Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tacos and Chow Mein

Iraq War, Valerie Plame, McKinney's hair, Tom Delay -- oh my! And yet, proving that the Republican machine is ever well-greased, we've all been delightfully sidetracked by a couple of carefully-placed comments by the president, a psychotic vigilante border patrol group, and a representative from Wicsonsin named Sensenbrenner. The bill in question is a one that seeks tighter border security. However, amongst its many provisions include a massive fence along the United States' southern border with Mexico and re-define the undocumented entry of immigrants into this country as a felony, punishable by a term in jail. Beyond the fact that this issue is, on its face, an obvious distraction ploy to turn the Left's attention from more pressing matters like demanding accountability for the Bush Administration's long series of wrong turns since its inception, this plan is wholly impractical. American jails are over-taxed as it is -- there are no resources to pay for the kind of actions suggested by this bill: finding, prosecuting and jailing 12 million undocumented immigrants, followed by deportation. Given that we are already about $2 trillion in debt, I wonder who plans on forking over the money for these endeavours. When you get right down to it, America has been plagued since its inception with a particularly foul Nativist movement, that insisted upon a better-than-thou attitude towards emigrants from other countries. From the forced "immigration" of slaves, to the importation of coolie labour, to the current attitudes towards the Mexican underclass, the Nativist sentiment suggests that White people -- who, also, immigrated to this country from another in search of a better future -- are somehow more entitled to the American Dream than others. And back in the day, they were willing to use any means, including the law or a bullet, to protect it. For indeed, this is not a controversy about laws, about immigration, or about border security reform. This is a controversy about race. This is a countroversy surrounding White nationals who insist that the American Dream should be reserved for their White bretheren who "deserve it" more. We need only look as far as who has been targeted by these movements and who is, subsequently, getting riled up: Mexicans. And while undocumented Mexican immigrants makeup the single largest group of illegals, we must remember that the figure of 12 million illegals includes those of other races. In point of fact, Asians, a group that is made up almost entirely of recently immigrated immigrants and thus are all too familiar with the nigh-impossible difficulty of entering this country by legal routes, also make up the second largest group of undocumented immigrants in this country. This is not a war against illegal Mexican immigrants, this is a criminalization of undocumented workers of all races and creeds. As a legal, temporary resident of the United States, there are measures in the border security bill that affect me too. Not only does the bill consider a wall across the U.S.-Canadian border, but I would, in the future, be subject to background checks, biometric scans, and other sorts of hooplah to renew my visa. And forget the difficulty I would face if I wanted to try and nationalize into this country and join my American boyfriend in unwedded but highly romantic, grounded-in-America togetherness. Moreover, this bill would make a felon anybody who "aided", in any way, an undocumented immigrant's continued existence in this country. What that might include one can only imagine. The problem with the undocumented immigrant debate is that, already, it is extremely difficult to obtain legal entry into the United States. Those who marry an American, who possess highly valuable technical and scientific skills, those who merely wish to visit America on an extended temporary visa -- if they manage to get all the necessary paperwork in the time allotted (from experience, this is difficult) -- are nonetheless poked and prodded with the attitude that we, by simple virtue of wanting to briefly give and receive what we have to offer to America, are guilty until proven innocent. What we need is not necessarily amnesty for undocumented immigrants (I confess I'm not enough of an expert on the subject to suggest a viable solution) but a more comprehensive, if still secure, system for processing immigrants. Forget the vigilantism and hate-mongering: if it were easier to obtain work visas in this country without already being treated like the felons we aren't, more immigrants would enter this country through the proper channels. There is no immigrant who would choose to be undocumented over legal; there is no perk to living in this country without the ability to earn your way to a car, a job, and a mortgage. America was founded as a working White Man's paradise. But I think the strength of this country is how the toil and action of its citizenry have endeavoured to transform it into something more -- an ideal more universal, more all-encompassing, and more optimistic than the history of its parts. Again the Nativists are trying to return this country to its darker, bigoted and hateful past -- I think it's not only our rights as, all of us at one point, landed, legal immigrants, but our duty to protest this movement. After all, this bill would hurt us all. Happy April 10th.


Blogger NursePam said...

Hear, hear Jenn! Very eloquent and well stated piece. Thanks for your insight.

4/11/2006 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Lee Herrick said...

yeah, bravo, jenn. i blogged on a similar issue. and now the organizers have planned for the "Great American Boycott" on May 1 (

4/11/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

I agree with you almost 100% on this issue. Immigration should be much easier, but I don't think all of the difficulty can be placed on Nativist prejudices. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people want to immigrate to the United States every year, either as permanent residents, or as another class of non-permanent resident. There are just not enough people who work in the government offices to be able to process all of these applications, while making sure that the potential immigrants are safe for entry.

Sure, most people, I'd venture to guess 99% of people are perfectly harmless, aren't terrorists or planned criminals, and will never become either. It's that rotton 1% that the United States has become weary about. It is definitely overkill to subject immigrants to biometric scans, constant background checks, etc. Yet, I can see where the fear comes from. The USA let its guard down once and got hammered. Legislation like the Patriot Act and this immigration bill are knee jerk reactions, still, to 9-11.

Sweeping reforms like those in the Patriot Act and in this new immigration bill are not the solution, as you point out so well. Targeted reforms in the intelligence agencies and research and development of better and faster screening methods are the most transparant solution to the immigration "problem".

Plus, if the Republicans and Democrats were really so worried about the illegal immigrants running across the Mexican border, immigrants that they economically exploit, then they'd increase the border patrols.

A wall isn't going to keep anyone out, it's just going to keep us in.

4/12/2006 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous drydock said...

Let me start by saying I was at pro-immigrant rallies before the big stuff took off. I even did a small amount of organizing for the recent April 10 th rally. I'm saying this because I strongly disagree with the tone and content of your post and I want to be clear where I'm coming from

While some of the anti-immigrant forces are indeed racists this isn't about race. It's about class and jobs. Just calling the opponents of immigration racist is weak. If you haven't noticed a lot of working class blacks as well as whites are concerned about feeding their families and are uncomfortable with immigration. Coming at them with usual moralistic PC bullshit doesn't change their view and if anything just entrenches it. Middle and upper class Americans are generally pro-immigrant.

Secondly, America is generous when it comes to immigration taking in more people then all of the other countries in the world combined. Further look at how other countries treat their immigrants Mexico to central americans, Dubai and other Arab countries to southeast Asians, and Iran to Afghanis. Americans (whites as well as other races) are light years ahead in this regard to how they treat immigrants.

And unlike you I unequivocaly support amnesty.

4/12/2006 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Secondly, America is generous when it comes to immigration taking in more people then all of the other countries in the world combined.

"Of the 175 million migrants in the world, the U.S. admitted 1,063,732 documented immigrants in 2002. Undocumented immigration adds approximately 350,000 people per year by INS estimates." Less than 1% of the world's migrants come to the U.S. (
I quote this b/c it is an easy, non-academic source.

Of all the things wrong with your post, and many things are, this angered me the most. I'll repeat just to make sure you all get it, the US gets less than 1 % of immigrants in the world.

I won't even touch the racist thing because it would be blatantly obvious with just a quick online perusal. Not to say that all opponents are racist, but that much of their rhetoric is couched in nativist, racist discourse. And yes, class is involved with race. But realize that you often cannot disentangle one from the other.

4/15/2006 06:07:00 PM  
Anonymous drydock said...

Your source is absurd. If you think the US takes in less than 1% of the world's immigrants start naming some of the other countries that are taking the other 99%.

4/19/2006 03:18:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

France, Britain, Australia, Canada, Africa, South America...

Do you honestly think the U.S. is the primary country to which immigrants go? While I don't know about JustMe's source, I certainly know that many of the world's immigrants are not coming to the U.S.

For example, Canada has a huge immigrant population and is actually a competitive target for immigrants compared to the U.S. because Canada is more welcoming to immigrants, both in initial paperwork and in how immigrants communities are able to develop and prosper in the country.

4/19/2006 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous drydock said...

I did a little googling. Canada is also a generous country when it comes to immigration. But the US still allows almost double the legal immigration of Canada. And we know that US allows millions of illegal people in to work, albeit with not a lot of rights.
It's funny I'm married to a Mexican immigrant and my work and social life revolves around a lot of immigrants. I just want to tell the PC anti-american crybabies that they reduce the immigrant experience to a simple victimhood. It's false. And the immigrants I'm around were at the recent protests and they carried the American flag. Because they are part of this country and they want to be treated fairly. Their experience on the whole is much more about the American dream than the victim politics of the left, which this blog promotes.

4/19/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

"... victim politics of the left."

just... wow. i'm not going to touch your "but I know an immigrant and they say [insert support of your argument] so you MUST be wrong" argument, since it's just oh-so-contrived. All I can agree with is that there is a dissonance between the undocumented immigrant and the documented immigrant in this whole debate, but to suggest that those seeking immigrant rights are anti-american is just myopic. my argument is that legal immigrants should actually consider this their issue as well, and NOT just mexican immigrants of either status.

why is it that those who disagree with the left must resort to "anti-american" accusations akin to mccarthyism. is it impossible for you to argue the points on their face? rather you must question our dedication to this country (or in my case, Canada).

in case you hadn't noticed, this post is not in support of undocumented immigrant amnesty. it is in support of disentangling the current system of immigration to encourage more legal immigration rather than illegal immigration. unless you are a xenophobe who can't stand the idea that the american dream is more than just for you (in which case, i feel for your mexican wife), then please tell me why that is a bad idea and we can discuss the merits of your argument rather than your (in)ability to mouth-off about the left.

and suggesting that the left should be disregarded because of our "victim politics" suggests that you don't think anyone has been historically disenfranchised and needs a political party to champion equality for all. what rosy coloured glasses you must wear. tell me, do they come in a prescription strong enough for your aforementioned myopia?

4/19/2006 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Also, please address the fact that regardless of JustMe's PBS citation, it's certainly inconceivable that a mere 1.9 million people in the world are moving from one country to another (the only way that your statement that America accepts more immigrants than all other countries combined could hold true). They are certainly not "generous" as you write in your earlier post.

As far as sheer numbers of immigrants -- you must normalize your numbers to population number of the country to factor in immigration services resources and impact on the country. Naturally, larger countries with larger governments will process a net larger number of immigrants, but that has to be standardized to the size of the country for it to be meaningful in a discussion about immigrants and their role in a country and its culture.

The U.S. currently accepts about 1 million legal immigrants per year (this is a number I found repeatedly in an effort to confirm PBS' 175 million global immigrants figure). However, the population of the U.S. is roughly 295 million, so about 0.3% of the American population is accepted as immigrants each year -- a bare fraction.

Canada accepts half the number of immigrants as the U.S.? That's roughly half a million (and I'd like a reference on that since a 2-minute google couldn't find that figure for me). The Canadian population is estimated to be about 30 million. Therefore, Canada accepts about 1.5% of its population as immigrants each year. That is nearly five times the number of immigrants, standardized to country size, as the U.S.

If Canada can handle that percentage, and actually treats its immigrants better than Americans, as you put it, why is it so impossible for Americans to do the same? It's not like we (Canadians) have more lower-wage jobs, are suffering greater problems with security, or whatever other reasons you have for being against relaxing/making more practical immigration policies in this country. We also have less of an undocumented immigrant problem as the States, and rather than that being part of the immigrant problem, I'd rather think that that is a symptom of our solution.

4/19/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous drydock said...

If you would read a little closer I didn't say immigrant rights supporters were anti-american, I said the PC left was-- which is true. America has lots of failings just like everywhere else. Those failings should be struggled against.

However, you insist that America isn't generous when it comes to immigrants. This is so obviously false, no one is in even arguing this in the current immigration debate. This is the knee-jerk leftism that can't admit that Americans (and white Americans in particular) aren't all a bunch of evil racists. That's what I mean by "anti-americanism".

The native "people of color" in Iran, Dubai, and even Mexico treat immigrants to their country so much worse than America I just laugh when I read your classist, anti-white "white working man paradise" references. Get real.

4/20/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

You get real, Drydock. I am so done with people who disagree with the "PC Left" calling members of the PC Left anti-American. Real Americans from the PC Left challenge their government where American government policies fail American ideals and American citizens. Real Americans from the PC Left are responsible for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, And Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, not to mention the Nineteenth as well. Real Americans from the PC Left brought this nation Social Security, terminated child-labor, literacy tests and poll taxes. Today, Real Americans from the PC Left dissented against the quasi-authoritarian Bush Administration when the Patriot Act was drenched in the blood of 9-11 to further quiet all Americans into supporting a private war based on false premises.

Drydock, you know nothing about the PC Left.

Further, immigration policies in any country can not be described with adjectives like "generous". It's simple choice - one of the basic principles of state sovereignty in the modern international system revolves around non-moralistic border control. As the United States of America, we can choose our own quotas of immigrants from other countries for our own reasons. It's not moral. For decades, Cuban immigrants and refugees fleeing political repression were treated much differently (and much better) than Haitian immigrants and refugees fleeing political repression, without much backlash. Sure, the motivations there were part anti-Communist and part racist, but America is free to make those choices for itself. Illegal immigration grates because our ability to decide civil immigration policy becomes hampered.

The closest solution I've seen to date does not criminalize those whose very presence speaks volumes about their desire to work hard and play by the rules. It's not amnesty to recognize that a hard, but doable path to citizenship over eleven years, involving copious documentation and a clean record, recognizes that as much as illegal immigrants "use" the American system, the American system "uses" them back.

But frankly, useful debates on this important issue can not happen when people toss the Molotov moniker "anti-American" around. Drydock, leave that useless hatespeech for the right-wing asylum escapees of AM talk radio. Dennis Prager wants his word back.

4/20/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

drydock said:If you would read a little closer I didn't say immigrant rights supporters were anti-american, I said the PC left was-- which is true. America has lots of failings just like everywhere else. Those failings should be struggled against.

Whether you want to now backtrack and argue about who you were calling anti-American, I honestly don't really care if you're going to distinguish between the "immigrant supporter anti-Americans" and the "PC Left anti-Americans", if you read MY comment, you'll note that the backlash is that you resort to questioning the patriotism of dissenters, not whose patriotism you're backlashing against.

Regardless, by the context of your comment, you are certainly including myself and the vast majority of the commenters on this post in your blanket "anti-American" statement. And not only is it rude, immature, but irrelevant. Note that none of us are questioning your nationalism or patriotism. Again, I ask, why do you feel the need to go there?

Which of course, also begs the question -- if the "anti-Americanism" is so "true", why can't you point to any actual evidence to support this accusation? Where are all the Constitution-hating, building-bombing, hate-mongering, ex-patriate Leftists of which you speak who just have to upchuck at the sight of the Stars and Stripes? Or perhaps this "truth" is only in your head?

drydock said:
However, you insist that America isn't generous when it comes to immigrants. This is so obviously false, no one is in even arguing this in the current immigration debate. This is the knee-jerk leftism that can't admit that Americans (and white Americans in particular) aren't all a bunch of evil racists. That's what I mean by "anti-americanism".

Actually, I think the bulk of the anti-criminalization side is arguing that it is already exceptionally difficult to be an immigrant in this country. Generous? Not generous? That's a value judgement of which none of us could be a good arbiter, but you cannot argue against the fact that this country isn't as open to immigrants as you have characterized it. (Speaking of which, have you yet addressed the numbers presented earlier?)

As far as the racism of this issue, the race aspect of immigration cannot be ignored. Bottom line, America's not worked up about immigration, they are worked up about Mexican undocumented immigration. The way this issue has been approached and portrayed indicates a definite colour consciousness, which characterizes Mexicans as evil and undesirable because of race, class and nationalist reasons. I argue in the original post that the race reasons cannot be ignored.

To point out the racism in this issue is not anti-American. Perhaps you have lost touch with American values, but part of America is struggle against the status quo, democratic debate and freedom of speech and thought. Charges of racism have always been met with questions of patriotism, and yet that doesn't erase the original racism (see James' point on the various amendments to the Constitution fueled by charges of racism that ultimately worked towards correcting those prejudices).

Bottom line: the only way you could characterize me pointing out the race issue in this debate as anti-American is if you "knee-jerk" react to criticism of America as anti-American. That a characterization of a racist America is unforgivable. That America could not possibly be racist. Again, I point to the prominent rosy-coloured glasses on your face and wonder about who has the stronger patellar reflex.

The native "people of color" in Iran, Dubai, and even Mexico treat immigrants to their country so much worse than America I just laugh when I read your classist, anti-white "white working man paradise" references. Get real.

Do you argue that America was NOT founded as a White Working Man's paradise, because the historical record disagrees with you. And I certainly fail to see how treatment of immigrants in Iran counteract this point, or are even relevant at all when it comes to discussing treatment of immigrants and the race problem in America. Unless of course you are looking to model American thought against the system in Iran -- would you prefer that American government operate more like that in Dubai?

4/20/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous drydock said...

Hi I'm against both American nationalism and anti-americanism which is just the flipside of the same coin. I don't feel I can I explain myself well enough for you here.

I'm against PC politics (which James can't really comprehend) because it only superficially challenges, and easily is recuperated, by the system.

Let me recommend three authors.

Adolph Reed, black marxist professor writes on race and class in America. He's especially known for being a harsh critic of black intellectuals like Cornell West, bell hooks, and Michael Eric Dyson.

Jim Goad-- Wrote the redneck manifesto. While I don't endorse his politics, his skewering of (white) liberals on race politics is mostly dead on.

Fredy Perlman-- Continuing Appeal of Nationalism. A devastating critique of nationalism and the left's support of it. He comes more from sort of an anarchist perspective.

4/21/2006 01:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Goad

[snort.] Remind me never to take anything you write seriously, Drydock. Goad was flavor-of-the-month here in PDX for awhile, but that seems to be over now. Thank NOTA. Seems to me that the liberals he supposedly despises simply used him to get their own kicks. After all, if the only person of any local prominence who wants to critcize liberal hypocrisy is a girlfriend-beating, self-proclaimed "redneck" who thinks rape jokes are funny-- he ends up making liberal hypocrisy look good. And the great thing is, the liberals don't have to do anything but buy his book and feign shock at his self-serving theatrics simultaneously. You gotta' love show biz. --alsis39.9

5/02/2006 02:35:00 PM  

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