Discrimination and the Economy


Immigration Debates

We cannot wait for governments to do it all.  Globalisation operates on Internet time.
Governments tend to be slow moving by nature, because they have to build political support for every step.

- Kofi Annan

Bipartisan Proposals and Differing Viewpoints
Make Immigration a Seminal Issue for This Congressional Term

by Stephanie Clifford

House Speaker Dennis Hastert took the floor for his first speech in the109th congress on 4 January to discussed a theme that has divided many business owners: immigration.  The terrorists who attacked the US, Hastert said, exploited border-security oversights and abused American immigration laws, and the US must implement tighter restrictions on immigration. It was a controversial speech--the first in what will be a Congressional term filled with debate over immigration policy.

Surprisingly, the debate isn't breaking along party lines.  House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner (Republican - Wisconsin) has created an immigration-reform package that Congress will address soon.  The bill fills in a fence along the US-Mexico border; lets federal agencies accept only driver's licenses that have been issued with proof of legal US residency; makes it easier for the government to reject asylum seekers; and makes it harder to appeal immigration decisions.

But some of Sensenbrenner's Republican colleagues say that's much too strict, and point to a program called AgJobs as a better model.  This bill would give illegal agricultural workers a chance at temporary legal status, and set them on the path to permanent US citizenship.  Backed by 63 senators and 126 representatives from both parties, this bill was held up in the last Congressional session, but is expected to come roaring back this term.

Surprisingly, it's AgJobs, not Sensenbrenner's proposal, that falls closest to what President Bush has outlined as his vision of immigration reform.  He's said he supports loosening the immigration laws, and particularly allowing temporary workers legal status.  (However, he also said he'd help Sensenbrenner and his allies pass more restrictive border-control - this in exchange for their support on the intelligence bill).  Legalizing the workers, Bush said in his year-end news conference, will help the government track them, and will let US border control officials chase down "crooks and thieves and drug runners and terrorists, not good-hearted people who are coming here to work."

Opponents argue this easing of immigration controls might lead to higher health care costs, with uninsured workers crowding hospitals, along with Americans losing their jobs, beaten out by the foreign workers.  But supporters say foreign workers are an economic necessity, and America must handle that reality.  "Anyone who employs people in lower-tech jobs anywhere in the US knows that our companies are already employing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of foreign nationals who reside here without authorisation.  And our laws are written in a way where we pretend that we don't need them," says Steve Ladik, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and head of the immigration law group at Jenkens & Gilchrist in Dallas.  "But the fact is the economies of Texas, Illinois, California, New York, and half the country would collapse if tomorrow we could click our fingers and have every undocumented worker out of the country.  Construction, hospitality, the medical industry, manufacturing - all these key segments of our economy are dependent upon these people."

It's not just low-tech industries that use foreign workers; high-tech and entrepreneurial endeavours count on them, too.  Regarding this group, the concern is not that they'll cross borders illegally; rather, it's that they'll stop seeing America as an immigrant-friendly place.  Post-9/11 restrictions have added red tape to visa applications, for example, and already, foreign students are shying away from American schools.  The number of foreign students enrolled in US higher education institutes declined by 2.4% for the '03-'04 school year - the first decline since 1972.  There's a growing perception overseas that the US is inconvenient for foreign students, says Victor Johnson, associate executive director for public policy at the Association of International Educators.  And that's going to hurt the American economy.  "Attracting foreign students doesn't imply any disinvestment in Americans, because it's not a zero-sum game - particularly at the undergraduate level, most students pay their own way," Johnson says.  "To the extent we bring in foreign science talent to the country, we're helping our scientific leadership and economic growth; a lot of these people end up staying here and doing great things for our economy, founding Silicon Valley firms, and all kinds of things like that."  Moreover, the more foreign students that have roots here, the better American international relations will be.

Having so many bipartisan proposals on the table that differ so drastically is rare for a big issue such as this.  That illegal immigrants are here to stay seems likely; that talented foreign workers help the American economy seems obvious.  Whether the US will attract or repel those foreign workers, and how the government should track them and care for them once they're here, should be one of the seminal issues of this Congressional term.

Source: inc.com 6 January 2005

See also:

bulletCongress Exploring Proposals (earlier in this section) - for more on this subject.
bulletChairman of the Barred - The Association for Migration and Investment's board passed a motion of no confidence in its chairman, David Besley, after he made public comments that the board considered to be in conflict with its stance.  They have barred him from speaking as a representative.  Mr Besley spoke out on schemes that rip off would-be migrants and recommended registration for all consultants...
bulletDollar Dilemma - ...far better for exporters to succeed in business because their products are good, because foreign governments allow open trade and because foreign economies are strong enough that shoppers there can buy the goods in the first place...
bulletWhy Living in a Rich Society Makes Us Feel Poorer - ...to function effectively in complex social environments, we need ways to evaluate how we're doing and make judgments about how best to adapt to changing environments.  Such judgments almost always depend heavily on how we're doing relative to others in the same local environment...

Mexico Publishes Guide to Assist Border Crossers

Source: www.sentimentalrefugee.com by Dale Wilkins

by Chris Hawley

Mexico City - The Mexican government is giving out a colourful new comic book with advice for migrants, but immigration-control advocates worry that some of the tips may encourage illegal border crossers.  The 32-page book, The Guide for the Mexican Migrant, was published in December by Mexico's Foreign Ministry.  Using simple language, the book offers safety information for border crossers, a primer on their legal rights and advice on living unobtrusively in the United States.  Dramatic drawings show undocumented immigrants wading into a river, running from the US Border Patrol and crouching near a hole in a border fence.  On other pages, they hike through a desert with rock formations reminiscent of Arizona and are caught by a stern-faced Border Patrol agent.

"This guide is intended to give you some practical advice that could be of use if you have made the difficult decision to seek new work opportunities outside your country," the book says.  But immigration-control groups questioned some of the guide's advice.  "This is more than just a wink and a nod," said Rick Oltman, Western field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.  "This is so transparent, this is the Mexican government trying to protect its most valuable export, which is illegal migrants."

Book distribution

The book is being distributed as a free supplement to El Libro Vaquero, a popular cowboy comic book, in five Mexican states that send many migrants to the United States: Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca and Jalisco.  The government plans to print 1.5 million copies.  The book comes with a yellow disclaimer saying it does not promote undocumented immigration, and it repeatedly warns against crossing illegally.  But it gives no information about the steps for seeking a US visa. Instead, it offers frank safety tips.  In the section on crossing rivers, it notes, "Thick clothing increases your weight when wet, and this makes it difficult to swim or float." On crossing the desert, it says, "Try to walk during times when the heat is not as intense" and says migrants should follow power lines or train tracks if they get lost.  The book warns migrants that they may have to walk for days to reach towns or roads in the desert and that they will not be able to carry enough water or food.  But it also shows a woman adding salt to a water bottle and advises, "Salt water helps you retain your body's liquids.  Although you'll feel thirstier, if you drink water with salt the risk of dehydration is much lower."

Mexican authorities say they're just trying to keep migrants safe.  "We are not inviting them to cross, but we're doing everything we can to save lives," said Elizabeth García Mejía, chief coordinator for the Nogales, Sonora, section of Mexico's Grupo Beta migrant protection service.

Carlos Flores Vizcarra, Mexican consul general of Phoenix, said he had not seen the guide until a reporter showed it to him.  He said the guide appeared to be only the latest attempt by the Mexican government to warn migrants about the dangers of crossing the border without proper documentation.  The reality, however, is that many migrants will try to do so anyway, he said.  "This is nothing new.  It's a way to put it in very simple terms so people will understand the risks," Flores Vizcarra said.  "The intention is out of concern for human rights.  People are doing it anyway.  We cannot ignore that there is a very big migration between our two countries, and people who are coming to work need to understand the risks."

Mixed messages

Some migrants from Mexico who have crossed the border illegally in the past said the guide seems to send a mixed message.  "On the one hand they seem to be saying, 'Don't cross,' but on the other hand they are saying, 'Cross,'" Humberto Morales, 22, an undocumented immigrant from Oaxaca working as a day laborer in Phoenix, said after looking at a copy.  He doubts the guide will keep many people in Mexico from crossing illegally, but he said it could help save lives.  "We have lots of programs like this in Mexico, but people keep crossing," Morales said.

No official at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Mexico City would agree to an interview about the comic book, despite repeated requests through the ministry's media relations office.  The book's pictures are drawn to match the style of El Libro Vaquero.  They portray the migrants as strong and healthy men and women, wading into a river or walking through the desert.  One section of the book urges caution when dealing with immigrant smugglers, known as coyotes or polleros.  It shows migrants climbing into the back of a tractor-trailer, a possible reference to the 19 migrants who died in Texas after being sealed in a tractor-trailer in May 2003.

On getting caught

Another section warns migrants not to lie to US authorities or use false identification, and it gives instructions on what to do if caught by the Border Patrol.  "Don't throw stones or objects at the officer or patrol vehicles because this is considered a provocation," it says.  "Raise your hands slowly so they see you are unarmed."  A picture shows a group of migrants running from a Border Patrol sport utility vehicle, though the text urges them not to flee.  "It's better to be detained a few hours and repatriated to Mexico than to get lost in the desert," it says.

Seven pages are devoted to migrants' legal rights after they are detained and another four to living peacefully in the United States.  "Avoid attracting attention, at least while you are arranging your stay or documents to live in the United States," it says.  "The best formula is to not alter your routine of going from work to home."  The Arizona Republic faxed copies of the guide to the US Border Patrol, FAIR and two groups that support stronger controls on immigration.  A Border Patrol spokesman said he does not think the book encourages illegal crossers.  "If they've already gone ahead and made that decision to cross illegally ... then anything that helps protect lives is worth it," said Andy Adame, spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson sector.

Beyond protection

But the immigration-control groups said some of the advice goes beyond protecting migrants and, instead, encourages them.  "A lot of it is disclaimers, but then there's this part about if you're going to cross the desert, do it when the sun isn't so hot," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.  "It's a mixed message."

Said John Vincent, editor of a newsletter published by Virginia-based Americans for Immigration Control: "It really looks like the Mexican government is encouraging illegal immigration.  It shows the contempt that the Mexican government has for our laws."

The Mexican government produces a similar book aimed at Central American immigrants who try to enter Mexico illegally.  The book covers much of the same information about legal rights and repeats many of the warnings.  It even shows a group of migrants struggling to breathe inside a truck.  But that book doesn't give the same kind of safety tips on crossing the border or advise immigrants on how to live peacefully in Mexico.

Reporter Daniel Gonzalez contributed to this article.

Source: azcentral.com Arizona Republic Mexico City Bureau 1 January 2005

Multiculturalism: It's Different for Girls

When Is It Politically Correct to Beat Gays and Kill Women?

by Cathy Young

On 30 April, American journalist Chris Crain became the victim of a hate crime in Amsterdam.  While walking in the street holding hands with his partner, he was savagely beaten by seven men shouting antigay slurs.  A few days later, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at the Human Rights Watch, expressed some sympathy for the gay-bashers.  Crain's attackers were reportedly Moroccan immigrants.

"There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long opined to the gay news service PlanetOut.  "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."

Welcome to Politically Correct World, where acts that would merit unequivocal condemnation if committed by white males are viewed in a very different light when the offenders belong to an "oppressed group."  The irony, of course, is that one of the principal reasons for the recent anti-immigrant backlash in the traditionally tolerant Netherlands is the fear that the influx of immigrants from deeply conservative Muslim cultures will threaten the country's liberal attitudes on social issues, particularly the rights of women and gays.  (Pim Fortuyn, the maverick anti-immigrant Dutch politician assassinated in 2002, was openly gay.)  This fear is shared by some immigrants - notably, the Somali-born politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The tension between two pillars of the modern left - multiculturalism and progressive views on gender - is not new.  It has been particularly thorny in many European countries where, in lieu of an American-style "melting pot" approach, immigrants have been traditionally encouraged to maintain their distinct values and ways.  Recently, however, these tensions have started to come out into the open.  According to a March article in the German magazine, Der Spiegel, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist last November after he had made a documentary about the oppression of Muslim women "galvanized the Netherlands and sent shock waves across Europe."

In Germany, these shock waves have generated a long-overdue interest in the sometimes deadly violence toward Muslim women, mostly in the country's 2.5-million-strong Turkish immigrant community.  A German-Turkish women's group has documented 40 "honour killings" since 1996 - murders of women and girls by family members as punishment for besmirching the "family honour."  In February, 23-year-old Hatin Surucu was shot to death in Berlin, allegedly by her 3 brothers.  The young woman had divorced the cousin she had been forced to marry at 16; she had also started dating German men, given up her head scarf, and enrolled in a training course to become an electrician.  What made headlines, Der Spiegel reports, was not the murder itself but a letter from a school principal reporting that some Turkish boys at his school had mocked Surucu as a "whore" who "got what she deserved."

"Honour killings" may be relatively rare; but a recent study by the German government found that half of the country's Turkish women are pressured into arranged marriages - often to men they have never seen before the wedding - and more than 1 in 6 say they were forced to marry.  Serap Cileli, a Turkish-German author and filmmaker who escaped an arranged marriage, told Der Spiegel that until recently, the German media refused to publish her accounts of her and other Turkish women's experiences for fear of appearing "racist."

Even feminists often balk at breaking the multicultural faith.  A 2001 article in Labyrinth, a feminist philosophy journal, lamented that concerns about the oppression of women in the Third World could perpetuate "the stereotype that 'brown' men abuse 'brown' women more than white men" and cause "Third World" people to be perceived as "more barbaric" than Westerners.

My intent is not to single out Muslim immigrants in Western countries nor to argue that Islam is inherently and uniquely oppressive to women; many Muslim feminists argue otherwise.  Oppressive practices can be found in many other traditional societies.  Misogyny and gay-bashing - religiously motivated or not - still exist in Western societies as well, though at least they are widely condemned by the mainstream culture.  We should be able to say, loud and clear, that the modern values of individual rights, equality, and tolerance are better - and just say no to multiculturalist excuses for bigotry.

Cathy Young is a Reason contributing editor to Reason.  This column originally appeared in the Boston Globe.

Source: reason.com 17 May 2005

Most Canadians Would Fail Citizenship Test

Most Canadians know so little about their own country that they would flunk the basic test that new immigrants are required to take before becoming citizens, according to a new poll.  The Ipsos-Reid survey showed that 60% of Canadians would fail the test.  A similar poll done in 1997 showed a failure rate of 45%.  "Canadians appear to be losing knowledge when it comes to the most basic questions about Canadian history, politics, culture and geography ... (they) performed abysmally on some questions," the firm said.

Only 4% knew the three requirements a citizen had to meet to be able to vote while only 1/3 could correctly identify the number of provinces and territories.  Just 8% knew that the Queen is the head of state.

The survey was carried out for the Dominion Institute, which aims to boost knowledge of Canadian history and values.  It said all high school students should have to pass a special citizenship exam before they can graduate.  "It is frankly disheartening to see the lack of progress made by our group and the countless other organisations working to improve civic literary of Canadians over the last 10 years," said institute co-founder Rudyard Griffiths.

The Ipsos-Reid survey of 1005 adults was conducted between June 5 and 7 and is considered to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Source: stuff.co.nz 3 July 2007

I don't know how long it will be up, but there is a sample citizenship test for the US here.

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