Anti-immigration groups and pundits cling to phrases like "Illegal Alien" because they only focus on foreignness and danger. These extreme factions are all about casting immigrants as what ails our society, conjuring up demons upon which to focus national ire, and perpetuating a subhuman category of being. It's a convenient distraction from things that are actually endangering our nation. A new web-only series from ColorLines called "Torn Apart by Deportation" is the perfect antidote to people like CNN's Lou Dobbs.
The stories in this series are thoroughly investigated, not sensationalized, and haunting. "Torn Apart" reveals how the push against immigrants in the U.S. is, once all the pieces come together, a cultural death wish on families of color. "Torn Apart" gives faces and feelings to the results of the nation's post-1996 immigration policies, which made it easier deport undocumented people for any criminal infraction. Two articles are currently available:
"Home in Name Only" follows Calvin James, who was deported after living in the US since the age of 12, back to Kingston, Jamaica. James is percieved as an undesirable and unwanted part of Jamaican society, which pins its crime rates on deportees. James was uprooted from a loving, productive life in the US and cast into a criminal class spanning two nations.
"Double Punishment" explores the nexus that people like James find themselves in, where they suffer under a clash of laws that target immigrants and criminals in a justice system already slanted against people of color.
Wiretap tackles the issue of the upcoming census count slated for Spring 2010. The census has become a point of political contention and moved abruptly away from its very practical purpose of counting all people in the country. Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) are trying to add an amendment to an appropriations bill that would include a question about citizenship status to the census form, disrupting the entire well-established process of the census. The move would also cement growing fear in immigrant communities that the census is not to be trusted.
Further, it's simply too late to raise questions like this. As M. Junaid Levesque-Alam writes, "two congressionally mandated deadlines for registering objections [to the census form as it stands] have already passed." Surely Vitter and Bennet are quite aware of this. Then again, as Levesque-Alam makes clear, the intended effect of the amendment is primarily "to dissuade undocumented residents from participating in the census out of fear that the information will be shared with other government agencies and lead to deportation." It is, yet again, one more Republican political maneuver has no consideration for the damage such legislation causes.
Misguided and troublesome attempts to legislate hate are rippling out and hurting other communities. America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, H.R. 3200, negatively impacts the African-American community in its attempts to deny immigrants access to health care, as TPM reports. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) anti-immigrant agenda hurts the working class, according to The Washington Independent. A new report released Tuesday by "three labor and employment advocacy organizations," points the finger squarely at the Bush administration policies that leave undocumented and legal workers alike open to exploitation.
When workers are afraid to report their employers for abusive practices, they are exploited further. When there is a labor conflict, abusive employers will summon ICE and simply provoke a raid before the dispute is resolved. It adds up to a situation that keeps wages artificially suppressed and many workers voiceless. As Daphne Eviatar writes, "labor complaints are not supposed to lead to retaliation against illegal immigrants."
Even LA police chief Willam J. Bratton writes that "a person reporting a crime should never fear being deported." Yet they have good reason to. As the Colorado Independent reported last Wednesday, the 287(g) agreement "has resulted in a 'sweep of terror," according to a floor speech given by 2nd Rep. Jared Polis on the same day. His speech came as a reaction to the announcement by ICE last Friday that it was signing 67 more 287(g) agreements.
Irresponsible pundits, racist legislation and exploitative labor conditions are all the symptoms of a nation wrestling with a fundamental truth: United, we stand. Divided, we fall. The healing we need lies not in harsher means to divide or separate, but in a new body of laws that exemplifies that age-old and beloved maxim.
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