The “Border Beat” (June 10, 2009)

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?  I’ve been meaning to call, but, well, you know, things got busy.  But I’m back.  You got the time?  Nice.  Well then, let’s get our nice clothes on, and our fancy shoes, because baby, THE BORDER BEAT IS BACK!!

• “State of Shame” (NY Times)
For those who thought agricultural workers faced deplorable conditions only in the West or South, this Times editorial teaches us about the ways the lack of legal protections for ag workers is exploited for, in this case, feeding ducks until they die.

• “How an immigration raid changed a town” (Christian Science Monitor)
The CSM provides this sad update on the town of Potsville, Iowa. About a year ago, Potsville found itself in the national headlines as ICE agents raided the town’s primary employer, their largest raid to date. Agriprocessors, once the largest kosher meat plant in the nation, is now bankrupt; the town has been abandoned by most of the immigrant workers rounded up on that day; and the future is very uncertain. You could say they got what they deserved, but you’d be wrong, trapped in your own limited visions of what is “right” and “wrong.” The question blowing in this breeze is, why?

• “Bill Proposes Immigration Rights for Gay Couples” (NY Times)
It’s called the Uniting American Families Act. It allows gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their long-term partners for a green card, the same way the law allows this for married, straight couples. It is fair, sane, and long-overdue. Now let’s hope it doesn’t get scuttled by reactionary homophobes who are calling it everything from an attack on “traditional” marriage to a continuing dismantling of our borders.

• “GOP risks losing Latino vote for decades” (SF Chronicle)
Ruben Navarrette is, perhaps, the most read Latino journalist in the U.S. His column is syndicated in papers across the nation. He is a paragon of neutrality and moderation, while consistently representing a “Hispanic voice.” I don’t often agree with him to the letter, but I can appreciate where he is coming from. Here, he opines on the tricky game Republicans are playing in trying to smear Sotomayor. The long-term consequence, says Navarrette, may be the loss of the Latino vote for the foreseeable future. You know what? He’s right.

• “US vows crackdown on illegal immigrant worker abuse” (Reuters)
While in Mexico City, John Morton–the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–vowed to enforce the U.S. laws “responsibly, humanely and thoughtfully.” What does that mean? Well, one element, says Morton, is cracking down on employers who “abuse” illegal immigrants. “I intend to try to identify and prosecute those people much more vigorously than in the past,” he said. His elaboration of the nature of employers’ abusing practices (as distinct from their mere employment of them) is a welcome sign for those of us working for a more humane immigration policy.

• “Boy Scouts make big push to get Latinos to join” (Chicago Tribune)
[(Ding-dong!) What’s that? Somebody’s at the door? Finally! Looks like we have a social call!! (Ding-dong!) We just might have a date tonight! Yes! Somebody wants us. Hello? Who? Awww. It’s just the Boy Scouts.] Well, the Boy Scouts are trying to double the number of Latinos earning badges for canoeing. . . and all that other stuff, too. Seems they’re having some problems, though. Some are wondering if the problem is a lack of cultural familiarity, some fear and mistrust. As a former Boy Scout, let me suggest it is more a case of not wanting your child to look like he’s joined a youth paramilitary troop.

• “UFW Alums Battle Over Labor’s Future” (Beyond Chron)
There is an ugly fight happening out West in the labor movement. It is pitting some UFW legends against each other (again) and perhaps tearing apart some organizations that once had a tremendous amount of potential.

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.