Weekly Diaspora: One Year After SB 1070, What’s Changed?

by Catherine A. Traywick, Medica Consortium blogger

A year ago this month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, effectively pushing an already vibrant anti-immigrant movement to a new extreme. Over the following months, immigrant rights advocates prepared for the worst, and grappled with multiple setbacks as other states threatened to follow Arizona’s example.

Looking back, though, it’s clear that the draconian immigration law hasn’t quite measured up to its bad reputation—in part because a federal injunction blocked several of its more pernicious provisions.Kent Peterson at New America Media/Frontera NorteSur suggests that anti-immigrant policymakers “overreached” with SB 1070, pushing the restrictionist movement to its own peak with the controversial law.

Arizona’s political influence has waned

Certainly in the long term, the law seems to have done more harm than good to the movement. While it initially added plenty of fuel to the restrictionists’ fire, it has ultimately failed to spread through other states the way many expected it to. While a few states (seeColorlines.com’s infographic or Alternet’s rundown) are still considering SB1070-type laws, most others have backed off the idea.

As Seth Hoy explains at Alternet/Immigration Impact, “states learned from Arizona — the numerous protests, Supreme Court challenge, costly litigation, economic boycotts that are still costing state businesses millions — and rejected similar laws.” Peterson similarly notes that a number of states have moved away from Arizona’s example because of SB 1070’s unexpected economic consequences—chiefly, an estimated $769 million in economic and tax revenues lost as a result of boycotts.

Immigrants still marginalized

That’s not say that the law has had no effect on immigrants. While a federal judge stayed several of its provisions last summer, SB 1070 proved to be a precursor to other insidious state laws targeting immigrants. Empowered by their success with SB 1070 and the ensuing media frenzy, state legislators quickly moved forward with several other harsh laws. As Feet in Two Worlds’ Valeria Fernandez explains, many immigrants in Arizona continue to live in fear even though SB 1070 is only partially enacted. She writes:

When you talk to immigrants in the street, they’ll tell you that not much has changed. Some continue to live in fear that they could be stopped by the police and deported. Others are having a difficult time getting work due to another Arizona law that harshly sanctions employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

At Colorlines.com, Seth Freed Wessler elaborates on the real impact of bills like SB 1070. He writes:

[The bills] send waves of fear and confusion into immigrant communities. … In the period since SB 1070 passed, uncounted numbers of immigrants have fled their homes in Arizona. … And the provisions in the law that were not blocked by the court, including one that makes it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants, put everyone at risk.

The role of the federal government

Nevertheless, Wessler points out that the federal government—not SB 1070 and not Arizona—is to blame for the brunt of the damage inflicted upon undocumented immigrants in the last year. Besides deporting record numbers of immigrant detainees and significantly expanding border enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork for SB 1070 with its 287(g) program—which enabled local law enforcement to act as ICE agents. Adding insult to injury, President Barack Obama never came to close to fulfilling his campaign promise of passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Whether he will do so this year is up for debate, but many reform advocates remain skeptical after last year’s ups and downs. As Marcos Restrepo of the American Independent reports, several immigrant rights activists voiced disappointment after Obama convened a White House meeting on immigration last Tuesday. Chief among the critics was Pablo Alvorado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who said in a statement:

While we appreciate the President’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent…If the President genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the secure communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.

The American Prospect’s Gabriel Arana is similarly skeptical of both the president’s approach to the problem, and his ability to enact meaningful reform:

On one hand, it is laudable that the president has revived the immigration debate, but there is a reason it died last year, even with Democrats in firm control of Congress and the executive branch. Instead of trying to tack immigration reform to an enforcement bill, the president should change the frame and stop talking about immigration as a national-security issue rather than an issue in its own right.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Why Arizona’s Birthright Bill is Bad for the Economy

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Arizona lawmakers are expected to introduce an “anchor baby” bill today that would deny birthright citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Modeled after birthright citizenship legislation unveiled by the nativist coalition State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) earlier this month, the measure is, unabashedly, part of a larger effort on the part of SLLI to challenge existing citizenship law in the United States.

Lawmakers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina have likewise committed to introducing citizenship bills at the state level, while legislators from Nebraska, Indiana, Colorado, Texas and others are determined to implement similarly controversial Arizona-style enforcement measures in their states.

In recent years, communities that implemented harsh anti-immigrant laws have experienced a number of economic and social repercussions which lawmakers continue to overlook in their determination to tighten enforcement. But as nativist policies bleed public coffers and anti-immigrant political speech incites new strains of ethnic violence, the stark consequences of such extremism are becoming harder and harder to ignore.

Devastating local economies

The legal costs of defending constitutionally questionable laws like SB 1070 ought to be obvious. Arizona, which has the rare luxury of drawing from a $3.6 million donor-endowed legal defense fund, spent upwards of $500,000 defending 1070 from legal challenges last year, and could, in the long-term, spend as much $10 million, according to New America Media’s Valeria Fernández.

Yet the think-tank Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)—a major supporter of anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 and birthright citizenship bills—obstinately underplays the financial fall-out of such measures. Ira Mehlman, a national spokesperson for FAIR, reportedly told New America Media that “the costs of litigations pale in comparison to the cost of communities providing healthcare, education and welfare for undocumented immigrants and their citizen children.”

Considerable evidence suggests otherwise. The Brookings Institution, the Udall Center for Public Policy and former President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors have all concluded that immigrants contribute much more to their local economies (through taxes and spending) than they take out through social services (about $800,000 more).

Now, a new report by Southern Poverty Law Center (which, incidentally, has listed FAIR as a hate group since 2007) argues that anti-immigrant laws—not immigrants—have a greater track record of depressing local economies. Gebe Martinez at Campus Progress sums up what happened to five communities “that threw anti-immigration statutes onto their books without fully considering their impact.” He writes:

  • Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the leader of the court fights for local immigration enforcement, is in the tank for at least $2.8 million with some estimates totaling $5 million as it defends its ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Riverside, New Jersey suffered a local economic downturn before the city rescinded its anti-immigrant ordinance and welcomed the return of immigrants.
  • Farmers Branch, Texas, has spent nearly $4 million in legal fees and is expected to spend at least $5 million to defend its anti-immigration statute with no end in sight.
  • Prince William County, Virginia dramatically scaled back a tough immigration statute after realizing the original version would cost millions to enforce and defend in court.
  • Fremont, Nebraska, increased the city’s property tax to help pay the legal fees for its anti-immigration ordinance which it intends to defend.A

A spate of state-level birthright citizenship bills stands to be similarly costly, as the admitted goal of their sponsors is to force numerous court cases that challenge the conventional applications of the 14th amendment—legislation through litigation. But there are other expenses as well. If such legislation were to pass, government agencies would bear the incredibly costly burden of making citizenship determinations for every child born in the United States—a logistical nightmare that neither federal nor state governments are prepared to undertake.

Fueling ethnic violence

As economically devastating as these divisive measures can be, their social impact on communities is often even greater. Politicians bent on enacting anti-immigrant legislation frequently rely on hateful speech and pejorative language to foment public discontent and, in so doing, build citizen support for their measures—with tragic consequences.

Colorlines.com has repeatedly reported on the correlation between bigoted political speech, anti-immigrant legislation, and ethnic violence. Now, Mónica Novoa reports that a new study from the University of Maryland corroborates the connection. Charting the use of anti-immigrant slurs in newspapers and wire services over the last three decades, the study revealed that “a spike in usage of the dehumanizing slurs usually coincided with contentious immigration policy proposals.”

The correlation persists despite the fact that more than 15 years ago, four professional journalism associations—National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and National Association of Black Journalists—advised their members to stop using the phrase “illegal alien” on the grounds that is is “pejorative,” “grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed.”

While incendiary rhetoric may be an effective way of garnering political support for controversial measures, it all too often fuels violence. Going back to New America Media, Fernández notes that this destructive cycle frequently makes for tragic consequences, as in the case of a 9-year-old girl who was allegedly murdered by members the Minuteman Project, an armed, volunteer border patrol organization. The Latino advocacy organization Cuentame, in partnership with Brave New Films, similarly emphasizes the link between hate speech and increasing incidents of hate crimes against Latinos:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2cFuYJwW1s[/youtube]

Anti-birthright citizenship bills would effectively create an underclass of mostly Hispanic non-citizens. It’s an almost certain catalyst for rampant and systemic anti-immigrant discrimination and ethnic violence. As the  anti-immigrant lawmakers from Arizona and elsewhere make good on their promises to push a new, more fervent, onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation in 2011, expect the financial and social costs of such extremism to rise further still.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Anti-Immigrant Hate Crimes Rise with Hateful Political Speech

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

The federal trial of three Pennsylvania police officers accused of covering up the murder of an undocumented Mexican immigrant opened last week—reigniting critical discussion about the recent rise of anti-immigrant hate crimes. The officers—former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Patrolman Jason Hayes—allegedly attempted to conceal the racially motivated nature of the 2008 murder of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, who was brutally beaten to death in a park by a group of teenagers spouting racial slurs. At the time, Ramirez’s murder underscored a growing trend of anti-Hispanic violence in the U.S., which some attribute to increasingly anti-immigrant political rhetoric.

In recent years, hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 52 percent, a steep rise that Alternet’s Arun Gupta attributes to incessant “right-wing vituperation” and “caustic rhetoric.” In Arizona, where anti-immigrant sentiment has fomented into a bevy of retrogressive and prejudicial state policies, the number of reported hate crimes rose from 161 in 2007 to 219 in 2009. Tellingly, the recent rise in anti-Latino hate crimes runs counter to an overall decrease in reported hate crimes nationwide.

Prevalence of I-Word on television coincides with anti-immigrant hate crimes

At ColorLines, Mónica Novoa points out that a dramatic spike in the use of the word “illegals” in television programming last year coincided with both the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 and a number of subsequent racially motivated murders:

  • In June, Juan Varela—U.S. citizen and a third-genderation Mexican American—was shot to death in Phoenix by a man shouting “You fucking Mexican, go back to Mexico!”
  • In July, Sergio Zapata-Zurita’s family was accosted at gunpoint in Washington by a man apparently obsessed with “illegal immigration.
  • In August, Martin Reyes—a Honduran immigrant and father of six—was stabbed to death in Baltimore by a crazed man who told police that he “hated Mexicans.”

The irony here is that, while heated discourse surrounding the measure may have contributed to a rash of anti-immigrant hate crimes last year, its implementation in Arizona has inhibited the local victims of those crimes contacting the police—for fear that, under the new law, they will be arrested for being undocumented.

Hate crimes report censored to conceal role of official’s hate speech

Some localities have taken important steps to counter the rise of anti-Latino hate crimes, but at least one of those well-meaning efforts has been undermined by the anti-immigrant Right. Change.org’s Alex DiBranco reports that, in Suffolk County, New York, one ranking official’s affinity for anti-immigrant rhetoric may have compelled him to censor a potentially damning hate crimes report. Suffolk County’s problem with anti-immigrant violence has been in the news since 2008, when the racially motivated murder of an Ecuadoran immigrant highlighted Long Island’s epidemic of racial violence. Following the incident, Suffolk County formed a Hate Crimes Task Force responsible for monitoring hate crimes in the area, and issuing reports of its findings.

But County Executive Steve Levy, who is locally notorious for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, has been accused of editing more than 50 pages from the task force’s most recent report—many of which contained substantial criticism of his administration’s handling of immigrant issues, according to Mike Clifford at the Public News Service. Noting that Levy’s critics have long attributed the rise in anti-immigrant hate crimes to his extreme position on immigration, DiBranco speculates that Levy’s drastic censorship of the report is an attempt to conceal his own role in fostering violence.

Bigotry accusations divide the Republican Party

Following the recent Tucson shooting, the tragic potential of hateful political rhetoric has come to the foreground. The issue has become so heated that it threatens to fracture the Republican Party itself. In the aftermath of the tragedy, and in light of the party’s increasingly extremist positions on immigration, certain  party leaders have defected from the GOP, accusing the party of fostering racism for political ends, John Tomasic at the American Independent reports. Most recently, former Colorado Republican Muhammad Ali Hasan and former Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes have spoken out against party bigotry directed at Muslims and Latinos, prompting conservative Latino organization Somos Republicans to launch an anti-bigotry campaign against its own party.

It’s a step in the right direction. But even as a minority of Republicans takes it upon themselves to critically examine the role of the party’s extremist positions and rhetoric, the deadly impact of the party’s institutionalized bigotry nevertheless remains remarkably under-recognized—even as it continues to claim innocent lives.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Harsh SB1070 copycat laws on the horizon in 2011

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Following the tragic shooting in Arizona, there has been a call for greater civility and tolerance in the political and public spheres with the hope that a more reasonable path would be favored by all. However, news of  numerous states introducing legislation similar to Arizona’s harsh, anti-immigrant law, SB1070, doesn’t bode well for the new year.

On Tuesday, Mississippi passed and signed  into law SB 2179, a copy cat SB 1070 legislation that allows local law enforcement officers in Mississippi to demand proof of citizenship from drivers whom they have pulled over for traffic violations.

From the Clarion Ledger-

The bill would authorize local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person may be in the country illegally during any “lawful stop, detention or arrest.

The bill’s chief backer is Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican in a chamber that is predominantly Democrat. Reports by the Clarion-Ledger indicate that Fillingane considers SB 2179 an improvement on SB 1070 because, according to him, SB 2179 only allows officers to inquire about a person’s citizenship status as part of a secondary search, once they have already been stopped for a different, ‘primary’ offense, such as a traffic violation. The issue remains, however, that a significant percentage of racial profiling takes place when people are stopped for minor traffic violations, during stops that are at the officer’s discretion, often without accountability on the part of the officer. Further, in addition to the ways in which this law can lead to racial profiling, it is important to note that the legislation will also cost the state additional costs of housing, transportation, and hiring experts.

Following in the footsteps of Mississippi, states like Florida, Iowa, Oregon, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky are all contemplating Arizona-style immigration laws, with conservative legislatures and governors responding to the lack of federal action on immigration by taking immigration enforcement into their own hands. There are also concerns in Oklahoma, Nebraska and New Mexico, all of which are slated to usher in anti-immigration legislation.

In Virginia a group of House Republicans recently announced plans to put forward at least sixteen bills aimed at undocumented immigrants including bills that would ensure that children without documentation could not attend public schools and colleges. Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, who is taking the lead on these bills said that state action was called for in such areas where the federal government had “completely failed.” The bills that they unveiled on Tuesday included legislation that would require authorities to check the immigration status of anyone “taken into custody,” and to ensure that the check would apply even to those who were arrested and released on bail or bond before being taken to jail. Virginia already denies driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and all taxpayer-paid services except those expressly required by law such as education and emergency medical care. The  laws proposed by this group seek to challenge even those by denying public education to children who are undocumented.

When questioned by the Washington Post, David B. Albo said that while this package of anti-immigrant bills was motivated by Arizona’s SB1070 law introduced in 2010, they were of the opinion that the laws they propose were moderate in comparison to SB1070 and hence had a chance at passing where SB1070 did not.

A consideration for lawmakers on laws similar to SB1070 are the costs involved. For example, the Senate Bill 6, Kentucky’s Arizona copy cat law, is estimated to cost the state $40 million a year in expenses.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader:

…..A 2008 study estimated that, if Kentucky successfully removed all of its undocumented immigrants, it would lose $1.7 billion in economic activity, $756.8 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,059 jobs. Meanwhile, Arizona’s Hotel and Lodging Association reported a combined loss of $15 million in lodging revenue due to meeting cancellations just four months after its immigration bill’s passage due to an economic boycott that was waged against the state.

Skeptics of Arizona style immigration laws are also looking at the issue purely from the point of view of business and how such laws are detrimental for the economic prosperity of the state in question. Lawmakers opposing the bills argue that states proposing such legislation are being “fiscally irresponsible.“For example, in just four months after passing SB 1070, Arizona lost an estimated $141 million in visitor spending.

While debates around the politics, efficacy, economics and constitutionality of laws such as SB 1070 continue to rage, it is easy to forget that eventually it is individuals and their families that are most adversely affected by these laws. As more states think of taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, it is important to keep in mind that when we deny due process to some and compromise their civil liberties, we compromise the human rights of all.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: In 2011, Birthright Citizenship in the Crosshairs

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Yesterday, a coalition of anti-immigrant lawmakers from 14 states unveiled their much-anticipated birthright citizenship bill. The measure would thwart the 14th Amendment by denying citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. As Julianna Hing notes at ColorLines, sponsors unabashedly admit that, after passing the legislation at the state level, they aim to push it through Congress. If passed, it would effectively become federal law while at the same time force a court case challenging the traditional application of the 14th Amendment.

The bill is is unlikely to do much more than upset the national debate on immigration reform, but it’s nevertheless a sobering reminder of how far some conservatives will go to segregate immigrants further.  While immigration reform advocates faced an uphill struggle last year, with few victories to show for it, the stakes are even higher in 2011,  as immigration issues become more brazenly racially divisive.

Arizona’s retrogressive policy takes effect

In the “Papers Please” state, where the birthright citizenship bill will make its debut, a controversial K-12 ethnic studies ban has already gone into effect—prohibiting curricula that promotes ethnic solidarity or is designed for students of a particular race or ethnicity. Attorney General Tom Horne, who proposed the ban while he was the superintendent of public instruction, has unabashedly singled out the Tuscon Unified School District (TUSD)’s Mexican American Studies program as its target.

Alex DiBranco reports at Change.org that—prior to assuming his new position as attorney general—Horne declared the TUSD to be in violation of the newly enacted law and threatened to withhold $15 million in funds from the school district if it failed to eliminate the Mexican American Studies program within 60 days. TUSD, for its part, is appealing the law while refusing to alter its curriculum.

Immigrant growth results in more Congressional seats…for Republicans

The results of the 2010 census are in and, thanks to a considerable boost in the new immigrant population, southern and western states are now set to gain additional Congressional seats. Sarah Kate Kramer at Feet in 2 Worlds reports that Hispanics, in particular, accounted for at least half of the growth in Texas, Florida, Nevada and Arizona.

While the growth of the Hispanic population has undoubtedly contributed to the election of a number of Hispanic legislators and could set the stage for greater political representation in the long term, the immediate effect of the apportionment looks bleak. The irony, as Kramer notes, is that while immigrant growth secured the apportionment of new congressional seats, those seats will represent predominately Republican states—effectively increasing the power of anti-immigrant lawmakers.

Few victories for immigrants

At the dawn of a new year, undocumented immigrants have gained little ground. New America Media/La Opinion reports that unemployment is still very high in sectors, such as construction, that typically employ large numbers of undocumented laborers, and remains high for Latinos, in particular.

Congress also failed to pass the bipartisan and politically popular DREAM Act, letting down scores of undocumented youth, and Arizona’s SB 1070 is spreading like wildfire to other states. To top it off, 2010 proved to be a record year for deportations—meaning that 2011 is seeing the largest number of divided families to date.

Obama Administration dropped the ball on immigration

The retrogressive nature of the immigration debate has a lot to do with the rise of conservative extremism following President Barack Obama’s election. In the past year, anti-immigrant lawmakers have gone to unprecedented lengths to commandeer immigration reform, defy the Obama administration’s policy goals and, in general, make quite a clamor. But reform advocates, too, have done their fair share to muck up the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform.

As Monica Potts at TAPPED argues, the administration’s consistent focus on enforcement, at the expense comprehensive reform, pushed the immigration debate further to the right—and may have even cost Democrats the Hispanic vote:

President Obama embraced conservatives’ enforcement rhetoric by ramping up deportations without prioritizing reform. This was a self-defeating approach: by buying into a harsh enforcement paradigm, he made the argument for reform much harder.

Whether the administration has learned from its 2010 mistakes remains to be seen. If not, then the gun-slinging lawmen of Arizona will continue defining the nation’s most pressing immigration issues.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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