Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

by jhwygirl

When bigots and racists are allowed in the very institutions that implement law on the public individual, the whole legal system is called into question.

Makes me also wonder about what we don’t hear. This latest story from Great Falls Tribune Helena bureau reporter John S. Adams leaves me with the startling realization that the people employed at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency making decisions over who to investigate and prosecute for immigration violations can be bonafide bigots.

Last September, ICE officer Bruce Norum sent Helena immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath a long-circulated Islamophobic email titled “You worry me.” Shahid is a Muslim and a natural born citizen of the United States, raised by parents who immigrated from Pakistan. He is also a well-respected attorney who has been honored for his pro bono work assisting low-income Montanans.

Haque-Hausrath details the event, and subsequent suspension-pending-investigation of ICE officer Brude Norum on his blog. Go read it in his own words. He also links to the GFT John S. Adams news articles.

Last Monday, as Adams reports in today’s paper, Haque-Hausrath and his attorney met with ICE officials who told him that Bruce Norum would be reinstated in his same supervisory position. They offered nothing more than the explanation that it was a personnel matter.

While local ICE officials did not return calls, an ICE spokesperson out of Dallas said that they would look into it – but hadn’t responded to inquiries to that progress as of late Friday.

Haque-Hausrath isn’t pleased. Neither am I as I read this – Norum is the senior most ICE official here in Montana. He oversees immigration operations here in Montana and makes decisions on whether to arrest or investigate suspected undocumented aliens or to detain or deport individuals.

Apparently you can be a racist, work in ICE enforcing U.S. immigration law, and also openly espouse unconstitutional views.

Oh – and harass private individuals with hate-filled emails.

~~~~~~
Montana sure isn’t a strange to these kind of brazen hate mongers – chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Richard Cebull sent out racist anti-Obama email last February, and defended it, saying that he simply didn’t like President Obama and that he didn’t send it because of the racists content (which he acknowledged.)

I’ll note that supermontanareporter John S. Adams broke that story, too.

Cebull eventually apologized but it took a few days. Multiple human rights entities petitioned for his resignation. Two ranking Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee have since called for a congressional hearing into Cebull’s email, and a judiciary panel has been investigating the matter since April.

Cebull is still sitting on the bench – we’ve yet to hear if the panel will find him in violation of the ethical standards befitting a judge. I’m sure that panel is just hoping it’ll all fade away. I doubt it. National attention has been thrust upon Cebull, with Mother Jones questioning his ethics, the Washington Post reporting on the investigation, and even the New York Times called for his resignation.

Montana has racists, sure it does – and it’s America with ’em in its courts and Department of Homeland Security.

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by jhwygirl

I’m going to admit something here that is going to date me quite a bit, so here goes: I remember the recession of the mid-70’s. I remember gas rationing, I remember the calls to eliminate the very new EPA. I remember the Cuyahoga River out in Ohio catching on fire. I remember strong pro-American anti-foreign anything sentiment surrounding the purchase of anything. Honda owners and dealerships were objects of criticism and picket lines.

No where in there – or any of the other 4 recessions since then (which doesn’t include this current one) – do I recall America pimping itself out as much as it is now.

And no – I’m not talking about the Keystone Pipeline or the MSTI line…or Otter Creek coal and the railroad that’s taking the stuff to China.

I’m talking about the idea of speed-tracking citizenship to rich foreigners in exchange for investment here in America.

The program is known as EB-5, or Greencard Through Investment program.

For one million buckaroos and the creation of 10 “permanent” full-time jobs, U.S. citizenship can be yours.

Half a million if you pull it off in a “high unemployment or rural area.”

I don’t begrudge anyone citizenship here in the United States. Our country was founded by immigrants – and more importantly, it was built by immigrants. All but war criminals (we’ve got our own) are welcome in my mind.

It is, though, patently unfair to grant U.S. citizenship to the richest of the poorest and worse of nations. The Missoulian story I link to above cites Missoula developers Ed Wetherbee and Kevin Mytty’s quest for a Chinese investor.

A Chinese investor that likely paid barely living wages to people who (between work and commute) pull 15 hour days in order to make that million. A Chinese investor who likely paid off government party officials in exchange for stolen public lands that resulting in the displacing of whole communities or any other number of beneficial arrangements. The Chinese economic system is not only notoriously corrupt, it’s a shell-game of fake investment.

Of course, that sort of corruption is just par the course for someone seeking U.S. citizenship, isn’t it?

I don’t like it. It isn’t fair. It’s ripe with the stench of corruption. U.S. citizenship should not be beholden to the highest bidder, on the easiest speediest path.

Leaving the poorest behind or at a disadvantage in what the U.S. should consider the most valued is not the right thing to be doing.

by jhwygirl

Mainstream media will be all a-buzz with deficit/raising the debt ceiling talks this week, so don’t expect too much coverage on two bills that are of major interest to progressives (like me).

On Tuesday, Ms. Kris Carpenter, Founder/CEO, Sanctuary Spa and Salon in Billings will testify before the Senate Committee on Finance on “Complexity and the Tax Gap: Making Tax Compliance Easier and Collecting What’s Due“.

Hearings to look at the tax gap and tax complexity? Who doesn’t have something to say these days about that?

Interested citizens or groups have two weeks from the close of the hearing to submit comment.

Don’t forget – our very own Sen. Max Baucus is chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Also on Tuesday is a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for The DREAM Act.

Yep. The Dream Act isn’t dead – and Sen. Durbin, it looks, is going to make sure of that.

I poked around that website and couldn’t find information on how to submit comment. If anyone else figures that out, please post that info in comments.

Sen. Jon Tester supports anti-immigrant policies and impedes immigration reform.

A guest post by Helena Immigration Attorney, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, posted by Jamee Greer

Jon Tester (D-MT) is facing a tough run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, but he just keeps giving progressives more reasons not to vote for him. His track record on immigration issues has been abysmal, as I’ve written about before. Make no mistake about it — Tester is probably the worst Democrat in the Senate on the issue of immigration, and he is one of the most vocal. The way he talks about the issue, you would think Montana wasn’t one of the states with the least number of immigrants in the whole country.

Despite outrage over his despicable vote against the DREAM Act, Tester hasn’t decided to leave immigration policy to states that actually have a dog in the fight. You won’t see him bragging about his DREAM Act vote, mind you — after all, Daily Kos famously called him an “asshole” for that reprehensible vote, and he doesn’t want to rekindle the ire of the netroots crowd. However, he has continued to make his anti-immigrant positions a core part of his campaign, jumping at every opportunity to link immigration to national security concerns. For instance, when a college in California was found to be enrolling foreign students without proper accreditation, Tester quickly issued a press release noting that “several of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had entered the country using student visas.”

Recently, Jon Tester put up two web pages on the issue of immigration that are so ignorant you would think Tester locked anti-immigrant zealots Mark Krikorian and John Tanton in a room with a bottle of whiskey and posted whatever they came up with.

In fact, these two immigration pages are so wrong-headed that they require some analysis and interpretation to fully make sense of them. One web page outlines his unsophisticated view of the immigration issue in four paragraphs. His other page lists his immigration “accomplishments.” (By accomplishments, Tester seems to mean ways he has screwed immigrants and wasted federal money.) I’ll review both of the pages together.

Jon’s position on immigration is simple: people who wish to immigrate to the United States must follow the rules, and we must enforce them. That’s why Jon opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.

During his first year as Senator, Jon helped put a stop to a bill that would have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Jon voted in 2007 to defeat the Immigration Reform Bill, telling his colleagues, “We don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.”

Where do we start? Polls have consistently shown that the people think our immigration system is broken and want some form of immigration reform. The last time our immigration laws were substantively changed was in 1996, and almost everyone agrees that those changes were ineffective — in fact, they created more problems than they solved. People are frustrated by the federal government’s failure to act, and don’t believe that “enforcement only” solutions are going to work. As a result of the federal government’s inertia, states like Arizona, Utah, and Georgia have begun to enact their own immigration policies, which raise significant constitutional concerns including due process violations and racial profiling. While I strongly oppose state level enforcement of immigration laws, and I believe that these state laws are misguided, it is difficult to fault the states for at least trying to take action when the federal government will not.

Yet, Jon Tester considers it an “accomplishment” that he has ignored the will of the public and done absolutely nothing to fix our immigration system. In fact, he is proud that he helped derail immigration reform in 2007, and has continued to sabotage efforts to reform our immigration laws. It’s nice that he sets the bar so low for himself, but the rest of the country is expecting a little more.

Tester refuses to acknowledge that our system needs to be fixed, stating “we don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.” The problem, of course, is that our system is broken and we need to reform our laws in order to more effectively enforce them. Current immigration reform proposals aim to increase enforcement on the border and interior of the country, but recognize that in order to curb undocumented immigration we also need to fix some of our laws that are creating the problems in the first place. For instance, our laws include huge gaps in coverage, where many family members have no reasonable opportunity to immigrate legally to the United States. Among other things, reform proposals would open new paths to family-based immigration that were causing needless undocumented immigration.

Tester remains willfully obtuse in his opposition to so-called “amnesty” for immigrants who lack lawful status. “Amnesty” means a general pardon for an offense against the state, but Tester uses the term “amnesty” to refer to any changes in the law that would create a path to legalization — even if the path is strenuous and imposes a strict set of requirements. He even used the term amnesty to refer to the DREAM Act, which would have created a seven (or more) year path towards citizenship for men and women who serve our country in the military or go to college. There is no “amnesty” on the table, and there hasn’t been for years. Instead, what is being proposed is a way for immigrants who are already here to earn their way back into lawful status by paying fines, back taxes (if they haven’t already been paying like most immigrants), and potentially even community service. After all, even Newt Gingrich understands that it is not realistic to deport all of the 11 million people who are here without status.

Finally, comprehensive immigration reform won’t be expensive, as Tester states, but will actually increase wages for all workers and improve our economy. Time and again, it has been proven that spending money on border security alone, without any other changes to our laws, is untenable and ineffective. Nevertheless, Tester has chosen to advocate these “enforcement only” solutions.

Instead [of immigration reform], Jon has focused his energy on boosting security along America’s borders, particularly our northern border with Canada. From his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

That same year, Jon introduced and passed into law a measure requiring the Homeland Security Department to report on weaknesses along the northern border and develop a plan for improving northern border security.

So let me get this straight: Instead of working for immigration reform to help the entire country, Tester is pushing for huge government expenditures to protect us from Canada? It is foolish to tout Canadian border security as an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, because it is clear that the risks from an unmonitored northern border have almost nothing to do with the larger immigration problems our country is facing.

While the GAO issued a report stating that Department of Homeland Security needs to work better with other agencies and partners along the northern border, the GAO didn’t endorse Tester’s crusade to spare no expense to “secure” the border. Indeed, the GAO previously pushed back on claims about insecurity on the northern border.

Nevertheless, Tester is so eager to appear strong on immigration enforcement that he managed to get an appropriation for military grade radars on the Canadian border. He also wants to expand the use of unmanned drones (and they are already being used in some areas). Those radars and drones would have come in handy last year, when I helped a Canadian kid who got lost and accidentally drove his ATV across the border.

As George Ochenski put it: “For most Montanans, the border with Canada has never been and likely will never be seen as a threat. After all, the U.S. and Canada share the longest border on the continent, and it has been our ally in world wars as well as regional conflicts. It’s also our largest trading partner and our closest, largest and most secure source of oil. Treating Canada as some variant of Pakistan’s border is, in a word, insulting to both Montanans and our Canadian friends.”

Jon was the only Senate Democrat to put his name on legislation pumping new resources into border protection for new technology and new border patrol officers. Jon cosponsored the measure after securing a pledge that a certain percentage of those new resources would be spent along the northern border.

Here’s a tip for Tester’s staffers: When you’re the only Democrat to put your name on a piece of legislation, its probably nothing to brag about. The bill that Tester is referring to is actually a corollary to one that was introduced by his opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). Jon Tester partnered up with Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-AZ), among other Republicans, to co-sponsor a $3 million amendment. This bill also funded construction of the fence along the Mexican border — a project that has been abandoned and condemned as a tremendous failure and waste of billions in taxpayer dollars.

And from his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

One of Tester’s “critical upgrades” was a $15 million dollar renovation to the border station in Whitetail, MT, which was reported to get about five crossings a day and no commercial traffic. After facing criticism for needless spending, Tester and Max Baucus reduced the appropriation to only $8.5 million. Meanwhile, Canadian officials closed the road leading to this border station, rendering the whole project useless. This embarrassing episode didn’t make Tester’s list of accomplishments.

Of course, even though he votes against any legislation that isn’t directed purely towards deporting immigrants, Tester wouldn’t want you to get the impression that he is against immigration:

Jon knows that legal immigrants, like his grandparents, helped build America into what it is today. But he also believes that no one is above the law.

In public statements and constituent letters, Tester is constantly stating that his grandparents “waited in line” and followed the rules, implying that new immigrants should be expected to follow the same process. However, it appears that Tester’s ancestors entered the country in 1916 — before our current immigration system even existed. At that time, our immigration policy was comparable to an “open border” policy. Years later, quotas were enacted to limit immigration and more stringent criteria for entry were developed. It was not until 1965 that the current Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted, with its very limited methods for gaining permanent residence in the U.S.

There is no question that Jon Tester’s ancestors faced a dramatically different immigration system than those who are immigrating today. Tester and other enforcement advocates often evoke the image of a “line” that immigrants must simply wait in. However, the truth is that for most immigrants, there is no “line.” Tester’s own grandparents may not have been able to enter the country under our current immigration scheme.

Jon Tester seems intent on mimicking Rehberg in many ways, including sharing his anti-immigrant views.

Jon Tester’s vocal anti-immigrant positions have placed Montana progressives in a difficult position. Contrary to the attacks of those who want to silence any opposition to Tester’s bad policies, none of us are excited about the prospect of his opponent, Dennis Rehberg, being elected to the Senate. Indeed, Rehberg’s stance on immigration is no better than Tester’s. However, Tester’s ignorant views on immigration are also making it impossible for us to lend him our vote.

Tester’s positions on immigration are not gaining him support with Republicans, but they are causing a split among Democrats. The best thing for Jon Tester to do is distance himself from the issue of immigration, because each time he opens his mouth, he brings many progressives closer to sending a difficult message: The progressive movement cannot tolerate a Democrat who has an anti-immigrant agenda, regardless of the consequences.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath blogs about local immigration issues at Border Crossing Law Blog.

By JC

Thought a little JibJab humor might cheer everybody up. Well, everybody but all those who’s dreams rested on DREAM.

by jhwygirl

I’ve slept on this two nights, and I’ve failed to find a moral or a logical reason for Tester’s vote, other than pandering for votes.

I guess I’m one of those idealistic ones who expects the people I vote for to do the right thing. Even when it’s tough.

A number of progressives here in Montana have written about Jon’s vote – Pogie at Intelligent Discontent, Matt at Left in the West, Wulfgar! and Jamee Greer at Left in the West too….and Shahid Haque-Hausrath, a Helena-based attorney and human rights activist.

I see Tester’s vote as unreasonable. It was a step towards reform. We’ve been told to accept steps on health care. We’ve been told to accept steps on financial reform. Compromise.

I thought this was compromise. A baby step towards reasonably and morally solving one little slice of the immigration issue.

Beyond that, I’m pretty much in line with the laments of Pogie and the disappointment of Jamee Greer. We all were working very hard in 2006 for Tester.

DREAM would have made citizens out of people brought here as minors. Children that did not have a choice and children that did not knowingly come here breaking the law.

DREAM made citizens of these people who came here as children providing they had clean records and a good grade average and hadn’t broken the law.

DREAM had nothing to do with so-called ‘anchor babies’ because – like it or not – those ‘anchor babies’ are legal citizens of the United States of America.

Now, if you want to call that amnesty – and I point to the fact that these are kids we’re talking about who had no choice – call it that. But it sure seemed fair to me.

I mean, what – punish the child for the ills of the parent? Really?

Sen. Tester issued a statement at 5 p.m. Friday, the eve before Saturday’s vote, saying he couldn’t vote for amnesty.

So the other reason I see his vote as utterly without logic is this: If Senator Tester’s position is “no amnesty” how, pray tell, do we meet his position? What is the end-game to that position? Deportation of all undocumented immigrants? How are we going to do that? More importantly, how are we going to fund it?

And think about it – Exactly what kind of government does it require to round up all these illegal people? Are you going to go door to door? Am I going to have to carry citizenship papers with me at all times?

I mean, really? What is the end-game of a “no amnesty” position?

Tester’s vote is extremely disheartening for me…especially from what I read outside of the Montana blogosphere – “burn in hell”? “bigot”? Those words cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

As for my part, I’ve taken a number of criticisms just for posting kos’ response to Tester’s vote (a post, btw, which mentioned Baucus). As I started out above – I’ve slept on this two nights trying to see a reasonable side to this vote and I’ve yet to find it.

Do I make Jon an adversary by being so upset about this vote? I would certainly hope not – and I would hope he thought the same when he cast his NO vote knowing I and a whole bunch of others here in Montana and elsewhere would think it was a shitty thing to do.

If anything, the cynic is me says that there’s a part of him that’s giving me a tip o’ the hat for giving him some street cred with the voting xenophobes of Montana. I mean – consider the value kos got him over at Electric City Weblog.

by jhwygirl

Montana Senator Jon Tester voted against the DREAM act today. Kos is pissed

So am I.

(Looks like Baucus voted NO too.)

by jhwygirl

Immigration is all the rage on morning talk shows, which I didn’t miss (thankfully) this week because the marathoners (God Bless ’em) have been running on by since somewhere around 6:45 this morning.

Aside from what I think is completely misdirected energy by anyone wanting every illegal immigrant rounded up and deported…I’m wonder why these so-called reformers (rounding up and deporting everyone isn’t reform) are making this Obama’s issue – and why Obama is kowtowing to it.

Maybe we should have gotten better health care reform. Maybe we should be getting better finance reform.

Just off the top of my head, you know?

I hit this a little in this weekend’s open thread, and I think that the Take Our Jobs campaign from the UFW is ingenious.

How many real jobs are immigrants taking from Americans? Jobs that Americans want? Jobs that Americans can actually do? I mean – how much do you want to pay for a head of lettuce? $5? $7? How would that work for everyone?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away the federal government swooped into a little tourist town that garners an estimated 75,000 people a day stopping on by – sleeping, eating, drinking and doing the general thing that tourists do when they are on vacation. And the federal government rounded up all the undocumented workers (the dishwashers, the prep cooks, the housekeepers, the sanitation personnel). They separated families, leaving children without parents – in some cases, both – in other cases a father or a mother.

In this galaxy there were plenty of jobs to go around – and the while the undocumented workers were happy to be doing the general grunt work cleaning up of these 75,000 tourists each day (along with the 6,000 or so residents who were well paid for the better jobs such as line cooks, clerks, maintenance and general administration for the USFS, and the state and local government jobs), this round up by the federal government put the economy is a real lurch.

It left hotel owners with no one to clean rooms – see, the owners and the Americans had the cushy jobs of supervising these undocumented workers. It left the restaurateurs with no one to wash the dishes or mop up the restaurant.

What happen to the tourists? Their $175-a-night rooms weren’t ready even at 8:00 at night. It took hours during peak dining times to get food because pots and pans and plates and silverware weren’t getting cleaned fast enough. Owners and their legal employees had to work all through the night to get half-assed work done.

What else did they do? What else could they do – they put out a call for other galaxy residents to take on second and third jobs. They had to get through tourist season, after all. It’s when their money is made.

What did this American do? I helped. At a cost, of course – I mean, who in the hell wants to work two jobs when my first job was paying me plenty and I lived in such a galaxy that was attractive enough for 75,000 tourists a day to stop by? I wanted to enjoy that too – but I was sympathetic to the pains of my fellow galaxy residents….and I did what other Americans were doing. I gave up some of my precious time off in this attractive oasis and went to work. For a price.

What was I worth, with the owners in such a lurch? In the hotels I was worth $60 an hour. Cash, because they didn’t have the time to document my work. In many ways it was worth it to just walk in the door whenever I wanted (if I wanted) and work for however long I wanted and have them gratefully pay me that kind of money. Three hours and I had $180 in my pocket but I couldn’t head to the Cowboy Bar to spend it because they didn’t have enough staff and service sucked?

Moral: Profit went down for those owners. Americans don’t work cheap. Tourists will only pay so much for a hotel room, and they’ll only pay so much for a meal. When service sucks, tourists tip less. Waiters, waitresses and everyone who shared in these tips made less, but had to work more. Americans don’t like to work back-breaking jobs and they don’t like to work a second or a third like a lot of those undocumented immigrants were more than happy to do. If they do do those back-breaking kind of jobs, they want a lot of money.

~~~~~~
The Obama Administration is now having the Immigration and Customs Service “sweep” companies that hire undocumented workers and having them all fired. They aren’t being deported, and this has the so-called reformers mad.

George Bush Jr. could have done this. He didn’t. He also could have done this and deported them. He didn’t.

Yet Obama is evil because he’s not doing anything about illegal immigration.

Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer is lying – yep, I’m using the L word – and the WaPo’s is justifiably calling her out on it. Crime is down in Arizona, and there are more border guards then ever before.

When people talk about “wedge issues” this is one if I ever saw one. Sen. Tester periodically puts out a whine for more border guards to protect our northern border – much of which is just vast waterless grass and badland coulee rutted landscape – just to keep himself on the Montana conservative credibility range.

So now Obama isn’t doing anything. Or enough. With the whole budget deficit and everyone so concerned with the mounting deficit, now the “reformers’ want to whine about not busing all these illegal immigrants across the border?

Undocumented workers aren’t taking our jobs. They are, though, costing Americans a lot of money – in increased border patrols, forensic accounting of farms to find ’em, and soon – if these “reformers” don’t shut up – buses back to Mexico or Canada or wherever they came from.

Oh – and $7 lettuce.

by jhwygirl

Yeah, yeah – some of this stuff was just too good to pass up, and not enough to blog about….and yes – Please consider this an open thread.

Dave Crisp unearthed over 52,000 ancient Roman coins, worth an estimated $1 million.

Famously dead Door’s singer Jim Morrison is haunting a bathroom in Santa Monica, located in a Mexican restaurant that used to the the band’s studio. “You feel it here almost every day, throughout the entire place, but especially near this spot,” says the manager – the “spot” being a unisex bathroom.

DEQ puts out a great monthly newsletter. It might even be twice a month – but it’s always filled with great information. There are regular webinars that could be of interest to any number of small or large businesses or even state/county or city administrations. In the latest issue is some interesting news on chicken feed and arsenic – and another link to a story pondering whether the U.S. meat market will be controlled by just 3 companies. You can subscribe to the newsletters by hitting that link.

Another one of interest in that newsletter that shouldn’t be missed by those advocating for crackdown on illegal immigration is Take Our Jobs. The United Farm Workers have formed the website looking for legal Americans who want to take jobs away from illegal immigrants. They’ll even help with training.

A recent Harper’s Index (which they don’t appear to put online) put the cost of rounding up, processing and sending all illegal immigrants home at an estimated $72,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Yeah, I double checked those zeros

A couple of things that I think history will look back on and see as the harbingers of the downfall of world civilization?

The first shopping mall
McDonalds
MTV

Feel free to add to that list.

The Congressional Budget Office has recently costed the cap-and-trade climate bill. It has Lieberman smiling, which is usually a scary thing for someone like me. The numbers were pleasantly surprising. I will say that America needs to not let this opportunity for new industry pass. Shipping solar panels here from China, and wind turbines from Holland should be an affront to American ingenuity. We can’t be a nation of Burger King and Walmart jobs.

Just one more, in closing. It’s just a pic:

by JC

“We are human beings and we should be treated with dignity”

chavez

Here is an excerpt from “Bearing the fruits of their labor,” from the Institute for Southern Studies. Some not-so-light reading on worker justice for your Labor Day’s relaxation and BBQ:

Bearing the fruits of their labor

“We used to own our slaves — now we just rent them.”

Those were the words a Florida farmer used to describe his migrant farmworker labor force to reporter Edward R. Murrow in the classic 1960 Thanksgiving television documentary Harvest of Shame. The documentary would go on to shock U.S. viewers with its depiction of the bleak plight of the Florida farmworkers who put food on America’s tables.

Fast forward 50 years later and still much of their story remains the same. Just replace the African-American migrants of the 1960s with the Mexican, Central American and Haitian immigrants of today.

These farmworkers are responsible for putting food on most of our tables, yet they remain among our country’s most vulnerable groups. These tomato pickers endure low pay and dangerous job conditions. They work seven days a week, between 10 to 12 hours with no overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick days, no benefits and no job security. They often have wages withheld, face beatings and violence, and live in deplorable living conditions where they are packed like sardines into trailers. In the most extreme cases they are enslaved.

With some U.S. labor laws still mired in the legacy of racism, laws offer few protections for farmworkers who are not guaranteed the legal right to overtime pay or collective bargaining, and who can be fired at will. Three-fifths of all farm workers in the U.S. earn less than $10,000 a year.

Despite the harsh conditions of their labor, over the past few years a small group of migrant workers from southwest Florida have been making waves across the country in their battle for worker justice. They have waged one of the most successful labor campaigns in a generation.

Led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a South Florida-based grassroots workers’ rights organization, these farmworkers have gone on to win major, landmark victories against some of the largest corporations in the United States… [read the rest of the story]

by jhwygirl

Each morning, we can all get downtown via free shuttle buses being provided by the city for all delegates and press and people in limbo, like me. I still haven’t written about yesterday’s ride – but I thought I might write about today’s.

I mentioned this morning, the delegates are getting pretty comfortable. Some of them are sharing rooms – and it all has the air of a college reunion. Not all are legislatures, so they don’t all work together all the time, but it is clear that they know and like each other quite well.

And No – they aren’t really wearing “regular old t-shirts” – I know I said that earlier – but I certainly don’t want ya’all getting the impression they’re down here on vacation. This stuff really is hard work. There’s important stuff to do for the next 2 1/2 months…and you can tell they mean business.

I didn’t get out of here until about 11 a.m. this morning – which put me on a shuttle with JP Pomnichowski, Michele Reinhart, Julie French and Anthony Jackson.

Anthony is a fine young man from Billings – 26 – who is currently working on Steve Bullock’s race for Attorney General.

Michele is our local HD-97 state house representative – who is running for re-election, BTW. I find her to be very much keyed into understanding the how and why behind things. Hell, I almost feel like she’s interviewing me at times. It’s all good, and I don’t mean that to sound bad – it isn’t. She’s my representative, and she’s very interested in my perspective of things. How could an active voter not like that?

Julie French is really a firecracker. You get the sense, from the get-go, that this is a woman that does not take “no” for an answer. That people – men and women – kinda sit there and nod in agreement when she speaks, and that when she tells you that ‘this is the way this is going to be,’ then, that is the way it is going to be.

I won’t tell you who told me, but I hear they call her Grandma. I assure you, it has nothing to do with her age.

Julie defined what a good legislator is – and she was clear to say that it didn’t matter if it was a city council person, or a state legislator or someone in the federal level. A good legislator is a good listener. “They have to listen to people. They have to want to listen to people,” she said. Julie then cited Jon Tester as an excellent example of someone who exemplifies a good legislator. Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

(The above headline is to be sung to the tune of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.)

I love it when someone actually researches the claims from the right that global warming isn’t happening. Dick Barrett shreds a recent global warming denier’s guest column.

Shane takes up the nuclear energy debate and also has a poll. The poll’s results don’t seem to match the comments. Maybe the nuclear industry lobby folks are also linking to Montana Netroots, and voting but not leaving their opinions.

Also over at NetRoots, Cece is pissed. Apparently, the backers of I-159 have removed the initiative from the ballot for some future political favors. I’m not sure how that works but I wasn’t even aware of the petition drive until just last week when someone thrust a clipboard in front of me at Rockin Rudy’s and asked me to sign.

Jay reviews the Montana Republican convention and I agree, Erik Iverson is one hell of a spin doctor. One of my favorite quotes was, “Our diversity in the Montana Republican Party is our strength.” It came from a Missoulian State Bureau story that was headlined, “Diversity, unity the themes at GOP convention.” Now when I think of diversity, I think about people of color, or gays and lesbians. I don’t think about a bunch of white folks that are right wing and far-right wing.

Another nugget from the convention that goes to the heart of Republican diversity was this. It’s a new plank in the party platform that advocates rounding up all the illegal immigrants in the U.S. and shipping them back to whence they came. First of all — good luck. Second of all — where does the budget for this round up come from? And finally, a few Republican critics of the plank said it sends the wrong message. You think?

Finally, most everybody thinks that 18 gubernatorial debates are overkill. While Jay thinks three is plenty, Lamnidae thinks that 174 is a good number (but I think he’s being facetious).  My belief is that one should suffice.  By the way, excuse my ignorance, but just what is a lamnidae?

by jhwygirl

He said it. Very well, I might add.

Don Pogreba has declared his candidacy for Governor.

So the Immigration sideshow passed through Hamilton this week. Did you feel a breeze? You certainly didn’t hear anything about it. In fact, you’re probably wondering what the h*ll I’m talking about, aren’t you?

One of nineteen scheduled House-sponsored immigration hearings took place in Hamilton on Monday. The purported goal of the hearings is to check in with Americans to see what their concerns about immigration are. The real goal is to drum up support for the House’s tough-on-immigration plan and to showboat for the upcoming elections.

Naturally this particular hearing was brought to Montana by our very own Representative, Denny Rehberg.

So what’s the plan that Rehberg and hearing chairman, paleo-conservative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), are touting? The Missoula Independent:

Under the House bill, a person who enters the country illegally could be charged with a federal felony and be permanently barred from obtaining American citizenship. The bill calls for increased border surveillance, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar, cameras, guards, dogs, more checkpoints, vehicle barriers and 700 miles of fence along the country’s southwestern border. It also directs the DHS to study the feasibility of erecting a physical barrier along the country’s northern border.

Whoo-whee! That’s some tough plan for those tough Republicans! The basis for these tough, tough, tough measures is, of course, terror. At least that’s what the Republicans are trying to do, whip up fear and propose super, duper tough legislation so you’ll think they’re tough.

Only that line didn’t go over so well with the “witnesses” the tough-guy Congressmen selected for the hearing. (Now remember – these witnesses are hand-picked by the politicians to give them the answers they’re looking for.) No, the Montana law enforcement officials didn’t want all the tough fences and tough guns and tough equipment the tough Republicans were offering:

However, none of the five witnesses said anything substantive about terrorists. They did offer ample testimony about drug smuggling, and also made it clear that the best intentions sometimes don’t lead to a safer border or better drug interdiction.Both Glacier County Sheriff Wayne Dusterhoff and Jeremy House, a Billings police sergeant who supervises a drug task force in eastern Montana, said their agencies have considerable difficulty getting information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And House said investigations have sometimes been hindered by ICE.

[snip]

In fact, none of the five witnesses said they needed any legislative changes to do their jobs better. None said they needed expanded authority to deal with immigration issues.

About the only real issue beyond cooperation appeared to be staffing and resources; nearly every agency had a relatively small number of officers or agents covering a huge expanse of the American-Canadian border.

Got that? The agencies need better communication and more staff. Period. Gee, isn’t that why the Department of Homeland Security was created, to coordinate law enforcement?

So here we are approaching the five-year anniversary of 9/11 (who else is dreading that upcoming day?), and border agents are plagued by the same problems that led to 9/11. Short-staffed and bad communication. If anything, then, this was a glaring reminder of how ineffective Congressional Republicans have been in effecting substantive reform that makes our nation safer.

Still, Tancredo wasn’t going to let these people off easy:

Although some have worried that efforts to shore up America’s northern border might lead to environmental degradation – there’s even been talk of a fence between America and Canada – an agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his agents just need good access to trails and roads that are already in place along the border. Tancredo repeatedly asked whether a “barrier” would help.

But Robert Harris, chief patrol agent of the agency’s Spokane sector, said there is no reason to harm the other important resources like wilderness and national parks along the border.

“We just need trails, better access to the roads we already have,” Harris said.

You think this testimony will cause Tancredo to shelve his talk about a “northern barrier”? Me, neither.

Now consider the Senate’s immigration plan:

The Senate version, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., calls for the issuance of three-year guest worker visas, and establishment of a path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Illegal immigrants currently in the country would be fined $2,000 each, and would have to pay back taxes and learn English and American civics. They would also undergo background security checks. President Bush supports the Senate version.

This is a much smarter plan. For one, the House’s plan is unworkable. Charge every illegal border-crosser with a felony? Great. Where are you going to imprison them? Who’s going to pay for their incarceration? Who’s going to pay for all the gee-gaws – the satellites, guard dogs, tracking equipment, the barriers, fences, barbed wire, and ditches?

Will Denny Rehberg pony up and put his money behind his principles? Don’t hold your breath.

Let’s face it: the Senate plan makes more sense. It provides some revenue to offset the cost of tighter border control. It provides a legal avenue for seasonal workers to come to the US and earn their way to citizenship that includes background checks and security clearance. It’s realistic, it’d be less expensive, and more effective.

But Rehberg and Tancredo are tough guys. They want to slap illegals against the wall and frisk ‘em under the barrel of a gun. That’s what tough guys do on television, anyway, which is apparently where tough-guy Congressmen and their tough-guy supporters learn about tough-guy things.

A recent AP story dissects the use of YouTube.com videos and political campaigns, citing the recent clip of Burns snoozing during a farm bill hearing. Those of you reading this blog are no doubt already aware of the use of YouTube in this year’s political campaigning. No, nothing new here, except maybe Burns spokes-goon Jason Klindt’s reaction to the “Happy Trails” vid:

“We direct people to our Web site, not YouTube,” said Burns spokesman Jason Klindt. He characterized the YouTube posting as a “gotcha” video, saying Burns had gotten little sleep the night before the farm hearing because a flight had been canceled.

Well, Jason, that’s one of the reasons why Burns is going to lose this race. His staff is too politically inbred and unimaginative to actually make use of technology to aid their candidate.

(By the way, I don’t really think the video reveals much about Burns – not like this Kossak’s face-to-face encounters with the junior Senator – but he does look old. Still the video is hilarious and well worth a watch, just for laughs.)

The real story of YouTube is in Virginia, where Republican Senator George Allen was caught on video calling a man of Indian descent a “macaca,” a North African derogatory for blacks. (Allen’s mother emigrated from Tunisia.) The most recent poll of the race shows that Allen’s lead over Democratic challenger, Jim Webb, has shrunk to 3 points, 48 to 45 percent. (Allen led at one point by as much as 19 percent.)

This could be the slur that puts a Democratic majority in the Senate.

See, the Republicans hold a six-seat majority in the Senate, 55 – 43 – 2 (Independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman have vowed to caucus with the Democrats). In order win the majority, the Dems need to shift six seats to their side of the aisle. Right now, they lead in five seat-changing races: Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Missouri.

If – and these are big, big “ifs” – the Dems pick up those five seats, and Webb wins in Virginia, voila! Democratic majority. And the Republic will have YouTube to thank.

Incidentally, some might think a simple, momentary slip-up should not decide the composition of our government. I might agree if the slip-up had nothing to do with some general characteristics of the losing political party or candidate. (Dean’s “scream” for example.) But calling a brown-skinned activist in the opposition party a “monkey” fits in with a general trend among Republicans for all-too-often landing on the side of the nativists, racists, and white supremacists, from racial profiling to hard-line anti-immigration foes.

Like, say, Colorado’s Tom Tancredo:

America is wrestling with an identity crisis. Part of it is a result of what I call the ‘cult of multiculturalism.’ The idea that there is nothing — nothing — of value in Western civilization, that we have nothing to offer the world, that we have nothing to offer as a viable society, that everything we have is bad and ugly…. If we are truly in a clash of civilizations… which I happen to believe, then it is important for us to understand who we are.

Or Montana’s own Conrad Burns:

In 1994 Burns told the editorial board of the Bozeman Chronicle that when asked by a constituent, “how can you live back there Washington, DC with all those niggers?” he replied, “[It’s] a hell of a challenge.” About the use of the racial slur: “I never give it much thought.”

On February 17, 1999, while at a meeting of the Montana Implement Dealers Association in Billings, Montana, Burns referred to Arabic people as “ragheads”.

Or take 4&20 commentor, Frank, who either deliberately, or out of ignorance, misrepresents “affirmative action”:

Affirmative Action: Giving special treatment in pay, raises, school admission, business loans because of a persons race.

Of course, affirmative action is now simply ensuring that institutions receiving state monies at least consider or accept applications from candidates of minority ethnic groups. (Instead of, say, giving no-bid contracts to your pals.) In the recent SCOTUS decision on the issue, the highest court affirmed the practice of using “points” to ensure a diverse student body (in this case):

Grades and academics are most important, but members of “under-represented” racial and ethic minority groups have received extra points, as do children of alumni, athletes and men enrolling in nursing programs.

[snip]

[Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor, writing the majority opinion, said the Constitution “does not prohibit the law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.”

In other words, quotas are a thing of the past, and a person’s race or ethnicity is considered as influential to a person’s viewpoints and character, as, say, participation in band camp. Hardly a controversial or offensive claim.

If you feel that only academics should be considered, well, that’s a whole ‘nother claim, and I might be inclined to agree, especially if “legacy” status, athletic ability, or less relevant “academic” factors are tossed out. (But then, where will the children of Republican lawmakers go to school? Perhaps they could learn a trade.)

Of course even a quota system could be wildly effective in certain situations. Take the U.S. military for example:

The military during both World Wars consigned most black people to support jobs. The top brass commonly defended discrimination in racist terms, arguing that black men lacked the courage to fight or the intelligence to lead. These bigoted policies shadowed the military long after formal segregation was ended and nearly tore the Army apart during the 1960’s and 70’s. One of the pivotal figures in the transformation was Clifford Alexander, President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of the Army. Early in his tenure, Mr. Alexander put a hold on a list of officers proposed for promotion to general. He was troubled, as he explained in a 1997 Op-Ed article, ”because no black colonels had been promoted, even though many had achieved that rank and served with distinction.”

The board that handled promotions was ordered to look at the records of eligible black colonels and to determine if they had been given lesser assignments or evaluated negatively by officers who were racially prejudiced. Once race-related blemishes were expunged, black colonels with otherwise sterling records emerged as strong candidates for promotion.

No reasonable observer can argue against the success of the policy or discount the skill and honor conveyed on our armed forces by upper-echelon officers from minority ethnic groups. The diverse composition of the armed forces is a credit to the nation and a reflection of the patriotism and ability of all Americans.

Ultimately commenter Frank ends his tirade against affirmative action thusly:

White supremeism is horrible and MUST be stopped, but so should racism TOWARDS whites. TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT

By espousing the current uses of affirmative action, of course, I’m not claiming that all, or the vast majority, of whites belong to a group of conspiring overlords. Whites suffer in poverty, struggle to get into colleges, work cr*ppy jobs. In short being white isn’t all sh*ts and giggles. But I’d argue vociferously that race is not a factor that keeps those of us struggling down. (What is is open to discussion. Luck of birth? Growing gulf between rich and poor? Shrinking real wages?)

I’m not calling Frank a racist, although I think he’s mistakenly putting the blame for the plight of white (or any color) working-class and middle-class families on the “special treatment” of minorities. And it is true that I’ve been on a binge of calling out racists on the Internet, maybe a bit too eagerly, say, when attacking the Missoulian…although maybe not.

But racism still exists in high places in this country, as evidenced by Allen’s and Burns’ remarks. And we should denounce it whenever we see it. It’s the decent thing to do.

A new report shows that there’s no link between “an influx of immigrants” and jobs for Americans.

During the recent debate over immigration, some sides argued that an increase in foreign-born workers hurts the job prospects of American-born workers, but the study found that no such conclusion could be drawn nationwide.

You all know where I stand on the issue of immigration. I jes’ plain think it’s too impractical and expensive to do anything other than ease immigration standards for Mexican seasonal workers and offer some sort of amnesty program for them.

One of immigration opponent’s arguments was that illegals would take jobs from Americans. This study pretty much destroys this argument. The results are too mixed to draw a conclusion either way, which implies that increases in jobs for Americans and the increase of immigrants has, at the very least, little effect on one another.

So what’s left? There’s the old “it’s illegal” argument, which paints Mexican migrant workers as criminals. And it is the sort of easy dichotomy conservatives love, only it isn’t realistic or workable (as are most other conservative fantasies). And of course there’s the nativist arguments to keep Mexicans out – which is nice way of saying racist and paranoid.

Should be fun watching the GOP avoid this issue like the plague for fear that the paleo-conservatives (like Colorado’s Tom Tancredo) will get some air time…

By the way, Intelligent Discontent has been amazing in covering the Burns-Tester debate. In fact, I’d argue too amazing.

That is, I didn’t see Pogie’s three “Fact check” posts until now, because they were buried under additional commentary. I had planned on doing some of this stuff, but Pogie not only beat me to it, but did a better job on it than I ever could.

So, for the two people that don’t regularly visit Intelligent Discontent, you can read Burns’ misstatements in three posts, Fact Check on Conrad Burns part 1, part 2, and part 3.

You can tell a candidate is poorly prepared for a debate when you need three separate posts to show all his errors.

Pogie neglected one area of Burns-ian misstatements, though, and that’s on illegal immigration. While Burns came down firmly against amnesty, as did Tester, the junior Senator implied that Tester gravitated towards his position. Oh, dear GOP readers, were it only so!

Luckily for me, Matt Singer has already written a post about the multitude of positions that Senator Burns has held on the issue. In March, he was in favor of amnesty for undocumented workers. Then again in his infamous Marianas Islands vote, he opposed tougher border control.

Tester, on the other hand, has as far as I know always opposed amnesty for undocumented workers.

(Please note that 4&20 blackbirds favors amnesty. Just because I’m voting for Tester – and urging everyone else to do so – doesn’t mean I agree with all of his views. But he’s honest, and I trust him to do the right thing. So…I’ll give up amnesty. Although I still think it’s inevitable.)

Update: Now you can find all the misstatements in one handy post over at Intelligent Discontent!

It's Los Angeles. Thousands fill the streets, speaking a foreign language, waving the flag of their home country. They cut out of work to come here and sing patriotic songs lauding their homeland. Children skipped classes. Some of them traveled hundreds of miles to come here.

No, these are not the pro-immigration rallies we saw recently. These are Koreans gathering to watch South Korea play in the World Cup.

Closer to home, here in Montana, the state will be adding additional languages to road signs on Route 93. No, not Spanish. Salish and Kootenai.

Why no fuss?

Paleo-conservatives will have you believe that cultures can't live alongside one another and still retain their identity. They're saying an influx of Mexicans will drown out “American” culture – whatever that is – that we'll have to learn Spanish to get by, that Mexican values will predominate.

But their silence at these other obvious manifestations of foreign-ness (and apologies to the Salish and Kootenai for having to say that) makes it apparent that paleo-conservatives object to the influx of Mexicans alone. Maybe it's racist. Maybe not. Whatever it is, it's hypocracy.

Ignore the hyperbole. The articles above should remind us that America is already a country with diverse interests, politics, languages, and culture. That's a good thing.

John at Blogenlust is dead on with his comments on President Bush’s proposal to use National Guard troops to patrol the US – Mexican border:

With the caveat that I know very little about the National Guard and its training, it would seem to me that rotating that many troops in and out of the area on such a short interval (however localized or spread out they may be) is something of a logistical headache for those in charge of making sure they’re doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing.And, that’s not even taking into consideration what would happen if/when there is a major national emergency (like another Katrina, for instance).

John also references a WaPo report that says historically there is no correlation between increased police presence on the border and a decrease in illegal immigration:

About 10,000 Border Patrol agents are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border, and patrol hours climbed about 167 percent between 1997 and 2005. But there is no clear link between staffing and arrests, or between arrests and a reduction in the flow of illegal immigration, analysts say.

And never mind that deploying Guardsmen to the border further weakens our national security by stretching our military further and weakening our ability to respond to emergencies. And never mind that Guardsmen aren’t trained to do police work. And never mind that there aren’t enough jails to lock up the illegal aliens we do catch.

I must admit I’m also nervous that Bush is putting a small army on domestic territory, controlled by…who? Not the Pentagon. Then who? The NSA?

Meanwhile WaPo editorialist Robert J. Samuelson tries to whip up fear among Baby Boomers to the dangers of Mexican immigrants:

…we face a future of unnecessarily heightened political and economic conflict. On the one side will be older baby boomers demanding all their federal retirement benefits. On the other will be an expanding population of younger and poorer Hispanics — immigrants, their children and grandchildren — increasingly resentful of their rising taxes that subsidize often-wealthier and unrelated baby boomers.

Watch out, Boomers! The Mexicans are after your pension money! (Funny that, in this future, conservatives and the “Brown Peril” will have the same values. Why isn’t there a plan to deport Grover Norquist to Mexico?)

The Senate just passed an immigration bill that provides for a 370-miles of triple-layered fencing along the border, and 500 miles of vehicle barriers. Also the bill offers illegals…guess what? A form of amnesty:

The bill…would…create a guest worker program and offer legal status — ultimately leading to U.S. citizenship — to many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the country.

It’s also apparent that this thing doesn’t have a chance to do an end run around the paleo-conservatives in the House. Like Tom Tancredo, who once said illegal immigrants "need to be found before it is too late. They're coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren." He also sounds like he buys into right-wing fantasies of an impending “culture war”:

America is wrestling with an identity crisis. Part of it is a result of what I call the 'cult of multiculturalism.' The idea that there is nothing — nothing — of value in Western civilization, that we have nothing to offer the world, that we have nothing to offer as a viable society, that everything we have is bad and ugly…. If we are truly in a clash of civilizations… which I happen to believe, then it is important for us to understand who we are.

Do you need me to explain why this guy is nuts?

Anyhow, as a liberal I’m going to enjoy watching the Republican party reveal its racist underbelly when the the Senate bill hits the House floor.

Those of you who also read Ed Kemmick’s excellent blog, “City Lights,” are no doubt aware that I went off in the comments to a great post on illegal immigration.

It all started with a Kemmick story on a woman who married an illegal alien who was deported back to Mexico and can’t return to the States to be with his wife and child. By all accounts, the couple in question – Billings native, Josie Luna, and her Mexican husband, Gonzalo Luna – are hardworking, honest, religious, and decent folk. Their story is an antidote – and a reality check – to the vitriol spewed against illegal immigrants across the nation.

The lesson: immigrants are people.

Still, the column didn’t seem to awake any opponents to the realities involving illegal immigration – the complex web of economics, emotion, and human stories – but instead seemed to deepen the gulf between immigration hard-liners and…well…everybody else.

Admittedly there are many who emphasize the illegality of the immigrants’ actions as the basis of taking a firm stance against undocumented Mexicans in our midst. But there was still a weird nativist tone to many of the comments.

David Neiwert wrote a fascinating post about the re-emergence of racism in mainstream political discussion, racism that finds a natural home in the topic of illegal Mexican immigrants. In the post, he mentions the recent outcry about singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish and links to a quote from John Chuckman:

There are roughly thirty-million Spanish speakers in the United States. The analysis here is interesting: an immigrant singing an anthem in his own language resembles someone changing the national flag. This argument does, perhaps unintentionally, reveal the real concern: Hispanics are changing our country, and we don’t like it.

I think Chuckman is spot on. Most virulent anti-immigrants spout garbage like, “they can’t speak English,” or other such nonsense, as if a language were what defines being “American.” (What I think makes an American an American may deserve its own post. Bottom line: if you live here, ta da! You’re an American.) It’s obvious they’re…afraid?…furious?…about the changes that are already occurring in our country to our language, to our culture, to the skin hue of our neighbors.

(In a truly fascinating side note, Neiwert compares the outcry to a Spanish “Star Spangled Banner” to the reaction to Jimi Hendrix’ rendition of the same song:

The creation of these effects was groundbreaking in its own right, far expanding the traditional techniques of the electric guitar. The rendition has been described by some as a generation’s statement on the unrest in US society, and others as an anti-American mockery, oddly symbolic of the beauty, spontaneity, and tragedy that was endemic to Hendrix’s life. It was an unforgettable rendition remembered by generations. When asked on the Dick Cavett Show if he was aware of all the outrage he had caused by the performance, Hendrix replied: ‘I thought it was beautiful.’

Indeed.)

In any case, it probably wasn’t surprising that these ugly, nativist ideas surfaced in the comments in the Billings Gazette.

So, without further ado, I bring you today’s creeps:

Legal citizen: Are we expected to somehow feel sorry for [deported man, Gonzalo Luna]?

Yes. (It’s a bad sign when you need guidance on when to feel certain emotions. Is there medication for this?)

ethel: It is curious how, since the '90s, law and order have been degraded to where we are rapidly destroying what was handed to us in freedom by the builders of European descent. Now, interlopers and benefactees of our culture, economy and social services are calling us 'fat, white, lazy Europeans' and demanding that we leave 'their' country. The USA is barely two hundred years old, Mexico has been around for centuries; but which one is the producer and builder and which one is the same corrupt structure it has always been because of its own apathy?

Note how the “degradation” of US society started in the 90s…when Clinton was President! Hey, ethel, why not blame the Republican-dominated Congress? It’s also telling that ethel feels that our liberties, culture, and country were solely the gift of Europeans. So much for the African-American slaves who enabled the Jeffersons, Madison, and Washingtons to…well…survive. Or who contributed to our arts, politics, and letters. Or the Chinese and Japanese immigrants on the West Coast…well, you get my point.

Her points about illegals draining our taxes is a common theme among the nativists. Of course it isn’t true, either. Illegal immigrants actually contribute more in taxes than they consume. But to paraphrase Colbert, reality has a left-wing bias.

LAH: I have been following the news coverage of the protest on Monday for some time. It struck me that if any other criminals announced that they would be convening in a locale in mass the police would likely arrive and arrest them. It will be interesting to see if police across the country ignore the opportunity to round up these criminals.

Another popular tactic, equating illegal aliens with serious criminals, like, apparently, pedophiles, drug dealers, and crooked Senators. (Later in the comments, illegals are compared to meth manufacturers.) Absolutist rhetoric like this is completely misleading. Would you call someone arrested for not pay parking meter violations a “criminal”? Me neither.

cme: I am curious. who paid for the hospital bill when the baby was born. I bet welfare did. one more reason that we don't need or want illegal aliens , immigrants, or what ever you prefer to call them, here. I would be among the first to call immigration on any one I knew was here illegialy. no exceptions. come here legally and I would help anyway I can. but otherwise, they are nothing other then a lawbreaker and should be sent home. in chains if thats what it takes.

Don’t let reality hit you in *ss on the way out, cme. Nowhere in the story does it say the Lunas were on welfare. In the comments it turns out they were both working citizens who paid for their medical bills themselves. Assuming Mexicans are on welfare = racism.

h: …There is something wrong when my little brother who is an english speaking American citizen is forced to learn the Pledge of Allegiance – in Spanish, not English.

Funny, people in Missoula pay for their children to attend the city’s “international school,” where kids are taught in Spanish. It’s actually a good thing to be bilingual.

vice: Here's an idea: let's borrow a page from the east Berlin playbook and land mine the border. Hard to cross illegaly with missing limbs.

Either a sociopath or a thirteen-year-old. Hard to tell the difference.

northeast montana: I am sure many of you have heard of how the "Star Spangle Banner" has been rewriten and sang in spanish. Truely we as Americans have to see a problem with this, as well as to have illegals in this country and think that it is ok. We are Americans. We follow the rules or are other wise punished for not. We speak English. That is what being American is all about. It is time we get rid of those who are here illegally and quite breaking down to there demands. This is our country. The "Star Spangled Banner" is song in English and only English and where we need to take care of our own people first. Not illegals that have figured out a way to get here. Go back to your own homeland!

To quote Ed Kemmick:

My favorite comment by far came from the woman who identified herself as a Hispanic and a legal resident of the United States. She found it odd that so many people who write about the sanctity of the English language apparently don’t mind mangling it themselves, with broken grammar and hilarious misspellings.

It goes on and on. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the solution is inevitable and it involves amnesty, guest worker visas, and no border wall.

Advice the hysteria-driven crowd: get used to the idea of Mexican immigrants.

The current political climate in immigration has everything mixed up. Just look at Nebraska. Incumbent Senator, Ben Nelson – a Democrat – is all hot to build a fence across the entire U.S. – Mexico border.

How do his GOP rivals react to Nelson’s stance? “Incremental.” “Unworkable.”

So far, the Nebraska Republican candidates have portrayed Mr. Nelson's approach as misguided. Mr. Nelson, a Democrat in a fairly Republican state, has introduced legislation to build fences along the U.S.-Mexico border but [Republican Sen. candidates] Messrs. Kramer and Ricketts say that isn't a solution. Instead, both are advocating steps like more border agents and tougher enforcement of laws.

Got that? The Democrat is in favor of fencing off Mexico. The Republicans claim the plan is unworkable.

Or take another Western state:

The desire for tougher treatment has become an issue in places like Utah, where Rep. Chris Cannon, a five-term Republican, is facing a fight for the nomination, in large part because of his position on immigration. Mr. Cannon, who represents a conservative district in a solidly Republican state, has taken heat for supporting a proposal that includes a guest-worker program. Like many politicians, Mr. Cannon is caught between needing to appease constituents, many of whom support tougher measures, and businesses that rely on immigrants for labor. That has created an opening for Republican challengers, including Merrill Cook, a former U.S. congressman, who has cited Mr. Cannon's position on immigration as the reason he entered the race.

Many Republicans realize that a harsh stance on immigration is bad for business, especially in the Western states whose agricultural industries rely on seasonal migrant workers. So some GOPers are advocating a softer stance on illegals.

(Seems to clash with the ueber-conservatives over at “What’s Right…,” where I’m excited to witness a flip on the issue once they get new talking points from on high.)

Meanwhile many Democrats waffle on the issue, too, torn between liberal ideaology supporting multiculturalism and providing opportunity to the downtrodden, and loyalty to unions, who don't want or need the cut-rate competition for their jobs. Nelson's stance — wanting to build a fence, indifferent at worst to amnesty — happens to fall into lockstep with the views of the majority of Americans. Nelson's playing politics with his wall.

Another indication that GOP leaders see little or no reason to continue to pursue a hard line on immigration can be seen in Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo’s announcement that he will no longer be seeking the presidency in 2008. (Tancredo is the GOP’s bulldog on immigration and outspoken critic of multiculturalism.) Tancredo’s bid for the White House was with the full knowledge that he couldn’t win the job; he just wanted to ensure that his views on immigration were represented in the debate.

But now that the debate has reached the mainstream – in a very large way – and is seen by some as having hurt the conservative House hardliners, it’s likely that Tancredo’s withdrawal from the race for president is a result of his success in getting his message out and his realization that his views are doomed, both practically and politically.

I’ve said this before, the solution is inevitable, and it’s going to have to include amnesty and fast-tracking citizenships and guest worker visas and everything illegal-haters hate.

Update: In the comments, Matt Singer pointed out that I misrepresented Unions. Matt:

The AFL-CIO is pro-citizenship and has had a consistent pro-immigrant position since ‘99. The SEIU and AFL have both been lending support in organizing pro-immigrant rallies.

The conflict on the Democratic side may come from some concern over jobs, but it isn’t from unions.

Sorry, union folks. Shoulda poked a little harder about that facet of the issue.

As I was trolling Eric Coobs’ new website to see what the Burns campaign was thinking about, I came across this post:

Why would the Democrats pretend to care about illegal aliens? What's in it for them?

Well, I decided that the national Democratic Party is getting tired of losing national elections, and falling union membership, and think that a new group of voters, like illegals from Mexico might be able to put them back in power. Heck, they might even get them signed onto labor unions, stopping the decline there, and ensuring nice union PAC contributions.

This reminds me of the story about the guy who went to the shrink’s to look at ink blot tests. After telling his doctor that image after image looked like images of porn, and his doctor concluded that he suffered from sexual perversion, the man barked, “Me, the pervert? You’re the one with all the dirty pictures!”

Coobs’ paranoia in his post hints at how he probably thinks about his pet issues that keeps his favorite party in power. Or maybe Coobs is so unsympathetic to the plight of many illegal immigrants that he genuinely can’t understand why anyone would want to listen to their concerns.

All I know is that many House GOP members are considering flipping on the issue:

…many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.

[snip]

The politics of the issue have shifted markedly since the House acted. Republican lawmakers are increasingly saying they will now consider some avenue to grant illegal immigrants access to lawful employment. And Democrats who voted for the House bill with an eye on their political futures or to preempt feared attacks from conservatives are rethinking their position.

The question Coobs should be asking himself is not, why do Democrats “pretend” to like illegal immigrants, but why are Republicans starting to pretend to like illegal immigrants, and how is he going to flip on the issue on his site without anyone noticing?

On immigration, I think it’s an issue where political opportunity meshes nicely with ideology. Yes, the Democrats stand to gain political capital by supporting a softer stance on illegal immigration. But I think many Democrats truly believe the country should court honest, hardworking Mexican workers, not to create a base of Democrat voters, but because it's the right thing to do.

As a liberal I believe in equalizing opportunity for all. The more people that can enjoy the (slipping) freedoms of the U.S. and the economic advantages of living here, the better. Call me idealistic or starry-eyed, but I believe in these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty the pursuit of Happiness.

Sure, some illegal immigrants may cause problems. But they’re here. We don’t have the resources to throw ‘em jail, let alone round them up and deport them. Why not give most of them a chance at citizenship? At the very least we should give them guest-worker status.

The Montana blogosphere heats up on the issue of immigration. In fact, it was surprising how long it took to heat up. Well, finally Eric Coobs over at “What’s Right in Montana[?]” came out, guns blazing:

No amnesty, No guest-workers, and start enforcing the border. If you want to come here, apply for citizenship, and do it right.

Coobs goes on to describe how to immigrate “right.” (Hint: it involves Germanic heritage.)

Pogie tackled the inherent racism in Coobs’ post, comparing it to rhetoric written by Goebbles, and Matt Singer talked about the practical costs of doing it Coobs’ way. (Funny how conservatives are willing to tax and spend to criminalize people, but completely unwilling to spend a dime on, say, the poor. I must have missed a lesson in Sunday school.)

Personally, I’m not at all interested in this debate other than to delight in how it’s splitting the Republican Party. My disinterest doesn’t reflect dispassion; I recognize problems that illegal immigrants cause, but I also have much sympathy for their desire to come to the U.S. and make some decent money. Poverty gives wings? Is that a quote?

No my disinterest stems out of the fact that the solution is inevitable. Mexican works will win a right to guest-worker visas that will lead to citizenship. Current illegals will receive amnesty. No wall will be thrown up along the border. There’s no suspense in this debate. The outcome is foreordained.

John Cole:

The way I see it, a wall is impractical, not granting amnesty is pointless (does anyone really think we are going to round up all the illegals?), I am not convinced by arguments that illegals are an economic drain or boon (if I had to make an uneducated guess, I would argue it is a wash), and if terrorists want to sneak bombs in, they will find a way that does not involve illegals.

The fanatic anti-immigration stance that Coobs so ineptly parrots is vastly unpopular with American voters. In a recent poll, some 72% of voters believe Mexicans should be able to get guest worker permits that lead to citizenship. Coobs’ proposed border tightening is too expensive, as is making felons out of illegals. Politically, taking a hard line on illegals is a recipe for future political bankruptcy. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing group in the country. Karl Rove understands this; it ain’t rocket science as is evidenced by President Bush’s support for a kinder, gentler immigration reform. The GOP professionals over at Coobs’ new site are mum on the issue, too.

But the delicious part of the debate is this: the base of the Republican party hates illegal immigrants and will probably doom the party because of it. Why? Who knows. Probably because they don’t want brown-skinned people moving in next door, brining their “Mexicanist” lifestyle with them. Or, to quote an article linked to by Coobs:

Will millions of unassimilated Mexicans Mexicanize America? We don’t need the worst of Latin America—- endemic corruption, miserable poverty, an impassable chasm between rich and poor. Already the Democrats and Leftist media are delighted by the prospect of a new underclass to exploit and seduce for political gain; they have tried to change the English usage from “illegal immigrant” to “undocumented worker.”

Never mind that creating an “impassable chasm between rich and poor” is a plank in the GOP platform, never mind that Democrats might support illegal immigrants because in their numbers there lies a potential to create from its population of honest, hard-working members fantastic U.S. citizens. Or to quote Coobs’ source again:

The United States became the envy of the world in the 20th century, in ways that could not have been predicted when waves of poor, ignorant, and unassimilated people came ashore at Ellis Island.

(By the way, I suggest that Coobs actually read the articles he links to. While it’s a tad difficult to say exactly where the article’s author, James Lewis, comes down on the issue due to his general mismanagement of words, it seems…ready?…it seems that maybe he kinda likes the idea of lots of Mexicans coming up into the U.S….)

Basically the two camps in the immigration debate can be described thusly: Those that view the U.S. as a gated community of liked-minded and similar-looking people who want to shut out the world; and those that view the country as a stoop on a busy block full of noise, smells, and sights and filled with neighbors.

Put me on the stoop.




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