During the spring and summer of 2010, America’s broken immigration system erupted into national news headlines as a result of the passage in Arizona of a sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), growing concerns over drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and calls in some quarters for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. While these events might seem new, the issues involved—unauthorized migration, labor disputes, violence, federalism, and constitutional rights—have played out over and over again, particularly along the border. Back to the Border provides analyses by two historians who situate today’s controversies within the context of the broader history of the border region. Understanding that history not only allows us to make sense of the complex issues behind the current rhetoric, but also demonstrates why it is necessary to go beyond the rhetoric and search for lasting solutions.
The following “Perspectives” by historians Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava compare and contrast conditions and incidents along the Arizona border in 1917, 1976, and 2010. The similarities between the three eras are startling.
Arizona politicians who support the state’s sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) are not particularly fond of facts. For instance, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has made all manner of ludicrous statements about unauthorized immigrants typically carrying drugs, killing cops, and leaving headless bodies in the desert. But the most hypocritical of the anti-immigrant statements made by politicians such as Brewer concern kidnapping. Not only do Brewer and company pretend that kidnappers are lurking behind every corner in Arizona, but they usually neglect to mention that unauthorized immigrants are the primary victims of the kidnappings that do occur. In other words, the kidnapping of unauthorized immigrants is being used as a justification to crack down on unauthorized immigrants. This is a nonsensical policy that attacks the victims rather than the perpetrators of the crime.Read more...
The 2000 Census found that immigrants, while accounting for 12 percent of the population, made up nearly half of the all scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees. Nearly 70 percent of the men and women who entered the fields of science and engineering from 1995 to 2006 were immigrants. So it should come as no surprise that immigrants will help drive the green revolution. America's young scientists and engineers, especially the ones drawn to emerging industries like alternative energy, tend to speak with an accent. Yet, the connection between immigration and the development and commercialization of alternative energy technology is rarely discussed.
In IPC's lastest Perspective on Immigration piece, Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith explain how policymakers envision millions of new jobs as the nation pursues renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, and hightlight the voices that warn that much of the clean-technology talent lies overseas, in nations that began pursuing alternative energy sources decades ago.
While visiting Phoenix, AZ in late January with a group of evangelical leaders who were in the border region to learn more about immigration, I met an immigrant family struggling to survive in a difficult economy. The father was employed as a mechanic but recently lost his job and lived in constant fear of being separated from his two young children who are U.S. citizens. This man considered moving his family back to Mexico because life was so hard in Phoenix, but was concerned about his two young children who would go back to a country they never knew. They were generous in feeding a group of American visitors delicious homemade Mexican food, as their children ran around the yard, yelling at each other in a mix of Spanish and English. During the same visit, my colleague met an undocumented immigrant woman named Maria whose son was killed by a drunk driver. She cannot press charges, however, because of her undocumented status.Read more...
Over the period from 2005 to 2007, I researched the anti-immigrant movement. As I spoke with immigration restrictionists and observed their patrols and anti-immigrant rallies, I was often haunted by the question, “Are these people to be taken seriously?” At times it was hard to fathom that they amounted to anything more than a disgruntled fringe element of a society experiencing complex transformations in an increasingly interconnected world. I witnessed much hyperbole and many “colorful” characters, but at times questioned their potential broader impact.Read more...
The intent of Arizona’s SB 1070, the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” is to chase illegal immigrants out of the state. Or, as the new law puts it more formally: “to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” The stern new law quickly made Arizona the target of international news headlines, boycotts, demonstrations, and lawsuits—most recently by the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups. While the spotlight has been on Arizona, however, copycat legislation has been brewing in at least 16 other states, supported to one extent or another by two organizations that have made a cause of providing legal and political assistance to lawmakers similarly intent on “attrition through enforcement.”
The two groups, which work together, are the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the lesser-known State Legislators for Legal Immigration. IRLI lawyer Kris W. Kobach, who was a chief adviser on immigration issues to Attorney General John Ashcroft following the attacks of 9/11, has consulted with lawmakers around the country, helping frame and defend state and local legislation targeting illegal immigrants. (At the Justice Department, Kobach engineered a controversial program that aimed to register visitors from certain Muslim countries).Read more...
Years before the U.S. Supreme Court ended racial segregation in U.S. schools with Brown v. Board of Education, a federal circuit court in California ruled that segregation of school children was unconstitutional—except this case involved the segregation of Mexican American school children. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reached this historic decision in the case of Mendez v. Westminster in 1947—seven years before Brown. Historic in its own right, Mendez was critical to the strategic choices and legal analysis used in arguing Brown and in shaping the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall. Moreover, the Mendez case—which originated with LULAC but benefited from the participation of the NAACP—also symbolized the important crossover between different ethnic and racial groups who came together to argue in favor of desegregation.
From a legal perspective, Mendez v. Westminster was the first case to hold that school segregation itself is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment. Prior to the Mendez decision, some courts, in cases mainly filed by the NAACP, held that segregated schools attended by African American children violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because they were inferior in resources and quality, not because they were segregated. Read more...
The United States needs a new immigration policy that is based less on wishful thinking and more on realism. Spending vast sums of money trying to enforce arbitrary numerical limits on immigration that bear no relationship to economic reality is a fool’s errand. We need flexible limits on immigration that rise and fall with U.S. labor demand, coupled with strict enforcement of tough wage and labor laws that protect all workers, regardless of where they were born. We need to respect the natural human desire for family reunification, while recognizing that even family-based immigrants are unlikely to come here if jobs are not available. And we need to create a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants who are already here so that they can no longer be exploited by unscrupulous employers who hang the threat of deportation over their heads.
Comprehensive immigration reform is one of the most pressing problems for the United States. This is expected to be a key issue for Congress in 2010.
Many faith-based organizations are motivated by the Bible in advocating for reform. To counter this, the restrictionists have tried to preempt, issuing a report that purports to prove that the Bible justifies a harsh stance on immigration.
Building on an article we wrote in 1998, in a new article published on January 1, 2010 in Bender's Immigration Bulletin, we debunk the restrictionist argument and show that the Bible actually does support a generous attitude towards immigrants and immigration. Indeed, it mandates such a view.
There are both religious and non-religious people on both sides of the debate over comprehensive immigration reform. One does not need to be religious in order to advocate for the rights of immigrants. But religion is very important for many people involved in the debate. That being so, it is important to have an accurate view of what the Bible really says about immigration, and we have tried our best to show that.
Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and law‐abiding U.S. employers are in unfair competition with unscrupulous employers who increase profits by hiring cheap and vulnerable labor. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on enforcing these broken laws.