Justice with a Bay View, but Cold Wind in Chicago

Oakland has joined neighboring San Francisco in reaffirming its status as a sanctuary city and pledging to refuse helping the feds conduct immigration raids, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Both Mayor Ron Dellums and Council President Ignacio De La Fuente have proposed resolution to these effects. The Chronicle says de la Fuente's bill "would give refuge to any undocumented immigrant regardless of national origin."

It's important to note that these sanctuary declarations are not new -- cities passed them in the 1980's and are merely making a statement by reinforcing -- and updating -- them now.

Police Chief Wayne Tucker said that local police are "too busy" fighting crime to waste time helping enforce immigration laws.

City Councilwoman Jean Quan "noted that her great-grandfather was allowed to come to the this country to work but was not allowed to apply for citizenship. She said it is important not to repeat the mistakes of past generations. She said that immigration raids break up families because many children born here have parents who are here illegally."

She makes several important points here. First, keeping families together is the humane and right course to take. Removing parents of U.S. citizen kids not only devastates the people involved, but it also might make the kids wards of the state, suddenly supported by taxpayer money. So, this arguement should make sense to the family-values/small-government party, which is what the GOP is supposed to be. It does seem to make sense to some of them -- even Pres. Bush pays it lip service, though his insistence on enforcement alongside a path to citizenship make dubious those claims. But too many on both sides of the aisle make it clear we value the families of native-born USians only.

Second, avoiding the mistakes of the past seems like an obvious goal. The main problem with that is people don't know enough about the past. For instance, anti-immigration folks say things like "Well, my grandparents came here legally, so these people should, too." But, well, the legal process was just a wee bit different then. Remember, no one is saying "everybody should be illegal". They're saying "no one should be illegal", that the laws must change. And why?

The Mayor said it best:

"Immigration is the Civil Rights issue of our time," Dellums said. "In order to realize the Model City vision, we must treat everyone fairly and humanely. It is not appropriate policy to intimidate and harm people that are already here. There are millions of immigrants in this country and we must approach this issue with enlightened and compassionate immigration policy."

But what's up in the rest of the country? Read this from UPI:

Federal raid triggers Chicago protest
Apr 25 01:01 PM US/Eastern
CHICAGO, April 25 (UPI) -- Residents of a predominately Hispanic Chicago neighborhood took to the streets in protest after heavily armed U.S. immigration agents raided businesses.

"Soldiers bombarded our neighborhood," Baltazar Enriquez told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It looked like they were marching into Iraq."

Heavily armed federal officers in bullet-proof vests, locked down a strip mall Tuesday in a Southwest Side neighborhood known as Little Village, Enriquez said. The raid triggered a protest of 250 to 300 people that lasted into the evening, the newspaper said.

The federal agents were searching for sellers of fake Social Security and resident alien green cards, authorities said, refusing to say how many people were arrested in the search.

Those arrested were to appear in federal court Wednesday. Neighborhood activists said the raid may have been to intimidate people from participating in a downtown May 1 march and rally to protest recent federal raids nationwide, the Chicago Tribune said.

(Copyright 2007 by United Press International)

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Safe in SF

San Francisco's mayor has forbidden city employees from aiding in any federal raids on immigrants, reinforcing the city's status as a sanctuary, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mayor Gavin Newsome said: "Our action is to stand strong in opposition to these raids... to make sure that we are not contributing in any way, shape or form. Even legal immigrants are fearful. This just sends a chill to a lot of people."

Part of the reason legal immigrants are fearful is that federal officials often arrest people based on faulty evidence -- if they have any at all.

The Chronicle adds: "In the course of serving deportation warrants, the officials said, other people whom officers suspected of being illegal immigrants were questioned and then arrested. Of at least 65 Marin County residents arrested in March, for example, just five had been ordered deported."

Officials like to conduct home raids in the middle of the night, often breaking down doors and dragging people -- parents and children alike -- out of their beds. A man quoted in the Chronicle article recounts how he and his family, including his 4- and 10-year-old daughters -- all legal immigrants -- were lined up against the wall for an hour in their home by federal officers acting on wrong information.

Again, how does one suspect someone of being "illegal"? It's one thing to act on specific information -- though it seems our current shoot-first-ask-questions-last mentality leaves little room for vetting the veracity of such information. It's quite another to arrest people on impulse, just as going to the supermarket for some vanilla to bake your mother a birthday cake, you might snatch up some over-processed junk food for yourself while waiting on line to pay. It looks good, but it's not what you came for -- and should you really have it anyway without reading the back of the package?

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A Revelatory Essay.

Ruminations on the History of Immigration to these United States of America; and Proposed Solutions to the Current Blight of Illegal Immigration: Advice to a Strong Congress, Resolute President, and Magnificent Citizenry in Search of Peace – on the Occasion of New York's Immigrant History Week.

Our land had always been wild, powerful, and bursting with resources. It drew first the ancient Asian wanderers who strayed across the Bering, descended into these lands and scrounged and fought in the dust throughout the centuries. Finally, the Europeans arrived. Dutch and English, noble emissaries of a clean and loving and righteous god, they set about liberating the descendants of the Asians from the eternal fires of Hell and the savagery of their earthly ways. And they began the process of taming the proud stallion that was the land, drawing it up to its full potential of productivity. They arrived openly, helmets gleaming in the daylight, faces shining with the glow of Goodness. They held legal deeds to the lands that they settled, as peaceful as lambs, with only one goal of aggression: to build the Greatest Nation the World had yet seen.

Now, in the early morning of the 21st century, America gazes out across the globe over which She reigns supreme – first in Freedom, first in Industry, and first in Godliness – and finds Herself assail’d from all sides, like the glorious Empires of the past, by those infidels jealous of all we’ve constructed in this land over some 400 years, the forces of chaos that with each passing moment draw us down towards entropy.

Like waves against a sturdy ship, they crash against us, threatening to swamp us in their desperation. The first major swell, mostly from southern and eastern Europe, washed upon us at the turn of the 20th century, and we managed to absorb the influx but at no small cost to our prosperity. Under the weight of those masses our Stock Market was pulled down into a crash. And still we suffer the descendants of those uncouth Irish and Greeks and Jews with their feasts of Saint Patrick, their gyros, their discoveries of polio vaccine, and other destructive influences. Despite those drawbacks we tried to welcome them, flinging open the ports of Our Nation.

Today, millions of Latin Americans, Africans, and Arabs swarm through our borders under cover of darkness or falsified documents, circumventing our laws and systems and constructing their own shadow societies underneath our own. Everywhere they rise against us. A multitude of Gibberish tongues taint God’s English. Turbans obscure mullets. Tacos threaten Spam.

In a more logistical consideration, our systems, engineered and balanced for our calm and peaceful citizenry cannot support such chaos. Already, our land and its resources groan under the weight of production.

We currently estimate between 3 and 200 million illegals live in Our Nation – working, eating, sleeping, and, most disconcertingly, breathing. They like to do many of these things indoors. That means they use electricity, as well as the oxygen in our air, which puts further strain on our already dire energy situation. (If you recall, when the Foreign controllers of oil supply turn against us, we must stockpile gasoline in the tanks of our SUVs.)

But let us not blame them, fellow people of the Good Book. The children of Babel, writhing in their dusky poverty, cannot help but lust after our City on the Hill, our bright beacon amidst the storm of the world. Alas, other nations have not built as well as we. And now, citing misunderstood definitions of History and Justice, their citizens demand entrée into our fair land.

We must determine a solution to this blight. Our leaders have spent several hours over the last year considering possible recourses, based on information gathered from deep in their own brains. Somehow, no satisfactory solution has arisen. I, too, have put my mind to the grindstone, as it were, and, after many minutes of thought I believe I have found our answer.

Shutting the borders of the country will not work. It will stymie our minute incursions into Mexico and Canada and unnecessarily delay travel plans. This problem requires a multi-pronged approach. First, those already here must conform to new regulations. If they have been here for more than 10 years (10plussers), they may continue as they are. Having accustomed them to our feeding off of them, we will let them continue to nourish us, build and clean our homes, landscape our lawns, and rear our children. Their already-born offspring will be trained at our new Labor Schools in the Midwest. Meanwhile, the adults will wear white face paint every day, go by the names John (men) and Susan (women), and speak English only, in the regional accents of their employers. They will also receive mandatory vasectomies and hysterectomies free of charge. Several prominent sociologists have assured me that these methods will improve the lives of our new neighbors and help them assimilate more rapidly into Our Nation.

Second, those who entered Our Nation between 5 and 10 years ago (5-10ers) will also receive the free sterilizations and scholarships, and, having shown their resilience to hard labor under difficult conditions, will be relocated to factory towns in our new Alternative-Energy Belt. There they will personally power the generators that let Our Country do its great work.

Third, those who entered fewer than 5 years ago will be sent to Detroit.

As for those arriving now and in the future, we will welcome them into cities we will erect for them and the 5-10ers in the Alternative-Energy Belt (where we will build the Labor Schools, as well), no great distance from the immigrants’ homeland of Mexico. (Just the slightest rumor of work will motivate them to move to the appropriate locations. We'll transport them by pickup truck from the corners where they gather. So desperate, they'll follow anyone anywhere, and at least these trucks won't be sealed.) To save costs to U.S. citizens, we will house our new neighbors in large, communal tents. There they can work, eat, and sleep and continue their non-traditional-family lifestyles of dwelling more than four people to a house, talking loudly, and, occasionally, showing genuine affection.

Men who are fit enough will spend the days manually turning turbines inside generators to create electricity. Women of child-bearing age will bear children. Young males will train in the Labor School before graduating to work at the generators. Young females will cook for the community and prepare to create more workers. We will provide them no garbage facilities based on the recommendations of several prominent anthropologists, who say that immigrants are used to living in their own waste, and depriving them of that would show an appalling lack of cultural sensitivity. Workers will, of course, do all construction in the Alternative-Energy Belt, including erecting tents for new arrivals and building the incinerators into which they will pitch any troublemakers and those unfit to work or procreate. Only carbon-based immigrants may be burned because our top engineers have developed a system to harness the burn-off and use the pure carbon dioxide to nourish new forests, which the immigrant children will plant.

As a final solution the problems of immigrant breathing, natural-born citizens of this country may continue to breathe both in and out, while all newcomers must exhale only.

Some may discredit my solution as soft, considering it provides for all needs of new immigrants: They have work, may stay with their families, may speak what Gibberish-tongue they like, and may live in a familiar environment of containment, filth, and chaos. However, we must and do care for them. My plan will also benefit the American people greatly. Think of it: No more rolling blackouts in California. No more reliance on foreign oil. No need to drill for oil in Alaska. Americans will breathe cleaner air -- and no longer will we face the consternation of determining who is an Illegal before shooting them: Just look for any non-white-faced, accented immigrant.

As we take our first strides into this new century, such rational solutions must continue to guide us, just as they guided our forefathers in their cotton-picking dilemma. The future looks ever brighter, America. It can be ours.

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(Painting by Ray Butler.)


Asylum from the System

CNN.com ran an AP story today about an immigration judge's granting political asylum to a couple from the Congo. It's a lovely story and certainly an exciting day for David and Regina Bakala and their children. But the piece comes off as rather naive, failing to understand the immigration system or at least to put this case in context.

According to the article, Regina had been fighting an order of deportation for 10 years, since a judge rejected her claim for asylum in 1997, her allegations of rape and imprisonment perpetrated by Congolese troops seemingly ignored by the court. She says her lawyer at the time mishandled the case. She only received residency now as a derivative of David's asylum claim, based on a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, stemming from months of torture.

Asylum cases are denied frequently -- and often on technicalities. Consider Milton Teahjay, a Liberian who, as a member of the opposition party, became part of Charles Taylor's government. After displeasing Taylor, Teahjay fled attempts on his life and escaped to the USA. His face and name dotted the landscape as an enemy of Taylor's oppressive dictatorship. His name floated up as a possible successor once Taylor was deposed. He surely would have faced death had he returned to Liberia -- even after Taylor fled death squads loyal to him continued to operate. Yet an immigration judge rejected his asylum claim because Teahjay arrived 15 minutes late for a hearing, delayed by traffic on the roads. He had arrived promptly for all of his other hearings, but the judge took this excuse to sentence the man to death by removal from the country.

Now, that might be an extreme example, but many such deserving asylum cases (these are not economic refugees) end in defeat because of technicalities, lawyer error, or unjust jurisprudence -- and not based on the merits of the case. The inefficiency of the system is also a problem. Should it really have taken 10 years since Bakala's original denial for her to receive the decision she deserved? With a system so inefficient and riddled with unfairness, no wonder so many immigrants prefer to risk living off the radar.

The Bakalas' story spotlights a church that helped push through their cases. The couple's lawyer said "it seemed insurmountable at the start, but publicity and the church's support helped." Most cases aren't blessed with that kind of support. So consider the injustice of a system that one must manipulate with outside, institutional backing and publicity to win what (at least without first-hand knowledge of the evidence) looks like an open-and-shut case. What about those people -- as deserving or more than the Bakalas -- who don't have that kind of support? How are they to trust such a system? How are we?

Border fences and workplace raids have nothing to do with this. That's why what advocates call "comprehensive reform" must accompany the headline discussions of enforcement and guest-worker programs.

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