by Guest Contributor Nezua, originally published at The Unapologetic Mexican
AS SADDENED AND CYNICAL as I have become about humankind in my life, I still nurture a belief in the human heart and the sense of Right. I still feel that in most cases of wrong being done, all it takes is thinking, feeling people getting the real facts of a situation. And the facts of this situation are shocking and revolting to a thinking mind and feeling heart.
Buried in the final paragraphs of this article*, the Democratic Speaker of the House offers the LA Times a shocking idea: That millions of immigrants now in the USA—who are currently a deeply-enmeshed part of our commerce and communities—might be relegated to a permanent status of neither citizenship or deportee. What is left after you strike those two possibilities? As Duke said, an indentured class.
The estimated 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally “are part of the U.S. economy. We cannot send them all home, and we cannot send them all to jail, so we have to address it,” Pelosi said.
Any solution would have to be bipartisan, she said, so it may require sacrificing some of Democrats’ past priorities, such as giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
“Maybe there never is a path to citizenship if you came here illegally,” Pelosi said. “I would hope that there could be, but maybe there isn’t.”
DREAMactivist points out right away that many New Americans (migrants/immigrants) were in fact brought here. So what does Pelosi’s quote mean in that context? If the immigrant in question didn’t “Come here illegally,” but is a child who was brought here illegally? Does Nancy Pelosi believe that the child should then be relegated to detention? An indentured status? Permanent US Guest Worker in the Land of the Free?
Surely, Nancy Pelosi is in a position to realize that undocumented migrants are not undocumented out of choice–we CANNOT become legal no matter how much we want to. Hello? What part of legal immigration don’t you understand? Those of us brought here by our parents illegally CANNOT become legal without legislation such as the DREAM Act or Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Additionally, requiring us to go home means a 10-year ban and separation from our families–what sort of family unification plan is that?
“We’re now in an era [where politicians imply] gradations of American-ness,” says Karen Narasaki, executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. “People in small towns are more American than those who live in cities. People in the middle of the country are more American than people who live on the coasts. People who live in New York, L.A., San Francisco, well, they’re not really ‘American’ at all, which is fascinating, because those are the cities that epitomize America to the entire rest of the world.”
On this gradated scale, immigrants are the least American of all, despite the fact that they of all people have made the conscious choice to embrace America, rather than being American by accident of birth.
“As [former congressman and Secretary of Transportation] Norm Mineta is fond of saying, ‘Immigrants leave the country of their birth to come to the country of their heart,’” says Narasaki. “It puzzles me why people would think that naturalized citizens are somehow ‘less American’ than people born here.”
Maybe I’m being a tiny bit extreme in my titling of this post. And yet, I’m not sure how else to handle this ongoing antipathy that Democrats have toward addressing immigration in realistic, humane, timely, and American way. Remember, the whole idea of the USA is built on people leaving bad situations to find opportunity, to find their dream in a land of liberty and freedom. When I try to square that feel-good babble with the way migrants are being ignored and exploited today, I get the same feeling as when my high school so many years ago tried to force me to stand with everyone and mindlessly chant Amerikan pablum to a flag. (And yes I refused and yes at 15 in 1984 I was not part of some popular movement it was just me and no I don’t Hate America™, but I do detest outright hypocrisy and manipulation and groupthink).
I’d love to believe in the USA’s ideals. In fact, I do believe in many of them because as penned, they are damn good ideals. But we ain’t living them in far too many instances. So if Democrats are going to back away from this before they even make it in the White House, what the hell can we expect from them once in power? Oh, how that Nancy Pelosi loves to swipe things off the table…
Still think that electoral politics is going to solve the immigration issue? Or that being a Democrat means a magic answer to save Latinos once we, as a sleeping giant that everyone keeps talking about, vote? Gracias to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is keeping it real by stepping away from offering a path to citizenship to immigrants.
I hope they don’t think that they can ignore the hardships of millions of people and their families and friends and still have a faithful constituency. This is not the days of old, my friends. Things are changing in this nation, this nation is made of change. Don’t miss the boat, Dems. Don’t assume that you have a free ride in this two-party system.
I for one am not going to sit back and quietly give the Democratic Party a pass on immigrant rights. Nancy Pelosi–and the party more broadly–needs to understand that we will make noise about this. If they believe they can sell immigrant communities down the river AGAIN next year, we will show them otherwise.
If they thought we’ve been tough on the GOP, they haven’t seen anything yet. The thing is, we didn’t expect the Bush administration to listen to us. They have ignored us for the last 8 years; we grew accustomed to it.
DREAMactivist points out a good reason why we suddenly may be hearing this retraction now (and in various places, so don’t let me hear about a “misquote” or “misstatement.”)
Because Democrats are receiving cash infusions from the Prison Industrial Complex.
In the late 1990s, the Corrections Corp of America (CCA) overbuilt many detention facilities following the “if you build it, they will come” rule. According to Anton Hie, an analyst in the Nashville office of Jefferies and Co. who covered industry leader Corrections Corporation of America and its closest competitor, the GEO Group, “There was a lot of promise of new inmates that never came … It kind of all came crashing in.” States stopped contracting after high-profile escapes, riots and other scandals and subsequently, stocks came crashing down.
In 2000, the CCA had reported a net loss of $253.5 million but that is history with a 470% boom in immigrant detention over the past 15 years. CCA finally banged a lucrative deal that year–the former INS came to their rescue to house 1000 detainees at the CCA-owned San Diego Mesa Facility, and hence, saved the private detention industry from collapse, giving rise what Roberto Lovato and other prominent scholars call the migrant-prison complex. With 32,000 immigrants behind bars, some indefinitely await hearings, some commit suicide, some are dehumanized and abused, and others sedated with psychotropic drugs upon deportation, the numbers are only growing for ICE, CCA and sadly, the numbers behind bars. Today, the ICE, U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons account for 40% of CCA’s revenue (13% from ICE at $1.5 billion)–which controls a little under half the private prison beds in America. Last year, the CCA reported a net profit of $133 million.
So it’s very simple and very sick and very sad. The USA’s philosophies of profit and punishment have morphed out of control and created a perfect chasm where millions of human beings can be shoved and slid and trapped into being both captive and battery in this machine…and only certain “fringe elements” of our culture will make a big deal out of it.
The thing is…the Democratic leaders abdicating their duties to the People and the ideals of the land make a mistake in their math. This is no fringe element. We are millions strong and we grow every day. I work with many impassioned and educated and active and intelligent people who lend their extensive abilities and efforts to this fight every day. And as saddened and cynical as I have become about humans in my life, I still nurture my belief in the human heart and sense of Right. I still believe eventually the number of us who see this situation as a crime against our purported and stated ideals will grow yet larger and much more visible. I still feel that in most cases of wrong being done, all it takes is thinking, feeling people getting the real facts of a situation.
Factor this into your talk about Change, Democratic politicians. Or ware the consequence.
update: UndergroundUndergrads have the right idea, capping off their post with this:
Lastly, if you want to let Speaker Pelosi that a path to citizenship is vital to immigration reform, give her a call. Her number is (415) 556-4862.
*Ed Note – The referenced link is no longer operational. A search of the LA Times website does not have any such words or phrasing. However, the Associated Press has the same comments from Pelosi, dated October 17th.