Category Archives: Immigration

America’s deportation machine: The great expulsion | The Economist

This is a complex issue.

America’s deportation machine: The great expulsion | The Economist.

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

In our internal arms race there is no end to fear. More weapons and more lethal weapons are an escalating response. It’s important to remember that there are other forms of power than killing power. The life and mission of a great Rhode Islander demonstrate another way.

Thirty years ago, Providence was home to a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Called Cambodia’s Ghandhi, the Venerable Maha Ghosananda lived and taught in a triple-decker on Hanover Street, near the Cranston Street Armory.

Displaced by the Southeast Asian War, Maha Ghosananda lived for a year in the Sakeo refugee camp on the Thai border. He ministered to Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge, and later to Khmer Rouge soldiers fleeing the Vietnamese. It was said that he was given an airplane ticket to safety, but he cashed it in and used it to print tracts on Lovingkindness, which he distributed to all in the camp, regardless of which side they were on. After leaving Sakeo, Maha Ghosananda traveled the world as one of the last surviving Cambodian Buddhist monks, arriving in Providence in 1980. Here he founded a temple that became the Khmer Buddhist Society, a center and heart of the community.

In 1992, Maha Ghosananda established the Dhammayietra Walk for Peace– an annual walk across Cambodia to minister to the suffering and bereaved survivors of the war. This was truly a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Peace was not securely established. Gun violence, for politics or robbery was a threat. Maha Ghosananda was a politically challenging figure and his teacher had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge. He was a target for assassination. In addition, the countryside was strewn with land mines. War still smoldered– one year two of the marchers, a monk and a nun, were killed in crossfire between government and Khmer Rouge forces.

But the Dhammayietra brought healing to people who had suffered the dismantling of their society, and seen the near-eradication of their religion.

Nonviolence is not for the faint of heart. When he lived in Providence, Maha Ghosananda was a close friend of the minister of First Unitarian Church, Tom Ahlburn. It was just before the first, or maybe the second Dhammayietra that Tom held a gathering I can only describe as an Irish wake. Tom told Maha Ghosananda stories and we sent our thoughts and hope to those marchers traversing a mined disaster zone in an uneasy peace.

Maha Ghosananda, in fact, outlived Tom Ahlburn. Maha Ghosananda led several walks across Cambodia. He spent his last days in Lowell, Massachusetts, and passed from this world in 2007.

I was blessed to meet him. He was a saint.

He taught me three words, Truthfulness, Forbearance and Gratitude. His message was Metta–Lovingkindness.

Today our country is feeling the shadow of death in the senseless violation of a school and the murder of children. Nonviolence is not an absence, but a radical response to violence. Pacifism is not passivity. Maha Ghosananda lived a life of activism and great courage. It comforts me to think of him in these times.

[Santidhammo Bhikkhu's book, 'Maha Ghosananda the Buddha of the Battlefields' was used as a resource and aid to aging memory in writing this post.]

There’s 49 Other States


From Think Progress
, a year ago this guy would have gotten a ticket, not tossed in the slammer…

Alabama’s economy is suffering because of HB 56, the state’s draconian immigration law, as workers flee out of fear. State Sen. Scott Beason (R), who sponsored the anti-immigrant bill in the Alabama legislature, once called it a “jobs bill,” but the state’s immigration law is leaving entire industries without enough workers instead.

And the extreme law, which legislators are now reconsidering, could seriously damage the state’s reputation as well after police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive last week under the immigration law. Mercedes opened its first American manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama in 1993, spurring a trend of foreign car makers and suppliers opening factories in the state. They may be rethinking that decision, however, after one of their German executives was arrested for simply not having his passport with him.


Read the rest here.

Think Progress links to a story in Associated Press

[Alabama Governor, Robert]Bentley, a Republican who signed the illegal immigration law earlier this year, called the state’s homeland security director, Spencer Collier, after hearing of the arrest to get details about had happened, Collier said in an interview.

“Initially I didn’t have them, so I called Chief Anderson to find out what happened,” Collier said. “It sounds like the officer followed the statute correctly.”

Collier said he didn’t know how Bentley found out about the arrest, and Bentley press secretary Jennifer Ardis referred all questions to Collier.

Collier said he has made at least a dozen similar calls to law enforcement agencies that made arrests under the law to see how it is being handled, and he said his call to Anderson wasn’t prompted by the fact a Mercedes executive was arrested.

“It’s just to make sure they’re using best practices and following the law,” he said.

If I were cynical, I’d take a perverse pleasure in the fact that the un-named Mercedes exec probably didn’t ‘look illegal’.

Bloomberg Business at msnbc has a detailed article about Why Americans Won’t do Dirty Jobs.

The short version is that these jobs are so difficult, dangerous and poorly paid that in an American economy workers lose money doing them. The only way to make it work is to send the American dollars to a poorer country where the value is greater. Bloomberg describes workers toiling 13 hours for $60. And this bears further investigation– an American worker trying to make a job in the fields..

In a neighboring field, Cedric Rayford is working a row. The 28-year-old came up with two friends from Gadsden, Ala., after hearing on the radio that farmers were hiring. The work is halfway complete when one member of their crew decides to quit. Rayford and crewmate Marvin Turner try to persuade their friend to stay and finish the job. Otherwise, no one will get paid. Turner even offers $20 out of his own pocket as a sweetener to no effect. “When a man’s mind is made up, there’s about nothing you can do,” he says.

NO ONE WILL GET PAID??? I’ll bet this is some ‘independent contractor’ deal where the workers get no hourly wage, no social security, no workers comp. insurance. This bears further investigation.

Alabama and other states that erode workers rights, health and safety are left with an economy that depends on jobs that do not pay a living wage. Governor Bentley has just dug deeper into the pit. Scapegoating immigrants won’t solve Alabama’s problems. Supporting workers rights is essential, but won’t offer any short-term political gain, and is not in sync with the Republican Party.

Mercedes, y’all can come up here. We could use some good jobs and we don’t arrest people for forgetting their driver’s license.

Central Falls in the New York Times

Very worth reading. This is an in-depth look at the economic impact of the Wyatt Detention Center on the City of Central Falls, and the social effects of the crackdown on illegal immigration.

In this mostly Latino city, hardly anyone had realized that in addition to detaining the accused drug dealers and mobsters everyone heard about, the jail held hundreds of people charged with no crime — people caught in the nation’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Fewer still knew that Wyatt was a portal into an expanding network of other jails, bigger and more remote, all propelling detainees toward deportation with little chance to protest.

The article cites several cases of people being ‘disappeared’ without even one phone call to their relatives, and transferred to a prison in Texas without warning.

Wyatt offers a rare look into the fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America, an industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work.

“Without the rules that protect criminal suspects.� The prison was supposed to be an industry for a depressed city, and a benefit for society–keeping dangerous criminals confined. Central Falls would get good jobs and steady revenue.

But at least in Central Falls, the incarceration economy was not delivering on its promise.

In late June, Mayor Moreau, a big man with a florid face and a police siren in his car, offered up a budget that laid off firefighters — and told angry city employees to get used to it.

“We’re at the end of the financial rope for Central Falls,� he told the City Council, citing more than 200 boarded-up homes, foreclosures at the rate of 25 a week, and cuts in state and federal aid that required a 4 percent property tax increase and an 8 percent spending cut in the new $17.4 million budget.

Outside, past the defunct factory where Hasbro once made G. I. Joe, beyond the rusty hulk of the downsized Sylvania plant, the summer twilight gleamed on Wyatt’s new facade.

What had happened to the windfall of money and jobs it had offered?

The jail’s annual revenue had almost doubled in a year, to $21 million, mainly from increasing immigration detention. But the city budget projected revenue of only $525,000 from Wyatt, which is exempt from taxes.

That was not even enough to cover its share of city services, according to an estimate by the city’s finance department.

I imagine deals were made with fast-talking entrepreneurs, and contracts signed, and citizens hustled into voting yes. How much of the drain of people and resources from Central Falls is due to the immigration crackdown? And how far do we want to go in constructing a category of people without rights and prisons to confine them?

The article is long and detailed. You can read it here.

Christiane Amanpour: Local Girl

I’m driving along Rt.10 listening to WRNI radio and I hear an interview with CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She went to college at U.R.I.

How cool is that? International journalist graduated from You Are High! And she said she loved her time at college.

The great thing about living in Rhode Island is — although we pack an overnight bag if we drive to Woonsocket we are not provincial. Eventually the whole world passes through our lovely state. I think that is because we are the center of the cosmos. The galactic pole is the Narragansett Electric Company.

Last summer I was invited to a party just outside Providence and everyone there was Persian. The only person present who couldn’t speak fluent English was speaking French. She looked a little like a very young Brigitte Bardot. I had a great time. I was socializing with people from a country that some of our politicians joke about bombing. That is, Iran.

My gracious hosts came to America because they could not stand to live in a religious dictatorship. How interesting that they found a home in the state founded by Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

Well, after that party, I rented ‘Persepolis’, an animated movie based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. Like Christiane Amanpour, and my friends at the party, Marjane Satrapi had to leave her country to escape the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Her family still lives in Iran.

I thought about the family connections of the people whose hospitality I had enjoyed. We don’t get to decide where we are born. We have potential allies all over the world. The strength of people who can live for freedom is greater than the force of people who can be martyrs for tyranny. Let us never again use war as a first resort.

Working Conditions Not Kosher, and Neither is Food

Nomi at I Dreamed I saw Grace P. Last Night has a link to a fascinating op-ed from Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld concerning an immigration raid at a kosher meatpacking plant. The raid uncovered horrific working conditions. The Rabbi cites a precedent for declaring food non-kosher because of the mistreatment of the workers who prepare it. That’s a radical concept. The raid at Agriprocessors Inc. also points to the need for a better immigration policy, because what we have now isn’t working.

Tyson Foods adds Muslim Holiday

Good thing they have a union at Tyson Foods. The mega-corporation that supplies chicken nuggets to the world has been hiring a large number of recent immigrants, many from Somalia. Most of those immigrants are Muslim. A major Muslim holiday is Eid al-Fitr, a family and religious celebration at the end of Ramadan. Tyson decided to make that day a paid holiday.

Fine. Corporations would usually rather spend huge bucks on human resources consultants than grant their employees a concession that would make them happy and boost morale. What boosts morale more than a day off?

I know that if any of my employers decided to give me Tet or Ephipany off, I’d say ‘God Bless America’ and sleep late. Monday is VJ day, after all, in Rhode Island only.

The problem is that Tyson was too stingy to add a holiday, so they took out Labor Day. I’m sure there was no disrespect intended to the union. Just one of those things.

Naturally it turned out to be gasoline to the right-wing blogosphere. It must have caused some dissonance for some of them when they had to defend Labor. Way to go, Tyson, this will really improve employee cooperation and good relations in the workplace. Take away a traditional American paid holiday in honor of Labor and add a religious holiday that is observed by the newest immigrant employees.

But Labor won this round–

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn., Aug 08, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Tyson Foods have reached an agreement to increase the number of paid days off for workers in the current calendar year to include Labor Day and the Muslim observance Eid al-Fitr as paid holidays for workers in the Shelbyville poultry processing plant.. a worker who does not observe Eid al-Fitr will have the option of selecting another day as a paid Personal Day at their discretion.

“The union is pleased that the will of the workers in Shelbyville to observe and celebrate Eid al-Fitr will be guaranteed as a paid holiday,” said Stuart Appelbaum, national president of the RWDSU. “The RWDSU believes that this is an important sign of respect of deeply held religious beliefs. This Labor Day, the workers at Shelbyville have more reason that ever to be proud of being part of a union.”

They did good. It’s not only Muslims who have minority religious holidays. Many Christians do too. And as a Unitarian I might want to celebrate Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birthday, so I can sympathize.

I’m glad the conflict was defused, and if anyone at Tyson was trying to divide and conquer then they surely overplayed their hand.

David Sirota on Stephen Colbert

I’m reading “The Uprising” now and am hoping to have a review of it online by next weekend.

Bush-League Plays

Two hundred and forty-six days. Thirty-five weeks from tomorrow. That’s how much longer this nation must endure the reign of King George and await the term of a new President. Let’s hope that whoever swears to faithfully execute that office and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution actually honors that solemn pledge. Let’s also hope that they promptly begin to undo the rampant damage wrought by George and his minions. Part of that enormous task will involve changing the partisan and reactionary culture that has spread throughout the corridors of government like the rising waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Only until those waters are permitted to recede will the full extent of the destruction and disarray inflicted upon this nation by Hurricane George become truly evident. Only then will the abuses of power and privilege begin to abate. Or so I hope.

For now, the Bush-league policies and practices persist. Just in the last week, this nation was rudely greeted with news of abuses by immigration and customs agents, who appear to have taken the works of Kafka and Orwell a tad too literally. (Or perhaps the Department of Homeland Security has taken to borrowing a page or two from the Gestapo Field Manual.) When I read of such dehumanizing tactics, I feel overwhelmed with dismay and disappointment. Rather than feeling proud of my country, I feel embarrassed and ashamed. And rather than counting on those elected and appointed to serve the general welfare, I find myself counting the days until their reign has ceased. How sad is that? And how sad are the following news reports?

From the Washington Post:

Some Detainees Are Drugged For Deportation

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the “pre-flight cocktail,” as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.

“Unsteady gait. Fell onto tarmac,” says a medical note on the deportation of a 38-year-old woman to Costa Rica in late spring 2005. Another detainee was “dragged down the aisle in handcuffs, semi-comatose,” according to an airline crew member’s written account. Repeatedly, documents describe immigration guards “taking down” a reluctant deportee to be tranquilized before heading to an airport.

In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse’s account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, “Nighty-night.”

Such episodes are among more than 250 cases The Washington Post has identified in which the government has, without medical reason, given drugs meant to treat serious psychiatric disorders to people it has shipped out of the United States since 2003 — the year the Bush administration handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security’s new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.

Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.

Federal officials have seldom acknowledged publicly that they sedate people for deportation. The few times officials have spoken of the practice, they have understated it, portraying sedation as rare and “an act of last resort.” Neither is true, records and interviews indicate. [full text]

From the New York Times:

Italian’s Detention Illustrates Dangers Foreign Visitors Face

He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,� as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.

Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit — meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon — eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out. [full text]

Just Wondering…

• …whether Hillary Clinton will be even more determined to stay in the presidential race after witnessing what happened to the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

• …how a nation that owes its success and vibrancy to immigrants can be so indifferent or cruel to immigrants, even to the point of dismissing their deaths while in U.S. custody.

• …what’s the point of having health insurance, if we’re all increasingly stuck with “higher premiums, less extensive coverage, and bigger out-of-pocket deductibles and co-payments.”

• …whether President Bush’s recent cameo appearance on the TV game show, “Deal Or No Deal,” will lead to similar appearances on shows such as “Big Brother” or “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?”

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