Saturday… Immigrants and ImmigrationPosted: October 15, 2011
Good Morning, the sun should have come up on another weekend day, which for most of the politicians and corporate big wigs is just another day to enjoy what ever it is most politicians and corporate big wigs do.
And while they are off playing golf or raising money for the flavor of the week, I am certain there is some Latino pushing a lawn mower, or perhaps a Latina, washing their clothes and linens and taking care of the kids…If these fat cats live in Alabama, they still can have their “day labor” help without worrying about being charged with aiding and abetting the immigrants they hire.
Well, whatever the 1% do on the weekends, it is what they do during the week that has me writing about the subject for today’s post. Getting anti-immigrant “reform” laws being proposed or passed in state houses around the south are becoming a favorite pastime of the conservative politician and big money corporate class.
I guess being two generations removed from immigrants, who came to America searching for a better life, makes me a bit sensitive to these draconian laws that are turning immigrant brown into the new south black. Some may think this is taking it a bit far, but as we have seen with the anti-woman PLUB agenda, the hate towards immigrants will only get worse.
This past week we saw one of the most severe immigrant laws in the nation go into effect. After an Alabama judge decided to block only a small part of the law, the Obama administration appealed the decision. Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals gave a temporary order, that only blocks two items from the law. The court blocked a section of the law that allowed Alabama schools to check on the immigration status of new students enrolling in school. It also blocked the portion of the law in which police can charge an immigrant who did not provide proof of their citizenship. A final decision is expected in a few months, but now according to the Washington Post:
The judges let stand parts of the law standing, including allowing police to check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop. Courts can’t enforce contracts involving illegal immigrants, such as leases, and it’s a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state for basic things like getting a driver’s license, the judges ruled.
The three-judge panel blocked a portion of the law that made it a crime for the “willful failure to complete or carry” proper immigration documents. The law does not require students show proof of citizenship to enroll, and students who do not have the right documents would not be prevented from attending school.
Liz Betancourt, 19, with her daughter, Idelfy, is scared to leave her house in Florence, Alabama. An illegal immigrant whose family came from Mexico to the U.S. when she was an infant, Betancourt lives in a state that recently instituted a tough new immigration law. (CBS News)Under the state’s new law, if she’s picked up by police, she could be deported. And during that process, which can take months, there’s no legal guarantee her daughter Idelfy — born in Alabama and a U.S. citizen — would stay with her.
Betancourt is one of many immigrants who has made arrangements for her daughter if she is deported, fortunately she has her aunt,
If Betancourt’s deported, her aunt, a U.S. citizen, would care for Idelfy so the baby could stay here.
Fear of deportation is spreading through families living here illegally. In Albertville, Alabama’s public schools, 81 of 1,100 Hispanic students have dropped out in the last two weeks.
For those people who do get deported, they have the option of taking their US born children with them…And what about Betancourt who was surprisingly vocal about her illegal status…
The Friday decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Atlanta is only temporary. Its final decision could be months away. And Liz Betancourt — the woman interviewed in our story — was fired by her cleaning company right after she spoke with CBS News.
Not all of Alabama’s employers are happy about the new law. Alabama immigration: crops rot as workers vanish to avoid crackdown | World news | guardian.co.uk
Brian Cash can put a figure to the cost of Alabama‘s new immigration law: at least $100,000. That’s the value of the tomatoes he has personally ripening out in his fields and that are going unpicked because his Hispanic workforce vanished literally overnight.
For generations, Cash’s family have farmed 125 acres atop the Chandler mountain, a plateau in the north of the state about nine miles long and two miles wide. It’s perfect tomato-growing country – the soil is sandy and rich, and the elevation provides a breeze that keeps frost at bay and allows early planting.
For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields.
Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.
After the law went into effect…
…there is no-one left. The fields around his colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.
We had the same thing happen here in Georgia. When the Immigration law was passed in the “Peach” state, the Vidalia onion season was just getting underway. Many Georgia farmers had their crops rotting in the fields. However, Georgia’s answer to the problem? Prison labor…
But what about all those unemployed Alabama resident’s jobs that this law is supposed to miraculously save from the evil Latino?
Cash gets angry when people tell him that his Hispanic workforce was taking jobs away from Americans. Since the new law began two weeks ago only two American citizens have come by his farm asking for work.
The couple had driven two hours from a city to offer their services, but they barely lasted that long in the fields. Cash discovered that they were trying to fiddle him by notching up two baskets of tomatoes for every one they picked – as they were paid by the basket that would have fraudulently doubled their earnings.
“That’s just the kind of stuff you come across. Somebody who really wants a good job and is prepared to work hard and honest for it isn’t going to come up here for four months in the year.
“But Hispanics will do that, and move on to Florida when the picking’s finished.”
To me this law is not about saving jobs for American Citizens, it is about discrimination, and getting the brown out of the state.
There are more personal stories here at this link: The grim reality of life under Alabama’s brutal immigration law | World news | The Guardian
Please give that article a full read, it does put a human face on all the hate this anti-immigration law brings about.
Last week the Water Works — in the ironically named community of Allgood, Ala. — informed local residents that they must now present a valid driver’s license or ID. Otherwise, the notice threatened, “You may lose water service.”
The warning stems from part of Alabama’s drastic new immigration law stipulating that no one can qualify for a driver’s license or any other government service in the state unless they can prove citizenship or are otherwise authorized to be in the United States — especially those who are brown or have a Spanish accent.
Just a sidenote, the temporary ruling on Friday did not block the part of the Alabama law that dealt with contracts…
The article goes on to say that Allgood’s no water for you notice is not the first time water was part of a racial divide in the southern state:
Similar images flowed through my mind during a long bus ride 46 years ago. I was on my way to join the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. That was a time of shocking black-and-white TV pictures of police blasting demonstrators off their feet with water canons, a time of separate toilets and water fountains — legislated by other laws — for blacks and whites.
Today, Jim Crow has become Juan Crow.
Kleyman continues to describe his experience in Jim Crow South:
But the Alabama decision — coming the same week that witnessed the death of Fred Shuttelsworth, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Derrick Bell, the Harvard law civil rights advocate — sent my mind rolling back through Birmingham on a chartered bus full of college students almost a half-century ago.
I was 19 and one of about 20,000 people wheeling in from around the country following Bloody Sunday. That was the police riot that left protesters like John Lewis — now a member of Congress — bloodied as they tried peacefully to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the first leg of a march to the state capital in Montgomery.
He took a bus from University of Minnesota that went south to heed Bobby Kennedy’s call.
In the ensuing days after the attack on the marchers, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy called out the National Guard to protect marchers from the likes of the Klan and police thugs, such as Selma Sheriff Jim Clark and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety, one Eugene “Bull” Connor.
In the early morning light, I felt the bus pull into a gas station. Drowsy at first, I took in the station’s homespun blue-and-white paint job. Then I found myself wide awake at a sight I’d only read about until that moment.
Two water fountains were marked “For Whites” and “Colored.”
The signs had a deep effect on Kleyman.
I was not prepared for the jarring emotional impact that sight had on me. As I glanced over at my ebony friend and idol, Teddy (whom we on the Minnesota Daily staff all called the coolest, most worldly guy), I felt tears moisten my eyes and anger tighten my chest.
There it was, right in front of us, in all of its banal, institutionalized expression of fear and hatred. The prosaic sight now before me was somehow even more unsettling than the televised images of police dogs, Billy clubs and flailing limbs in water.
By Alabama law, Teddy and I simply could not share the same spout for a drink of water because — because why?
There is a cultural bias in the south towards anyone who is not white. Even in my little part of redneck North Georgia, my family has experienced the unfriendly attitude towards immigrants…Having the last name of Lopez, and the olive complexion that comes from our Mediterranean Spanish and Italian roots, people here automatically assume we are Mexican. My father is an electrician and plumber and when he first moved here would call himself Loper to avoid the discrimination when someone would call him for work.
In the twenty years since he has been here, the local population has become more integrated. But there is still a lot of discrimination. One of the local cops would always hang out by the Catholic church during the Spanish Mass, then he would pull over many of the Mexicans as they left church.
We would see lots of Latin sounding names on the arrest sheet printed in the weekly paper. No insurance, no licence etc…but there always was a charge for no signal or a busted tail light. Which actually meant…brown driver of unknown Hispanic origin.
I think this attitude is what fuels the underlying hate these immigration bills glorify. Since the Georgia anti-immigrant law hit, we don’t see those arrest in the paper. Most of the Mexicans have moved out of our community. Kids who were born here in the states were pulled out of school, because their parents feared being deported. I have mentioned one of my son’s friends, whose older brother is living with another student so that he can finish his last year of high school. His younger brother, mother and father are in North Carolina…just hoping to return someday.
Anyway, the Kleyman article ends with this realization:
The decades have rolled by like so many state “Welcome To …” signs, and the years have sped along fueled by many causes, loves and regrets, among the latter a falling out with Teddy — all my fault — that remains unrepaired.
But in the miles toward Selma that morning — and again now — I couldn’t help but think of the folk-music inquiry of those days, “When will they ever learn?” Sad to say, even after this “long time passing,” the answer remains, not yet…
No it would seem the legislators of these states have not learned anything. The latest anti-immigration law out this week in South Carolina is going to court…Groups sue to halt South Carolina’s new immigration law | Reuters
The suit contends the law is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law, according to a statement by the coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center.
South Carolina’s law, set to take effect on January 1, requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest for another reason and suspect may be in the country illegally.
Under the new law, employers in South Carolina will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of employees and job applicants. Penalties for knowingly employing illegal immigrants will include suspension and revocation of a business license by the state.
“By requiring local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents, this law invites discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds ‘foreign,’ including American citizens and legal residents,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.
I guess it would also allow for police arrest sheets to admit the real reason for pulling someone over…as I said above…brown driver of unknown Hispanic origin.
There is a good article that explains the effect this anti-immigration law has on Alabama families. Judith Browne Dianis: Missing: Alabama’s Latinos, Obama Must Act!
After Republicans won a super majority in the Alabama legislature in 2010, they orchestrated a home-grown extremist attack on immigrants. Upping the ante on Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law, the legislature passed a law that makes it a felony to enter into contracts with undocumented persons, permits police to ask immigration status (racial profiling), prohibits government transactions with undocumented immigrants and requires that schools check the citizenship status of all children (allegedly, for data collection purposes only). So, what’s the practical effect? Undocumented immigrants cannot rent a home, or get water or electric service, or a job, or obtain any government service for that matter. Immigrants will be too scared to be helpful to the police. For the past several months, families have left the state because the law also required that when undocumented parents enroll their children in school (to obtain their constitutionally protected access to free, public education), they must reveal to the school that they are in the U.S. without legal status. This part of the provision was put on hold (but not yet struck down) by a federal court on October 14th. But news of this temporary block to the law is too late for many families and it doesn’t correct the other wrongs in the law.
The impact has been devastating for families. Recent news reports document that Latino families are fleeing the state. Feeling unwelcome and scared, they are leaving in search of a place to call home, where they can go after the American Dream and get out of the shadows of society. Workers are quitting their jobs and packing up. Many families are withdrawing their children from school, and are being forced into a life on the run. Other families are preparing for the worst — deportation — and asking teachers and friends to serve as legal guardians of their U.S.-born children. Where is our humanity?
She ends with a plea to Obama to help the situation and fight for the immigrant…yeah, like that is going to happen…but I want to touch on this question she poses…Yeah, where is our humanity…it is becoming more apparent every day that we are becoming a society of cruelty. The far right religious and economic austerity is a guise for persecuting those who do not met their ideal definition of a person or personhood. Whether it is immigrants, women, children, or former fetuses, when a government that supposedly represents the people, puts more effort into celebrating corporations as people…or passes laws that make a fertilized egg a person…it should be no surprise these draconian immigration laws are moving the discrimination agenda forward, by making cruelty an acceptable and “legal” behavior.
I wanted to end on a positive note…so this last link may give some hope for a future. An alternative to Alabama’s direction on immigration | Care2 Causes
Despite the fact that the Obama administration deports one person every 79 seconds, the past twelve months has seen an even stronger push across US states against immigration.
This has led to Alabama’s immigration law, which surpasses all other state laws in its harshness and stringency. The law means that residents now have to prove their citizenship to secure their water supply. Others are drawing up documents to make sure that their children are looked after should they be deported.
The Care2Care article goes on to state that in 2010, one in four children was part of an immigrant family. It looks like a few states are taking this into consideration.
Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education, encouraged by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, has approved a state version of the DREAM Act which allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition. Students without papers must sign an affidavit promising that they will pursue U.S. citizenship as soon as possible.
Last weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the second half of his state’s DREAM Act. The first half, enacted in July, sanctioned private scholarships and loans for undocumented college students. These students, with the passage of the second bill, can now pay in-state tuition rates and apply for state aid.
Other states have versions of the DREAM Act, but because it can’t be passed at the federal level, the state acts don’t include a ‘path to citizenship.’ What they do allow is for kids who have already received a public education to obtain a college degree, earn better wages, pay taxes, contribute to the economy and give back to society.
And just last week, NY Governor Cuomo sign an executive order which makes state agency forms and instructions available in six different languages. Even in the mid-west, some communities are bucking the anti-immigrant trend.
…last week the ‘rust belt’ city of Dayton, Ohio voted to turn their city into an “immigrant friendly” destination with the explicit goal of replenishing the city’s population. A “Welcome Dayton” program is about encouraging new businesses and spurring investment in immigrant neighborhoods. It involves ESL and literacy courses, actively involving local youth in community building and encouraging cross-cultural events.
Advocates argue that rather than marginalizing immigrants and treating them as scapegoats these governments are finding ways to integrate them because they see immigrants as vital and economically integral — crucial to the nation’s future.
Well, it is a step in the right direction, but states like California have a way to go…California Babysitter Bill: Understanding A.B. 889
Officially, Louisa Araneta* is a live-in caretaker for an elderly woman who needs help eating, bathing and getting dressed. Unofficially, she’s also a servant to the woman’s daughter and son-in-law, as well as their autistic son.
Araneta, 68, gets paid $35 a day to clean the house, cook for the whole family and attend to her primary charge. And since one shift usually spans at least 10 hours of work, her per-hour take ends up well below California’s $8.00 minimum wage standard.
An assembly bill introduced in February of this year sought to protect Louisa — along with thousands of other personal attendants like her — with provisions like overtime pay, rest breaks and the right to sue her employer if those conditions were violated. A.B. 889 became known and derided as the “Babysitter Bill.”
While it was passed in both the assembly and the Senate, A.B. 889 never made it to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) because the Senate Appropriates Committee put it in the “suspense file.” A.B. 889 isn’t dead, but its suspension means that personal attendants like Araneta still have almost nowhere to turn when employers take advantage of their time. The bill’s authors have another year to amend it for review at a later date.
This August, when the bill had passed the assembly and was poised to do the same in the Senate, Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) conjectured that the bill would be a job killer for domestic workers, shifting care work to institutions. As explained in his op-ed, “Unfortunately, the unreasonable costs and risks contained in this bill will discourage folks from hiring housekeepers, nannies and babysitters and increase the use of institutionalized care rather than allowing children, the sick or elderly to be cared for in their homes. I can’t help but wonder if that is the goal of A.B. 889 — a terrible bill that needs to be stopped.”
According to Marci Seville, a professor at the Golden Gate University School of Law and the director of the school’s Women’s Employment Rights Clinic.
“Domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible,” she said. “Without domestic workers to clean homes and care for children and elders, the doctors, lawyers, business people, legislators and others would not be able to do their work.”
Isolation and vulnerability are hallmarks of the industry, especially for immigrant women who speak English as a second language. Since most work alone, scattered across residences all over California, domestic workers aren’t easy to educate or mobilize en masse.
“We can’t unionize these people because there is no big employer to organize against,” said Victor Narro, project director for the UCLA Labor Center.
There may not be a “big employer” to organize against, but…
Ironically, one factor impeding A.B. 889’s implementation is the fact that too many workers would benefit from the bill. According to the Senate Appropriation Committee’s analysis, the personal attendant industry’s labor violations are already so rampant that the state would be flooded with a “major increase in claims” that would necessitate the hiring of at least five new investigators to manage the caseload. The committee also estimated it would cost $385,000 to hire new staffers, and that’s just too much to pay in the midst of California’s budget crisis.
In an attempt to escape the domestic worker world, Araneta took a free computer course at the senior center, learning how to create an email account and write resumes to send to prospective employers. But, like millions of unemployed Americans have already discovered, “unfortunately, when you send a resume, they usually don’t reply,” she said.
“If I can find a better-paying job and a good employer, I’ll leave,” Araneta continued. “But right now, since I am a realistic person, I will suffer in silence.”
I think there will be countless numbers of people suffering in silence…and living in fear of being deported, worried about what will happen to their US born children.
So that is what I’ve found on the topic of immigration reform in America. What else are you reading and blogging about today? See you later in the comments, and have a wonderful day.