Tag: citizenship

Finally

By now, you’ve heard about President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The plan could help as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. It marks a major development in the ongoing debate over immigration, and millions of Latino families could see their entire lives changed because of the decision.

Republicans, of course, are apocalyptic. It’s amnesty, or an impeachable offense, or the downfall of America, or some combination of all those things.

No, they really don’t like it.

republicans_fiscal_cliff_disarray

Already, we’ve heard the GOP say how Hispanics are now going to overrun America and start ethnic cleansing. I’m not exaggerating. This GOP guy thinks it’s a possibility.

Now, I’ve addressed the countless myths, untruths, and slurs that have been hurled at undocumented people over the years. So I’m not going to get into it all over again.

Suffice to say, nobody really knows what effect this decision will have. But it is, as the kids say, a game changer. And it will have very real effects on myriad Latino households.

Of course, if we do start ethnic cleansing, just say that you’re a regular reader of mine. I’ll put in a good word for you.

 


Flags of Our Fathers and Mothers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethnic authenticity and the struggle for self-identity in a post-multicultural world.

Actually, that not’s true. In reality, I’m more apt to be thinking about taking my car in for a tune-up, or the odds of the Packers winning their division, or what Kate Winslet is doing right now (probably something sexy).

But when stray thoughts about ethnic authenticity and… well, the rest of it, actually do enter my mind, I think about a recent news story that caught my eye.

Here in California, we had a brouhaha, an imbroglio if you will, when a woman posted a video of herself berating people for flying a Mexican flag in their front yard. The woman, who was running for political office, ultimately lost her day job when the video went viral.

The family with the Mexican flag explained that they were simply expressing ethnic pride and meant no disrespect to America.

amer flag

There are several things going on here. First is the fact that a jingoistic bigot thought she would impress people by posting a video of herself being a bully, and maybe win the xenophobic vote in the process. It’s a sign of progress that this backfired horribly.

Second, the incident shows that for many Latinos, maintaining ties to one’s homeland is crucial to the concept of self-identity. And this drive for ethnic authenticity can span generations.

You see, Hispanics aren’t cowering under the boot of assimilation, like they did so often in the past. Back in the day, Latinos hid evidence of their roots, or they outright disowned their ethnicity, or they did anything they could to try to bluff people into thinking they were descended from the swarthier pilgrims on the Mayflower.

But contemporary Latinos are less likely to be ashamed of who they are, and displays of ethnicity are assumed — correctly — to be a right that can’t be subjugated.

Basically, if some nut comes onto your private property and starts lecturing you on how to be a real American, you are well within your rights to tell them to fuck off.

Now that this is settled, let me get back to those thoughts of Kate Winslet…

 


What’s Not to Love?

So our good friend Ted Cruz is once again threatening to shut down the federal government if undocumented people are offered a path to citizenship… excuse me, I meant “amnesty.” Now, Senator Cruz is not too big on the actual facts of the debate, which is why other people tend to correct him in public.

As we all know, the deluge at the border has slowed down. We are apparently no longer being “invaded.” I, for one, am breathing multiple sighs of relief at that.

Myriad issues have yet to be resolved, of course, and the larger conundrum of immigration reform will continue to vex this country for the foreseeable future. And how one perceives the issue can, of course, vary wildly (ahem).

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So I’ll just throw in one fact here, among the many stats and data points that tend to get lost in a swirl of fury and accusations.

A recent study found that, rather than leeching off the social services that America provides, immigrants have actually “helped pay the nation’s bills, at least when it comes to health care.” This is because immigrants contributed over $182 billion to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund between 1996 and 2011.

Immigrants contributed over $11 billion more than was spent on their care. During the same time period, U.S.-born citizens sapped a $68.7 billion deficit from the fund.

Yes, if immigrants had not made these large contributions, “the trust fund would likely run out of money three years earlier than it is currently predicted to become insolvent.”

Well, thanks all you immigrants. I’m sure you’re feeling very appreciated right about now.

 


Lasagna and Tortillas

I’ve mentioned before that I am part Italian. My paternal grandmother came off the boat from Naples as a teenage girl in the 1920s. She settled in New York City, like many Italian immigrants did, and lived in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village for fifty years.

greenwich

In her old age, she developed a reputation as a cantankerous character who snapped at people for littering the sidewalk, often unleashing a string of Italian vulgarities and insults at them.

But that is another story.

The point is that many of my Italian grandmother’s descendents, including me, have achieved a much higher standard of living then she did. This is despite the fact that my grandmother was basically a high school dropout who spoke no English. As an Italian immigrant, she represented the fears of the established Americans, who were not terrible pleased at the new swarthy arrivals.

Yes, that sentiment sounds terribly familiar.

So it is most interesting that “a wealth of data suggests that Latinos, who make up fully half of the immigration wave of the past century, are already following the classic pattern for American immigrants.”

And that pattern is that immigrants arrive “in this country in great numbers, most of them poor, ill educated and, in important respects, different from native-born Americans. The children of immigrants, however, become richer and better educated than their parents and overwhelmingly speak English.”

From both Italian and Hispanic perspectives, this is true of me. And it is also true of my son, because “the grandchildren look ever more American.”

Of course, there is no magical guarantee that the descendants of Latino immigrants will completely close the gaps in education and income that separate Hispanics from other ethnic groups.

But it is certainly moving in that direction. For example, in the last decade the number of Latinos graduating from college has doubled. And second-generation Latino households are much closer in median income to other groups than their immigrant parents were.

The researchers conclude that the so-called Hispanic challenge is a real phenomenon. But rather than being an unprecedented cultural crisis, it is analogous to the Italian challenge, Chinese challenge, or Jewish challenge of the past.

Indeed, “over time, the specific challenges — legal, cultural and educational — have changed. Yet the core parts of the story have not, including its trajectory.”

 


Sucking Up All the Oxygen

The biggest story in America right now — not the biggest Latino-themed story, but the most talked-about news item, period — is the humanitarian crisis at the border. As we all know, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants — many of them children — are massed in overrun detention centers, awaiting their fate.

Meanwhile, whole towns of god-fearin’ Americans are making it clear that they don’t want no stinkin’ illegals in their neighborhood.

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Yes, this is the latest, most impressive imbroglio over immigration. And in the minds of many Americans, all immigrants are undocumented, all undocumented people are Hispanic, and all Hispanics are undocumented immigrants. It’s a nice little A=B=C theorem.

But the funny thing is that there are 11.7 undocumented migrants in the U.S. By comparison, the overall U.S. Hispanic population is 53 million. Although “immigration is the issue most associated with Latinos…it is not necessarily the most interesting issue to Latinos.” One could argue, in fact, that “most Latinos would probably love not to have to deal with it.”

Indeed, Pew Research says that the top issues for Hispanics are education, jobs and the economy, healthcare, the federal government debt, and (in fifth place) immigration. Even among Hispanic immigrants themselves, only one-third say immigration is an extremely important issue to them personally.

The discrepancy between immigration’s status in the media and its actual importance to the Hispanic community has provoked some Hispanic leaders to say that immigration “occupies almost all the Latino policy agenda, sucking up…all the oxygen on Latino issues.”

Latino leaders say that Hispanics “need to strike a better balance” and not allow immigration to stifle “the Latino agenda for the 21st century. We have to get to the point where we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and focus on other things like discrimination, education, and the infrastructures in our communities.”

It’s a fair point. But immigration is not going away as a media hot topic anytime soon. It’s been pointed out that whether “we are talking about health care or voting rights, there are those who keep inserting immigration into the mix, whether it pertains to a particular issue or not – and normally in a detrimental way.”

And let’s not forget that the media “tends to reduce our diversity down to one issue [and] treat us all as perpetual immigrants.” 

But just you wait, someday soon a national Latino leader will be invited to a Sunday morning news program, and he or she will be asked about the deficit or the Israeli-Palestinian problem or guns in schools or whether the president should be impeached for wearing white after Labor Day or whatever.

And nobody will mention immigration. And it will be pretty cool.

 


Born in the US of A

Not so long ago, life was easy for xenophobes. They could slander Latinos and immigrants simultaneously, because they were thought of as one and the same. Also, there weren’t that many Hispanics around, so one could spew within the comfort of an imposing majority.

Well, the Pew Research Center just made everything more difficult for the narrow-minded among us. The organization recently announced that the U.S.-born Latino population is growing at a faster rate than the immigrant population. This means that Hispanics are now more likely to be born and raised in America, as full-blooded American citizens.

This also means bigots will have to supplement their rants about undocumented immigrants with plain old racist tirades, thus doubling their effort.

At the very least, when told to “go back where you came from,” Latinos are likely to deflate the assertion with something like, “You mean, go back to Wisconsin?”

bucky-badger-wallpaper

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


The Soft Sell

As we all know, Latinos are about as likely to vote Republican as they are to sprout feathers and fly.

The conservative reaction to Latinos’ tendency to vote Democratic is usually disbelief and the continued insistence (despite all evidence to the contrary) that Hispanics are really Republicans but just don’t know it. Even this misguided, paternalistic response is preferable, however, to the other common reaction from conservatives, which is overt hostility to Latinos and the claim that Republicans don’t need nothin’ from those illegal alien sumbitches.

Well, give credit to the big kahunas of the conservative movement, the Koch brothers, who have realized two things:

They need Latinos to win elections. And insulting and denigrating Hispanics doesn’t win them to your side.

As such, “one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population.” The group, the Libre Initiative, “is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops, and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters.”

As one leader of the Libre Initiative explained, the group is striving to build trust, with the hope that if Hispanics like the organization, “they may seek our opinion on something else.”

It’s unclear what this ominous “something else” is, but it apparently includes the idea that real Latinas “respect authority” and the acknowledgement that the rich are America’s “only productive class.”

For further edification, the speeches at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) may offer a clue. At this who’s-who of the conservative movement, that grand old crazy lady of the right wing, Ann Coulter, was met with applause when she called for the formation of death squads to take out any politician who supported immigration reform.

guat death squad

Now, if there’s one thing that many Latino immigrants know, it’s what a death squad looks like. So it’s clear that conservatives are finally speaking our language.

 


Fight the Bad Fight

Sometimes, people just don’t know when to quit. For example, the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, recently discovered that “after spending eight years and half a million dollars fighting in the federal courts,” it can’t become its own tiny version of the INS.

Hazleton had passed ordinances that penalized anyone who employed or rented housing to undocumented immigrants. However, the U.S. Supreme Court said the laws “were unconstitutional and could never be enforced.”

constitution-with-void-stamp

So now, Hazleton’s leaders don’t have “the will to try again — even if a new law could be crafted that would pass constitutional muster.” So that was a lot of wasted time, money, and effort, all in the service of pissing off the Latino newcomers to “what long had been a Caucasian town.”

But of course, “these days…the town is more diverse,” and residents “are realizing that the Hispanic community has to have a voice.” As such, Hazeltonites (Hazletonians?) are more likely to say, “My bad” and just go about their business ‑– after wasting that aforementioned half million bucks and most of a decade. “Oops,” doesn’t quite cover it.

In this way, Hazleton’s experiences mirror the United States as a whole. Americans are saying they no longer want to crucify every undocumented person and slander Latinos nonstop. In fact, a recent poll “indicates that many Americans have shifted their priorities when it comes to immigration reform.”

According to the Gallup survey, “44% of those surveyed say it’s extremely important for the United States to develop a plan to deal with the large number of undocumented immigrants.” That’s just higher than the 43% who say the top priority should be “beefing up border security to halt the flow of undocumented workers into the country.”

This is part of a trend, in which “Americans of all partisan orientations have come to view border security as less important,” while support for a path to citizenship has remained consistent or increased. And some polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe the government’s main focus “should be legalizing the status of the undocumented rather than border security.”

We’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to kick out people who just turn around and come back, rather than trying to help them to make amends and become part of the culture. Maybe we’re learning that there is a better way.

 


Animal Kingdom

By now you’ve heard GOP Rep. Steve King (a longtime friend of the Hispanic community) insist that “among young undocumented immigrants in the United States, ‘for everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who’” are essentially drug mules.

laughing mule

 

King, “an Iowa conservative who has come under fire for comments about immigrants before,” has stood by his remarks, insisting that he has “seen it with my eyes and watched the data and video that support what I say.”

I think we would all like to see the video that shows 100 Latino drug mules ganging up on one Hispanic valedictorian. That would indeed be persuasive to the immigration debate.

But all these references to mules have me thinking about another anti-immigration zealot who was obsessed with animals. I’m taking about Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress who, “before her death in 2005, devoted much of her wealth to … curbing immigration, both legal and illegal.”

Scaife May “never knew poverty,” unlike so many of the immigrants she despised. Ultimately, she became a crazy recluse and alcoholic. She also was obsessed with birds.

blue bird

 

Her millions continue to fund right-wing anti-immigrant groups to this day. So here we have a rich person who never worked a day in her life. She was a virulent xenophobe and racist who held her fellow humans in contempt simply because they were born in another country. But she had a soft spot for the little birdies.

And who can argue with those priorities?

Basically, some conservatives don’t think of Hispanics as animals. They think of Hispanics as less than animals.


Well, That Was Easy

When two-thirds of the US Senate is in favor of a bill, one might assume that it’s a pretty popular measure.

bill law

So when the Senate passed an immigration reform bill by a lopsided vote of 68 to 32, it indicated that nothing could be simpler than coming up with a way for undocumented people to gain a pathway to citizenship.

But of course, the US House (home of the crazies) is already talking about passing its own version of the bill. I assume that one will require new citizens to recite the Declaration of Independence, name all the presidents in order, and get a US flag tattooed on their foreheads while singing the Star-Spangled Banner (taking care to hit all the high notes).

As such, it is not time to celebrate just yet. The hard part is yet to come.

 


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