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Thursday, Dec 4, 2008, 4:10 pm

Immigration Wire: Connecting People and Policies, from Mumbai to Arizona

By Nezua
It was immediately obvious this week that the Mumbai attacks would be the source of much loss and pain in India. As the US is a land of immigrants, it is always worth remembering how connected to any world event some segment of our population will be in these moments. So is the case now, and Rupa Dev of New America Media presents us with insights gleaned from interviews with a collection of young South Asian Americans in Mumbai Attacks Hit Home For Young South Asian Americans.
Living here in the United States, do you feel detached from violence in India?

Urvi Nagrani, 21, Student, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

Maybe I'd be able to feel detached if I lacked personal ties to the situation, but I've been to all of the sites that were attacked, I have family members who live very close to all the sites. I was unable to enjoy the luxury of apathy.

For those who have immigrated to the United States, this makes for a powerful overlap in causes and a unified struggle for rights here in the land we now share, as is touched upon in Asian Americans Reluctant to Stand Up for Immigration Issues.
According to The World Journal, a survey of 412 Asian Americans [showed that] 80 percent of [those polled] were “very concerned” or “concerned” about immigration. The study shows that 58 percent of Asians are sympathetic to undocumented immigrants and 52 percent of them are supportive of the idea of legalizing undocumented immigrants. About 33 percent of the Asian Americans surveyed said they would become involved in collecting signatures on petitions for immigration issues, but only nine percent said they were willing to do anything further, such as participating in public protests.

The headline positions the data as revealing a failure among Asian Americans to "stand up" for Immigration Issues, but why? Thirty-three percent of a community willing to collect signatures seems not a bad amount to this writer! Do you agree that the only way to "stand up" for rights is to "protest"?

Regardless, there is a tension in the national dialogue, there is no denying that. And if this conflict is represented in the Asian American community, that is not surprising. We see the dichotomy in many places, also represented in the discussion taking place around Barack Obama's choice of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as the President-elect's choice of Homeland Security Secretary. Roberto Lovato explores this in Immigration Reform Trapped in Political Dualism.
[N]ews of Obama's likely appointment of Arizona Governor and former Clinton-U.S. Attorney appointee, Janet Napolitano, to lead the Department of Homeland Security only reinforced the belief that political dualism may define the Obama legacy on immigration; Napolitano has enthusiastically supported "emergency measures" like militarizing the border to "fight" the "threat" posed by immigrant gardeners, meatpackers and maids like my cousin, Maria; But she has also vetoed at least a few of the more than 75 anti-immigrant measures introduced in Arizona home to the infamous Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

And so the political football game of immigration reform goes on, and has yet to coalesce into action which solves problems like this:
A report published recently by the Mexican Congress indicates that 90,000 children were deported from the United States to Mexico during the first seven months of 2008. Of these, 15 percent, or about 13,500 children, were abandoned on the Mexican side of the border without any governmental protection.

As noted, these are not abstract events to the communities from which these children (and others) belong. They are very real and very painful and dire. In In These Times' The Crisis of Wage Theft, by Kim Bobo, we learn that billions dollars in wages "are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year." And New America Media reminds us that adolescent Latinas have the highest rate of "attempted suicides among groups of teenagers in the nation," and also tells of a new program aimed at helping.

Also aiming for a positive solution to much of the Latina/o community's current needs is an article by Jessica Gonzales-Rojas called The Power of the Latina Vote. Gonzales-Rojas talks about organizing around issues important to the community because "it is undeniable that the Latino vote had a tremendous impact on the election." She goes on to inform us how much of that impact was brought about by mujeres (women), and what should be next.
Now that we have new leadership in place, we advocates, activists and organizers must rise to the occasion. We must take the momentum of this election to our everyday organizing and activism, placing women's ability to care and provide for their families at the center of our platform. [...] What does this new era mean? What do we want for our families and communities? What does a Latina agenda for reproductive justice and immigrant rights look like?

Because the fact is, "[t]he great transformational politics of 'hope' and 'change' do not translate to tangible benefits for new immigrants. In fact, many health and career services for immigrants are cut back or all together shut down due to lack of federal and state funds." So Diana Jou writes in the personal and fun essay Coming to America. And as David Bacon makes clear in a post on The Nation called Change Immigrants and Labor Can Believe In, "[a] new administration that has raised such high expectations should look for new ideas in the areas of immigration reform and trade policy, not recycle the bad ones of the last few years. The constituency that won the election will support a change in direction, and in fact is demanding it."

But there is tension in the dialogue. John Riley of The Dallas Morning News covers the same ground but muses that "Mr. Obama is focused on the economic crisis and may not make immigration legislation a priority early in his administration." However, Riley begins his article with the recognition that "huge increases in Latino voter turnout" are coupled with "credit for helping to propel Barack Obama into the White House" in the minds of Immigrant Rights groups.

Let's hope for the nation's sake that some of the recently-trumpeted change makes its way to the communities now in dire need of it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration. 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 created by NewsLadder.
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