Nativism: January 2011 Archives

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The failure of the Democrats to pass the DREAM Act in December prompted the Washington Post and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to declare President Obama's immigration reform strategy a failure. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum explained the "pickle of epic proportions" that the administration was in:

Republicans would now cry foul if the administration eased up on deportations, he said. But Latinos are losing patience with a strategy that has led to pain without gain for their communities.

Nevertheless, according to the Post, the Obama administration is doubling down on its "enforcement-first" strategy, having "no plans to pull back on enforcement just because Republicans are unlikely to support a bipartisan overhaul of immigration laws in the next two years."

How did the Democrats' immigration reform strategy fail so thoroughly? What went wrong? And why is President Obama still committed to a failed strategy?



It's not about
win or lose
Cause we all lose
when they feed
on the souls of the innocent
blood drenched pavement
keep on moving
though the waters stay raging.
Matisyahu - 2009 
The reactions I've witnessed to the violence in Tuscon have made me physically sick.  Ever since I heard the news on Saturday, I've been glued to twitter, the television, and my computer screen, looking for someone to say something that makes some kind of sense.  It seems the only people that have anything worthwhile to say have been keeping mostly silent, using this time to reflect as we probably all should. 

Writing is one of the ways I reflect, taking the thoughts that swirl around me, sometimes wreaking havoc on my spirit, and channeling them into something tangible that I can take apart and make sense out of.  I publish these thoughts publicly here in deference to one of Hillel's famous ancient lessons: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  And when I am for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?"  In short, I'm sick of waiting for someone to say something worthwhile about a tragedy that has shaken me to my core, so I'm going to give it a try.

Stanley Renshon of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank, wrote last week about the DREAM Act:

Anyone with a heart as well as brain recognizes that children brought here by their parents illegally at a very young age are different in many ways from those old enough to know better but who choose to break our immigration laws almost wholly to satisfy their own self-interest.

The question is: what to do about this difficult set of circumstances?

The answer is simple: Pass the DREAM Act.

But Renshon and the two other "compassionate" conservatives he cites in his blog post--Mark Krikorian and Debra Saunders--don't support the DREAM Act in its most recent form. Instead, they discuss some future DREAM Act to be written by conservative lawmakers which would "not include egregious loopholes."

I am skeptical for a few reasons.

my-turn-visa-SC50-wide-horizontal.jpg[Image: Choo Youn Kong / AFP-Getty Images]

Sometimes I wonder what people who get riled up about immigration would do if they actually knew how the laws worked, instead of relying on the lies that have been spun into conventional wisdom.

Utah State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom wants Utah to pass a SB1070-style law that would drive undocumented immigrants further into the shadows. He told the LA Times one of the reasons he has become Utah's leading anti-immigrant politician is that it is so hard for immigrants to come through legal channels.

Sandstrom became fluent in Spanish and sponsored one family that wanted to immigrate to the United States. He was shocked at the hurdles they had to surmount. They had to sign a form pledging to refuse all U.S. government benefits for five years. Sandstrom thought of the people here illegally who accessed those benefits. It didn't sit right with him.

There are a couple of inaccuracies repeated in this short paragraph. First, the passage suggests that all it takes to immigrate to the U.S. is a financial sponsor like Sandstrom and a pledge not to access benefits. This is incorrect. It's true that each applicant for permanent residence must locate a U.S. citizen or permanent resident financial sponsor to sign an "affidavit of support," a requirement derived from the long-standing prohibition on accepting immigrants who will become a "public charge." But to apply for permanent residence in the first place, applicants must have an employer or close family member in the U.S. able and willing to file the underlying petition for them.

Most people who want to emigrate to the U.S. can't because they lack such a petitioner. A financial sponsor alone gets you nowhere. Yet most Americans believe that the U.S. takes all who wish to come, as long as they wait in the famous "line." This line is a fantasy. It only exists for the small number of people who have close family members in the U.S. or an employer willing to wade through the red tape and expense of an employment petition. And some of those fortunate enough to be able to wait in the line must wait 10, 15, even 20 years for a visa.

But the other myth that Sandstrom repeats to this reporter is perhaps even more pernicious, the myth that undocumented immigrants are on the dole, stealing money from taxpayers.