Isn’t it too early to be this dramatic Sen. McCain?

Check out the latest on Wesley Clark’s so-called “critique” of John McCain’s military service this past weekend.  According to this story, Obama has now “disavowed” Clark’s assessment amid a flurry of Republican wonky-wonks sputtering on about it.

Here’s what I think: for reals??  Are we then saying that McCain being shot down in Vietnam does make him qualified to be president

Because, honestly, I’d actually like to every once in awhile consider voting for the people who weren’t shot down, too.  Or maybe even those that didn’t serve.  Yeah.

Man, this is going to be a long election.


Ruben Navarrette Smokes from the Neoliberal Pipe

Let me start by saying that I have really begun to enjoy reading Ruben Navarrette Jr.‘s editorials this past year. There are far too few Latino journalists out there, and even fewer willing to speak from a grounded and informed basis on issues surrounding the Latino populations of the U.S. While I hardly agree with him all the time, he has been at the journalistic forefront of dissecting the current immigration debate in a way that often centers the racism at its core.

That said, brother’s got some crazy in him, too…as we all do. Navarrette’s latest sampling is a reflection of his own political foundations and assumptions, that of the neoliberal order that is “the West.” It is marked by a faith in individualism, in the market rationales, and in a democratic system to assure people’s rights. It is both Clinton and Reagan and everyone in between and, often, on to the right and left of both.

Navarrette might see himself as a political realist or pragmatist (I don’t know), but a neoliberalist he is. He sees open borders as an unfeasible solution because of the politics of it. He advocates for some solution to the current immigration situation by proclaiming some kind of faith in “the law.” And he thinks kids are lazy. Okay, that one might not be a feature of neoliberlaism, but he does

“It’s worth mentioning that not only do illegal immigrants do jobs that Americans won’t do, but many of the jobs they’re doing were once done by young people in their teens and 20s – your sons and daughters – who, as a generation, have shown themselves to have a terrible work ethic.”

His neoliberal tradition is reflected here in the belief that economic decisions which have lead in the past two decades to the substitution of youth labor by undocumented and documented immigrant labor are decisions made at the point of labor entry by the worker in question.

When I was working near Salinas, California–a town that does not run without immigrant labor–some students in one of my Chicano Studies classes had a conversation with a local employer who discussed his concerted effort to hire adult immigrants over teenagers for his fast food franchises. He saw them as more permanent and flexible with their hours, as well as willing to work for the wages he offered.
Such decisions are not rare. They are also not ones made solely–or even a little bit–by the workers themselves.

Hispanic vs. Latino: What’s in a Name?

Check out this incisive blog post on the great debate–Hispanic versus Latino, that is–written by Daniel Cubias.

He provides a slice of just some of the tensions framing this “debate” within the Latin American-descent population of North America.  If you are new to the topic of us, it’s a good beginning.  And if you’re you and you is us then, well, how about that?

Cubias doesn’t offer much of a solution and, as a professor of Chicana/o ~ Latina/o Studies (yes, that’s right, I did just use all those words and slashes) let me declare my reluctance to offer any bold opinion as to which we should “all” be using.  As with most “debates,” the most important understanding to take away is not the results of an either/or dichotomous battle but a bird’s eye view of the arena of contestation.

The real lesson in all of this is three-fold:

1. Latin American-descent populations are diverse and, at times, rivalrous to an extent that makes inter-ethnic, inter-national, and/or inter-identity formation difficult, to say the least.

2. The question to ask is, really, what frames and nurtures these diverse examples of identification?  This is not a debate about language at all.  It is about what that language says about what we think of ourselves.  Identity is about memory and visions of the past and future.  The unique historical experiences and circumstances which have given rise to this current “debate” are the real story for us as Latinos/Hispanic and as non-Latino/Hispanics to educate ourselves about.

3. No matter what you think about this in intellectual terms, identity is a historically situated phenomenon.  People will call themselves what they want because of the time, place, and circumstance of their life experience.  Barring a widespread–and I mean WIDE–movement in this country, there will be no lasting resolution to this debate.

And, just so you know, I am proud to call myself a Chicano.

The “Border Beat” (June 30, 2008)

As we inch closer to the Democratic and Republican conventions, and with those closer to the November elections, we’ll all be hearing more and more talk about and to Latinos. The issue of immigration works as a rallying point for certain sectors of both parties’ constituencies, acting as the target of political rhetoric meant to move you to vote. At the same time, the numerical realities of electoral politics mean the growing, younger, and as yet unknown political quantity of the “Latino electorate” is as popular as a boat in a flood.

Some thoughts as you dive into the “Border Beat.”

  • McCain and Obama each try to convince NALEAO that they will be our mejor amigo (AP/Yahoo);
  • Is America worried that Latinos are too fertile? (Tucson Citizen/USA Today);
  • USA Today is surprisingly sharp in discussing Latino birth rates and the rise of their presence in rural America…and they have maps!
  • Latinos mobilize in North Carolina, that’s right, NORTH CAROLINA! (;
  • Women among the rising ranks of undocumented workers, a powerful lesson in what multiple oppression looks like (Houston Chronicle); and
  • Frida Kahlo returns to San Francisco (OC Register).

The second to last article I spotlight today is a simple report from the Houston Chronicle on the rising numbers of women among the flow of undocumented workers into the United States. While the story may be simple, the forces at work are anything but.

Traditionally, with the exception of political refugees, immigration to the United States has been two things almost without exception: young and male. Not only is the actual process physical arduous, but the gendered economic realities of immigration often presented opportunities for males to benefit from wages in el norte while it required women to maintain the “domestic economy” back in the “homeland.”

As those of us in the worlds of Chicano and Latino Studies know, immigration from Mexico and other parts of Latin America has been bucking this trend for some time. For the past few years, numbers reported by the Pew Hispanic Center have shown women account for almost half of the immigration flow from the South. Now, as ICE conducts weekly raids on worksites across the U.S., we have further proof of this.

This trend is a powerful reminder of the ways migrants are, in the words of noted Chicano scholar Ernesto Galarza, “ecological victims.” Their journey is dictated by economic necessity. This is not only a necessity framed by their own household circumstance in Latin America, but also the larger system which desires their body for labor and nurtures their movement from one part of the world to another, from abject poverty to first-world poverty.

Women are a rising share of the undocumented population because they occupy a position of diminished rights within global economic and political systems. This isn’t just a condition of the so-called Third World, it is a reality of the U.S. as well. The millions of Spanish-speaking women working in sweatshops in downtown Los Angeles are living proof of that. But there are others as well, women of all languages and hues and, yes, even economic classes.

The UN estimates that there are currently more than 12 million people working in “forced labor,” or “modern slavery” [see International Labour Organization]. Of these, the overwhelming majority are either adult women or children (both boys and girls). More than 20,000 of these slaves are working now in the U.S. While most of the women in this nation, and most of the immigrant women in this nation, are not slaves, millions of foreign-born women do find themselves working in an economic circumstance of little flexibility or freedom. They work in coercive environments which seek to employ them for the very reason that they are women with diminished political and economic rights.

Land of the free, indeed.

Utah, Latinos, and the Battle Over Immigration

I hope I’m not surprising any of you when I say I find Utah to have a less than favorable image within the varied constituencies of “the left.” As such a solidly “red state,” and one so heavily (conservative) religious, most see it as a predictable home for a kind of Reagan Republicanism.

Let me tell you, though, this view is not as widespread for Latinos, broadly speaking.  I know more than a  few Latinos who live or have lived in Utah and who, on the whole, like it.  This is the result of the growth of a diverse set of factors which have both created networks which facilitate Latino movement and integration, and help nurture community for Latinos once they are there.

Latinos have been present in Utah since before its establishment as a State, but they’re numbers were small until the World War II era.  Then, the Emergency Labor Program (1942), also known as the “Bracero Program,” led to the establishment of economic/labor ties between Utah capital and Mexican labor.  Still, until the latter part of the 20th century, their numbers never measured much of the overall population.

That growth has really taken off in the last few decades.  Utah, like all places in the Southwest, has undergone a measurable development process in the last generation, attracting and requiring physical laborers.  For decades the Mormons have been sending their own to parts of Latin America as members of the church do their missionary service.  This has made the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the fastest growing religion in Latin America.  More brown Mormons means more Latinos making pilgrimage to Utah and, often, settling.  And in the past decade, the University system has also reached out to Latino/first-generation students, a result of their commitment to hiring Latino faculty with expertise in Latino issues.

All of this recent history makes Utah something of a microcosm of the broader Latino/immigration debate in the nation at large than it makes it an exception.  I don’t think the future of Utah on this issue is as important as California, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, or any other state with a longer and more profound history with immigration.  But Utah is very much a reflection of the kinds of issues states like Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, Maryland, and many others are facing.

A short and yet insightful reflection of this is a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  It unpacks some of the ways Utah–much like the nation as a whole–is kind of schizophrenic when it comes to the issue of Latino immigration, welcoming with one hand as much as they are blocking with the other.

The “Border Beat” (June 20, 2008)

The “Border Beat” is back in its traditional format today. We end the week with a cornucopia of articles on immigration, foreign relations, and, of course, the 2008 election.

  • The European Union cracks down on immigrants–U.S. style (San Francisco Chronicle);
  • Death, life, and medical attention on the U.S.-Mexico border (Tucson Citizen);
  • Proof pundits don’t know what they’re talking about, Obama’s Latino troubles have turned into a “Latino edge” (Hispanic Business);
  • The Economist (of all publications) warns the U.S. of “Mexico-bashing”; and
  • Rogue Arizona Sheriff detains all brown people, makes them prove they aren’t illegal immigrants, and then arrests them if they can’t–oh, and he’s running for reelection (Reuters).

The last article is insane. It tells the story of Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio–who has made a name for himself as a tough guy when it comes to cracking down on illegal immigration–has been using his office to do more of the same. What they do is send groups of officers into the Latino barrios of his county and stop people who “look” like they might be “illegals,” force them to prove they are not, and then–if they can’t prove they are citizens or legal residents–they arrest them.

There is probably not much of a defense to what he is doing. It is a clear case of racial profiling, a practice that is largely illegal. It blurs the line between federal and local jurisdiction, arrests people even if they have not committed any crime (how do you prove a negative?), and, worse, creates a clear climate of fear among Latino communities in his county. But he’s just that kind of law man!

Arpaio is no stranger to the headlines. He makes them and he attracts them. He fancies himself a maverick who is cleaning up a bankrupt system. He is an author of a book about his hardline stances and, coincidentally, he is running for reelection this fall.

When you look past all the hype and bluster, this is a tragedy. Latinos are residents of the same county he is sworn to protect and, yet, he has no compunction about creating a different standard for them in terms of deserving respect, protection, and safety. Sadly, this is more the norm than the exception when it comes to Latinos and their daily interaction with law enforcement in their communities. If you don’t believe that…well…read more.

John McCain on Abortion

Every presidential election is one of importance to the daily lives of women and people of color. Recent political events notwithstanding, this fall’s race is no different. As a historian, trust me when I say, these connections are not always so easy to make.

Here, from today’s San Francisco Chronicle, are McCain’s evolving (or devolving) views on the issue of abortion.

“I’d love to see a point where (Roe vs. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations.” McCain said he would support legislation banning abortions in the third trimester.
Interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 20, 1999.

“After a lot of study, a lot of consultation and a lot of prayer, I came up with a position that I believe there should be an exception for rape, incest or the life of a mother…(the issue) is one of the most difficult and agonizing issues that I think all of us face, because of our belief — yours and mine — that life begins at conception.”
Reported in the New York Times, Jan. 22, 2000.

“John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.”
McCain for President website, 2008.