by Mary W Maxwell
When my paternal grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in the 1890s, from Ireland, they did not have to fit into any particular category of immigrant, as it was only in 1914 that nations started to require “pass-ports.” Before that, anyone could wash up on the shores of a foreign country. A refugee is one who enters the host country in a particular category, legally, often under the auspices of a charity group. (At present I am residing in a large apartment complex where the majority of residents are refugees.)
I notice that my fellow Americans seem to be unclear as to how they should regard immigrants nowadays. Should they welcome them with open arms? or criticize them for being a drag on the welfare budget? or fear them as people who may cause trouble? This article aims to clarify just a bit of the recent talk about immigrants that is appearing in the news, specifically about DACA and “sanctuary cities.”
The DACA Program
A DACA immigrant is one who entered the US as a child and has only known the US as his or her home country. The acronym stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Deferred action as opposed to what? As opposed to immediate deportation. Some of these persons are now in their thirties.
They arrived aboard their parents’ entry, which may have been a work visa with a use-by date. Perhaps many entered by stealth, along the two-thousand-mile border. In the 1950s the ethnic slur “wetbacks” was applied to all Mexicans — as if they had swum across the Gulf of Mexico! No doubt there were very few such swimmers. I am guessing that many crossed through a checkpoint, on the understanding that they could work here indefinitely, even though not securely.
For DACA persons, it’s moot as to how the parents came in. The emphasis is on the children, who number about 800,000. They call themselves Dreamers, meaning they have always hoped to be admitted legally. It appears this will happen soon.
Some senators have proposed the Dream Act (Senate bill 1615) and the House of Representatives has proposed American Hope Act (House bill 3591). The latest word from the White House (or should I say, from CNN) is that President Trump is willing to sign such legislation.
Now for “sanctuary cities.” Are you under the impression that some cities in the US are holding immigrants in their care against legitimate deportation orders? Everyone is familiar with the way a foreign embassy can act as a sanctuary – its territory is on land that is deemed not part of the host country.
When I first heard about sanctuary cities, such as, say, San Francisco, I assumed it was that sort of thing. That would have been an amazing defiance of the law, perhaps by church groups.
Yours truly was worried about having to take a stand on this! The states-rights man that I claim to be – to a fierce extent – would normally be pleased at a state or city refusing to go along with unconstitutional activities being perpetrated by the feds.
But in fact the sanctuary city business is not of that type. And I have reason to doubt that it is what it’s cracked up to be. A fortnight ago I was invited, as a member of the Federalist Society, to attend a seminar in Boston on this subject. (The Federalist Society is wonderful and anyone can join, for $50 USD per year.)
Got to hand it to the moderator of this Fed-Soc event for letting each side of the sanctuary-city argument make its sales pitch. The pro side was presented by an office holder of the local ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union (which I once thought was fab, but which post-9/11 went the way of all flesh – big disappointment). The con side was by a fed who hasted up to Boston from “DC” to put the case for the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
It’s the Money, Sort Of
Here is the bottom line, as I understand it: all that a sanctuary city does is refuse to let federal police (FP) interrogate an immigrant whom that city has in its law-enforcement custody. Of course if the feds have obtained a court warrant, even the sanctuary city will cooperate.
The Federalist Society meeting portrayed the affair as mainly one related to funding. They said that it is the norm for states to cooperate with FP on non-immigrant matters even to the point of contributing manpower. Under the Sanctuary Cities rubric, the state says, instead “Don’t ask us to do your work for you. We can’t afford it.”
Actually they go further, and it looks spiteful to me. Let’s say a city is about to release a criminal from jail. This would be the moment – if that person is known to be wanted by the feds – to inform the feds of the day and place of jail-exit. The local police, however, take delight in not doing so.
In other words, I think “sanctuary cities” – whose name allows an appeal to the sentiments of do-gooders – is more of a boys-will-be-boys showdown between local police and federal police. It’s turf warfare. Naturally I endorse it. (See my Prosecution for Treason as to the federal takeover of states’ sovereignty.)
The DC man announced how terrible it all is. He said 12% of the wanted immigrants have committed a violent crime. Hey, if I were sitting in the ACLU chair I’d have insisted that this statistic be re-worded as “88% of them have not committed a violent crime.”
An academic on the Boston panel (who arrived late due to traffic delays caused by a
Keeping Things on an Irrational Level
As indicated at the beginning of this article, people don’t know what they’re supposed to say about foreigners these days. I suggest that this is a designed outcome. Consider how the entire apparatus of so-called anti-terrorist law has made everybody feel that it’s naive to trust one’s fellow man.
As you walk through the queue at the airport, and dutifully take off your shoes, and trash the bottle of liquid you had carelessly packed, you subconsciously go along with the notion that someone on the plane may indeed be cuckoo enough, or jihadist enough, to blow the plane up — with himself in it.
This is nonsense, but you wouldn’t want your neighbors to think you would insist on giving up all those “protections.”
Another emotion-based attitude to immigrants is stirred up by announcements that they are stealing jobs, or that bilingualism is un-American. Personally I do not know if they are stealing jobs. In the 1980s Mexicans and other South Americans were recruited to come in as harvesters. Do you recall Cesar Chavez’s protest of the horrendous conditions and wages they were given?
(Note: in Australia, the backpackers who get a one-year work visa to Australia are allowed to extend it 12 more months if they do 3 months of fruit-picking. Presumably the farmers are desperate for help.)
A Gift from France
The Statue of Liberty that stands in New York Harbor was sent across the ocean by France as a gift to the US for having treated immigrants graciously. On the base of it is inscribed a poem by Emma Lazarus:
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
I grew up with that poem and have not become ashamed of its sentiments. There is also a huge tradition in America of worthiness of all ethnic groups. Yet President Trump’s Executive Order, saying no one from 6 Muslim countries would be allowed in, did not get greeted by a look of horror on the nation’s face. Although the Clinton contingent reacted by noting that Trump is a so-and-so, we did not hear the average American shouting “You can’t do that, Buddy, go to the back of the class and put on a cone hat.”
In due course, a court ruled that a president does not have the authority to refuse entry to a certain type of visa-holder, namely those with a real tie to the US. This was defined as having a promised job in the US, an enrollment as a student, or a close family connection.
So far, no court has said “We don’t treat Muslims like vermin thank you very much.” At the moment Trump is getting away with this business by saying we do not accept persons from 6 particular countries, not “persons who happen to have Islam as their religion.” Honestly, it’s embarrassing.
Note: I don’t see it as the judiciary’s job to enforce 14th-amendment type equality for foreigners. Members of Congress should get in there and legislate. As for Muslim travelers who were suddenly held back at airports, did they get a refund of their airfare?
Not the Time To Come to the Aid of Their Party
What bugs me today is the way the media act as if we should be responding to each new development according to the politics-as-politics motif.
During the Alabama senate election of 2017, in which I campaigned, each of the 10 Republican candidates was asked, by the media, to say how he felt about President Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the US from Mexico. Every candidate, except you-can-guess-whom, jumped in to say “Yes we need a wall. Bewdy! A Wall!”
If you had asked each of them before Trump mentioned a wall if they would want a wall, they would have said “Are you kidding?” But such is the power of a concrete plan.
(Note: the wall was to have been literally concrete. Hence in my list of objections to the wall I included the fact that everything concrete is mafia, and we should be sending business to the mafia.)
The media has, for decades, reported every upcoming bill in Congress as one that should be thought of in terms of the numbers game. Regarding the wall, it is said that Trump is counting on his power base – but do we (or does he) even know who is in his power base?
The September 26 Runoff in Alabama
When I got the wild notion to jump ship from Oz and go for a seat in the US Senate I did not know that a total of ten Republicans would throw their hat in the ring. Nor did I understand how votes get counted – except that I am extremely prejudiced by having read Jim Collier’s VoteScam about the hacking of the voting machines.
Anyway, the 10 candidates can be broken into two groups – 5 big boys and 5 little boys. I am pleased to say that as one of the five little boys, I came out tops. (Gender is no bar here.) However, my score is almost a joke, as the 5 big boys together got 98% of the Alabamians’ votes. We 5 little boys had to be happy sharing the remaining 2%.
By the way, this is for anyone who recalls that Princess Margaret used to get hurt feelings when her she was chopped out of news photos. At some of our Senate Forums, cameramen duly showed up, but only the video clips of the big boys appeared on the news that night. (Nah, I didn’t get hurt feelings but it’s too bad the public was deprived of hearing what us little boys had to say.)
The two biggest of the big boys, Judge Roy Moore and Luther Strange, must face a runoff on September 26. Then the winner will face the Democrat, Doug Jones, on December 12, 2017.
Alas, the campaign never did contribute much about states’ rights (other than by the yakking of the biggest little boy). And, except for m’self, no one so much as breathed the issue of US war-making in the Middle East.
After the Bombs Are Over
By the way, at the Federalist Society meeting, on September 7, 2017, the ACLU lady opened her talk with a virtual “It was him.” She sayeth: “We all agree that the president has a plenary power over immigration.” Hello? I mean like Hello? We do not agree. Article I, section 8 says Congress shall have the power to regulate “naturalization.”
I say that means immigration. The word immigration doesn’t appear in the Constitution. Back in 1787, it was the idea of Brits getting naturalized – after all, the American colonists were Brits – that on the minds of the Framers.
They could hardly have anticipated, and provided for, a situation in which the Great Republic would bomb Syria unjustifiably, and then fuss over an ensuing refugee crisis, could they?
Congress, would you please wake up? I ask: is there anything more disgusting than a somnambulant legislature?
–Mary W Maxwell immigrated into Australia in 1980 and is grateful to have had that marvelous chance.