David Bennion: September 2008 Archives

This week's music embed has been disabled, but you can click over to YouTube to add your view to 18,354,441 others for Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill) from Wyclef Jean (Haiti), Akon (Senegal), Niia Bertino (Massachusetts), and Lil Wayne (New Orleans).  (Do yourself a favor and don't read the comments, they will only make you dumber.)

The video is set in a refugee camp in an unspecified country, as Niia has a few fleeting moments in an interview to convince an unsympathetic border official not to deport her.  It's something I've never experienced myself directly, but I've watched it close up with clients many times.  Often, thankfully, the interview goes well.  But when the officer (or judge) has already made his mind up before you sit down, has a quota to fill, or just wants a blow job for a favorable decision (I had cases with this fucker before he was arrested) the sense of powerlessness is overwhelming, followed by a wave of anger. 

The news of DHS's hold on deportations to Haiti a week and a half ago was so softly announced that I don't even know if the policy is still in place.  Almost certainly, the government will not trumpet the end of the hold, they'll just fire up the engines and move the planes down the runway to their waterlogged destination.  But in light of the recent renewal of Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans, I hope that FIAC and other advocacy groups are successful in finally getting TPS for Haitians.  It is long overdue.
The Obama campaign responded to a comprehensive survey formulated by the editors of the Sanctuary on immigration policy and immigration reform.  The response in full can be found here

As far as McCain's response . . . still waiting for that . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . .

Does anyone know what a McCain administration immigration policy would look like?  There is a lot of speculation, but nobody seems to know for sure. 

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign continues its blackout of discussion of immigration in the English-language press, while telling Jorge Ramos of Univision that he didn't vote for the border wall (false!) and that Obama opposed comprehensive reform (mentira!).  McCain seems to be hoping to keep the voting public in the dark about his plans long enough to get elected.  Then, who knows!

Beware Subcomandante Zapatero!

Subcomandante Marcos.jpgJohn McCain, he of the purported decades of foreign policy experience, apparently doesn't know who the elected leader of Spain is, doesn't know where Spain is, or else simply won't back down once confronted.  None of these being hopeful signals of a potential McCain foreign policy.  

Here is Josh Marshall's breakdown of the reaction of the Spanish press:

In Spain, there seem to be two lines of thinking. The great majority appear to think the McCain was simply confused and didn't know who Zapatero was -- something you might bone up on if you were about to do an interview with the Spanish press. The assumption seems to be that since he'd already been asked about Castro and Chavez that McCain assumed Zapatero must be some other Latin American bad guy. A small minority though think that McCain is simply committed to an anti-Spanish foreign policy since he's still angry about Spain pulling it's troops out of Iraq. Finally, a few of those who lean toward the first view speculate that McCain may have confused Zapatero with the Zapatista rebel group in Mexico.
My money is on the Zapatero/Zapatista confusion.  McCain doesn't speak Spanish, his mind had already been focused on suspicious, indigenous Latin American revolutionary types like Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez (who once called George Bush the devil!), and he heard "Zapat___" and that was all he needed to know to form his response. 

Let me clarify for John McCain: Subcomandante Marcos is not the elected leader of the European country that colonized most of Latin America.  He does not have a seat at the table at NATO.  He does wear a ski mask and tattered revolutionary cap in all his public photos.

Let's hope that John McCain can figure this out before taking office this coming January.

Update: I missed this excellent NYTimes editorial on the McCain ad from yesterday, more below. (end update)

Both the Washington Post and the NYTimes picked up the story of McCain's Spanish-language ad directed to key Western swing states with large Latin@ populations in which the McCain campaign accuses Obama of sabotaging comprehensive immigration reform.  While both articles introduced useful information about the story, the Post's discussion was ultimately more informative. 

"calle sufrida, calle tristeza"

Me llaman calle - "they call me 'street.'" This is a powerful song with a simple but effective video, and you can see here the charisma in Manu's performance that can be heard in his music. Manu is that rare combination of talent and informed political commentary that only comes around maybe once every decade. I am cursing myself right now for missing two of his rare North American performances in recent years right in my old backyard at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

This song, about the denigration that sex workers face in machista societies (whether north or south of the U.S./Mexico border), raises one of the rare issues where migrant advocates and DHS are mostly on the same page: human trafficking. 

According to the Department of State, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of them are trafficked into or within the United States. Half of these victims are estimated to be children.  Many of the victims end up in forced prostitution.  More information can be found in the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report

Update: Alex Koppelman at Salon.com has weighed in on the McCain ad; full text below.  Also, New American Media's Henry Fernandez asks why McCain has changed his tune after earlier thanking Obama for supporting comprehensive reform. (End update.)

In case John McCain's misleading Spanish-language ad got lost in the weekend shuffle (perhaps accounting for its release late last week), here is the SF Chronicle's Joe Garofoli's take on it, with bonus quote from former INS Commissioner Doris Meissner.

The 30-second spot states that "Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they? The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail."

Not exactly. It was the lack of Republican support that killed immigration reform last time around.

Comrade Tyche Hendricks, who has written extensively on the U.S.-Mexico border for The Chronicle and (for an upcoming book), contacted Doris Meissner, who is a senior fellow at the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

"I don't know that you can say 'poison pill' because things hadn't gotten far enough so that anything would actually rise to that level (of poisoning the bill's chances)," Meissner said.

"I know there were people who were disappointed by the amendment that Obama put in," Meissner said. "But it's disengenuous because at that point McCain had backed away from the bill, which he had sponsored the year before, and he was not to be found in the debate because it was dividing the Republican party in the Senate. It was the lack of Republican votes that sank the bill."

Indeed, McCain said at this GOP debate in January that he wouldn't vote for his own immigration bill:

[Cross-posted at the Sanctuary.]

Given that the mainstream press is picking up on McCain's pattern of misrepresentations and false assertions in this election campaign, will they notice this one?

McCain is now claiming that comprehensive reform died in the Senate last year because Obama killed it. Even the restrictionist-leaning Washington Times (which published a series of articles linking recent immigrants to the spread of disease) found this claim to be a bridge too far.

McCain is trying to attract the Latino vote that he needs to win in several key states. He must be hoping that the English-language press ignores the falsehoods found in this Spanish-language ad. But by opening discussion on a topic on which he is particularly vulnerable to charges of flip-floppery, he has inspired unlikely bedfellows like the WaTimes and America's Voice, one of the best-funded organizations pushing for comprehensive reform, which links to the WaTimes story on its front page. 

And it looks like the mainstream blogosphere, from which the mainstream press takes many of its cues, may not let this one slip by unnoticed--I saw this story originally on TalkingPointsMemo, linking to a McClatchy story pointing out that Obama and McCain voted on the same side in the key votes of the comprehensive reform battle in Congress. Now I see Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has picked it up.

America's Voice (via Greg Siskind) has an effective rebuttal of the McCain ad:

Today was a day for remembering, and for asking hard questions.

El Loco at Latinopundit remembers 9/11/01 and 9/11/73, and the tragedies that occurred on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and in Allende's Chile on those dates.

Karima Bennoune at IntLawGrrls says that

both our contemporary human rights and security discourses on terrorism need to be broadened and renewed. This renewal should be informed by the understanding that international human rights law protects the individual both from terrorism and the excesses of counterterrorism, like torture.
She reminds us that

Counterterrorist policies that violate international law clearly undermine the endeavors of people like Sifaoui and Kheddar. But a human rights response that focuses solely on the impact of counterterrorism, and not of terrorism itself, hinders their work as well. Instead, international lawyers need to develop what Gita Sahgal has called a "human rights account" of terrorism. Perhaps that could be our best contribution to commemorating the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
Duke at Migra Matters recounts the tragic events of 9/11 and then the tragic two weeks that followed during which the Bush administration began preparations for the war in Iraq.  This war has led to the death and displacement of a far greater number of people than the 9/11 attacks.

Nezua provides a very personal look into his world on 9/11 and the subsequent days and weeks. Tracing his ideological and emotional trajectory will hit close to home to many readers, myself included.

And here are my scattered recollections of that day in lower Manhattan, recorded two years ago. I've probably grown even more skeptical since then of those who claim to lead us and of U.S. claims of the efficacy and good faith of its actions abroad. It is a strange experience--I feel at once more cynical and more hopeful than I have felt before.

Cynical when I think of our upcoming election and the ways I feel the U.S. will be stuck in the status quo regardless of who wins the presidency. Hopeful in the potential I see for transnational organizing and a youth movement that knows no borders.
Thumbnail image for immigrationchart2-copy.jpgReason magazine has a great chart (pdf) outlining wait times for citizenship under different scenarios (text version here (pdf)).

What you'll notice if you read the chart carefully is that for a large number of potential immigrants--certainly the majority of undocumented immigrants already here--there are simply no legal channels to immigrate. Wait times are irrelevant; such workers could wait till they're gray and still not get a visa because it is simply impossible.

I'd like to introduce a new feature here called "Musical Monday" - at least until I think of another name. Some of the music I like ties in to migration in one way or another, and I've been wanting to share it more widely. As information, goods, and (sometimes) people flow more freely than ever before across borders, musicians are writing about it.

In remembrance of those who've died in Haiti in recent weeks, and in the hope that those who need help can be reached in time, the first Musical Monday is Arcade Fire's Black Wave / Bad Vibrations. Arcade Fire co-founder RĂ©gine Chassagne's family migrated from Haiti to Canada to escape the Duvaliers, like some of my former clients. She has sung about her family's homeland on the band's first album, Funeral, and on last year's Neon Bible. This song is very meaningful to me now that I've gotten to know some Haitians who went through some truly horrific experiences before coming to the U.S.