Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Illegal immigrants hiding in the shadow of Trump's anti-Hispanic mania

So what happened in the past week or so? The Devin Nunes memo was so incompetently composed that it should backfire on Donald Trump, who has proved that without fully grasping the memo’s blowback capacity that he may actually be a “stable” idiot. That Nunes has now set his sights on the State Department without fully grasping just how poorly the press (outside the right-wing variety) and the public have received his allegations against the FBI suggests that we have another Joe McCarthy in Congress, and with that fool Paul Ryan failing to reign Nunes in, just maybe this is the kind of clown we need who will finally convince the country that Republicans are still incapable of good governance (just bad), at least on the national level.

What else? During his State of the Union address, Trump bragged about his continuing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act without a Republican “replacement” plan; note that continuously referring to it as “Obamacare” allows the public to forget the “affordable” part of its intent. And with only a few days to go before the current spending stopgap ends, there is still no apparent intent by Republicans to allow a vote on an immigration plan, let alone on DACA. Outside a few Democrats in the House, there seems to be no desire to hold Republican feet to fire on their previous “promise” on a vote on DACA now. As expected, Trump and the Republicans have been deceiving and/or dealing in bad faith, and white Democrats who don’t really have a “stake” in the matter just can’t be bothered with showing any real humanity.

Trump would rather continue his assault on Hispanics as a group; why else this fixation on the MS-13 gang and the anecdotal crime that illegal immigrants are far less likely to commit than "real" Americans? Let’s be frank here: Trump and the media wouldn’t given a damn about the Long Island incident if all of the victims were male, since it was the “friends” of one of the female victims who instigated the deadly fight. Were they another “gang”? Furthermore, if the two girls (both Hispanic immigrants) were 3,000 miles away, would they instead be just two more casualties  of Trump’s overall anti-Hispanic mania? I am curious to know what is Trump’s “plan” to stop white native-born citizens from conducting a campaign of record-setting  mass shootings since he has been elected. Given his continuous attempts to rally hate among whites, probably the only plan is to have him removed from his cowardly, bully pulpit. 

Meanwhile, we have more proof of John “The Deacon of Deportation” Kelly’s bigotry when he contemptuously referred to the “laziness” of eligible undocumented immigrants to sign-on to DACA in its current iteration, rather than from the very real fear that an executive order dependent on a president’s good will and support of the Justice Department isn’t used against them. Trump, of course, has very little to offer to those he describes as “little people,” which is his typical put down for people he doesn’t like. According to a story on CNN’s website the other day, Trump feels great contempt for “short people,” which he no doubt stereotypes all Hispanics as being. He’s probably too stupid to detect the irony in Randy Newman’s satirical look at such bigotry in his song “Short People”:

Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
To live

They got little hands
And little eyes
And they walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

Well, I don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
Round here

Thank God for all that great music that came out of the 1970s, and I was alive and old enough to appreciate it. After Newman (with the help of the Eagles singing backup) observes that “short people” are “just the same as you and I,” he warns the bigot that these “short people” are going to “get you every time”—like, say, at the ballot box the next time, Trump and you Republicans. 

And since I’m on the subject of immigration, why don’t we talk about those illegal “aliens” who exist in the shadows, protected from scrutiny because they allegedly have “merit” and thus they are not to be as  despised as “Mexicans” are? Take for instance the fact that the Chinese have their own “coyotes” sneaking those without the proper “papers” into the country, especially through Florida. This is nothing “new”; the 1950 John Garfield film The Breaking Point (based on an Ernest Hemmingway novel), included a segment where Garfield’s fishing boat captain, desperate for cash, agrees to smuggle a group of Chinese immigrants illegally into the country, before he is “stiffed” by the “coyote” out of the payment he was promised. 

A story the other day in The Miami Herald also discusses the issue of unlike Hispanic immigrants who come to work in this country and have children as a matter of happenstance, many Russian and Chinese women deliberately come to this country as “birth tourists,” expecting to piggy-back into the country legally as the mother of a U.S.-born baby. In the Sunny Isle community in Miami, “birth tourism” is the leading “industry,” and there are so many Russian speakers that the place is referred to as “Little Russia.” There are “Little Russias” here in the state of Washington as well, where Russian-speakers maintain their own “culture,” language and refusal to “integrate”—or at least those not first trying to snag a U.S. citizen for a quickie marriage. Some of these people are just so monumentally arrogant, even older Russians who if they know any English at all it is only enough to insult native-born citizens, especially racial minorities.

But these immigrants have “merit,” right? “Merit-based immigration” has not been the “norm” in this country for most of its history; just discriminatory immigration. The whole point of the original 1924 immigration act was to codify discrimination based on “ethnicity” and race; before that, being a white European was the only “merit” required. Merit-based immigration policy today is a farce, because, as Sen. Lindsay Graham has pointed out, there is more “merit” in keeping cheap food on the table and constructing buildings than there is shutting white Americans out of tech jobs by abusing the H-1B program (although admittedly one should take into account the fact that although American women account for the majority of overall college degrees, they barely register in STEM degrees).  Tech companies do not want to take the time or expense to search out native-born citizens with the technical skills they seek, or they make unfair assumptions about relative “merit” compared to Asians. It’s easier to pick from a “ready-made” pool of foreign workers who are expected to fend for themselves, and they seem to have little trouble doing so, since as we will discover, they are not so “bad off” in their own countries to begin with. 

In fact, some locales have allowed themselves to be completely transformed by their willingness to deny Americans “first dibs” for certain jobs descriptions, most disturbingly “office drone” positions that don’t really require a work visa, and any American with some semblance of brain muscle matter can do with a week of training. One such place is Bellevue here in Washington. Bellevue used to be a haven for conservative suburban types looking to escape from the confines of “liberal” Seattle; there was a time not that long ago that if you were black or Hispanic and in Bellevue, it was assumed that  you worked--not lived--there, and if you overstayed your welcome, the local police would help "redirect" you out of town. But while gentrification in Seattle has squeezed out many black and Hispanic communities in favor of white “yuppies” who are willing to pay astronomical rents that minority communities have been priced out of, in Bellevue, Asians—particularly from China and India—have literally “Shanghaied” the city. Downtown Bellevue literally looks like a foreign city day or night. In the Expedia Building, for example, which houses a company that manages travel websites, it appears that 50 percent of employees are east or south Asian in those office drone jobs that any American can do, or should be able to do. One suspects that they are here not because they are “needed,” but because they need something to do as long as they are overstaying their visas, or planning to.

As I mentioned, the illegal immigrant population from south and east Asia is “booming.” Where are they coming from? According to The New York Times, at least “416,500 people whose business and tourists visas expired in 2015 were still in the country in 2016,” most of whom are from countries outside of Latin America. Illegal immigration through overstayed visas more than doubled the number of illegal entrants over the Mexican border in 2015, according to a Times graphic.  Mexican illegal immigration has been in decline to the point where they make up less than half the total number, but illegal immigration from Russia and even Ireland (CNN reported last year that there are 50,000 Irish residing in the U.S. illegally, and I’m sure most of them are not former IRA members), and from east and southeast Asia, the number of illegal immigrants has more than tripled since 2000, according to the Pew Foundation. But of those from south Asia—particularly India, Nepal and Bangladesh—the number of illegal immigrants has literally gone through the roof. From an estimated 28,000 in 1990, the number of illegal aliens from India has soared to a half-million today—a 1,800 percent increase in less than 30 years. That means that at least one-in-six Indians in the country today is technically an “illegal” immigrant, regardless of the method they entered the country by. Is their contempt for “Mexicans” a measure of their racism (as if this country doesn’t have enough of the “homegrown” variety that it has “import” more of it)—or is just an effort to deflect attention away from this fact?

So despite the occasional raids on 7-Elevens, which here in Western Washington nearly all of them and every other convenience store franchise is owned by someone who at least appears to be Indian or Sikh, they remain in the shadows, often behaving rudely to people they feel superior to, treating others like they are the “foreigners.” And they can get away with this  not only because they supposedly have more “merit,” but because it is a “family” enterprise beholden only to themselves (not to corporate rules). This of course isn’t solely reserved for the convenience store business; Microsoft has been one the nation’s leading adherents to the H-1B visa program, yet it is not one of the leading users of the program—save for “customer service,” the kind where you are continually frustrated by the realization that you know more than the tech support person speaking with an accent. And as Sen. Dick Durbin complained about during the immigration reform discussions in 2013 for a  bill that eventually passed the Senate but was not voted on in the House, the H-1B visa program has been grossly misused and abused, no more so than by people from India. At the time, a lawsuit was filed against the India-based company Infosys; according to a story by a tech reporter named Jon Brodkin, 

Infosys, an Indian IT software and services company with offices throughout the world, has been accused of discriminating against American job applicants. One Infosys employee who raised concerns about the company's hiring practices was repeatedly called a "stupid American," the lawsuit states.

Infosys has about 15,000 employees in the US "and approximately 90 percent of these employees are of South Asian descent (including individuals of Indian, Nepalese, and Bangladeshi descent)," the lawsuit states.

Infosys allegedly achieved this ratio "by directly discriminating against individuals who are not of South Asian decent in hiring, by abusing the H-1B visa process to bring workers of South Asian descent into the country rather than hiring qualified individuals already in the United States, and by abusing the B-1 visa system to bring workers of South Asian descent into the United States to perform work not allowed by their visa status rather than hiring individuals already in the United States to perform the work." Infosys "used B-1 visa holders because they could be paid considerably lower wages than other workers including American-born workers," the lawsuit states (I might mention that there is as local company called "ResourcePro" which apparently practices hiring discrimination against anyone who is not Asian and female).

Of course, the tech industry isn’t the only “problem” area. While 7-Eleven stores that are actually owned by “corporate” have non-discriminatory hiring policies, those stores not owned by corporate are apparently allowed to discriminate at will, not only in their hiring practices but treatment of customers they may not like because of their race or “ethnicity.” The 7-Eleven raids are no doubt conducted because some of these Indian-owned franchises are cover for “friends” and relatives who might be in the country illegally. In the last raid a few weeks ago, 21 persons from 98 locations were detained, and there are many thousands more convenience stores like that providing this cover for illegal immigrants from India; I noted at one local convenience store the owner seemed to be somewhat glum, perhaps because his other two employees were nowhere to be found; he worked alone for a while, perhaps finding it hard to find any “family member” with the “proper papers.” The last time I was there, his wife was working the counter, surprising since it is very rare to see a female working at an Indian-run convenience store.  The extent of this overrunning is indicated by the Asian-American Convenience Store Association, which a few years ago boasted that 80,000 out of 132,000 convenience stores in the country were owned by supposed “Indian-Americans”—they are obviously not all “Americans”—and they can add another to the list, a 7-Eleven in Kent that I patronized for 15 years, with employees who bothered to even know my name, which closed a few weeks ago; I was told by a former employee there that it will reopen with “new ownership” and a different employee set.  

I have to admit that I take things “personally” when treated rudely. I had this recent “experience” in an Indian-run 7-Eleven: It was early in the morning on my way to work when I stopped by the store for coffee and a donut; the only other person in the place was some guy wearing a turban. I filled my coffee refill cup and then went to the donut display; the display indicated that 2 “old-fashioneds” could be had for $2 instead of $1.49 each. So I picked up two of that variety. I went to the cashier’s counter and waited for a few minutes before the guy in the turban finally decided he was done rearranging the hot-food display, which didn’t change the fact that what was in it looked three days old. When he started punching in the items, I noticed that he was charging me full price for the donuts, and stopped him; these are supposed to be two for two dollars, I told him. First he denied it, and I told him that was what the display said. He damn well knew that, because it was prominently noted, and when I insisted he slowly ambled toward the donut case and continued to waste more time by examining the notice minutely, before returning to the counter. 

Well, are you going to change that now? No, he said, he couldn’t change the price because it was already “inputted.” What? All you have to do is cancel out the transaction and re-input. No, he couldn’t do that he claimed. Well, I said, what if I just walk out of here without making a purchase, are you going to make the next customer pay for that? He didn’t have an answer for that, but he insisted I had to pay for his “mistake.” I refused to do this, dumping the coffee in a sink and leaving. I contacted 7-Eleven corporate to file a complaint, and was eventually contacted by the district manager who looked at the store video of the incident, which seemed to confirm my story. He was of course “sorry” and sent me some coupons, half of which were a year out-of-date. But that was just one store and one incident; at another, I ordered a "Big Bite" and instead of filling the order, the rude-to-me employee made me just stand there while he went to the next counter and starting playing "nice" with some white guy; when I spoke-up about this, the employee became surly and deliberately manhandled without gloves what I had ordered. I filed another complaint, but this time I received a reply stating they needed "more information," and I replied that they could go f-themselves if they were not going to discipline these people. If someone doesn't feel that my business is “welcome,” as if my money isn’t as good as a white person’s, then I'll simply "boycott" that establishment. Unfortunately, those that I am not boycotting are becoming fewer and farther between.

Motel ownership is another matter of “interest.”  According to a 1999 story entitled the “A Patel Motel Cartel?” in The New York Times Magazine

Buying a motel, even one that's in the red, usually requires a substantial down payment, one beyond the reach of most new immigrants. That, however, is one key to how this particular niche was captured. The down payment was seldom a problem for a prospective Indian purchaser, who was often able to turn to a network of relatives and friends to help him out. The story of Lata and P.J., for example, is not exactly the hardscrabble tale associated with some immigrant groups.

Following an arranged marriage in 1976 in the Gujarati town of Nadiad, they left for the United States, but not out of desperation or a lack of options at home. They left behind enviable social status; their families employed cooks, watchmen, sweepers, a chauffeur. P.J.'s family owned a marble mine. ''We had a comfortable life in India,'' he says. They simply wanted independence -- freedom from the web of their extended family, with its pressures to share and to conform -- and the simple pleasure of living as a nuclear family. In 1991, the Jasper motel's owner (also an Indian) offered P.J. the place for $150,000; the couple cobbled together the $20,000 down payment from their own savings and loans from friends and family. ''It was not hard for us to do.''

The piece goes on to say that brokers of motels on the market actively discriminate against applicants who are not Indian:

Eventually, the mere perception of dominance becomes self-fulfilling. A number of moteliers to whom I spoke said that white American hotel brokers would often sound out Indians first if they have a property up for sale. Mumford, who has been in the brokerage business for 21 years, said that this was ''completely natural, given the track record of the Asian Indians.'' His company has a database of more than 7,000 ''buyer-and-seller prospects'' -- about 1 in 4 of whom have Patel as their surname.

''When we have a motel that comes up for sale, my team sorts the questions and decides who a prospective buyer might be. If it's a motel with less than 60 rooms, the likely buyers we identify will be Indian 98 times out of 100,'' he told me. ''And why not? They run them better than anyone else.''

Oh really? I know of a local motel where the persons who actually “run” the place is the Hispanic maid and the live-in white handyman; the Indian owners are generally nowhere to be found and can’t be bothered to authorize the purchase of a $50 microwave oven to replace a tiny broken-down model that everyone has to use for the “privilege” of renting an overpriced room, and filling their pockets. 

One thing I despise as native-born U.S. citizen (besides being treated like a “foreigner” because of my “ethnicity”—especially by people who actually are), is the way some non-Hispanic immigrants attempt to “blame” Hispanics for any inconveniences they may experience for not being completely “legal” themselves; sometimes these “inconveniences” have to do with uncomfortable truths. While Trump has repeatedly disparaged Mexico and its people, it seems as if he has nothing but “great” things to say about India and Hindus. But given his lack of knowledge of countries outside of the U.S. (other than Russia), it isn’t surprising that  he doesn’t know that India has more people living in abject poverty than any other place in the world, according to The Guardian. An Oxford University study reported recently that “There are more poor people in the eight states of India than in the 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa…The ‘intensity’ of the poverty in parts of India is equal to, if not worse than, that in Africa.” The Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire  portrayed both the nature and extent of this poverty, as well as the continuing reality of class prejudice in Indian society, despite laws banning the caste system. India didn’t make it on Trump’s list of “shithole” countries, but according to the World Health Organization, 60 percent of India’s people are so poor that they have no indoor toilet facilities; they simply defecate out in the open (thus a “shithole” in the literal sense). Yes, you have these “educated” Indians have the audacity to claim to be so superior to other groups (even whites), yet at the same time they cannot claim to have any moral or ethical “superiority,” particularly in their contempt for their own fellow countrymen. 

While polls indicated that most Indian-Americans voted against Trump in 2016, as usual he tends to listen to those who speak loudest in support of him to judge their overall level of support. Most high-level Indian elected officials in the country are in fact Republicans (right-wing white voters “love” minorities who hate other minorities), and they slavishly supported Trump. And they were rewarded—to the country’s detriment. Yes, we have an Indian-American helping Trump to destroy the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicare and Medicaid (Seema Verma), an Indian-American seeking to allow conservative corporations to control who has access to the Internet by ending net neutrality (Ajit V Pai), an Indian-American who is helping to disseminate Trump’s lies to the media (Raj Shah), and of course Nikki Haley, who has no diplomatic or international relations experience whatever, and can do nothing but slavishly aid Trump in discrediting the country’s standing in the world.

But when you have Trump’s support, truth doesn’t enter into the equation—or for that matter, when you don’t.

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