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  1. Bloggings: Obama's missing anatomy on immigration has started the ball rolling toward a wider disaster. By Roger Algase

    Before John F. Kennedy became president, he wrote a best - selling book called "Profiles in Courage". If someone were writing a book today about Barack Obama's policy on immigration, it would have to be called "Profile in Cowardice". From the moment Obama appointed enforcement-only hard liner former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security, it was clear that his adminstration would be dominated by fear and trembling toward anti-immigrant extremists. As a result, our Nation of Immigrants has turned into Deportation Nation, and the Land of the Free has become the Land of the RFE.
    For too long, too many of us have been willing to make excuses for Obama's anatomical deficiency with respect to immigration. We have been willing to swallow the snake oil that he needs to position himself as tough on enforcement and stingy on granting visas in order to put through a "grand bargain" on immigration reform - something that will happen only when the Tea Party comes out in favor of a 90 per cent tax rate on the Brothers Koch. We have been fed specious legalistic arguments to the effect that the president supposedly lacks executive authority to act on his own to remedy abuses in an immigration system that has itself become a synonym for abuse.  
    But if there is any example of a statute that turns almost everything over to the executive branch to set policy by regulation or interpretation, it is the INA. Obama's insistence that he can do little or nothing to remedy outrages such as deporting DREAMERS or long standing lawful permanent residents convicted of DUI is absurd to the point of travesty, especially coming from a former constitutional law professor.
    (Not that DUI is a good thing - most definitely it is not - but what will be next on the deportation list - jaywalking? And it is not exactly a secret that deporting DUI immigrants is only part of the larger goal of kicking out anyone caught DWL - Driving While Latino). 
    Up to now, the fact that Obama's immigration policy showed his lack of an essential part of his anatomy, one that every man takes for granted, was impacting mainly the pro-immigrant community. It was not directly affecting the wider public. To the contrary, "getting tough" on immigrants is wildly popular with a large part of the public.  But now, all Americans (and everyone else in this country, or even outside it)  may be about to pay a terrible price for the president's anatomical shortcoming.
    President Obama's basic attitude of "when in doubt, sell out"  is now being writ large. It has metastasized beyond immigration into the nation's economy as a whole. The same Tea Party fanatics who seriously think that this country has the resources to deport 12 million people, and who want to take away birthright citizenship guaranteed by the 14th Amendment from millions of American born children of Spanish - speaking, Asian or black parents, are now out to destroy Social Security, Medicare and any other government program that benefits the middle class and the less well off, by forcing the government to run out of money. 
    Ending all social programs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the richest Americans - those are the real goals of the movement to stop a raise in the debt ceiling at all costs. Of course, if the debt ceiling is not raised, immigration benefits will be affected. If the government doesn't have money for Social Security checks, does anyone in his or her right mind think there will be money to approve immigration petitions or issue visas? - Immigration, obviously, will also be prioritized - fences, incarceration and deportation, SI! Visas and green cards, NO!
    But beyond that, the Tea Partiers and other right wing radicals are trying to use the debt ceiling to bring down the Obama presidency. If America defaults on its debts and the result is a depression that would make the 1930's look like a boom period by comparison, they are hoping that Obama and the Democrats will be blamed and thrown out of power next year.
    On the other hand, if Obama defends himself, and the country, by relying on the same 14th Amendment (Section 4) to protect America's credit, the Republicans, without question, will try to impeach him for alleged abuse of power. Of course, given that the Senate is still controlled by the Democrats, the chances of his being removed from office through impeachment are absolutely zero.
    Should that not be enough assurance that Obama would have nothing to lose by announcing immediately that if the Tea Party blocks an increase in the debt ceiling, as it obviously intends to do, he will use the 14th Amendment to save America, if not the entire world, from financial collapse? There is a powerful, if not irrefutable, constitutional argument that he not only has the right, but the duty, to do so. Then what is stopping him? Every moment that he hesitates disrupts the world's markets more and brings financial Armageddon (to use his own phrase) even closer. 
    It is clear what is stopping the president from taking this obvious step. He is afraid that someone on Fox News or in the Wall Street Journal might say something unfriendly about him. He may even be afraid of impeachment in the Republican-controlled House, just before next year's election.  Of course, it would be nice if he can avoid this. But what would that amount to, compared to a possible collapse of the financial system? Nothing.
    Unfortunately, we already know the answer. If President Obama's cave-in to the Tea Party and other right wing bigots on immigration is any indication, he will not have the guts to stand up to save America from financial collapse either. The sad truth is that, as I have been saying ad nauseam, Obama lacks an essential part of his anatomy. Everyone reading this comment has no doubt guessed which missing part I mean, but I will say it anyway - Obama has no backbone.
  2. Immigration Reform Helps Our Economy

    Discussions about immigration reform has often focused on the issue of "undocumented" or "illegal" aliens and national security. But fixing our broken immigration system is about more than the determining the fate of approximately ten million people currently living and working and studying in the United States without papers. In the words of President Clinton, "It's the Economy, Stupid." Immigration reform would allow us to create a legal framework for who we want to have remain in our country, who we want to exclude, and to do so in a way that reflects our values and our interests. Most important to Americans right now is that reform would benefit the bottom line. Reform would raise wages, decrease unemployment, and increase tax revenues. Who wouldn't want that?
    Currently, our immigration system hurts our nation's economy. We want to invite and encourage investment in our economy, attract the best, the brightest and most talented people in our businesses, and to create a fair and level playing field for our workers. Our immigration system falls short of each of these goals.
    Our current policies directly hurt American businesses. Congress limits the number of highly-skilled and college-educated workers allowed into the United States from other countries. When the economy was booming in 2007 and 2008, the visas for the entire year were gone in less than one day. Even in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, our country still ran out of visas with eight months left before a new foreign worker could start.
    Rather than protecting American workers, this policy hampers the creation of jobs in the US. Companies are forced to wait for months or years to hire highly talented and highly skilled candidates. Some of the world's best and brightest college graduates are choosing jobs in Europe or Canada or Asia rather than the United States because those nation's immigration policies provide a clearer path for either temporary work or permanent residency. Our outdated immigration policies also create incentives for outsourcing, as companies hire workers abroad that they can't bring to the United States.
    Recent studies from the CATO institute, the University of Southern California, and the National Dairy Industry all found that comprehensive immigration reform would have a significant impact on the economy. In essence, it would add $1.5 trillion to our nation's economic output over 10 years. Reform would also boost wages not only for the newly legalized workers but also for native-born employees. These higher wages would generate about $5 billion in additional tax revenue, above and beyond the cost of implementing the new policies.
    In our current economic situation, we cannot afford to reject the clear benefits to our economy that immigration reform would bring us: higher wages, lower unemployment, and reduced deficits. Let's not wait any longer and make immigration reform a reality.
  3. Blogging: What do the Tea Party's policies on the debt ceiling and immigration have in common?, by Roger Algase

    Is there a common element in the Tea Party's insane rush toward financial Armageddon and its stand on immigration? Merely asking the question answers it. Both are expressions of extreme xenophobia. One does not have to be a financial genius to know that America's economy, standard of living and influence in the world (such as it is) depend on the federal government's abililty to borrow from foreign countries, especially China, but including many others as well. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling means that the US would no longer be able to borrow the money it needs to pay interest on the trillions of dollars in debt it already owes to foreign central banks and private investors. Sooner or later, after all the accounting tricks have been used up, America would default.
    At that point our foreign creditors would lose faith in our ability to make good on our promises and would stop buying US assets. America would become what Argentina was a decade ago. In essence, America would be saying to its foreign creditors: "Ha, ha, suckers, see what you get for trusting our word!" But the Tea Party doesn't care of foreign creditors get hurt. After all, they are only foreigners. If America's economy shuts down as collateral damage, who cares?
    We already know what the Tea Party and the other Republican right wing radicals think of foreign citizens.  One of the main speakers at the Tea Party's founding convention last year was Tom Tancredo.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio spoke at one of Sharron Angle's Senate campaign events in Nevada, where he openly suggested that the state should lock up Spanish-speaking immigrants in desert tents,  just as he did in Arizona. Look at the draconian anti-immigrant laws coming out of Alabama, Georgia, Arizona and other states with Republican-dominated legislatures.
    (By the way, an ID reader recently posted a comment implying that I am an anti-Republican partisan for pointing out the above fact. I invited him, and I invite all ID readers, to name a single state with a Democratic - controlled legslature which has passed or is considering any anti-immigrant law even remotely comparable to the ones that have been coming out of the Republican-dominated states. I would also like to hear from anyone who knows if the Democrats have ever introduced or passed a bill in Congress similar to the Republican anti-immigrant HR 3447, which passed the House in 2005. 
    This tells us all we need to know about where the Tea Party and other radical right wing Republicans stand toward foreigners, financially and demographically. But what about President Obama? Is their any difference between his dithering about using his executive powers to let in a few skilled immigrants and to put a break on the rush toward turning America into Deportation Nation, and his reluctance to announce that he will use Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to do whatever is necessary to pay America's obligations to foreign creditors?
    The debt ceiling and immigration - this pair of issues could be solved, or at least headed in the right direction,  if the president could somehow grow a different type of pair.
     
     
     
  4. Bloggings: Why Obama's willingness to sell out on the budget negotiations is a bad sign for immigrants, by Roger Algase

    Danielle Beach-Oswald has done a superb job of describing the details of anti-immigrant laws that have been adopted in states in the deep South such as Alabama and Georgia. By doing so, she makes it easier to understand the full extent of the irrationality and hatred motivating these laws. Should anyone be surprised? These two states were at the center of the resistance to racial desegregation during the Civil Rights era in the 1950's and 1960's.
    Alabama was the home of Governor George Wallace and Sheriff Bull Connor. It was in Alabama that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter from Birmingham jail and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person, setting off the Montgomery bus boycott. Georgia was the home of Governor Lester Maddox, who became famous by standing in the doorway of his store with an ax handle to keep any black person from entering. Those two states, though by no means the only Southern states to do so, were also known for their lynch mobs, their laws banning interracial marriage and their battle cry: "Segregation Forever!"
    Anone who thinks for a single instant that the history of racial segregation and persecution in those two states half a century ago has nothing to do with their extreme anti-immigrant laws today is deluding himself. But anyone who thinks that the danger of extreme anti-immigrant laws with the objective of making life intolerable for all Spanish-speaking and other minority immigrants is limited to state legislatures, inside or outside the old South, is also deluded.
    H.R. 3447, passed by the Republican House of Representatives in late 2005, in some ways would have made the Alabama and Georgia laws read like a pro-immigrant bill of rights by comparison. The 2005 House bill, for example, if I recall correctly, would have made each day in the US without authorization a separate felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It would have imposed the same penalty on anyone, including a US citizen, who provided assistance to anyone who was in the US illegally. Fortunately, the bill never made it to the Senate, where it had no chance of passage in any event.
    If the House bill had become law, the jails might have been full of American emergency room doctors, lawyers advising immigrant clients, or, possibly even bus or taxi drivers who failed to check the immigration status of their passengers; and restaurant customers who tipped a waiter without asking to see the person's papers first, or store clerks who sold merchandise to customers without doing the same. Yet, 2005 was a golden age of immigration tolerance compared to today.
    The two major parties were making an historic effort to reach a compromise on immigration reform, with the active support and involvement of the president, not just empty words. If Congressional Republicans could produce a lunatic fringe immigration bill such as H.R. 3447 back in 2005, when the economy was going well and there was no such thing as the Tea Party, it does not take much imagination to guess what kind of immigration laws they would pass if they were able to take control of both Houses of Congrsss and the White House next year.
    But where does the greatest danger of what could amount one day soon to a Congressional moratorium on all immigration come from? There is a good argument that it comes from the current debt ceiling negotiations between President Obama and the Congressional Republican leaders. But wait a minute. What connection is there between immigration and the budget? Am I trying to say that there might not be enough money to keep the immgration system going? Not at all. True, there may be some very nasty budget cuts or shutdowns ahead, but that is not the main point.
    The government can always find a way to keep whatever programs it wants to in place. No matter what happens with the debt ceiling or the credit rating of the US, there will always be money for "Secure Communities" and e-verify. Of that, we can be sure. My point is quite different. John F. Kennedy, before becoming president, wrote a book called "Profiles in Courage". If someone were to write a book today called "Profiles in Cowardice", the opening, middle  and closing chapters would unquestionably be about Barack Obama.
    It is hard to think of an issue that the Obama has not caved into the Republicans on since becoming president, including adopting their "enforcement-only" immigration agenda lock stock and barrel (OK, granted, he has not yet adopted their gun control policies, so maybe my phraseology in this sentence is a little misplaced). But, aside from immigration, few things are more outrageous and a betrayal of everything he campaigned for than his overeagerness to give away the store on social safety net issues, such as Social Security and Medicare, without insisting the the rich begin to pay their fair share of taxes. 
    Not only the Tea Party pro big business fanatics, but all Republicans, now know, if they never did before, that the president is a soft touch who can be had on any issue, not just the budget. Even if Obama were not already rushing to deport more than 400,000 people each year, far beyond the wildest dreams of even the most anti-immigrant Republicans during the Bush era, all immigrant haters will understand that if Obama can rip up the social safety net for American citizens in his eagerness to surrender the Republicans, he will have no hesitation in throwing even more immigrants under the bus too.
    Ultimately, Obama's readiness to sell out his principles on any issue is something that may be beyond the capacity of a political analyst to understand. It may require the skills of a psychologist. The president's actions on immigration so far are no exception.
  5. Bloggings: Deportation - the battle between humanity and hate goes on, by Roger Algase

    The 7/20 ID issue has a link to a 7/18 article in the Huffington Post called "Americans Married To Immigrants Push For Reform". Among other items, it relates the story of Hope Mustakim, an American citizen married for the past year to Nazry Mustakim, a 31 year old immigrant from Singapore who was brought to the US legally as a child and has had a green card since 1992. Like many other people caught in the trap of IIRIRA, the harsh immigration law rammed through a Republican-controlled Congress in late September 1996 in the dead of night without debate, and attached to a "must pass" military appropriations bill barely over a month before a presidential election, Nazry is facing deportation because of a minor drug possession conviction dating from the time  he was a teenager. 
    Even though he has been drug free for the past five years, according to the article, Nazry faces deportation because an immigration judge has no discretion to grant relief in this kind of case. Nazry is now in immigration detention and his American wife can only see him through a glass window. This is, certainly, a heart-breaking story, but many of us have become desensitized because  stories like this are so common. One does not even need a drug conviction to be guilty of an "aggravated felony" triggering mandatory revocation of one's green card and automatic deportation. A couple of drunk driving convictions may be enough.
    Then why mention this story at all? "American family is broken up by draconian anti-immigrant law imposing drastic consequences for dark-skinned foreign citizen convicted of relatively minor offense years ago." What else is new? Forget that not only the rights of immigrants are involved in this type of case, but the right of an American citizen to choose whom to marry, something that the Supreme Court, in a different context, has held to be among our most cherished and fundamental liberties.  
    Forget the injustice of tearing someone away from his family and banishing him from this country forever for a crime that, if committed by an American, would most likely result in nothing more than a short jail term at worst. We are all too used to this kind of inhumanity in our immigration system, to the practice of treating immigrants as if they were less than fully human, to make much of a fuss about it. There was a time in Europe when a child could be hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. Get over it. Life moves on.
    The point of this comment, therefore, is not to reflect on the harshness and cruelty of the deportation action that Nazry Mustakim is facing, along with untold hundreds of thousands, or millions, of other foreign born people in similar situations. Instead, I will focus on only two aspects of the article. First, why was a harsh immigration law such as IIRIRA passed at the time that it was? Surely not for economic reasons. Has anyone heard about the "Great Depression of 1996?" I haven't. Maybe I have missed something. 
    What about terror? Yes, that was a concern, and a legitimate one. The World Trade Center had been attacked in 1993. But it would be another five years from the passage of IIRIRA before September 11, 2001. IIRIRA had some anti-terror provisions, but that was not the main reason for its passage. The main reason, or at least one of the main reasons, was to trap immigrants like Nazry Mustakim, who was neither a terrorist, a violent criminal, nor posing any danger to society, for minor crimes, and use these minor crimes as an excuse to kick them out of the country. 
    To put it plainly, IIRIRA was enacted in large part becasue of a white "backlash" over the fact that for the previous three decades, since 1965, America had started to welcome immigrants from every corner of the globe, regardless of skin color. Many articles and comments written at that time in the popular media, not to mention a book such as Peter Brimelow's racist anti-immigrant "Alien Nation", published in 1995, leave no doubt about that. 
    The other point that is striking about the Nazry and Hope Mustakim story is the reaction to it among Huffington Post readers. As we all know, the Huffington Post is not exactly Fox News.  Far from being a right wing hate site, the Huffpost is considered among the more liberal publications in America, and is certainly sympathetic to immigrants. Otherwise, this story would not have been published at all. Therefore it is all the more shocking (if one can be shocked by anything in immigration today) that there were so many hate comments left by Huffpost readers in reaction to the story. 
    Aside from the predictable comments of the "Criminal go home!" variety,  there was a slew of vitriolic attacks against Nazry for being an "illegal alien" despite the fact that he came to the US legally as a child and has been a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years.  Other comments attacked the couple's "fake marriage", even though there was no question that the relationship was genuine. As if to underscore that point, Hope Mustakim posted replies to many of the negative, hate filled comments, patiently pointing out Nazry's positive accomplishments - overcoming addiction, always having been in America legally, etc.
    It is as if Hope Mustakim had to remind the other blog posters that her husband is a human being, something that neither they, nor our deportation-addicted immigration system, seem willing to accept. Hate vs. humanity - the struggle for immigrant rights continues.
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