I write a book on physician immigration and a large part of my clientele is in this area so this BBC report on the positive impact foreign physicians are making in small towns across America was hardly a surprise to me. But it's nice to see this positive story highlighted. The physician immigration program described in the article expires this year and deserves a permanent reauthorization.
My friend David Leopold writes on the AILA Leadership blog about an ugly incident in the NCAA basketball tournament game between Southern Mississippi and the University of Kansas.
"Where's your Green Card! Where's your Green Card! Where's your Green Card!..."
That was the despicable taunt that met Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez during the first-round NCAA tournament game between Kansas State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Never mind that Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, is a U.S. citizen. His surname and brown skin were enough to lead Southern Mississippi band members to put on an ugly display of prejudice, humiliating themselves and their university.
It goes without saying that the incident should be investigated and the perpetrators disciplined. Southern Mississippi has since publicly apologized to Rodriguez. Such bigotry has no place anywhere in America, least of all on a university campus.
David blames a restrictionist mentality that has been effectively cultivated by anti-immigrant groups around the country. Perhaps this is so, but I don't think it's any surprise that we heard these chants coming from fans of Southern Mississippi. I live ten minutes from the Mississippi border and have lived in different parts of the South my whole life (with the exception of going to law school in Chicago) and know a lot about the mindset of the deep southerner. And I can tell you that the ugly nativism David describes is not so unusual in this part of the world. In fact, it is a lot more of a problem here than elsewhere in America.
Unless you completely slept through history class, you probably know plenty about the long, sorry history of race relations in the Deep South. Slavery begat segregation and the South only started making changes in response to courageous civil rights activists, court decisions and federal legislation. Saner voices understood that economic development in the Deep South would never happen as long as the region's racist legacy was erased.
But while there have been improvements, much of that is on the surface only. Overt racism and outright discrimination have declined significantly over the years. But I would contend legal barriers and the broad national taboo on racism against African Americans has kept much of what was once normal in the South largely buried beneath the surface.
But that doesn't mean that the underlying hate in the hearts of many in the South is gone. It is now being channeled in to an anti-immigrant ferver which legislators and much of the population they represent consider socially acceptable. I noted this a few years back when when 23 of 28 Senators from Southern states voted against the DREAM Act. Only 19 Senators of the remaining 72 voted no. And lest you think Arizona disproves this analysis, read your civil rights history. Segregation was as bad in that state as the typical Southern state and they were the last state to adopt the Martin Luther King national holiday.
Sadly, the hate that has marked much of southern history is not yet just history. It's taken on a new ugly face.
Whether this is the right verdict or not is something that others are debating in forums covering other topics, but there is an immigration issue here. 20 year old Davun Ravi was born in India and raised in the US after coming with his parents when he was four. He could face deportation for his conviction of a hate crime since he never naturalized. He had the opportunity to strike a deal with prosecutors that would have probably resulted in a shorter jail term and no deportation, but he rejected this. I don't know if he and his parents have been permanent residents long enough to qualify for citizenship, but if so, I'm sure they are deeply regretting not going through that process. I've mentioned protecting yourself from deportation based on a criminal conviction as one of the reasons to consider naturalizing. Most people laugh that off assuming they would never face that possibility. But I'm sure Davun would never dream that prison was in his future when he made the very foolish and tragic decisions that have put him where he now stands.
Apparently, being humiliated by a middle of term recall from the voters didn't send a powerful enough message to the architect of Arizona's anti-immigrant law.
One, Shaul Gabbay, is an Israeli Jew. The other, Amin Kazak, is a Palestinian Muslim. And they've done something unique to advance the cause of peace and understanding in that region. They've written a book, One Land Two Stories, that presents both peoples' narratives side by side and offer outsiders and supporters of one side or the other to gain perspective on why these two societies are so far apart. Gabbay received his Ph.D. from Columbia and did post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago, where I studied law. Professor Kazak was born in Haifa and spent his youth in a refugee camp. He earned an advanced degree from the American University in Beirut and his Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Both have made their careers in Denver - Gabbay at the University of Denver and Kazak at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.