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Thursday, Jul 23, 2009, 2:26 pm

Weekly Immigration Wire: It’s A Multicultural World, After All

By Nezua
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common to hear the phrase "melting pot." Many people said our nation's greatest strength could be found in its multitude of cultures, languages and histories. This sentiment has been lost, as right-wing pundits and politicians increasingly espouse a dread of anything different and a fear of the Other.

This retrogressive, inflexible mindset reduces complex arguments to one thing: Us vs. Them. But the world never has been that way, and approaching it as such could be disastrous. Everything is connected: Our food systems, economies, and cultures. Large corporations no longer belong to any one nation, but are global in scope. In an increasingly connected world, our immigration policy is impacts the health and well-being of many peoples and economies.

As covered in last week's Wire, the U.S. and Cuba are resuming immigration talks that stalled in 2003. But, as AlterNet made clear, things aren't too promising. Discussions will be constricted to immigration issues alone, according to at least one international policy expert. Wayne Smith, a Cuba expert at the Center for International Policy in Washington, says that holding these talks without broadening them to related issues is dishonest and should cease "until the Cuban people are able to exercise their fundamental human rights and civil liberties, and until the conditions in U.S. law are fully met."

This is an interesting point, and could also be applied to U.S.-Mexico relations. For example, in 2008, the Mérida Initiative was signed into law under the Bush administration. The Mérida Initiative's legislation enables the U.S. to aid Mexico's Drug War. The aid includes training for police and military, equipment including surveillance technology, and intelligence assistance. But the militarized assault on Mexico's thriving drug economy has claimed an unacceptable number of lives—over 12,000 since it began in December of 2006.

Is this much death and displacement acceptable, given the scope of this complex social issue? According to a recent mid-term vote in Mexico, no. The vote, which favored the opposition party, was largely seen as a rejection of the Mexican president's violent model of engagement. The U.S. should take a stand against the many human rights abuses that our taxpayer dollars are essentially funding.

New America Media has video on the drug war's impact on citizens, which contains footage of Mexican troops attempting to take their cities back "street by street." Thousands of military troops now occupy their own country, patrolling the towns and highways, acting as police and creating an aura of fear and tension in a newly-instituted and potentially lethal "semi-war zone."



Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a modern-day master of ignoring the larger picture. Currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for racial profiling and violating civil rights, Arpaio is currently crusading against Latino/as and immigrants. Feministing's Ann Friedman writes that Arpaio "functions as a conduit for the worst impulses in our society."

If Arpaio were to take a broader view of immigrants, even the undocumented, he might realize that his stunt-centric stances on immigration are harming everyone.

Food production is also closely related to U.S. immigration policy. RaceWire gets to the meat of the issue in Food Inc. Shines a Light on the Immigrant Labor That Makes That 99c Patty Melt Possible. Julianne Hing breaks it down:

"For people who can't stand the presence of immigrants in their neighborhood, but spring for the $0.79 per pound holiday ham, news flash! A largely invisible workforce works for severely depressed wages to make that ham so cheap for you."

In related news, the Colorado Independent features a new documentary on the Swift & Co. raids and "its effects on both the people involved and the larger local community" of Greeley, Colorado.

Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is definitely in need of a more generous view on immigration, if not a wider lens through which to see it. Last weekend, Tancredo opined that young conservatives ought be invested in halting all immigration. A young audience member critiqued Tancredo's viewpoint as "narrow-minded," as "We're really strapped [for] nurses, we don't have enough teachers, we don't have enough OB-GYNs." Perhaps there is hope for the future of Conservativism after all!

Perhaps no one can be credited with promoting a wide-angle view of society more than Ronald Tanaki, who is often called the "father of multicultural studies." New America Media commemorates Takaki's life and work. From 1967 to 1987, Takaki's contributions to the academic world and larger society were numerous. He taught the very first African American history course at UCLA and helped organize UCLA'S first Black Student Union, to start. Takiki studied, wrote, and taught about what he called "the hopeful ties that bind" us all together here in this nation. The comparative multicultural course he started at UCLA grew as he taught it over the years, eventually focusing on seven groups: Americans from China, Japan, Africa, Mexico and Ireland, as well as Native Americans and Jews from Russia. Takaki's life and work made clear the always changing nature of our society, what role immigration has played in it, and that we still ought not fear these things.

A final positive note from the Iowa Independent: Officials from the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are considering lifting a two-decade-old ban on HIV-positive immigrants. As Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine told MSNBC, this will end "the discriminatory practice for a disease that doesn’t warrant exclusion for coming into this country." And it seems a healthy move. These people are carrying two potential stigmas upon entering the U.S. Let's afford them a bit more opportunity, if we can. In the long run and in the bigger picture, helping those in need benefits us all.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. 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.

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