November 2006


One (among many) of the problems I have with Minutemen-like movements is that their claim the enforce American law just covers for breaking the law.  Not just passive watchers over the landscape with binoculars and cellphones in hand, they come with guns, prepared to confront and threaten those who dare cross the border.  The NY Times looks at one of these vigilantes, Roger Barnett, and the effort to bring him to justice.

Immigrant rights groups have filed lawsuits, accusing him of harassing and unlawfully imprisoning people he has confronted on his ranch near Douglas. One suit pending in federal court accuses him, his wife and his brother of pointing guns at 16 illegal immigrants they intercepted, threatening them with dogs and kicking one woman in the group.

Another suit, accusing Mr. Barnett of threatening two Mexican-American hunters and three young children with an assault rifle and insulting them with racial epithets, ended Wednesday night in Bisbee with a jury awarding the hunters $98,750 in damages. …
A few years ago, however, the Border Action Network and its allied groups began collecting testimony from illegal immigrants and others who had had confrontations with Mr. Barnett.

They included the hunters, who sued Mr. Barnett for unlawful detention, emotional distress and other claims, and sought at least $200,000. Ronald Morales; his father, Arturo; Ronald Morales’s two daughters, ages 9 and 11; and an 11-year-old friend said Mr. Barnett, his brother Donald and his wife, Barbara, confronted them Oct. 30, 2004.

Ronald Morales testified that Mr. Barnett used expletives and ethnically derogatory remarks as he sought to kick them off state-owned property he leases. Then, Mr. Morales said, Mr. Barnett pulled an AR-15 assault rifle from his truck and pointed it at them as they drove off, traumatizing the girls.

Barnett’s own mentality betrays  any recourse to claim to act in the name of the law:

For your children, for our future, that’s why we need to stop them.  If we don’t step in for your children, I don’t know who is expected to step in.

For our children–this has overtones of eugenics and racial science.  He is claiming that illegal immigration will create an inheritable problem.  It is a problem that, as he sees it, is worth controvening law, even morality, in order to stop.

Higher walls, more patrols–nationalist measures to problems of illegal border crossings are unlikely to be effective, more likely to warp the structure of immigration. A commentary by Guido Friebel and Sergeï Guriev in Le Monde describes how tougher border controls tend to push illegal immigrants into the waiting hands of organized crime rather than repulsing them.

Good news for you, [smugglers]! The western governments are trying to control immigration by organizing a battle against illegal immigrants. The voyage becomes more perilous. You become incontrovertible. And at their arrival, your stranglehold on the endebted illegal immigrants is stronger than ever before. If they attempt to escape, they will fall into the police dragnets. Their docility is much more likely. … Your invenstment is more likely to be profitable. [Translation mine]

Border enforcement drives up the cost of crossings. The potential immgrants, unable to pay, lose their independence to organized crime. Indeed, the poorer the immigrant, the more likely that he or she will be indebted to the smugglers.

Friebel and Guriev point to a second problem as well: concentrating on the border, the places where the labor of illegal immigrants is exploited are left unobserved.

So, how effective is tougher border security? With regards to illegal immigrants, probably not much. If they are caught at the border, fine. If not, they descend into a spiral of dependence that authorities pay no heed to. Organized crimes can only profit from this situation.

[The untranslated articles is below the fold.]

[ETA] The federal government seems already aware of this vulnerability among illegal immigrants.  Fearing that drug cartels will court them for the meth trade, the government is producing Mexican-style fotonovelas to dissuade immigrants from crime:

Fotonovelas — pocket-size picture books popular in Mexico — have gotten a California makeover that authorities hope persuades immigrant laborers to resist the easy-money temptation of the methamphetamine trade.

Thousands in the meth-plagued Central Valley have read the bilingual graphic-novel story of Jose, a farmworker who creates tragedy for his family by working for a drug ring. No Vale La Pena, or It’s Not Worth It, has inspired a Spanish-language docudrama, and police from Tennessee to Colorado have requested copies.

In Mexico, fotonovelas often illustrate life’s struggles through recurring characters, like the trucker with a heart of gold or the secretary trying to get ahead. Community leaders in and around Merced, about 130 miles southeast of San Francisco, saw them as an effective way to reach immigrant workers.

“We were trying to get that message across to a population that has a very low literacy level and that’s really isolated,” said public relations executive Virginia Madueno, who created the booklet. “So we thought, ‘Aha! A fotonovela.'”

 

 

(more…)

A rather disheartening tale in the NY Times:

On the evening of Nov. 2, a young corporate lawyer in New Jersey received a frantic call from a charity client, a 46-year-old Harlem grocery clerk with a history of petty crime. He was in custody on an airplane in Newark on his way to Mogadishu, the capital of his native Somalia, a country so dangerous that to the lawyer’s knowledge, no one had been deported there in years.

The courts were closed, and a federal judge who heard an emergency motion the next day ruled that the clerk, Mohamad Rasheed Jama, was already outside United States jurisdiction.

So, after a stop in Nairobi, where he was handed over to Kenyans, Mr. Jama stepped off an airplane in Mogadishu — and into the hands of Islamist militants, who soon accused him of being an American spy and began demanding money.

“They were extremely angry,” said his lawyer, Emily B. Goldberg, relating the last frightened call she got from Mr. Jama, who had spent four years in immigration detention in New Jersey awaiting deportation to the land he left at 18. “He asked me if there was anything I could do. I told him in the American system, there was nothing more I could do.” …

If Jama, a refugee from a society broken by anarchy, cannot get a fair hearing, why should other immigrants? The administrations policy may point to increasing the number of immigrants in this country, but deportations also reveal that they are willing to jettison anyone on a moment’s notice, without recourse to the judicial system, without regard to what they might face at home. Indeed, the rights of immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are constantly undermined and obscurred. Their dependence on the government’s charity has become the sword of Damocles. However, the article suggests that attempting to exercise rights will only hasten deportation:

In the United States, lawyers for Somalis are asking whether Mr. Jama’s deportation signals the start of a mass deportation or a warning to those facing indefinite detention that “if you use habeas, you’ll be on the next flight,” said Jeffrey Keyes, the Minneapolis lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case.

I love Family Guy.

Power of the Purse: Some immigrants in the US are attempting a “remittance boycott” to force the Mexican government to change is approach to Oaxaca. If successful, will immigrants become a voice for reform in their former country?

“Our voice is our money! Stop the repression!” Written on Spanish-language fliers distributed in downtown Los Angeles, the slogans urged Mexicans working in the United States to stop sending money home for three days to protest the Mexican government’s crackdown on dissenters in the southern state of Oaxaca.

If money talks, the Saturday-to-Monday boycott has the potential to speak volumes. Workers in the U.S. who are from Latin America send their relatives back home an average of $300 a month, or about 10 percent of their incomes, according to an October study by the Inter-American Development Bank.

(more…)

Interesting phenomenon in immigration to Europe: the use of French overseas territories as  places of entry.  At a congress of French mayors, the mayors from overseas territories complained that they were being overwhelmed by clandestins (aka, illegal immigrants).  And their presence is affecting the public mood, raising hostility.  As one mayor put it:

There is a real sentiment of xenophobia developing in Guyana.  Until now, the people have respected the laws of the Republic.  But the day will come when they will take justice into their own hands.  It suits them to re-establish the authority of the state in the territories. [Translation mine]

Mayotte, among the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean, is particuarly overwhelmed, becoming a magnet for would be immigrants from the region.  Many of these come from the Comoros, an indepedent nation in the same chain of islands.  The Comorians, however, could work toward French citizenship by jus soli, their nation having once been part of France.  But they want to be able immediately to claim citizenship on the basis of birth, as the people of Mayotte have.  These municipalities, as well as those in Guyana and Guadeloupe, need more resources for the incoming immigrants; France offers only resources to combat their entry.

Kevin Johnson has another great link: the Rand Corporation’s study on public spending on health for immigrants.

The report – which appears in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs – estimates that in the United States about $1.1 billion in federal, state and local government funds are spent annually on health care for undocumented immigrants aged 18 to 64. That amounts to an average of $11 in taxes for each U.S. household. In contrast, a total of $88 billion in government funds were spent on health care for all non-elderly adults in 2000.

About 1.25% of federal funds for health going to illegal immigrants. Is that really a lot? Some would say yes, but to put things in perspective, a major disaster would probably increase federal health spending by that much or more. Rand estimated that $2 billion would modestly provide for Katrina victims without insurance (not even all of them). That is to say, $2 billion would cover differences, not treat all Katrina victims.

The population of illegal immigrants has not dropped on our laps over night. They have been in the United States since the invention of the category (the 1880s). If anything, increases in health spending relative to them parallels general rising costs. And if the health system can’t handle an extra $1.1 billion, is it really working properly.

Aside: in other countries, I would expect to enjoy the benefits of their health care systems. Maybe not getting care for free, but in European nations the subsidies for health care drive down prices even for those paying out of pocket.

Next Page »