Email this article to a friend

The ITT List

Thursday, Oct 1, 2009, 8:45 am

Weekly Immigration Wire: Racism and Reform

By Nezua
It's a sad irony that a President who wants to unite opposing factions presides over an increasingly entrenched and partisan political landscape. There seems to be no satisfactory compromise for both the health care and immigration reform debates. Well-worn rallying cries and talking points are tooled and retooled until the root issues are nearly forgotten. The situation is tragic because the people's needs are made secondary to an unending war between two political entities.

Alternet has the lowdown on several proposed, immigration-related amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill. Race is an absolute contributor to these amendments. Need an example? Senator Steve King (R-IA) is shunning free-market ideology when it comes to immigrants purchasing their own health care with their own money. As author Jackie Mahendra puts it, "Free-market Steve King vs. Anti-immigrant Steve King. That pretty much sums up how absurd this debate has become."

It is better for all of us that immigrants pay for their own insurance, and the health care bill should allow this. Mahendra notes that FAIR, an anti-immigrant organization and recognized hate group, is recruiting callers to pressure the Senate. She asks readers to take a moment to call their Senators "to oppose amendments that are bad policy for all Americans." If you are as tired of the unceasing, empty rhetoric on these issues as I am, this seems a good way to take action.

The truth is, race very much affects our politics today, and in many ways. Wiretap's M. Junaid Levesque-Alam writes of the increasing hostility towards President Obama, whose most raucous and visible opposition today comes from "monochromatic, middle-aged, white throngs." Levesque-Alam concludes with some advice for the President: Remind the voters how a reformed government can affect them positively. Without this reminder, people's anxieties and deep-seated biases are curdling into a sour and toxic brew.

Race-based irrationality and paranoia have also given birth to a new genre of infomercial, reports Talking Points Memo. Justin Elliot reports on the 28-minute Birthermercial that asks late-night viewers to "give $30 to have faxes sent to government officials demanding Obama produce his birth certificate." Attorney Gary Kreep, is one of the men behind the below video that asks "Where was PRESIDENT Obama BORN?" According to TPM, Kreep is "engaged in an intra-movement feud with the pioneering Birther attorney Orly Taitz."



New America Media touches on the inspiring story of women immigrants that are the "new face of U.S. labor." David Bacon writes that Lucy Wong and Lupe Chavez, from China and El Salvador, have "inherited the legacy of the 1934 General Strike and the rise of the longshoremen." Wong and Chavez are San Francisco-based labor activists that are giving big hotel chains a run for their money. To "even the odds" between these local workers and the massive hotel corporations who strive to make them pay for their own insurance, protests have evolved in order to be more effective, taking on the shape of civil disobedience. "Without a new contract, the union is prepared to disrupt the normal order of business, just as the longshoremen did on the waterfront 80 years ago."

And then there's the story of a young woman named Mimin, who found herself trapped for seven years doing forced labor. At 17, Mimin emigrated from Indonesia to the U.S. thinking she'd "work as a housekeeper for a wealthy family in Los Angeles and send money to her parents back home," but instead ended up "enslaved in domestic servitude," as Emily Udell reports for In These Times. She finally escaped, but there are roughly 50,000 people like Mimin trafficked to the U.S. every year, and 27 million more enslaved around the world. This makes the job of uncovering and ending this practice our collective responsibility.

Sometimes it is the artist who explores intractable paradigms in new ways. And sometimes it is simply getting news from a different source, or filtered through an alternative lens. New America Media interviews Luis Alberto Urrea about his novel Into the Beautiful North, which NAM editor Sandip Roy describes as "an immigration story with a difference." Urrea reminds us of the obvious: To many people, coming to the U.S. is a painful sacrifice. A woman parting from her beloved family to earn enough money to keep them eating does not do so lightly. A learned and respected elder settling for a career as a bowling alley attendant is the result of economic desperation. "You cannot eat beauty," says a woman in his novel.

Nor can we in good conscience sing anthems about beautiful and spacious skies or fields of harvest if we do not remember how many are in need, and do our utmost to help them.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.
View Comments