept of homesickness was unknown to them.

headmirror

So when immigrants displayed odd behaviors such as depression and anxiety — combined with the bizarre new emotion of nostalgia — the psychologists gave it a name and insisted it was confined to the Irish and Italians (and maybe those Chinese people too).

Of course, we now recognize homesickness as a common complaint of everyone from college students to people on long overseas trips. It’s hardly a psychosis.

But unfortunately, today’s immigrants often have more to deal with than a bout of sad sentimentality. A recent study found that “the stress and hardship faced by immigrants setting up in a new country could be contributing to an increased risk of psychosis” among new arrivals.

Basically, more immigrants are having issues adjusting to their new lives. And when they do encounter these problems, they have more difficulty getting the mental health assistance that they require.

The study added that “racism and discrimination are certainly one of many things that are contributing” to the increasing mental distress of immigrants.

So this is fresh proof that the whole nativist attitude is psychotic (or at least contributes to it forming).

It’s almost enough to make one yearn for a simpler time… which is ironic because excessive yearning is a sign of homesickness, which is how all this started in the first place. Damn.

 


Sexual Tension

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of PostSecret. However, my interest isn’t based on the admirable quality of PostSecret’s mission, which is that by revealing hidden fears and dark thoughts, we bond and embrace our common humanity.

No, I just like scrolling though the site to see how many freaks are out there (and there tons of them).

In any case, last week’s PostSecret included the following:

them

This explains a lot.

First, we’ll ignore the fact that the card includes the slur “illegals.” Although I must point out that when revealing your sexual fantasies in a public forum, you should employ proper terms (e.g., “the undocumented”).

We’ll also overlook that the card writer specifies “illegal Latinos,” which implies that he or she doesn’t hate “illegal” Brits or Nigerians or Koreans. Nope, it’s just the Latinos, thank you very much.

The essence of the card is that the writer is simultaneously attracted to, and repulsed by, undocumented Latinos. Yes, it all makes sense now.

All those right-wing blowhards who scream about “illegals” taking over America? All those Minutemen at the border with rifles aimed at Mexico? All those suburban dads who spew racist epitaphs at Hispanics?

Yeah, they really just want to fuck us.

It’s sort of a more vulgar, sociopolitical version of a Hollywood romantic comedy in which the heroine and hero despise one another for 80 minutes before falling into each other’s arms at the end. Yes, someday the whole immigration debate will look as quaint as a repeated viewing of When Harry Met Sally.

So the next time some Fox News commentator rails against “illegals” or uses the term “brown invasion,” just nod and smile, knowing full well that this is his or her awkward attempt at flirting.

They just can’t help it.

 

 


This Is Either the Best Idea or the Worst Plan Ever

So I’ve been following the advice of the Freakonomics guys, who advise us to think like a child and ask seemingly naive questions in the pursuit of higher truths.

At first, my childlike wonder led to such inquiries as “Why do men have nipples?” and “Can you hit a baseball thrown at the speed of light?” and of course, “If zombies aren’t alive, why do they need to devour the brains of the living?”

But let’s face it, some questions are just unanswerable.

questionmarkleaning

So I turned my attention to one of America’s big issues, and a subject that I have written about at length: immigration.

I asked myself, “Would something like the Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants be a good idea?”

For those of you who skipped U.S. history class to go smoke in the parking lot, here is a quick refresher: The Homestead Act was passed in 1862. It encouraged Western migration by giving settlers 160 acres of land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a filing fee and completed five years of residence before receiving ownership of the land.

So how does that relate to undocumented immigrants?

Well, right now, undocumented immigrants are either caught in an expensive, inefficient loop of deportation/return/deportation, or they live in constant fear of la migra. The system doesn’t work very well, which is something that both conservatives and liberals can agree upon.

And don’t fall for the classic mistake of saying undocumented immigrants should just wait in line to get their papers. It is well-established that for many people, there is no line and never will be.

So here’s my proposal: We say to undocumented immigrants, “Well, we can’t just hand you citizenship. But you can stay in the country if you agree to move someplace where your insane work ethic and tireless pursuit of the American Dream can benefit the nation.”

And then we give them the option of claiming an abandoned house in Detroit’s inner city, or moving to a small town that’s dying, or going to some other location where they can help reestablish a troubled community and work off their debt. If they live in the location for a certain number of years without getting into legal trouble, and pay a filing fee, they get citizenship.

Yes, that’s crazy. Because we can’t solve a societal issue by giving away vacant homes… except that we can. And an influx of newcomers won’t revive rural America or fading cities… except that it can. And the cultural clashes that would erupt over such a policy are insurmountable… except that they’re not.

In essence, there is a precedent for each element of this idea. It would be a massive undertaking loaded with political landmines, but hey, what isn’t these days?

Also, this would not be the only way for undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. It would be one of several potential pathways available to them.

Now, I’m not saying this a great idea. I’m just asking the question and looking for feedback. So what do you say? Is a new Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants worth pursuing?


The Paranoia Cha Cha

Recently, I wrote about the fear and loathing that many Americans have for immigrants in general and for Latino immigrants in particular.

fearfear

Hispanic immigrants are, to hear some people talk, hell-bent on bringing death and destruction across the border. Well, as we all know (or should know), immigration — both legal and undocumented — is way down over the past few years. So that surge at the border is greatly exaggerated.

Furthermore, numerous studies have found that “immigrants—regardless of nationality or legal status—are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”

The nativist ignores that part about “regardless of nationality or legal status,” and says, “Well, sure. Those good immigrants from Europe and maybe India aren’t committing crimes. It’s the illegals!”

Sorry, but the data shows that while the undocumented population more than tripled between 1990 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined 48 percent. And violent crime continues to go down across America.

In addition, a separate paper explains that it’s not “well-behaved, high-skilled immigrants from India and China offsetting misdeeds of Latin American newcomers.” The study shows that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants.” And in a stat sure to annoy conservative alarmists, this “holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

Digging deeper into the data, we find that immigrant adolescents — often portrayed in the media as a swarm of Latin King gangbangers — are in fact, “statistically less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, selling drugs, binge drinking, carrying guns, or using marijuana and other illegal drugs” than their peers.

So if immigrants — even the undocumented Hispanic ones — aren’t committing all these crimes, who is? Or to paraphrase a not-so-wise man, “Who is doing all the raping?”

The answer seems to be, “Americans.” The immigrant boogeyman is no match for born-and-bred craziness.

Now, if we eliminate the immigrant subcategory and look at crime rates among Hispanics, we get a more nuanced picture.

A study shows that Latinos made up about 16.6 percent of all arrests, comparable to our percentage of the US population. We are sadly overrepresented in some categories (e.g., motor vehicle theft) and underrepresented in others (e.g., there are few Latino embezzlers). One stat I found interesting is that Hispanics have a very low rate of offenses against family members and children (6.2 percent of all arrests). Clearly, the legendary emphasis that Latinos place on family isn’t just talk.

In any case, one of the more disturbing aspects of the study is the following: For all the fears that white people have about being victims of crime (often at the hands of some swarthy minority), it is Hispanics who should be concerned.

For example, the homicide rate for Latinos is double the rate for white people.

And Latinos experience a higher rate of hate crime than whites or blacks. The data shows that the rate of hate crime incidents against Latinos is slightly higher than the rate for blacks. And the Hispanic rate is more than triple that of whites.

So perhaps it is we Latinos who should be saying, “Crime is out of control” and locking ourselves up in gated communities.

Hey, don’t rule it out.

 

 


A New Wave

A subtle shift is taking place. I’m referring, of course, to the news that Asians will eventually overtake Latinos as the largest source of immigration.

Yes, recent data shows that fifty years from now, “Hispanics are expected to make up 31% of immigrants. Asians, on the other hand, will outnumber Hispanics and make up 38% of immigrants.”

Wow, this is news. After all, the words “immigrant” and “Hispanic” have been interchangeable for decades now, at least in the minds of many Americans. And to be clear, Latinos are still the largest immigrant group, making up almost half (47 percent) of all immigrants in the United States.

But as we all know, immigration from Latin America has slowed in recent years. In fact, a steep decline began in 2007, mostly because the Great Recession had kicked in, and El Norte looked a lot less appealing that it had previously.

What this all means is that the percentage of new arrivals who are Hispanic is actually smaller than it was 50 years ago. Yes, despite all you’ve heard about the border being overrun, the fact is that immigration — both documented and undocumented — is down over the last decade. And in a shocker, “the percentage of the total U.S. population born outside this country was higher in 1890 than it is today.”

irishelliesisland
So what does this mean for Asians, who are the new face of immigration? Well, they appear to be in pretty good shape.

A recent poll found that “immigrants from Asia fare best when it comes to how Americans view them, with 47% seeing them in a positive light. Only 11% see Asians negatively.”

In stark contrast, “immigrants from Latin America are viewed positively by only 26% of those surveyed and are seen negatively by 37%.”
Yikes.

A natural question, of course, is why are Latino immigrants the object of so much loathing?

Well, there are the usual strands of xenophobia based on skin color, language, and cultural differences. But if I had to pick the biggest reason for the disgust many Americans feel for Hispanics, it is the perception, fueled by certain presidential candidates and professional buffoons, that Latinos are a pack of bloodthirsty, sociopathic criminals.

It’s what marketing pros call a branding issue.

And how bad, and ultimately misguided, is this perception?

Well, that’s a whole other post (yes, coming soon).


#MoreThanALabel

Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

carnival-1

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

However, my mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get?

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. Again, I’m not saying that. It would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.

 


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