Curtain Raiser

Heartbreak & Immigration Dreams, Colltalers

Last week’s pictures of the appalling conditions that hundreds of children, who crossed the U.S. border illegally, face at an Arizona holding center may stop for a full minute the juggernaut of obliviousness and draconian tactics that has marked immigration policy by current and past administrations.
After that moment under the spotlight, though, despite all outraged and semi-heated debates over the issue, chances are it’ll return quietly to the back burner of political expediency, the control of a quasi-vigilante mindset and, ultimately, the corporations running the border’s jail system.
For the immigration debate seems stuck in the mud of faulty assumptions and a questionable moral compass. Short of compassion and integrity, any attempt at reforming it is compromised by grandstanding and ulterior motives. Pity those who still believe in the founding ideals of this nation.
The photos, published by a conservative Website, had the obvious intent of indicting the Obama administration over its treatment, or lack thereof, of illegal immigrants. But that could backfire and serve as an indictment also of the Republican Party as it has consistently fight the issue from making progress in Congress. They did it again last month, blocking efforts to offer residency for those who came here as children and joined the military.
And before we move on to other aspects of what has become a moot issue in American life, that of people who, despite living, working or fighting for this country, or even being born here, are still considered aliens, most of ‘Mexicans’ coming to the U.S. are not from Mexico at all, but mainly from Central America. In fact, immigration from the south of the border country has been drastically reduced in the past decade.
Also, even if it’s painful to see unaccompanied kids being thrown into the gruesome detention centers at the border, the issue shouldn’t depend of pulling heartstrings, as if we’d care more if they’re children. No immigration policy can be serious if it ignores the tightly wound familiar ties of many Latin American societies, and the economic realities that force parents to send their young to brave such a brutal trek to the U.S.
Conservatives all over, however, do share a trump card on their criticism of President Obama: the over two million undocumented immigrants who have been deported under his watch. And who, for the most part, unlike the administration’s claims, were honest, law abiding citizens.
Perhaps no other issue, with exception that of the prosecution of whistleblowers or the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, show with more clarity the profound disconnect between the president’s arresting oratorical talents, and the devilishly pragmatic approach of his administration’s policies.
At times, it seems as if Obama, the candidate, is still on the campaign stump, arousing us with his libertarian ideas, tolerance, and all that, while Obama, the president, has been more often a leader of continuity, meaning, preserving many of the restrictive and unfair policies that preceded him.
Such schizophrenic appraisal of the president who went through an unprecedented political bashing for pursuing an outstanding, albeit imperfect, piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and is committed to bring all active troops home, although not soon enough, may sound itself unfair.
But it is not too farfetched when it comes to immigration reform, even though enacting the overhaul of such a wide reaching law, which just like the Obamacare, will have long lasting impact on American society, is no task for a single man, even for the admittedly most powerful one on earth.
It is, however, a task that will have to be tackled better than it’s been since the times when promoting immigration was a condition to fuel progress of this nation. It’s ironic that a country that rose to the top of the world on the backs of its immigrant force, now can’t find ways to address the issue, without involving xenophobic fears, arming to the teeth its border patrols, or providing business to a corrupted private jail system.
We’re halfway through 2014, and over 140 thousand have already been detained at the Rio Grande Valley. Most of them will spend months of idle imprisonment, waiting to get deported, as there’s no possibility, under current laws, that their cases will be judged on their individual merit.
The very issue of breaking the law is often invoked to deny potential immigrants access to the U.S. courts. But when seasonal demands require, a huge contingent of people born south of the border, often whole undocumented families, are the only help the agricultural industry can count on.
And even that model, so convenient to the multinational corporations that run our farms, which owe no allegiance to such a cheap labor force, is already outdated, as other industries benefit even more from illegal immigrants, from hospitality to manufacturing to construction.
According to recent numbers by the Pew Hispanic Center, only 4% of the estimated 8.3 million illegal immigrants working in this country, are seasonal, agricultural workers. Incidentally, the figures debunk the old myth that these are jobs Americans won’t do. Paid fairly, everyone will apply.
This is in fact one of the confusions clouding the issue of immigration: that it’s a problem because the U.S. is failing to attract skilled, specialized workers, and is pretty much stuck with low-education applicants to legal status, who come from poverty-ridden countries.
One the best concepts, built-in the Dream Act, which by the way was indeed felled by a stubborn Republican leadership in Congress, was that it provide ways for undocumented students to get an education, and that was a complete departure from that old myth of an uneducated alien.
Given that conservatives seem to be on the wrong way of progress in so many issues, such as immigration, reproductive rights, wages and jobs benefits, one wonders how come several polls point to a Republican win coming November. Oh, yes, money. But that’s for another post.
Going back to the unfairness of current immigration laws, President Obama did no favors to those afflicted by it when he decided to postpone a review on deportation policies until the end of the summer. Not to be flippant about it, but that means, raids will continue until morale improves.
Immigrant advocates have been calling attention to the fact that such raids, in which the main breadwinner is arrested, have often the immediate effect of destroying a household, throwing whole families into the streets. There can’t be possibly an upside in pursuing such policy.
Few can explain why this sudden spike in children crossing alone the Mexican border. Estimates for this year set the numbers at around 60 thousand, not counting those caught with their parents or relatives. But it’s easy to see the perils they faced all the way from Central America to the U.S.
It’s a good thing that the almost 800 kids shown in a Nogales detention center, last week, have become the focus of national attention and federal authorities have ordered supplies to be sent to tend to their immediate and most basic needs. It’s unlikely they’ll receive much more than that, though.
According to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, neither there’s sign that the policies of routing immigrants to that detention center will change, as a thousand, mostly children, were expected to arrive there over the weekend. But coming from Gov. Brewer, such news have to be taken with a grain of salt.
After all, the good governor is known for having signed one the toughest, and most unrealistic immigration policies just a couple of years ago, and was the biggest supporter of infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who conducted a relentless hunt for illegal immigrants that ultimately cost him his job. He’s been forced to retire and is still under court supervision for racial profiling and suspicion of tempering with evidence. Good riddance.
The governor and her trusted henchman carry now little relevance in the great immigration debate. It’s up to the president, the majority of the U.S. population, who has blood in this race, and even to the incompetent crop of ‘representatives of the people,’ current ensconced in Congress, to realize the transcendence of this issue and take its control away from the unprepared security forces and politics currently holding it hostage.
No project of nation can come to fruition without fully acknowledging fundamental ethnic and cultural streams that may support it, or drive it astray. This sentence, generic enough to be useful to any nation, is crucial to the U.S. of now and future, no excuses or delays allowed.
Speaking of which, the controversial World Cup in Brazil, is finally about to start, and with its multinational roots, million of Americans, immigrants or not, will be following it with an almost undue passion. Besides turning soccer into football for at least one month, it’s fair to expect it to teach us something else about nations congregating peacefully and the will of peoples of all races to spend time in each other’s company. Good luck to all. WC


2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. There are so many good memes on Facebook about this problem. Too bad WordPress won’t let us put graphics in our comments.


  2. If the US keeps taking the lion’s share of the world´s wealth and energy supplies, it shouldn’t be surprised when the world follows.

    We’ve got the same anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe. Always happens when something goes drastically wrong at the top. My mother was an immigrant and I’m an immigrant in Spain. But then she was Norwegian and I’m English, so I know they’re not talking about us. It’s racism raising its ugly head again, because it’s all to easy to pick out people who just happen to look different.

    Amazing, in historical terms, it really isn’t that long ago they were rounding up people and forcing them to go to the US.


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