jueves, mayo 25, 2006

The Wall

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times
about Mexican views on the proposed wall to be built at the US border with Mexico to try to stop illegal immigration. Many Mexicans believe that a wall is the best thing that could happen to migrant workers and all Mexicans, for that matter, because it would force the government to come up with economic and social reforms that are long overdue because the porous border with the US was seen as a convenient way out of that. Apparently, Presidente Vicente Fox has been accosted with this wall thing at every stop during his current US tour. He says that he is prepared to deal with stronger monitoring of the border, as long as that comes with increased legal means to help immigrants move legally.

The point made in the article was excellent. When one's safety net is taken away, one must learn to do for self. I hope that happens, but we can only wait and see. Unfortunately, it's going to be really hard to make certain Latin American countries whose economy is mostly made up of remittances from relatives in the US (as it has been for what seems like eternity) finally INdependent of this country. Moreover, diplomacy will have a very important part to play here, because it will be very simple for many in Latin America to look at the wall as the US not wanting any more to do with the region, especially already established America-haters who are quick to pounce on anything and everything in their war of words with this country, and I'm positive that that's not the message Bush would want to send. Unfortunately, the US government doesn't have the greatest reputation for reaching out to folks and I think misunderstandings will abound.

The relationship between the US and Latin America is very symbiotic and has been such a mainstay for such a long time, it will be hard to reverse that. I don't really like the idea of putting up a wall, as I believe that has many unsavory connotations, but if it will make Latin American countries address the root causes of immigration instead of bragging about how much money they get in remittances, then let's give it a go. But I wonder what will happen to the US side of things should a wall go up. The US will lose its steady supply of cheap labor, obviously, and would this exchange end with someone saying "Mr. So-and-so, tear down that wall"?

lunes, mayo 22, 2006

Punching themselves in the face

It seems to me that America's new favorite pastime, which is quickly replacing baseball, is a very self-deprecating game called "Punch yourself in the face."

To be fair, as I said in my post "You'll Die Before They Come", Mayor Ray Nagin and the governer of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, cannot take all the blame for Katrina's fucked up aftermath. I maintain that the guy who aspires to be the leader of the free world (and I say "aspire" because he's nowhere near to making it there) has to take the bulk of the responsibility for a) being on perpetual auto-pilot while asleep at the wheel, b) completely inneffective coordination of efforts, and c) denying any responsibility at all like a child. But Nagin and Blanco were also at fault for not taking the initiative to help their own and instead waiting for Bush to get off vacay. 9/11 should have told them that waiting for Bush was going to end in disaster.

This past weekend, Nagin was re-elected.

This is a pattern similar to that of Washington DC. Former DC mayor, Marion Barry, was caught doing crack with 16 year-old prostitutes in some hotel room in DC in the early nineties, yet got himself re-elected a few years later. This be my thinking: cities with large minority populations keep electing their own, no matter how bad, because these voters think that because the candidates are their "brother", he'll do their communities favors. The predominantly black areas of Washington, DC, some of which have only in recent years become passable, are living proof that that theory is ludicrous. Another case: Bush. The man got us into an unnecessary war, made a fortune out of a tragedy, killed thousands of people without even being near them, is unbelievably stupid and embarrassing and has a family and a cabinet that should be dubbed "the new axis of evil". Yet because he promised the ultra-religious to overturn Roe v. Wade and to outlaw gay marriage, etc., he was re-elected. Everyone knows that neither of these promises were kept, but perhaps the news has yet to reach the cornfields of Kansas. Let's hope it gets there before the next election. For now, Bush lovers can chew on this: According to Bloomberg news, your main man's approval rating is 33%.

Anyway, this is all such unfortunate spin. Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I tend to judge candidates on the things that they've done. Not reward them for the things they haven't or the things they say they'll do that just never materialize. Don't you all think we should know better by now than to take the word of a politician at face value?

lunes, mayo 01, 2006

Whatever happened to "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"?

Please note that this post was originally written on Monday, 1 May, but since Blogger hasn't been working since then, I'm trying again to post it today. So just takes yourselves back to Monday, if you will....

.....or "don't bite the hand that feeds you"? Or even "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"?

This is what comes to my mind when I hear about what all is going on regarding immigration policy. Seems to me this is the first time Bush makes sense. He's only one of the "authorities" who's put his feet on the ground long enough to realize that we need immigrants in this country, legal or not.

First of all, who came up with the crap idea of making them felons? These are people like anyone else coming here for a better life for them and their families. Since when was that a felony? I know, I know, you break the law you pay the piper. I'm a known hard-ass but I can't bring myself to apply that to this case, which is certainly not cut and dried. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that without immigrants, we'd be up shit's creek, and very hungry at that. Unfortunate story: My mother and stepfather (two immigrants, just legal, which really doesn't make them that different from the illegals in my book. They just started out with the cushy G4 visa and went from there) were trying to get out of New York this morning, and on the way, they stopped at La Nueva bakery in Jackson Heights for breakfast. Due to the boycotts, of course, Jackson Heights businesses are closed and the place is a ghost town. Instead of saying "Oh, we had trouble with all the protests blocking the way out of New York, but we understand their cause", the parents were very upset that they missed out on the empanadas and the facturas and would have to go home without their sandwiches de miga. When my mom told me that story, I knew the point the immigrants wanted to make: without them, New York ain't so much fun. This country ain't so much fun.

In my oh-so humble opinion, immigrants, legal and illegal alike, should be recognized for their very hard work, and before authorities start tightening borders, we should start with a relatively clean slate and grant legal status, or at least the tools with which to gain that status, to those who work and agree to play by the rules and pay taxes and contribute to health care subsidies just like the rest of us. I do still think that if you want something bad enough, you will ante up to get it. Then later on down the road, we deal with the ones who sneak in once we start running a tighter ship because, and maybe you will agree with me, the border patrol is quite lax when it is convenient for America. Let us also not forget, my friends, that the US has traditionally set up programs to obtain cheap labor and periodically (in the past, I mean) let people in with no consequence. Examples are bringing Chinese over to build the railroads and bringing Mexicans in to fill the void in the labor force left by American soldiers who went off to WW2. The US can't really afford to be selective, then. Another solution to curtail the problem which many deem feasible would be to impose tougher penalties for employers who hire cheap labor and then treat them like shit. The theory being that if the resources that immigrants are after dry up, there will be an end to immigration. But take heart, folks, as this will never happen in a million and one years. I think the best idea would be to address the root causes of immigration in order to curtail it. Economic reforms where national wealth in Latin America is shared instead of concentrated onto 10 major families or something, governments that are not corrupt, etc. But that won't happen either. I add here that while Latin America, as much as it wants to, cannot possibly blame all their woes on the US, the US certainly does not help and pits people and countries against each other whenever they can to "stabilize" the region.

I can't wait to see what is decided in the case of immigrants. My guess is that there will be a few more protests and boycotts and whatnot, and then the problem will be swept under the rug like it's always been. Government is very quick to tire and throw up their hands when finding a solution to a pressing problem starts to keep them at work past 5pm. And then they wonder why there are people in this country who don't want to work. On top of that, they try to persecute the people going out every day to do the lazy people's work.