borders and immigration

More Myths, More Hypocrisies, More Dreams

In the wake of the amazing and incredibly moving revelation on the part of award-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (who has written for the Washington Post, Huffington, the New Yorker, and many other news outlets) that he has been an undocumented immigrant living illegally and in fear in the U.S. for 18 years, and the hypocritical media firestorm that has erupted around it, I'm reminded that I still haven't finished blogging about the excellent book about immigration myths, "They Take Our Jobs." 

A couple months ago I summarized some major points and passages from the first half of the book. Now I'll finish the job:


  • "Conquered peoples have historically been more marginalized, and more reluctant to give up their cultural heritage, than voluntary immigrants."
  • "From the outside, it may look like Latinos are not learning English. But what's really happening is that as one generation learns English, new Spanish speakers are arriving. At the same time, more Latinos are speaking both languages than has historically been the case for European immigrants. They learn English without giving up the Spanish."
  • on the general trend from colonized peoples moving from subsistence production to wage labor, "People who had formerly produced most of what they consume now produced for others and used their wages to consume goods imported from the metropolis."
  • "Not surprisingly, people with other options tend to avoid the most onerous ones. Employers then find that they can't fill their positions, and the government helps them to import workers who have fewer options."
  • "Colonialism sets up a system in which colonized peoples work for those who colonized them. This system is not erased after direct colonialism ends. Rather, it evolves and develops."
  • "Pundits and politicians demand a solution to the immigration 'crisis.'... With so many well-placed voices talking about a crisis, people begin to feel there really is one... Perhaps the pundits and politicians who are spending so much energy whipping up this immigration scare are trying to distract us from some other, more pressing, national - and global - issues."
  • "... guest worker programs by their very nature create a group of people who are not full citizens, and who are easily exploited and abused."
  • "[P]eople who lived in areas with very few immigrants were much more likely to have negative views of immigrants than people who lived in areas with high concentrations of immigrants [according to a Pew Foundation study]... This suggests that for many people, anti-immigrant sentiments come less from personal experience than from outside sources."
  • "Immigration is a humanitarian problem... what is needed is a humanitarian solution - one that redistributes the planet's resources more equitably among its inhabitants, and one that respects and nourishes traditional peasant lifestyles."
  • "Population control becomes a method for preserving white dominance."
  • "In societies divided between haves and have-nots, the haves often see eliminating the have-nots as the solution to inequality, rather than redistributing resources."
  • On border security myths:
    FBI stats: in 2000, no international terrorism incidents inside the U.S. 8 domestic terrorism incidents.
    In 2001 there were 12 domestic, 1 international (9/11)
  • all but 4 of the 9/11 attackers were in the country legally.
    A study of 48 "militant Islamic terrorists" who committed crimes in the US found that 36 of them were in the country legally... 17 were either permanent residents or naturalized citizens.
  • "There is just no logical relationship between border security and the prevention of terrorism."
  • "[C]urbing US military agression would probably be the most effective way to achieve a global reduction in attacks on unarmed civilians."
  • On "the rule of law":
    "Rosa Parks broke the law when she refused to move to the back of the bus. Harriet Tubman broke the law when she fled slavery and helped to create the Underground Railroad." "The law was designed not to allow certain groups of people to have the rights that others enjoy."
  • "What they really want is to be treated like Cubans. Cubans don't need to wade the Rio Grande or walk the Sonoran Desert."
  • "People have been moving around the earth every since they stood upright millions of years ago."
  • "As long as [neocolonialism] keeps resources unequally distributed in the world, you're going to have people escaping the regions that are deliberately kept poor and violent and seeking freedom in the places where the world's resources have been concentrated: in the countries that have controlled, and been the beneficiaries of, the global economic system that took shape after 1492."
  • "Some migrants leave their homelands for fun, adventure, or curiosity. The vast majority, though, leave because they have no alternative. They leave their homes, their families, and their loved ones as a last resort."
  • (Chomsky quoting Eduardo Galeano): "The precarious equilibrium of the world depends on the perpetuation of injustice. So that some can consume more, people must continue to consume less. To keep people in their place, the system produces armaments. Incapable of fighting poverty, the system fights the poor."



Fav Quotes from "They Take Our Jobs!"

In the middle of the news-cycle theater piece known as "the possible shutdown," and "budget-cutting," it's good to see some of the border militarization fantasies get checked by monetary obsessions, and the thinkers of rational big business are advocating  even more such restraint. (this is really nothing new - smart people at the WSJ have known the stupidities of "closing/securing the border" for quite some time.) Read more>>>

The Other Side

As Steinbeck wrote: “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only
in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children?
You can’t scare him—he has known a fear beyond every other.”

immigration art at UA art school. - 1

From an article in a recent issue of The Economist about immigration. This is why undocumented migrants will keep coming, no matter how high the walls are. The author makes a skillful comparison between the Okies in "Grapes of Wrath" and the latin american immigrants who risk everything to make it the U.S.

Along the same lines, a newish documentary called The Other Side of Immigration that also looks at particular and personal close-ups of people immigrating and why seems to be something I want to watch and encourage.  These kinds of explanations of individual experience and motivation are what need to be seen by as many gringos as possible. Read more>>>

Sensationalist's Paradise

A letter to the editor I just sent to the Tucson Weekly:

 In your November 25th issue you allow Leo Banks to tilt at his same old windmill again. How many more times do we have to be subjected to the same old hyperbolic sob story?  Every one of Banks' articles, which you insist on putting on your cover several times a year, can be summarized quite easily and uniformly: "poor, poor, yet noble, rancher-folk, their lives made so hard and dangerous by the nasty brown people coming over the border and the feds who let them! oh let's wring our hands and shed a tear for the once-beautiful and now ruined cowboy borderlands!"  But these people aren't real cowboys (Ask Chilton, for instance, what his day job is and if he doesn't lie to you, he'll admit he's a banker), and the land has already been largely ruined by the emaciated animals that they insist on grazing there despite the unprofitability of such a hobby.  

Furthermore, ask TPD to draw a map of assaults in the Tucson city limits and you'll no doubt get a bloodier and longer list than you provide for this latest Banks tirade.  And never a mention of the root causes of the phenomenon, that the smugglers and undocumented immigrants (or "illegals" as you so hatefully call them) are out there in the deadly desert and mountains because right-wing politicians put them there with border policies that started in the mid-90s, and with trade policies that started in the 50s or earlier. 

Does it ever occur to you that the credibility of your paper drops every time you print one of Banks' one-sided rants?  The only people that take him seriously are the ignorant, right-wing nutjobs that already believe the alarmist narrative he's pedalling, and i would think that your readership is surely slanted more toward the opposite side of the spectrum.  The young and hip club-goers and artsy folk who actually use your rag (admittedly only to check movie times and read the comics) know that Leo Banks is a racist blowhard, not a real journalist. So why bother with him? I guess because he's a friend of yours, part of the TW old boys' club? And nobody else will give him a job? Oh yes, and because that's a way to get people like me to pick up a copy, get annoyed, and contribute our eyeballs to your theoretical ad impressions count. That's the name of the game, I guess: Controversy, hate, and sensationalism sells.  But take heed - I and all the smart people I know in town are less and less likely to frequent your pages, with every Banks screed we see. Read more>>>

Thoughts About Immigration, and Labor, and Myths in America

Hatch, NM, Chile Capitol of the World - 09
I've been reading an excellent book called "'They Take Our Jobs!' and 20 other myths about immigration", by Aviva Chomsky. It's a really straightforward, easy read, and I've been highlighting key summarizing passages as I go with the intention of blogging at least a couple of times to share them. I will get to some of those soon, but I want to briefly mention one "big idea" from the book and how it relates to some other things I've been thinking about.

One underlying lesson of Chomsky's book is that, as we all keep seeing, history is such a great way to get at the truth or part of the truth that's often been glossed over in many discussions. She looks not just at the immigration situation right now but at the history of labor in the New World to show that immigration is a simply one part in the puzzle of how capital has always fought to provide itself with cheap labor. Cutting labor costs depends on having a population of workers who don't have the same rights as the rest of the people. An underclass.

Palacio Nacional, Mexico City - 10The reason we've always had an "underclass" in our society, whether it was slaves, indentured servants, immigrants, foreign workers in far-away foreign factories, or undocumented immigrants, has always pretty much been because business needs to reduce what it spends on labor. They need to cut costs so they can offer cheap prices to consumers, and so they can increase profits.

Furthermore, the need to reduce retail consumer prices has become especially important in the last half-century, because middle-class workers here, the "non underclass," in other words, the consumers, have had their (real) earnings drop steadily since the 60s. Income inequality has been increasing as money gets funneled from regular people to the upper class. This means things, to put it simply, life has been kind of bad and getting worse and worse for the last few decades, for most people in this country.

To make up for it, rather than offering a truly better, more just and fair life for most people, Read more>>>

Border Violence claims are BULLSHIT

I've long been making this same criticism but this is so well done and so forceful and eloquent that I just have to slap it up here on this blog. enjoy.

Related commentary here:

The message U.S. Border Enforcement seems to be sending is that Read more>>>


Share photos on twitter with TwitpicI'm thinking a lot about crowd numbers estimating today.  there's a wide range of counts for the march in Phoenix this past Saturday.  Most mainstream media just say "tens of thousands".  The cops refuse to say, but the AZ Republic says they overheard on police scanners officers saying 30,000. As usual, organizers and some partisans are talking way larger numbers than the police; some say 100K or even more (and I count myself as a partisan, I have a definite position and I don't claim to be "neutral" or "objective" - I am definitely anti-sb1070 and pro-migrant - i'm just not one of those partisans). 

I honestly really don't know.  I was there, but i was just one person, situated at one point on the march. Sometimes i stopped and shot video of people passing by, but unless you were there counting in one spot for the entire time, or in a helicopter, i don't know how you can have any degree of certainty about the numbers.  This is how marches and rallies always are, but this one was especially hard to judge because it was stretched out and a thin line over many many blocks. I do know that the end of the march only reached the Capitol building destination at least an hour after the post-march speeches and such had been going on. So that's a lot of people, but I just don't know how you could say for sure it was a certain number.

I think it does the movement involved with an event, and journalism itself, even "citizen journalism", a disservice to throw around big attendance numbers and act like you're sure of them, and not at least provide sources or corroborating claims or explain the methods you used to come up with your numbers - or who was doing the counting and how.  You blow your credibility and create more mistrust and conflict by making such unsupported and casual claims.  C'mon people, progressives are supposed to be on the side of science and truth - the other side is the one that employs fantasy and "makes their own reality". Read more>>>

sit-in at AZ State Building in Tucson to protest anti-ethnic studies law - 06

detritus posted a photo:

sit-in at AZ State Building in Tucson to protest anti-ethnic studies law - 06

Arizona passed a law that outlaws ethnic studies courses and teachers with accents in secondary schools. Tucson students walked out, surrounded the TUSD admin building and got a meeting with the superintendent cancelled, then marched down to the state building where the sup was having a press conference. they did a sit in there until police arrested around 37, including a professor at U of Arizona. about 100 supporters gathered in the courtyard and outside.

Root Causes!

I've started following the blog of John Carlos Frey on Huffington Post lately and I'm surprised that even there on HuffPo there are some rather conservative people who are anti-immigrant and who are not very deep thinkers.  And there's the same kind of tired old arguments that fail to address the real reasons for things.  Even Frey's writing seems to miss  (or avoid?) the big elephants in the room.  After writing a long comment to his latest post and realizing there was a word limit that I went past, I decided to put my thoughts in full here. Read more>>>

"Border Wars" is Bullshit

I heard about the National Geographic Channel's new series "Border Wars" a couple weeks ago and upon looking at its webpage knew that it would be complete crap - basically another "Cops" but focused exclusively on latinos in the southwest.  It comes at a surprise that it would be on this channel, but after Fox launched its own fear-mongering "Border Patrol" program last year it seems logical that other networks would want to get in on the act, considering the depth of xenophobia in the U.S. audience.

John Carlos Frey writes a seething review of "Border Wars", and the most important point, in my view, that he raises is this one: Read more>>>

Syndicate content