The “Border Beat” (January 1, 2010)

2010 will likely be a year filled with immigration news as the US Congress begins debate on some form of immigration-related legislation. Passage of some form of legislation is not assured; although something (at the very minimum) is likely. As with most pressing issues in the present configuration of domestic politics, ideological absolutism and obstructionism will be major forces of contention. So, if something does pass, we can all be confident it will be less than ideal.

So let’s start off the new year right, shall we? The “Border Beat” is back with all the Chicano/Latino/Hispanic news you might have missed the previous week.

• “Eight Things President Obama Can Do To Reform Our Immigration System Without Waiting For Congressional Action ” (Immigration Daily)

Immigration lawyer Harry DeMill breaks it down and reminds us that 2009 could have been an important year in immigration history if Mr. Obama had so willed it.

• “Town Divides Over Law Aimed at Day Laborers” (NY Times)
Oyster Bay, NY, has passed a law meant to be a restrictive measure against “day laborers.” Included in the statute are a host of now-forbidden tactics these hopeful workers employ to get the attention of a possible employer, such as “waving arms or signs.” This article is a powerful glimpse into the divergent ways people see immigrant workers in the US, as well as the sticky result: the prospect of getting arrested for “waving while Latino.”

• “Sotomayor keeps community bonds tight” (USA Today)
Ah! Say what you want about our newest Supreme Court Justice but she is defining the modern-day meaning of what it means to keep it real. If all Latina and Latino officials who won position and influence remained this grounded, then we wouldn’t be doing this blog, now would we?

• “Rose parade float to celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial” (Orange County Register, Calif.)
What would the annual Rose Parade be without controversy? Well, it would be like most years. But this year, because Mexicans and Girl Scouts (and likely Girl Scout Mexicans) are decorating a float to honor Mexico, people in the OC are freaking out. As a historian, let me warn you, when they freak out, we all suffer (Reagan anyone?).

• “White House prepares for immigration overhaul battle” (LA Times)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez introduced immigration legislation to the House last month (H.R. 4321) but the real movement on this legislation will come from the White House and the Senate. This overview is as good as any providing the strategic leaks the White House is making about what the legislation will entail and presenting the subtext beneath everything: how to get Republican votes. Without key Republicans, this whole thing will languish like carrion for the mid-year elections.

• “Outgoing mayor enrolls Morristown into immigration program to deputize officers” (, New Jersey)
Immigration (and Latino profiling) have become issues in nearly every part of this country. Much of the “legitimate” debate at the local level is similar to this: whether or not a town’s law enforcement should participate in the 287(g) program. In case you’re wondering, they should not. Unless you think immigration detention and deportation is more important than actual serious crimes, there is not a local law agency anywhere that can afford to swap out like this. But we’re not talking law enforcement; we’re talking politics.

• “U.S. government moving to deport longtime legal residents with criminal convictions” (San Jose Mercury News)
Things never are as simple and clear as they might seem to the “liberal” mind. Law and order and right and wrong get a little fuzzy in the world of immigration politics. Check it out.

• “The semantic debate over ‘illegal’ immigrants is a waste of time” (Mercury News)
I hate to always pick on Ruben Navarrette Jr. because I always love to see a brown kid get a job. But brother! In his latest opinion piece he spends time using language to defend the use of the term “illegal immigrant” by saying we shouldn’t be wasting our time with the debate over language. Excuse me–???? Well, this little brown beaner should know that words do matter, especially when they are given context and power by usage.

Debates over language are merely avenues into understanding the underlying power dynamics of the “real” issue. In the case of immigration, the wholesale ascription of the term “illegal immigrant” to ANY immigrant who is not a LPR (“legal permanent resident”) is useless legally and politically. It acts as if each case is the same, when the problem at hand is exactly the way the law acts as if each case is the same. And, yes, it borders on racist when it acts as a barrier to any debate and discussion and becomes used as a substitute for “Mexican” or “Latin American.”

But that’s just the humble opinion of a person who works with words for a living.

Racial hypocrisy in the Sotomayor hearings

Thus far, there are no surprises in the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings.  Unfortunately, that is the problem.

Two things are abundantly clear: many people remain ignorant on the historical legacy of race and racism in the United States; and many people continue to cling to the privilege of white supremacy by absolving themselves of personal, racial ideologies and ways of knowing while exercising the same.

Republicans don’t seem to have much when it comes to actual legal decisions she has made. In sum, she’s hardly a flaming liberal in the record of the court and, on top of that, she practices what is considered to be a fair and impartial method by legal standards.

So what do they do?

They try to make her out to be a racist and an “activist” judge because she once suggested people working in the law might think differently because of their ethnic background and life experience.

To deny that is not only ahistorical, it is also perfectly produced by history.  It is a denial rooted in white supremacy.

What else is it when a bunch of white men attack a Latina judge for being racist when they never questioned once the bold suggestion that a white man was the most qualified in all the nation the previous TWO times an open seat on the court was filled?

What else is it when a bunch of white men assume the uncontroverted final word on what racism is–the overt recognition that race exists–rather than the one grounded in historical experience and forged out of antiracist struggle?

White supremacy rarely acknowledged “whiteness” except when it was confronted with its “opposite.”  One of the features of “whiteness” is the very denial of its existence.  “White people” don’t have race, that’s what those colored folks have. “Whiteness” is naturalized, the norm, simply what is.  All other racial constructions are the aberration, the difference, the problem.

Like the system it produces, white supremacy centers “white” people as the source of what is important and valued.

And that’s exactly what is happening here.


The Radical Right vs. Sotomayor

And so it begins.

But a scant few hours after her name is made public, Sonia Sotomayor–Barack Obama’s pick to fill the vacancy left by Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court–is the target of the radical right in their campaign to obstruct, slander, and emerge victorious in the war of emotions as opposed to ideas.

The porcine Rush Limbaugh began his attack today on his radio show. Recycling the litany of arguments devised in backroom meetings where strategists hold firm to the belief that if you say it enough it becomes true, the bloated host declaring her dumb, emotional, anti-Constitutional, and a reverse racist. In defense of the rights of “white men,” Limbelch chortled:

So she’s not the brain that they’re portraying her to be, she’s not a constitutional jurist. She is an affirmative action case extraordinaire and she has put down white men in favor of Latina women.

You can read more of his comments here.  If you wonder how he could have possibly learned so much about her in a short amount of time, reading all hr court decisions and analyzing them down to a concise and informed position on the matter all in about one hour, well, then you’re probably not reading this now, are you?