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Bloggings: November 8, 2007

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

November 06, 2007


This is long overdue. HIV+ individuals will be permitted to enter for up to 30 days without the need for a waiver. Applicants will be able to secure visitor visas with validity dates of up to a month. Those seeking longer stays can still go through the complicated waiver process. Download USCBP-2007-0084-0001.pdf

November 05, 2007

And the death of the American farm gets a little closer. If you think imported oil is good for the country, you're going to LOVE depending on other nations to feed ourselves.


A few articles have been published today which all strike me as having a similar theme. They all show the important struggle over the question of costs - hard dollar costs of going down the path of zero tolerance enforcement. Do unauthorized immigrants cost more than they benefit US taxpayers? What are the benefits of having a zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration and one that answers this offense with deportation and lifetime banishment? What are the dollar costs of a massive enforcement policy in terms of reduced taxes, dramatic wage and goods inflation, the costs of rounding people up and detaining and deporting them ? And what are the costs in terms of the moral compromises that must be made in tearing families apart, inflicting poverty on both immigrants and the families back home depending on their income, punishing US citizens who are "enablers" and don't participate in moving to the zero tolerance culture (the ones I blogged about yesterday) and many others.

One article forwarded to me is from the Vail Daily in Colorado that discusses Immigration and Customs Enforcement's quandary in not having a detention facility in the area that meets federal standards for housing detained immigrants. The pressure is ratcheting up as the detainee population around the US swells (according to another article in this morning's LA Times). How are we going to pay for detaining all these people in conditions that won't violate human rights law? ICE will face the choice over and over again whether to detain as many people as possible or not detain until it has the resources to do so in compliance with the law. How will we pay the billions required for this? Will Americans pay an enforcement tax or will we pretend trying to round up, detain and deport 12 million people is free?

The question of costs was raised in another article in the Kansas City Star that ran yesterday:

"The average person on the street is seeing the cost of illegal immigration," said Kris Kobach, the Kansas Republican chairman, who has made opposition to illegal immigrants his life's work. The cost of border crossings, he said: Crowded emergency rooms. Overstuffed classrooms. Declining wages.

Nonsense, said Lynda Callon, director of the Westside Community Action Network Center. "It's policy by slogan. There are jobs for (immigrants) to do. People don't want to listen to the truth, the complexity of the issue."

And then there's a piece that certainly ties all these questions together and that is one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Congressman James Sensenbrenner will re-introduce a bill along the lines of H.R. 4337, an extremely tough, zero-tolerance immigration enforcement bill. I blogged yesterday on the death of a "righteous gentile" who harbored Jews in World War II (who, incidentallly, were considered unauthorized immigrants when the Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship). My post was mainly intended to remind people of the provisions in H.R. 4337 which would make it a felony to provide any kind of humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants. That bill was more than just extremism on the part of a few far right members of the House. It passed the House in the last Congress, but moderates blocked it from being considered in the Senate. 

That post, incidentally, has triggered some interesting and emotional replies from anti-immigrants who don't like such comparisons. They like the cover of pretending that this is about law and order and not raw nativism. They love immigrants don't you know? But it is no coincidence that immigration has replaced hatred of blacks and Jews as the main cause promoted by white supremacist groups in the country. And I doubt it is a is a coincidence that most of the vocal opposition in the Senate to any paths to legalization for unauthorized immigrants comes from Southern Senators who have a pretty checkered history in this department. than going after African-Americans.

We should all be worried about the direction the tone has taken. Unless you've been asleep over the last few years, you have seen that the anti-immigration rhetoric is being turned up and statements that would have seemed extreme just a few years ago are now commonplace. If posts like the one I put up yesterday cause people to take a step back and think about the direction the debate is taking,  then that's good. Because if we all sit back and allow things to take their course, we'll have a lot to be ashamed about when we discuss it in future generations.

November 04, 2007

Julie Andrews name is so beloved a figure in American culture, that we hardly think of her as an immigrant. The British native been a staple on television, stage and cinema for more than 50 years and is still going strong. In fact, my three daughters all know her from her roles in recent years in films like The Princess Diaries and Shrek and from classics like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. And she has had some of the most important stage roles in the 20th century in shows like Camelot and My Fair Lady.

Andrews has won an Academy Award and won or been nominated for virtually everything else including Tonys, Emmys, and Golden Globes. She's been married for nearly forty years to American comedic film director Blake Edwards.


I think the answer is pretty obvious. Most of you probably have never heard of Johtje Vos. I certainly hadn't. But I was moved by her obituary in this morning's New York Times. When others in the Netherlands meekly followed the law and turned on their Jewish neighbors during World War II, Mrs. Vos hid dozens in her home and, with the help of her husband, shepherded them by tunnel in to the woods whenever the Nazis would knock on their door. Has Mrs. Jos been caught, she very likely would have been sent to a concentration camp herself.

Mrs. Vos' story reminds me of heroes in this country whose names are not known by all but a few who hid runaway slaves during their escape from the South. Like Mrs. Jos, they risked severe punishment - possibly a long term in prison.

So what does this have to do with immigration? Because a lot of anti-immigrants are totally focused on the fact that unauthorized immigrants have broken the law and are also going after anyone who tries to help them. In the last Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have imprisoned people acting in a humanitarian capacity. Feeding or giving water to someone who has just walked through the desert - jail. Giving them a ride to the hospital? That would be unlawful transportation. Providing housing to a homeless unauthorized immigrant - that's illegal harboring. You get the picture.

At some point people need to take a step back and ask whether the laws are simply wrong and need reforming. And while I agree with the sentiment that a penalty should be paid for violating our immigration laws, at some point the punishment needs to fit the crime. Deportation for many is the equivalent of Jean Valjean getting 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

November 03, 2007
DOBBS-WORTHY is a great web site to find out if anything you receive by email is true. And I get some doosies. Today they're debunking an email that anti-immigrants are circulating as part of their propaganda efforts.  They're such lovely people.


A helpful reader mentioned this ad to me. Virginia is pushing to join the other lemming states and pass economically suicidal anti-immigration legislation. The Ayuda Business Coalition is airing this ad to remind people of the consequences of nativism.


The New York Times has, in many respects, become the conscience of the nation as we are pulled back to an era of xenophobia not seen in this country since the early 20th century.

Here's another great editorial on the subject.

One of the more interesting points in this article is how charged the term "illegal alien" has become. Those of you who read this blog know that I avoid the term for precisely this reason. The term is a technical one and it should not be necessary to avoid using it to describe a person's immigration status. But it has taken on a hateful connotation in the minds of many.

Yesterday, posted an interesting discussion on Wikipedia yesterday that provides excellent analysis on the use of terminology and the immigration crisis. I have been using the clunky term "unlawfully present immigrant" on this blog for a while, but that's too long. I did see a term in the article I had not seen before and which does a better job than "illegal immigrant." So I will now use the term "unauthorized immigrant".


The GAO estimates the State Department may have overcharged this year for passport services to the tune of $100 million and members of Congress want to know where the money went. Something tells me it didn't go to customer service improvement initiatives.

November 02, 2007

I don't even need to comment on this story, but I was pleased that Congresswoman Lofgren is involved. According to the San Francisco Chronicle story:

A Bay Area congresswoman who presided over a hearing on detainee health care last month, which included testimony from Castaneda and two relatives of detainees who died in custody, said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was "an agency in denial."

Unfortunately, these reports are popping up all over the country and while the media covers them one by one, the dots are not yet being connected. People don't see that this is a national scandal.


There's a bit of irony, I know, in naming a CNN anchor as my immigrant of the day after my post earlier today on another CNN anchor who is most definitely not a candidate for immigrant of the day. I actually mentioned Ms. Nguyen in an immigrants of the day blog post earlier this year in a post that included more than a dozen on air immigrant reporters and anchors on CNN's US network.

I thought Ms. Nguyen deserved special mention today to congratulate her on a very nice story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on her creating a charity that sends clothes, food and medication to needy people in her native Vietnam.


Wish more groups would do the same.

And I wish members of the pro-immigration community would boycott appearing on his show. I think some of these pro-immigration groups and individuals hope that their appearance will somehow ensure that a little of the pro-immigration side will get out there, but if you watch the show you'll agree that it's usually Dobbs and the anti-immigrant speaker dominating the discussion between berating the pro-immigration guest. And just the mere choice of stories covered guarantees the pro-immigration "guest" is on the defensive.

I know a lot of people in pro-immigration organizations read this blog and I hope readers from those organizations consider joining in such a boycott. And such groups should tell pro-immigration members of Congress that appearing on Dobbs' show is also bad for the pro-immigration cause. It's time to stop giving Lou Dobbs any cover as far as claiming to be balanced. Don't be an enabler. 

CNN likes to report news and not be the subject of a negative story in and of itself, particularly those suggesting it is biased in its coverage. Send CNN a message that broadcasting Lou Dobbs' nightly hatefest is not acceptable for a credible news organization.  Let them know you and your organization's representatives won't appear on the show or assist its producers in any way.


I have learned that the immigration provisions that would have created 61,000 additional green cards for nurses as well as added a $3500 fee to H-1B visas have not survived the conference committee and will not be a part of the bill sent to the President (which he is set to veto). There is much speculation as to why this happened. Many people were deeply troubled by the H-1B and its impact on non-profit and smaller employers. In order to allow Senator Grassley to save face, the push was made to strip all immigration provisions out, even though the H-1B fee opponents likely supported the nurses. We also understand the California Nurses Association, the most vocal anti-immigration nursing group in the country, worked behind the scenes to try and kill the nursing provision. Nice that they care so much about their patients and would rather push death rates up rather than immediately dealing with the nursing crisis.

November 01, 2007

The Discover America Partnership released data showing that total overseas visitors coming to the US is still considerably less than before 9/11. Just over 21 million people came to the US last year compared to nearly 26 million in 2000. The numbers should be a lot higher given the very weak dollar - the US is basically on sale right now.

"The Department of Commerce projections are further evidence of the extraordinary decline in overseas visitors to the United States," said Stevan Porter, President of InterContinental Hotels Group and Chairman of the Discover America Partnership.  "While we struggle for a decade to return to where we were in 2000, our competitors continue to welcome thousands of new visitors.  This has serious consequences for our economy and public diplomacy efforts." 

AFP also reported on the data release and had some interesting comments from Discover America Executive Director Geoff Freeman:

"It's clear what's keeping people away in the post-9/11 environment: it is the perception around the world that travelers aren't welcome," Freeman told AFP.

"Travelers around the world feel the US entry experience is among the world's worst," Freeman said, calling on the US government to work with the private sector to make visa acquisition more efficient, the entry process traveler-friendly, and to improve communication.

The head of the Travel Industry Association, Roger Dow, at a recent briefing for reporters also stressed the importance "of the welcome we issue to people.

"What affects travel and tourism affects our economy and our image around the world. Travel and tourism is the face of America, whether it's people coming here or Americans going elsewhere," he said.

"It's the person coming from India to look at a company in America for parts, or a person from South America who can't get into the country for a conference because he can't get a visa," Dow said.


Yes, you read that headline correctly, but that should be the least of their worries as you'll see below. The Dun Hutto family detention center (yes, just like in the old debtors' prisons in Dickensian London, families are thrown in jail together) has been cited for hiring workers illegally present in the country, according, to an official reprimand of Corrections Corporation of America, the firm that runs the detention facility. The center also allegedly hired individual with criminal histories to work as guards at the facility. This is the same facility, incidentally, cited in May for an alleged rape of a detainee by a guard.

In addition, a new report jointly released by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children and the Lutheran Immigration Service cites a number of really disturbing allegations about facility including:

  • pregnant detainees were x-rayed with no lead screen;
  • detainees received dental work with no anesthesia;
  • pregnant women were not allowed milk and were shackled when taken to outside facilities for checkups
  • overheated water scalded children several times
  • children were punished for being unruly by the guards turning up the air conditioning to make a room very cold or by turning off the hot water in the showers
  • parents and children were regularly threatened with being separated from each other

Incidentally, the Austin Chronicle has been investigating and learned that the rape case is not being prosecuted and the FBI has called off its investigation of the alleged felony saying now that the encounter was consensual (and presumably, so is statutory rape, though its a crime for obvious public policy reasons). 


Every year the National Hockey League awards the Hart Memorial Trophy to the league's most valuable player. This past season they chose Sidney Cosby, the Canadian-born Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cosby's achievements certainly warranted recognition. Cosby took the league by storm becoming when he entered in 2005 and last year scored the most goals, the first time a teenager every accomplished this not only in hockey, but any North American major professional sports league. Cosby won the Art Ross Trophy last season for scoring all those goals. He also won the Lester B. Pearson Award which is presented to the player chosen by the NHL Players Association for the most valuable player. Cosby is just the seventh player in NHL's 90 year history to win all three awards in the same season.