Chaotic–The post-election state of immigration

Chaotic–The post-election state of immigration

How is it that a nation—one that calls itself a nation of immigrants— turns against the newest of arrivals? What can we do to make their lives less chaotic and more just?

¿ Cómo lo es que nuestro país—una que se llama si misma una nación de inmigrantes–se vuelve contra los más nuevos inmigrantes ? ¿Qué podemos hacer para poner sus vidas menos caótico  y más justo ?

Life is suddenly more chaotic for immigrants. I live in Minnesota. Here there are resident immigrants and resident bigots. Until the election, most of the bigots were invisible. That has changed. One of the young Latinas in our congregation told me some classmates she thought were friends now harass the immigrant students. ‘Go back where you came from!’ She said it was worse for Somalis, who are called ‘terrorists,’ and must fend off attempts to snatch their hijabs. How can anyone live while looking over her shoulder? How do I deal with this when I’m not an immigrant? Let’s start by understanding  our history and the roots of nativism.

La vida está más caótica para los inmigrantes ahora. Yo vivo en Minnesota. Aquí, hay los inmigrantes y intolerantes residentes así como. Hasta las elecciones, el más de los intolerantes fueron invisibles. Ahora, eso ha cambiado. Una latinas en nuestra congregación me dijo que algunos de los alumnos quienes ella pensara eran su amigos acosan los estudiantes inmigrantes. ‘Ir atrás tu país!’ Ella dijo que fuera peor para las somalís, que están llamados ‘terroristas’ y deben de prevenir atentados de remover sus hijabs. ¿Cómo puede cualquier persona vivir mientras mirando sobre su hombro? ¿ Cómo hago enfrentar esto cuando no soy inmigrante? Vamos a comenzar por entender nuestra historia y las raíces de nativismo.

Do we mean what we say?

This is our ideal. Do we mean what we say?

The racist virus has always been in the body politic but, with this election, it has broken out in pustules of hate. We can no longer pretend racism doesn’t exist. It’s always been there, now it’s visible. Trump didn’t create it, he exploited it. He drew to the surface something most of us preferred to ignore unless it touched us or someone we knew. We can’t pretend any longer.

El virus de racismo ha sido en el cuerpo político siempre pero con esta elección, lo ha rompió en pústulas de odio. No podemos pretender que el racismo no existe. Lo ha estado con nosotros para siempre. Ahora los está visible. El Sr. Trump lo no creado, él lo explotado. Él traigo al superficial algo que la mayoría de nosotros preferidos ignorar hasta que el racismo nos tocaba o un conocido. No podemos pretender nunca más.

Our history shows us the contours of our intolerance. The largely Protestant American majority of the 1850s feared Irish immigration—they were poor and Catholic. Chinese and Japanese immigrants barred by treaties ad laws in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, a fear of Slavs and Jews from eastern Europe resulted in quotas designed to keep a white majority from northern Europe. Indigenous Americans received citizenship in 1924! U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were interned during WW II, but not U.S. citizens of German descent. The quotas are gone and many whites fear they will no longer be the majority.

Nuestra historia nos muestra que estamos selectivos en nuestros prejuicios. La mayoría de protestante norteamericanos en los 1850s resisten la inmigración de Irlanda— fueron pobres y católico. Los chinos y japoneses estuvieron prohibido por acuerdos y leyes. Temprano en el sigo 20, un miedo de los eslavos y judíos de europea oriente resultó en cuotas fijadas para mantener una mayoría blanca desde europea norte. Los americanos indígenas recibieron la ciudadanía en 1924! Ciudadanos descendientes de Japón estuvieron internados durante la guerra mundial dos pero no los ciudadanos de descendientes de Alemania. Desde 1924 hasta 1965, nuestras leyes de inmigración usaban las cuotas para mantener un población de mayoría blanca de orígenes europea norte. Las cuotas existen no más y muchos blancos temen que ellos no van a ser la mayoría nunca más.

Trump campaigned by playing on an anti-immigrant fears and stereotypes. Lacking any grasp of the facts, he called Mexicans criminals, drug dealers, and rapists. FBI statistics show that violent crime is lower among immigrant communities than native-born communities. As for drugs, the U.S. and its citizens are the worlds largest market for narcotics. Market demand and not immigrants is the cause of drugs in the U.S.

Do good fences make good neighbors?

Do good fences make good neighbors?

Trump hizo campaña por tocando en los miedos y estereotipos de anti-inmigración. Faltando cualquier entendimiento de los hechos, él llamó mexicanos criminales, narcos, y rapistas. Las estadísticas de FBI muestren que los crímenes violentes son menos entre las comunidades de inmigrantes que en las comunidades de ciudadanas. En cuanto a las drogas, los EEUU y sus ciudadanos son el mercado más grande del mundo. Exigido del mercado y no los inmigrantes es la causa de drogas en los EEUU.

What is happening to our country? After centuries of immigration, why are we in chaos over who is or can be an American? Does the Statue of Liberty mean anything now?

¿Qué esta pasando a nuestra país? Después siglos de inmigración, por qué estamos en caos

Send me your...?

Do we still want the tired, the poor, the people unlike you and me…?

sobre quien es o puede ser un norteamericano? ¿Hay cualquier significada en la estatua de libertad ahora?  

If you worry about the chaos and discrimination against immigrants, there are simple but effectives things you can do. But if you aren’t concerned about the lives and civil rights of immigrants, then you are one of the oppressors. Silence in the face of evil is participation in the evil.

Si te preocupes sobre el caos y discriminación contra los inmigrantes, hay cosas simples pero útiles que puedes hacer. Pero, si tú no tiene una preocupación sobre las vidas y derechos civiles de los inmigrantes, eres uno de los que oprime. Silencio en la cara del mal es participación en el mal.

I recommend the following. Recomiendo los paso que siguen.

  • Join the local branch of a human rights organization like Amnesty International. Unirte con un organización para las derechos humanos.
  • Inventory your social and political connections. You probably know a professional who can help guide an and political system immigrant through the legal. Hacer un inventario de sus conexiones sociales y políticas.
  • Educate yourself on the legal rights of immigrants. Many immigrants are unaware they are entitled to due process—just as you are. Educar tu mismo sobre los derechos legales de inmigrantes.
  • Accompany an immigrant friend to court. Be a companion in their fearful walk. It will strengthen them—and you as well. Acompañar un amigo inmigrante al tribunal.
  • Honor your American ancestors. They fought in wars to secure legal and civil rights for all—the rights we too often take for granted. Honrar tus antepasados norteamericanos que pelearon en las guerras para asegurar tus derechos civiles.
  • Join an immigrant organization. A congregation, cultural, or service group will bring you in contact with people who need your friendship and aid. You will receive in proportion to what you give. Unirte una organización de inmigrantes.
  • Write letters for them—recommendations, introductions, or other documents. It is a small thing for you to do but it means the world to an immigrant. Escribir para ellos las cartas de recomendaciones y introducciones.
  • Let people know you are available to help them. Until immigrants know you are willing, they probably won’t ask you. What you receive back in friendship will exceed what you do, or think you do. Decir a la gente que estás desponible ayudarles.
  • Don’t worry about getting into trouble. It isn’t a crime to be a compassionate human being—regardless of their legal status. Standing with them in the face of trouble and injustice is the highest form of friendship if not patriotism. No preocuparse sobre ponerte en dificultades. Compasión delante de injusticia es el patriotismo más alto.

There is abundant information at the following:

Amnesty International

Fair Immigration Reform Movement

American Civil Liberties Union

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Immigration Legal Resource Center

American Immigration Council.


Walls, Deportation, and Trump’s ‘Final Solution’

Immigrants aren’t ‘real Americans’, are they? I mean, if we let them stay, they’ll change the character of the country. It won’t be America anymore, will it?

That’s the visceral feeling of many who rally to Donald Trump, and nativist organizations, like NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and others. Many who affiliate with white nationalist groups see immigrants as an existential threat. Do you?

President Obama and the Republican Congress agree the United States has a dysfunctional immigration system. Unfortunately, they don’t agree on the parts that are broken or the fixes it needs. That leaves a policy vacuum. Nature and politics abhor vacuums and Trump is ready to fill it with a simple, comprehensive ‘final solution’. So he says.

If elected, Trump says he’ll keep immigrant families together and then deport 11 million of them – including their U.S. citizen children. He would build a wall along 1,900 miles of the border and force Mexico to pay for it. In addition, he would rewrite the long-established meaning of the 14th Amendment! Should we take Trump’s ideas seriously?

Yes! And here’s why. What he proposes has happened many times in U.S. history at the hands of a xenophobic minority and a passive majority. To understand what is going on, it’s important to step away from the rabid carnival barker on television and consider the history of forced removals in American history. It’s an ugly picture, largely ignored in our public education, and exposes the racist skeletons in our national closet.

From time to time, especially during economic downturns, U.S. policies have taken two approaches to non-whites and immigrants – exclude them or remove them.

Excluding immigrants begins with The Naturalization Act of 1790 that prohibited the naturalization of non-whites. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution effectively overturned it. After intense lobbying from Californians, The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited the immigration of Chinese. Chinese laborers arrived to work in the 1850s gold rush, and later on the railroads. When economic times got tough, Californians claimed the Chinese took jobs that white men could hold. The Act remained in place until 1943.

The Immigration Act of 1924 set quotas limiting annual immigration from each nation to 2 percent of immigrants from that country resident in the U.S. in 1890. During the recession following WWI, some Americans agitated to stop immigration of southern and eastern Europeans (Italians, Poles, Jews,) because they competed for jobs. The Act banned immigration of Asians and Arabs. The eugenics movement was at its peak and pushed hard to ban those they considered ‘racially inferior’. This pseudoscience regarded poverty as a sign of genetic inferiority, promoted forced sterilization of the mentally ill, and pushed laws prohibiting interracial marriage in order to improve the original ‘American stock’. The Immigration Act of 1924 remained in force until 1965.

Those whom Americans didn’t want, they proposed ‘repatriating’ or deporting to another country. In 1821, the American Colonization Society, an organization founded by Northern abolitionists and some Southerners, who believed free blacks wouldn’t fit into a white society. They set up a colony in West Africa that became Liberia but relatively few slaves were freed when Whitney’s cotton gin spurred cotton production and increased the need for slaves.

Whites wanted Native Americans land and, beginning in 1830, the government forcibly removed the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee nations from the southeastern states (to expand cotton and slavery), and relocated them in what became Oklahoma. Among them were many European Americans, black freedmen, and slaves. Thousands died on the ‘Trail of Tears’ west from exposure, disease, and starvation, including more than 2,000 of the 16,000 Cherokee. After that, the U.S. used treaties, military and economic force to ‘relocate’ indigenous nations on ‘reservations’ of lands deemed worthless to whites, and even these were whittled away. Native Americans weren’t granted citizenship until 1924!

After the U.S.-Mexican War, Mexico ceded vast territories to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexicans residents became citizens of the United States, but on paper only. Once socially and economically prominent Mexicans were pushed aside, abused, and defrauded by white settlers rushing into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Soon, the ‘Jim Crow’ laws applied to Mexicans as well as blacks in Texas and elsewhere.

Mexican immigration wasn’t formally restricted and, during the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920, millions of Mexicans fled to safety in the United States, settled in Los Angeles and other cities, found work, created communities, and started families.

As the U.S. slipped into economic depression, and unemployment approached 25 percent, white Americans demanded the removal of Mexicans to free jobs for white Americans and reduce relief roles. From 1930 to 1936, U.S., state, and county governments in California, Texas, and Colorado, rounded up and deported to Mexico, without due process, as many as two million people, including an estimated million U.S. citizen spouses and children of Mexican immigrants. Esteban Torres was a three-year-old boy when he father was ‘repatriated’ in the 1930s. He never saw his father gain, but Esteban gained his citizenship and served in Congress from 1983-1999.

In 1942, with the U.S. at war in Europe and Asia, the U.S. and Mexican governments established a formal guest worker program – braceros – in lieu of undocumented immigration to work on farms and railroads in place of the men in the armed services. The program continued until 1965. Mexican farm workers could earn more in the U.S. than working in Mexico; American farmers wanted low-wage workers and brought them in illegally rather than deal with the rules of the guest worker program. Mexico farm owners and businessmen protested the loss of workers to the U.S. and, beginning in 1954, the two countries launched ‘Operation Wetback’ to capture and deport over a million undocumented Mexicans. The tide of Mexican immigration has ebbed and flowed depending on the economy.

Are immigrants just one more commodity in a throw-away economy?

Anti-immigrant xenophobia is surprisingly consistent across cultures and centuries. Its proponents see immigrants as different, of less value as humans, less civilized, or capable of becoming ‘true Americans’. In words both coarse and polite, they call immigrants economic parasites, bottom feeders, and the cause diseases and crime that will drag down the nation.

These sentiments greeted the Irish, who arrived in the U.S. during the 1840s, and the Slavs and Italians in the early 1900s. Nazis used similar arguments against the Jews, the Hungarians make similar claims for not admitting Syrians trying to reach Germany today. The ignorance behind eugenics still casts an ugly shadow.

Xenophobes seem always in search of a ‘final solution’. The means have varied over the years – forcing indigenous nations onto reservations, passing laws to exclude the Chinese, ‘repatriating’ Mexicans, incarcerating U.S. born Japanese, and sending Jews to gas chambers.

As for walls, they haven’t worked throughout history. Perhaps there is something comfortable in the idea of wall, but it is false security. The Chinese built its Great Wall to block nomadic invaders – it didn’t work. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the Scots – it didn’t work. The Berlin Wall fell in our lifetime. People find a way over, under, or around.

What are the facts? Immigrants have always been at the core of American history and economic growth. Deporting all of them would remove six percent of the U.S. workforce, reduce GDP by six percent, and cost $400-600 billion. Given low U.S. birthrates and an aging population, immigration is essential and can raise GDP by one percent and reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion in 20 years. Unauthorized immigrants make up half of California’s farm workers. Americans would feel the effect immediately in a scarcity of fruits and vegetables.

Are immigrants a drag on the economy? No! The economic drag comes from a person who makes campaign contributions to secure business favors from government officials, bends the bankruptcy laws to advantage and sticks someone else with the bills, and asks for tax abatements and incentives instead of putting his own assets at risk.

Can repatriation happen again? Yes! If we’re silent in the face of intolerance.

Polls consistently show a strong majority of Americans favors giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. But a poll response isn’t a commitment; it isn’t the same as stepping up to put pressure on lawmakers and demand a reform of immigration laws.

A majority of Americans isn’t opposed to granting immigrants a path to citizenship but it’s not their priority, either. At most, it’s passive support that can melt quickly unless we act. If you believe immigrants are vital to our economy, a dynamic in our way of life, and support the American credo on the Statue of Liberty, then demand immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Your ancestors were once immigrants. Don’t let your silence support xenophobia. Honor your heritage. Speak out.



Donald Trump, the Confederate Flag, and the Fourth of July.


Juan and his family are transforming a tumbledown farmhouse into a seasonal  ‘cabin’ on six acres of pine and oak forest, and invited me to join them on the Fourth of July. Cabins are common among residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The drive from Minneapolis takes me through rolling, wooded hills, past lakes, farms with red barns, and quaint towns decked with American flags and hazy with backyard barbeque smoke. What is more ‘American’ than this?

On the drive, I had time to think about what this day means in light of Donald Trump’s diatribe against Mexicans, and the defense of the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of ‘Southern heritage’. Both Trump and the flag defenders said they didn’t hate anyone. I don’t believe them.

The Confederate battle flag and the trumpeting from ‘The Donald’ negate our national credo affirming humankind’s inalienable rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.

Trump launched his bid for the GOP presidential nomination saying the U.S. was the dumping ground for the problems of everyone else, and then singled out Mexicans , saying they bring diseases, drugs, crime, terrorists, – they’re rapists. They don’t represent the ‘brightest and the best’ Mexico can send. Lies!

My friends came from Cuautla, Mexico, in the mid-1990’s after the sudden devaluation of the peso wiped out savings and threw back into poverty many about to join the middle class. They are among the brightest and best people I know in Minnesota. Juan is a construction supervisor, his wife is a bookkeeper; one daughter graduated from college and wants to be a doctor, the other is studying criminal justice to be a police officer. We belong the same church, and we speak English and Spanish equally. I’m considered ‘one of the family’ – a primo or cousin by adoption. I take Trump’s words as personally as if he smeared my daughters.

Trump represents a small but intense subset of rancid-minded Americans. After his blast, most of the other GOP Presidential wannabe’s said little or waited to criticize. What does the public think? A recent national poll shows three-fourths of U.S. citizens favor some form of legal residence or a pathway to citizenship. Trump doesn’t speak for them.

Let’s look at the facts . Mexico doesn’t ‘send’ anyone to the U.S.; my Mexican primos took great personal risks to pursue their vision of a better future, as did my Puritan ancestors and, probably, Trump’s, too.

Two-thirds of the Mexican immigrants (64%) arrived in the U.S. between 1995 and 2000, and a majority are relatives of U.S. citizens. They didn’t bring diseases – Mexico’s inoculation rate (99%) is higher than that of the U.S. (92%). Hispanics aren’t ‘taking over’ the country. Immigrants make up only 13% of the U.S. population, although Hispanics are the largest group. The net immigration rate has fallen to zero since 2010 with as many returning to Mexico as arrive.

Immigrants are an economic engine. They account for nearly 15% of the total U.S. economic output, and own 18% of all small businesses –a source of new jobs. As for crime, a study of violent crime among immigrants revealed homicide rates fell just as immigration rose. Cities with high Hispanic populations – New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, and El Paso – saw sharp drops in violent crime. A closer look at Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago revealed that, despite greater poverty, Hispanics were 45% less likely than native-born Americans to commit a violent crime.

These facts are easy to obtain. Even an intellectually lazy person could learn this by spending 30 minutes on-line at the Cato Institute, Migration Policy Institute, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Pew Research Center, to name a few.

When I lived a block of Lake Street, Minneapolis, as a student in the 1970s, businesses after business folded up, and houses stood vacant or in decay. Then,  Latino immigrants began arriving in the late 1980s. They opened new businesses, renovated houses, and resurrected commercial and residential life along two miles of Minneapolis. Only the brightest and best are capable of transforming a city. This is ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ in action.

Letting Trump and the Confederate battle flag go unchallenged is dangerous. While we are guaranteed freedom of speech, it isn’t a license to lie, and lies must be challenged. We must act on our moral conscience when the truth is violated.  If we don’t, someone will act on the lie, thinking it truth. The youth who shot nine people in Charleston intended to incite a race war because he believed African-Americans ‘were taking over.’ Trump’s lies about Mexican immigrants is a variation on the same theme. Hatred of the ‘other.’  It played out in Germany as a ‘Final Solution’. Unchallenged lies are a threat.

The Charleston killings shocked the conscience of even the most conservative white southerners. Social media postings of the killer with the Confederate flag exposed the banner for what it was and is – a symbol of struggle to preserve the institution of human slavery, an emblem of white resistance to racial equality, and hatred. It was never a benign symbol of ‘Southern heritage’ and to say otherwise is to deny the core truths in the Declaration of Independent – that all persons are equal. That flag has lasted as long as it has because people North and South share a willful amnesia about the true causes of secession and Civil War – human slavery.

The Fourth of July celebrates the Declaration of Independence, a supreme defiance of the idea that kings and nobles – rich and well-born – know best, and in its place, the Declaration proposes the radical, self-evident truth  ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. This is an unqualified declaration because it says all are equal, not just some – ALL.

The battle flag has come down, the victims’ survivors offered forgiveness from their hearts  but, what about ‘The Donald’? He wants attention – and is getting it from a narrow base of GOP activists. He says aloud what a  class of fearful, white Americans – many of a certain age – who believe ‘THEY’ – non-whites – are taking over THEIR America. They ‘want their country back’. Trump was their voice in 2009 when they didn’t believe Obama was born in the U.S. – despite the public records. Trump is again their mouthpiece for a new, set of lies. Sadly, our human nature is afflicted with the capacity to believe prejudices in the face of truths to the contrary. What can we do about it?

Vigilance. We must be vigilant that the ideas and values expressed in the Declaration of Independence do not become dead words because we don’t act in conformance with their truths. We must take a hopeful view of the future, as our ancestors did.  America’s greatness was built by people who looked ahead believing tomorrow could be better than today. Immigrants still do. What’s wrong with the rest of us? Have we forgotten what it means to be an American?

Juan greeted me from under a 200-year-old pine tree where he cooked pork or carnitas in a large kettle over an open fire. His brother, wife ,and nieces were there;  and then more of the family arrived until we made an extended clan of siblings, parents, grandparents and a ‘primo.’ We ate carnitas with guacamole, tortillas, rice, and fruit. We spoke English, Spanish, and Spanglish. The kids played games. We are equal, whether we are U.S. citizens, ‘Green card’ holders, or have no papers at all. It doesn’t matter – we are equal. We are all Americans!