"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Political Aside (WARNING: Major Rant Ahead)

I seldom post on political topics, although lately it's been kind of hard to avoid. Those of you who know me know that I have been a longtime volunteer advocate for immigrants. I have been a volunteer interpreter and translator for, among other organizations, the Northwest Immigrant's Rights Project and Community to Community. I am a volunteer interpreter at my local Interfaith medical/dental clinic and for several area churches and neighborhood organizations who provide services to low-income, non English-speaking families. I have been involved in helping immigrants for over twelve years now. I am married to a Mexican immigrant (who is now a U.S. citizen but who was undocumented when we met), and my children are brown and bilingual.

There are few groups in this country more powerless and voiceless than undocumented immigrants and their children. Imagine, for a moment, if you can, being forced by poverty, war, or natural disaster to leave your home and family and move to a completely unknown country where you do not speak the language, know anyone, or understand the systems you must navigate. Imagine your journey is dangerous and uncertain, that you spend your life savings and arrive here destitute and alone. Imagine that every day you have to live with the anxiety and fear of being discovered. That's the way things were fifteen years ago - now, on top of those hardships we must add a new xenophobic attitude that in some parts of the country is truly vicious. Now you aren't just hunted, you are also hated.

I have listened with utter dismay to the rise of cruel rhetoric and the increase in racist, inhuman sentiments expressed in the popular press. I could provide examples, but it is just terribly dispiriting. There was Glenn Beck making "jokes" about rounding up "illegals," killing them, and processing their dead bodies into a fuel source to be called "Mexahol." More recently, the republican congressman (can't remember name right now) who wondered why we can't forcibly implant tracking devices into undocumented aliens. "I can microchip my dog," he said, "why can't I microchip an illegal?" There is the ongoing spectacle of sheriff Arapaio's circus in the desert, where he constructs open-air concentration camps and marches prisoners through the streets of Phoenix to be verbally abused and reviled.

There are the new laws that target undocumented immigrants, and apparently the fervor of anti-immigrant activists is such that they do not even care that the laws they frame will also target brown skinned Americans, legal immigrants, innocent children, and tourists. Arizona's 10-70 is almost a copy of the hated "passbook laws" of South Africa's apartheid era. It forces all people who might be suspected of being "illegal" for whatever reason to carry documentation at all times or risk being pulled off the street and jailed for an indeterminate length of time while their status is investigated. Having worked with organizations who help legal immigrants and citizens to whom this has actually happened, I can tell you that such length of time is not likely to be less than a week and might be very much longer. Have you heard about conditions in our nation's detention centers? No? Well they are a national shame and a nightmare. The Supreme Court has over and over again upheld the principle that American citizens do not have to carry or show identification, but this law says that if you don't, some really really bad things might happen to you.

What kind of country are we becoming? Now Massachusetts has outdone Arizona, and your state may be next. The people were not even given a chance to vote on this next abomination. I am especially alarmed by the 24-hour anonymous hotline to allow people to secretly denounce their neighbors as "illegals," no evidence necessary. It reminds me of the speaking tube I saw in Venice, the one that ran straight from the public street to the interior of the Doge's Palace, where citizens were encouraged to denounce their neighbors for sedition and other "crimes." Those thusly accused were rounded up and taken into the Doge's dungeons for "questioning." Some of them never saw the light of day again.

But wait, no, I am especially alarmed by the punitive measures taken against the citizen children of undocumented immigrants to deny them housing, medical care, and schooling. In fact, I am so outraged by the whole idea and so sad and so ashamed I can barely type. As soon as I trust my voice to speak steadily I'll be calling my representative to voice my objection to similar measures being passed here. I will do so in the strongest possible terms that do not include profanity. Please do the same.


Aimee Day

Recently, the Massachusetts State Senate passed an amendment to the budget that targets immigrants and their families. Please call your State Representative and Senator to voice your opposition to the amendment, number 172.1. Ask them to tell the conference committee to remove the amendment from the bill.

Amendment 172.1 unfairly targets immigrants and their families and is costly to state and local agencies.

This amendment will be harmful for all residents, citizens and non-citizens alike.

  • It will install a 24-hour hotline for anonymous callers to report suspected undocumented immigrants. Callers will NOT have to provide a reason, and once your name is mentioned on the hot line the Attorney General's officewill investigate your status. This will be costly, result in racial profiling, and be used to harass lawful citizens.
  • The amendment will require redundant checks of immigration status for employment. Status is already checked through the federal I-9 form.
  • Anyone doing business with a state entity will have to verify the citizenship status for all employees using E-verify.
  • E-verify is prohibitively expensive for small businesses and individuals, costing up to $27,000 and has been found by theSocial Security Administration to have very high error rates which means citizens could lose wages, work time, and/or employment.
  • This amendment would deny public housing to citizen children whose parents may not have proper documentation. That increases homelessness.
  • Lastly, the proposed budget will prevent the children of undocumented immigrants from attending state colleges and universities, regardless of high achievement.

Call these representatives to sign Denis Provost's letter to the Speaker requesting amendment no. 172.1 be DROPPED.

Demand from the Ways & Means Chairs, Rep Charles Murphy and Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, to remove Senate Budget Amendment 172.1 during the conference committee.

The conference committee members are:

Rep. Charles Murphy (Co-Chair) 617-722-2990

Rep. Barbra L'Italien 617-722-2380

Rep. Robert Hargraves 617-722-2305

Sen. Stephen Panagiotakos (Co-Chair) 617-722-1630

Sen. Stephen Brewer 617-722-1540

Sen. Michael Knapik 617-722-1415

These Legislators voted No on this amendment. Thank Them for doing the right thing. Here is a list of those courageous Senators:

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz 617-722-1673

Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem 617-722-1639

Sen. Sal N. DiDomenico 617-722-1650

Sen. Kenneth J. Donnelly 617-722-1432

Sen. James B. Eldridge 617-722-1120

Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen 617-722-1578

Sen. Thomas M. McGee 617-722-1350

Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg 617-722-1532

Sen. Steven A. Tolman 617-722-1280

Sen. Marian Walsh 617-722-1348


Michele B said...

Thank you again Aimee for writing another OUTSTANDING post about this subject, and for all your personal activism in this area that is also so close to my heart as well. Bless you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellent post on this subject. I agree with you 100 percent. We as Americans are intelligent enough that we should be able to come up with a solution other than one so primitive that treats other humans as the laws are going to allow. I believe many Americans cannot understand the point you made about being in such terrible conditions and wanting a better life because most of them do not know what it is like to be so poor. I live in a Agriculture county and I do know that Mexicans are very very very hard workers. They will work 7 days a week 12 hours a day, be taken advantage of, abused, etc...and never complain because things are so much worse for them in Mexico. We need a solution that stops them from being treated so badly while working in the Agriculture fields. I am telling you even the poorest Americans are not going to do the work required in the fields to get produce to our supermarkets. Like I said, We should be able to come up with a solution that does not allow the prejudice to target light brown skinned people and mistreat them. We do need a solution so that they can come here and work and not be take advantage of. Be paid a decent wage, treated fairly, etc.....I am not as well spoken as you but I hope that you get that I am with you and understand your point being made.

Garden Lily said...

This is shameful. You are right to speak out, and I encourage other readers to make their more reasonable voices heard too. The extremist and hateful voices need to be drowned out.

Dea-chan said...

This is scary. I LIVE in Massachusetts, and both my politically conscious fiance and his best friend were unaware of this.

... I'm kinda scared and worried for this country. What the hell are people doing these days?!

daharja said...

This isn't politics, Aimee. This is human rights, at the absolute base level.

Where will it end? Come on, you've seen swastikas before.

Leanne over at Cluttercut - of Romany descent, married to a Jew, with a son who has autism. Yep, I know all about minorities.

Aimee said...

Ladies -
thanks for the support.
Barbara - I sure do get it, you come across loud and clear. Thanks.
DeaChan- I wouldn't have known were I not part of an e-mail chain that posts on immigrant's rights issues. Google "this week in immigration" and subscribe if you are interested.
daharja - oh yes I surely have. That's more or less what I am afraid of, but I don't like to raise the specter myself lest I be labeled a crackpot. The facts on the ground as they are now are shocking enough and worthy of resistance - no need to alienate anyone with mention of Nazis. Yet.

polly's path said...

this is a topic very close to my heart as well. Thank you for bringing it up, and for keeping me posted on things I was not aware of.
This really is an outrage. Why aren't more people speaking up?

kate said...


I want to join in and thank you for posting this. I read it a few minutes after you posted it, but didn't have time to comment then.

Thank you too for all the community work you do to help immigrants.