Monday, March 14, 2016

The immigration "problem" starts with impossibly unrealistic legal entry policies, and ends with white xenophobia and willful Hispanic blindness

Is Donald Trump trying to do the Bernie Sanders campaign a “favor” by accusing him and his supporters of disrupting his hate-filled rallies? It seems like every Trump campaign event has some kind of  violent “disruption,” either one or more his supporters beating, punching or putting a choke hold on a protestor, or a Trump supporter threatening to “kill” a party-crasher, or police firing tear gas into an anti-Trump contingent, or police arresting anti-Trump protestors whenever the cowardly Trump demands it while they turn a blind eye to the assaults by Trump supporters—even when there is audio-visual evidence of it and those engaged in the violence threaten lethal “action” the “next time.” 

A photo that has gone viral shows an older white female wearing a Trump T-shirt raising her arm in a Nazi salute to an anti-Trump protestor in Chicago. The Trump campaign immediately identified the woman as a Sanders supporter trying to make trouble. But it was a “false” alarm; Portia Boulger, formerly a Hillary Clinton supporter before an alternative in the form of Bernie Sanders finally arrived on the scene, was not even there at the time. It turns out that the neo-Nazi was a Trump supporter after all, a woman named Birgitt Peterson, and a native of Germany. Peterson’s “explanation” for her gesture was predictably weak, telling the New York Times that she was upset by the comparison of Hitler to Trump. What did that mean? That she was trying to show the protestors what a “real” Nazi is? Is the fact that Sanders is Jewish have something to do with her support for a hate-demagogue like Trump?

I hope that minority voters who support Hillary Clinton are taking note if this, that it is the Sanders camp (notwithstanding his insistence that his campaign is not itself organizing these anti-Trump activities) that is taking the brunt both rhetorically and physically of Trump and his supporters’ ire in regard to the opposition to his message of hate. Hillary Clinton—notwithstanding her patronizing, self-serving pronouncements that many mistake for “empathy”—and her supporters seem remarkably limp-wristed when it comes to putting their necks on the line for what they allegedly believe. But why should they? All they believe in is making a “gender” statement, and as I noted a few posts ago, the goals of white women like Clinton and that of minorities often collide (as they did in 2008). 

Instead, Clinton and her supporters prefer to accuse fellow Democrats of hate-mongering.  Sanders for having the temerity to be in the race opposing the “entitled” at all, and his supporters are merely Republican “trolls,” misogynists, bigots, racists, sexists or whatever hysteria enters their minds. While Sanders supporters talk about ethics and principles, Clinton supporters do whatever they can to alienate true progressive voters, not the fake ones in the form of Clinton and her supporters. 

But let’s talk about Trump’s recent Kansas City rally, where a Sanders’ supporter who was actually disguising herself in Trump regalia to get a “fix” on what was motivating them. She found that the over-riding topic of discussion among Trump supporters was the immigration issue and general anti-Hispanic xenophobia of the particularly evil kind that Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter are selling. How can anyone be not left with the notion that there is—despite all the outrage denials—a correlation with Trump’s rhetoric and his supporters embrace of hate and the hate rhetoric that mesmerized Germans in search of scapegoats along racist lines? 

Those “outraged” at the suggestion do so in the defense that no one is suggesting “genocide,” but the rhetoric of hate is all the same. The scapegoating of Hispanics for this country’s ills is little different from that used by the Nazis that allowed them to come to power and 1933, and most non-Jewish Germans were either receptive to the rhetoric of hate, or felt that the fate of the Jews, not being “true” Germans, was not of concern to them.  It can be speculated that Trump supporters probably have little or no contact on a personal level with Hispanics—most likely by choice—and they are hard-pressed to name personal experiences that justify their hate. But they hate just as well with or without a good reason, and Trump is someone who makes it “acceptable” to express openly the vilest of sentiments. 

In the recent Democratic debate in Florida,  Clinton thought she has a “winning” hand on the immigrations issue, slinging mud at Bernie Sanders’ allegedly xenophobic views on the subject, even going so far as to accuse him of standing with border militias, which of course drew a sharp rebuke from Sanders.  As far as I am concerned, Clinton’s views are just more of her usual opportunistic rhetoric that is like a soufflé that might seem “tasty” to the target audience, but tends to have the same amount of substance underneath it. I can’t say that Sanders idea of immigration is fully-formed either, in fact in the past he like many “progressives” sound too much like “populists” who wrongly blame a certain type of immigrant for the tribulations of the working class. Sanders attacks on NAFTA, while in his mind has hurt the manufacturing base in this country, really doesn’t even fractionally compare to the U.S.’ manufacturing deficit with the Pacific Rim countries (almost everything we buy that isn’t fresh produce seems to have a “Made in China” label on it), and like so many other elements of prejudicial attitudes has the effect of scapegoating Latin Americans unfairly and disproportionately. 

But it is Trump who is stoking the flames of racism and hatred, in the face of it there seems very little in the way of pushback from Hispanic “leaders.” This is partly a function of whites and blacks in the mainstream media (outside of Univision) controlling the news. The few Hispanics who are allowed to speak are typically those on the right who do not speak for the vast majority of Hispanics.  But it is also a function of a rather limp-wristed response in the face of prejudice, which was addressed in a recent article in the New York Times.  Héctor Tobar questions why “In this great season of seething American rage, showmen and rabble-rousers have the floor” that the target of so much of this hate remains mostly silent. “Round up the field hands and the busboys and deport them southward” say the xenophobes and know-nothing nativist. “‘Build a wall!’ they chant at rallies and basketball games. Dip bullets in pigs’ blood for our Muslim enemies.”

But “By comparison, we Latino citizens of the United States suffer from a rage deficit. Consider our victimized brothers and sisters, the handcuffed and hunted of Mesoamerica: the Oaxacans and the Guatemalans, and the Hondurans and the many others who cross the sands of the Sonoran Desert to reach the Promised Land. They die in hundreds every year. When was the last time we annoyed you with our outrage about their preventable deaths? The last time one of our leaders unleashed a viral television rant about the failure to enact immigration reform? Our cries of protest and complaint might as well be whispers.”

Tobar notes that the Obama administration, his phony, weak-kneed token to Hispanic voters held up in the courts, has been especially remorseless in conducting raids aimed at the returning escapees from the drug violence in Mexico and Central America—and the US and its insatiable need for illegal drugs has been especially reticent to admit its complicity in the flow of “illegals” from these countries, as an Associated Press story noted a few years ago:

The Mexican drug cartels battling viciously to expand and survive have a powerful financial incentive: Across the border to the north is a market for illegal drugs unsurpassed for its wealth, diversity and voraciousness. Homeless heroin addicts in big cities, "meth heads" in Midwest trailer parks, pop culture and sports stars, teens smoking marijuana with their Baby Boomer parents — in all, 46 percent of Americans 12 and older have indulged in the often destructive national pastime of illicit drug use. This array of consumers is providing a vast, recession-proof, apparently unending market for the Mexican gangs locked in a drug war…No matter how much law enforcement or financial help the U.S. government provides Mexico, the basics of supply and demand prevent it from doing much good. "The damage done by our insatiable demand for drugs is truly astounding," said Lloyd Johnston, a University of Michigan researcher who oversees annual drug-use surveys.

But the reality of illegal immigration escapes the scapegoating which drives a general attitude of hate toward all Hispanics in this country regardless of legal status. The “problem” of illegal immigration is far more complex than people who are simply driven by their racism believe. “Illegals” aren’t here to work? How would you know? Didn’t you just say that they are driving down wages and stealing jobs from “real” Americans? And now right-wing isn’t just attacking “illegal” immigrants anymore,  but immigrants period. Of course, they are not talking about immigrants from Asia with their low-cost tech skills taking jobs from the native-born with college degrees and the same skills. It’s all about those unsightly brown people.

The American Immigration Council notes that under current immigration law, it almost impossible for immigrants from Mexico immigrant legally to the U.S. In fact, despite the fact that Mexico has by far the largest number of visa applications every year by country—in 2012 1.3 million applicants—their “limit” of 47,250 approved visas per year is the same as all other countries.  The AIC notes that job skills classifications for visas no longer have any relation to reality; this country’s economy is increasingly “service” oriented, and this change is not reflected in visa qualification status—another reason why real immigration reform is not only needed, but required.

This country’s immigration policy is completely unrealistic and mitigates against “lawful” respect for it for many reasons. The AIC noted that

Suggestions that immigrants who are in the United States illegally—numbering an estimated 11 million—should simply get in line miss the point: There is no line available for them and the “regular channels” do not include them. If given a choice, opinion surveys of undocumented immigrants indicate that 98 percent would prefer to live and work legally in the United States and would do so if they could. Furthermore, a recent survey of Latino immigrants found that more than nine in 10 who have not naturalized said they would if they had the possibility.

However, most undocumented immigrants do not have the necessary family relationships to apply for legal entry, or, if they do, they face years or decades of waiting for a visa. Those here illegally generally do not qualify as refugees unless they come from a handful of countries experiencing political unrest. And most undocumented immigrants do not work in professions that qualify for a green card. The annual number of green cards for lower-skilled workers is extraordinarily small and insufficient for America’s enormous economy, which depends on high, medium-, and lower-skilled workers.

Only certain categories of persons are allowed to come “legally” into the country. Getting a green card is generally limited to four different routes: employment, certain family ties, refugee or asylee processing, and the diversity lottery. Each of these groups includes specific paths, which in turn are subject to specific limitations (e.g., number of visas available and eligibility requirements) and obstacles (e.g., limits by country). Some of the supposedly available routes are in fact unfeasible.

As mentioned before, there is no recognition that certain labor requirements that people here illegally fill is accurately recognized by the current work visa program (such as seasonal farm labor), thus there is a tendency to “look the other way” by most people who want both cheap food and the ability to express their xenophobia at the same time. Current visa rules also make very difficult  for employers who do not require “high-tech” skills and who find it difficult to entice the native-born citizen to find sufficient labor “legally”:

Employment green card numbers are out of sync with America’s needs. An employer can request permission to bring in a qualified foreign worker in certain professions based on job skills and education level if the employer cannot find a qualified U.S. worker to take the job first. Most of the qualifying professions are high-skilled and require high levels of education, such as scientists, professors, and multinational executives. The total number of green cards available for all lower-skilled workers is limited to 5,000 per year for the entire United States. This grossly insufficient number of green cards in these types of jobs is the crux of the illegal immigration problem in the United States.

The demand for workers in the service sectors has grown considerably while the supply of available U.S. workers has steadily diminished. This is especially true in industries such as construction, food service, and agriculture where the foreign-born represent approximately 20 percent of all workers. Consider this: In 1960, 41 percent of the U.S. adult population (25 years old and older) did not have a high-school diploma. Today, only 7 percent of the adult U.S.-born population lacks a high school diploma–a clear contrast to 29 percent of adult immigrants who have not graduated from high school. While the number of available workers for these jobs is dropping as Americans become better educated and have fewer children, the demand for workers in these industries is growing and only expected to increase in coming years. 

Low-skilled immigration helps to fill this gap. In addition, it is positively associated with a number of benefits for American society, including not only cheaper child care, landscaping, and restaurant bills, but also lower prices for and greater availability of food, medical care, and housing. While a legalization program can address those immigrants currently in the United States without authorization, it must be coupled with a realistic plan for meeting labor demand. Until there are more legal avenues for employers to hire immigrant workers, illegal immigration will fill the gap when demand is high, and we will not gain the measure of control over immigration that the American people demand as a result.

It is also difficult for a legal resident to legally” bring their families—even spouses and children—into the country without years or even decades of waiting, often for arbitrary reasons:

A legal, qualified family member in the United States can seek permission (a petition) to bring in certain eligible foreign-born family members. U.S. citizens, for example, can petition for a green card for their spouses, parents, children, and siblings. Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs, or “green card” holders) can petition for their spouses and unmarried children, provided they meet other eligibility requirements. In all cases, the legal resident or U.S. citizen family member must demonstrate an income level above the poverty line and legally commit to support the family member they are seeking to bring to the United States Finally, in most cases, the new immigrant is ineligible for most federal benefits or services until they have resided in the United States for five years.

In addition, the limitations on the number of total green cards available are unreasonable. There are numerical limits on most family categories, with demand typically higher than the number of available green cards. This results in significant backlogs for most family members hoping to enter the United States legally, with some immigrants from certain countries waiting decades.

While U.S. citizens and LPRs wait their turn to get a green card for their family member, it is nearly impossible for that family member to receive permission to even visit the United States Mothers, fathers, and children, therefore, face years of separation, prompting some to risk entering illegally. Doing so, however, makes their chances of eventually receiving green cards even more distant and unlikely.

It is also extremely difficult for political and economic refugees to obtain asylum in this country, unless, of course, you are from a U.S. “enemies” list of countries.

Each year, the president, in consultation with Congress, sets a ceiling for the number of refugees who may be admitted to the country.  After one year, refugees may apply to become lawful permanent residents. Persons who enter the United States under any category may apply for asylum, but the burden of proof is high and the process is arduous. They must prove that any harm that came to them in their home countries amounts to persecution based on “race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, or national origin,” and generally must show that they fear further persecution if they return.  In some cases, persecution based on membership in a particular social group can be difficult to establish if it is not immediately recognized by adjudicators as a well-defined group…An immigrant does not qualify as a refugee or an asylee because of poverty or difficult economic conditions in their home country.

Instead of immigration reform to address these realities, “the Obama administration conducts raids against hundreds of immigrants who are among the recent wave of refugees from Central American violence,” writes Tobar. “The second was the scandalous treatment of some of those refugees, including minors who were released into the custody of sex traffickers. How could this happen? Do we count for so little?..Maybe what we need now is a hashtag that summarizes our sense of worth and how we’ve been wronged. Say, #brownlivesmatter.”

The problem, of course, is that racism against the “others” infects the Hispanic community, and much of this involves self-delusion. Tobar writes that “a graphic-design major pointed out, “Well, you know, a lot of Latino people can pass for white.” I once encountered a Hispanic male, clearly a “mestizo,” who told me he was “white.” I started laughing, and he asked me what I was laughing about. “I’m laughing at you, calling yourself white,” I said. Certainly not any more than Obama is considered “white,” despite the fact that his mother is.

Tobar found more hypocrisy in the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. “Think of our second-class status, even in Los Angeles, where “Mexican” and “Guatemalan” are often synonymous with laborer. “Isn’t it time for a ‘Brown Lives Matter’ movement?” I asked. Almost all the Latino students objected on the ground of cultural appropriation. Black people have suffered enough, they said. Let’s not take their slogan, too.” But Hispanics have their own history of repression in this country; during the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, were arbitrarily rounded-up and dumped across the border with little more than what they could carry; the majority of them were U.S. citizens. Why should Hispanics in this country give-up their right to demand justice because of the “tender sensitivities” of blacks who think that only they are the victims of racism—especially when many blacks are themselves engaging in anti-Hispanic rhetoric? Who are the ones completely unself-consciously being labeled as “rapists” and “murderers” without regard to facts? 

Who would stand for that? But Tobar says  “Sure, these students were angry about the marginalized status of people of Mexican and Central American descent in the United States.” But “One Latina told me how much she resented the “othering” she encountered because of her appearance and Spanish surname: “People ask me all the time, ‘Where are you from?’ And they don’t mean, ‘Are you from the Valley or Long Beach?’”

Tobar suggests that “Herein lies the reason for our anger deficit: We hear the voice of our mothers saying, “Mijos, you only demean yourself if you lash back at an insult.” And that “The Latino students I met resist oppression in a low-key, goal-oriented way. By working full time while getting a degree. By studying to become breadwinners who give back to their communities. And by voting for a candidate likely to support immigration reform.” Why take to the streets?  That’s all right, I told her. Getting good grades is also a way of resisting racism — though studiousness alone may not get us to the Promised Land.” But that has not been what history tells us, and the media both popular and news is complicit in the portrait of uneducated and irrelevancy of Hispanics in this society.

Tobar wonders who will be the “spokesperson” ala Martin Luther King Jr. for Hispanics? Where is that social novel that will “change the national conversation”? Until that happens, “I’ll supply my rage needs by following a group of writers and comedians known as the Latino Rebels who tweeted sarcastically about how endorsements from anti-immigrant figures like the controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio would help Donald J. Trump ‘do really well with ‘the Hispanics.’”

To me, all of this is just an excuse for many Hispanics who are desperate  not to be “lumped” with the “others” to explain away for the effect that racism in America has had on the Hispanic community as a whole. “White” Hispanics don’t want to be “confused” with non-white or mixed-race Hispanics to the extent that they share the same aversions to that Anglo Americans do—to no benefit to themselves.

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