The “Border Beat” (July 8, 2009)

The “Border Beat” is back with its bi-weekly rundown of Latino-themed news and views.  The July 4th holiday and the typical summertime doldrums mean a slow time for politics, and that means immigration reform talk is, well, talk. Still, there was some noteworthy talk when Obama convened an immigration legislation meeting at the White House late last month.  We’ll see where it goes. Me, I ain’t going nowhere.

Here’s the stories you might have missed:

• “Worker heat reform falters” (Modesto Bee)
This is the “near miss” story of the week as Cal-OSHA’s standards board overruled its field safety chiefs on a set of proposed amendments to the state regulations on “heat-stress.”  For those not familiar with these regulations, they require employers to provide shade, extra breaks, and water for agricultural laborers working on hot days.  Surprisingly (or not, depending on your view of race and power in CA), these regulations arose only after the 2006 round of deaths due to heat exposure in the fields. These proposed changes would have essentially relaxed the regulations, allowing for “grape vines” to count as “shade,” among other lunacies.

• “Pioneer researcher retires” (North County Times)
I normally bypass articles coming from really small publications unless they are significant in some way. This one is significant in every way. Legendary immigration researcher Wayne Cornelius has retired. In his 40 year career, Professor Cornelius advanced the field of immigration studies with his comprehensive approach to the topic. If there is a white guy who is a card-carrying honorary Chicano, this is the guy.  Happy retirement Dr. Cornelius!

• “Immigration attorney tells immigrants, ‘Don’t be scared’ about new laws” (Deseret News)
Here’s a kicker for you: Utah’s new anti-“illegal” immigrant law went into effect last week, even though nobody with any credibility on the left or the right seems to want it.  Law officials and politicians fear it will cause a flurry of discrimination claims and be costly, since the population of “illegals” in the state is so small compared to the population of legal Latinos and Mexican Americans.  Latinos are urging people to be vigilant and know their rights.  The comments at the bottom of the story–from the rank-and-file idiot brigade–are a reminder of why it is law.

• “In Mexican Vote, Nostalgia for Past Corruption” (NY Times)
The PRI won the latest round of midterm elections in Mexico.  All corruption jokes aside, it is a move worth keeping track of for the years ahead.

• “New realities eroding border double standard” (Arizona Republic)
People who work on the border and know what they are talking about have talked about the “double standard” between the U.S. border with Canada and that with Mexico since we stopped fearing a Canadian military invasion. The everyday understanding of this phenomenon is not so widely disseminated.  Hence, the value of this piece.  While the author celebrates the “erosion” with the recent passport regulations (since both are treated equally), let’s keep in mind small steps are made even smaller when they still revolve around institutionalizing our general fear of the border and what lurks beyond it.

• “U.S. Hispanics Live Longer, Despite Socio-Economic Hurdles” (HispanicBusiness.com)
David Hayes-Bautista is making some recent press with his decade-old findings that deserve all the attention he can muster for them.  Latinos live longer than the rest of the US population.  Hayes-Bautista calls it the “Hispanic Paradox” since, demographically, Latinos would be sure bets to live shorter lives. So suck it Minutemen!

SPOTLIGHT STORY:

• “Pastor who opposes homosexuality may get Chicago City Council seat” (Chicago Tribune)
Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, is about to be appointed to fill a vacant seat on the City Council. Thing is, his church is famously anti-homosexual, believing it something akin to a sickness.  De Jesus is a notable activist in his district and his impending appointment is seen as an advance for representational rights for Latinos.  The paradox here is rich and important.  I think we’re going to be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future and it is a welcome encumbrance to politics on the left. Eventually, Latinos and other so-called “progressives” are going to have the reach the point where they see the contradictions inherent in a public anti-LGBT equality stance and a representing poor communities of color.  Eventually.

Read more LATINO LIKE ME.

The “Border Beat” (June 24, 2009)

Time for another run-down of some of the Latino-themed stories you might have missed in the last two weeks.  Damas y caballeros, the BORDER BEAT!

• “Sotomayor & Identity Politics” (The Nation)
Just a taste, really, of the buffet that is the blogosphere and the chatter about Sonia Sotomayor and “identity politics.” Along with the frequent discussions about Sotomayor and affirmative action, they generally help us to see the chronic ignorance of the mainstream on issues of race and power.  Here, we get some links to an alternative and the proof bearing pudding, so to speak.

• “Third year of fewer illegal immigrants caught” (Houston Chronicle)
For you “data queens” out there: some figures on the declination in the immigrant flow measured by border apprehensions. For you humanists, the comments offer proof that “border-militia radicals” are not “data queens.”

• “Border Companies Thrive on Mexican-Americans” (NY Times)
A rabid form of racial nationalism (like we have here in the U.S.) is not very compatible with free-market capitalism (like we have here in the U.S.).  Oh, irony!

• “Payments for Injuries to Workers Here Illegally” (NY Times)
Unauthorized immigrants face a host of legal barriers which discourage the protection of the rights they do have.  As workers, for example, they are more prone to abuse, physical injury, discrimination, and a violation of labor laws.  This story, from New York, describes the successful defense of the rights of “illegal” workers using the U.S. Courts as a tool for justice.

• “Utah Latinos learn details of new immigration law, SB81” (Salt Lake Tribune)
I’m prone to posting articles dealing with Latinos in Utah. Someday, when they takeover the state and overcome the minor theocracy they’ve established there, I want to be remembered as one of those visionaries who saw it coming. Right now, fodder for the future takeover as Utah decides to racially profile Latinos.

• “Sotomayor Shaped By Her ‘Nuyorican’ Roots” (NPR)
Well, it’s a bit strange to me, but a lot of people still don’t see Latinos as “people.” Stories like this background piece on Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor help with that, to be sure. Of course, I’m more interested in the word ‘Nuyorican’ becoming part of the mainstream.

• “Court backs LAPD immigration policy” (SF Chronicle)
A recent court decision defends the practices within local law enforcement agencies which do not comply with federal laws on immigration as part of their law enforcement duties. This has the potential to translate into precedent defending the right of cities to declare themselves “sanctuary cities.”

SPOTLIGHT STORY:


• “In the Coachella Valley, hope withers on the vine” (LA Times)

And the “can’t miss” story of the week comes from the Los Angeles Times and details the continued injustice in the fields of the Coachella Valley.

Read more LATINO LIKE ME.

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.