Thursday, Apr 30, 2009, 10:28 am
Swine Flu Infecting Immigration Debate
It's no shock that those long-opposed to All Things Immigrant are using the Swine Flu outbreak—which has mostly affected Mexicans at this point—to ratchet anti-immigrant rhetoric up to an irresponsible level. It's disappointing though, especially because the last few weeks saw more rational dialogue emerging in media coverage. This week's Wire examines the voices talking about immigration both in the media and on the ground, from those recycling age-old "eliminationist" rhetoric to those who put their own bodies on the line to fight for inclusive justice.
In AlterNet, Joshua Holland uses history to contextualize virulent statements hurled by anti-immigrant pundits like Michael Savage. Holland deftly debunks numerous anti-immigrant, right-wing myths using a historical lens: By tying the source of contagion to immigrants, today's pundits are echoing age old patterns that "contributed to a series of pogroms in which thousands were burned alive" in 14th Century Europe. Just what are today's pundits saying? Savage asks "Could this be a terrorist attack through Mexico?" Michelle Malkin, Bill O' Reilly and Neil Boortz agree: "[W]hat better way to sneak a virus into this country than give it to Mexicans?" shrieks Boortz.
While Colorado lawmakers aren't using such frantic hyperbole, they are doing nothing to dispel the state's reputation as heavy-handed when it comes to immigration enforcement. On Monday, the Democratic-controlled state legislature introduced a non-binding Joint Memorial that requests the use of DNA technology and expanded local police powers to "identify, arrest, and detain" immigrants. If granted, the request would allow the state to use "biometric identification—like DNA tracking—and federal databases to create in enforcement dragnet," according to Erin Rosa of The Colorado Independent. Rosa also reports on scary developments in enforcement technology that attempt to mend the gap between the federal government's lack of reform and the needs of each state.
Not all harsh enforcement measures result from a lack of federal legislation. A Republican-led Congress passed a law in 1996 restricting the ability of immigrants to challenge the legality of their deportation," as Rochelle Bobroff and Harper Jean Tobin report for New America Media. The measure is pointedly cruel: It allows courts to proceed with deportation even if an asylum-seeker will be endangered upon their explication. Though there is a provision that the courts can use to rule otherwise, this law represents yet another policy that needs to be revisited when the White House negotiates humane and effective reform.
Writing for AlterNet, Frank Sharry reports on the divide deepening between moderate Democrats, who are "ready to tackle common sense reform" and Republican "hardliners." "While Democrats seem to be making headway," Sharry writes, "The Republican Party continues to be dogged by Minutemen hard-liners who oppose practical solutions."
The political gap is growing, as other groups draw together. RaceWire's Michelle Chen reports on the Black Immigration Network, “the first national network concerned about immigration issues and racial equity issues surrounding both African Americans and immigrants of African descent.” This Network is important because it bridges historical tensions between the two communities. And as Chen makes clear, there are people who exploit such divides to their own benefit.
The effects of the Iraq war, while a much quieter subject in today's news cycle, are still playing out. AlterNet's Nina Berman tells the tragic story of Iraqi refugees who are struggling in the poor U.S. economy and lack adequate help to get ahead. Omar Ibrahim is one such refugee who came to Texas in 2008. He is still jobless and family back in Iraq doesn't quite understand. "They know that America is a dream," Ibrahim says, "but it is a bad dream."
Finally, in an inspiring show of activism, Public News Service's Mary Kuhlman reports on two nuns who engages in civil disobedience at a Chicago ICE detention facility to draw attention to the fight for human (immigrant) rights. Obama's 100th day marked their "tipping point," after more than two years of prayer vigils. They needed to try something different. The nuns' agenda? Making it possible for detained immigrants to see religious workers. Immigrants, many of them asylum seekers, are isolated even from their families. In this particular case, the women's actions paid off.
At play today in our immigration debate are warring philosophies of who a "people" are and what we owe each other for simply belonging to the same human family. On one side, frothing, fearful punditry stoke division and hostility. And on the other, fearless and brave activists champion for our better natures. It is no small battle.
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