Monthly Archives: November 2013

U.S. Immigration Policy Since 9/11

To add to one of my earlier posts, I’m posting a link to a paper published in 2011 by Marc Rosenblum. What I didn’t realize before reading this was that America was poised for major progressive changes to immigration policy immediately preceding the events of 9/11. I guess I would have been too young to have remembered what the climate was like in regard to the ongoing immigration debate. There was even a proposal on the table very similar to what we’ve seen in the news lately. For illegal immigrants who would otherwise qualify for a green card, there was a proposed path to citizenship rather than the enforcement policies of deportation that followed 9/11. With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the expansion of power in the government on border-related issues, and the increased attention to border security in the wake of counter-terrorism, it naturally became much more difficult to enter the country, especially for those of Middle Eastern descent. Many became victims of racial profiling as anti-immigrant sentiment skyrocketed across America. It’s difficult to believe that it took over a decade to get past this sentiment and pick up the immigration debate where we left off back in 2001.


Immigration: Lack of Importance in Presidency


In thinking about public opinion surrounding the issue of immigration, it appears as though there is not a sense of urgency for immigration reform. While Americans do acknowledge that there are insufficient laws in place regarding immigration, they do not view it as a top priority for Barack Obama to attend to in his second term of presidency. In a poll conducted right after the election by Gallup in November of 2012, Americans were asked the following question: “How important it is that President Obama provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.?” In response, 37% said that this is extremely/very important, 33% said that this is somewhat important, and 29% said that this is not too/not at all important. Thus, it appears as though immigration reform is not a major concern for Americans. In fact, on a list of twelve different issues, immigration reform ranked as number eleven in importance.

On a similar topic, 67% of Americans said that it was extremely/very important that President Obama stop illegal immigration into the U.S., whereas only 14% said that it is not too/not at all important. While this issue still only ranked number eight out of twelve, it was still a higher priority than that regarding immigration reform. Why is it that Americans feel the need to stop illegal immigration altogether rather than finding a path to citizenship for these illegal immigrants?  I wonder if it is simply out of fear, laziness, or a combination of the two.

the shackles of freedom

I’ve heard them talk of the East where the
giant green woman stands proud
welcoming passengers with open arms

the only open arms here are those
ready to usher us into cells,
iron cages where we will rust under bright lights

I enter the station where the people crowd,
schools of fish pulsing in swarms, like the ones we eat at home
I stand with shaky legs near those who sound like me, on the edges

I am shoved along with rough hands,
someone from home tells me to write in a bone-colored book,
my name looks like a skeleton

they lead us in solitude, one at a time,
through blank hallways, empty white-washed walls
their black uniforms like oil clouding the sea

I cannot follow the American’s steps,
I do not walk as fast as he does, or how sure,
I do not have the right shoes—mine are too scuffed, too grey.

I do not always know what he tells me, at home I know what to say,
but here every word sounds like a question.

1,000 Marriageable Girls in 1907

1,000+ immigrant women from the Baltic arriving at Ellis Island

The Washington Post wrote an article in 1907 on the arrival of 1,000+ women from European countries that came to America seeking husbands. This drew considerable attention from young American men, who waited at the pier for the arrival of their ship the Baltic, so as to catch a glimpse of these women and consider these potential suitors. The article also asks women aboard the ship where in America they will settle as they search for husbands and what kind of men they are looking for. Some seek “rich Americans,” others like “tall men and blonds,” but some will marry “if [they] can find anybody to have [them].” The article concludes with the statement, “it is thought that the proposals will come thick and fast,” demonstrating a general positivity toward immigrants coming to America, specifically women. Not only were European women seeking husbands in America, the men favorably accepted their arrival. This emphasizes the favorable  regard with which Americans accepted immigrants in the early 1900s, especially when they arrived from European countries, such as England. In addition, if such immigrants were seeking a better life in America and were willing to assimilate into the culture, in this case by marrying an American man, then Americans gladly welcomed their stay.

Today there is talk of foreign women marrying American men to achieve green cards so that they can live legally in America. If such a large volume of women arrived in the U.S. today seeking marriage, would they be equally as welcome? It seems marriage between immigrants and Americans was accepted publicly in the early 1900s, but do we carry the same opinions today?

Woman on the Baltic seeking marriage in America

marriageable women column

Original Article from The Washington Post (1907)

Article within the page of The Washington Post (1907)

Article within the page of The Washington Post (1907)

sources: Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 (article images) (first image) (second image)

Illegal Immigrants Divided Over Importance of Citizenship

cover final

photo 1 final

photo 2 final

story final

I found this article earlier this week in my Thursday copy of the New York Times and decided to scan it in. While we argue about whether or not illegals should receive citizenship, some could care less what we decide. This divide speaks to the dire situation many find themselves in upon immigration to America. Many are more concerned with making their living and providing for family outside of the states than they are about whether or not they receive the full benefits that those around them receive. “They aspire to become Americans… but would settle for less if they could work and drive legally, and visit relatives outside the country.” On the other hand, there are those who think that the matter requires more attention. Immigration reform supporters insist that “any alternative would create a disenfranchised underclass.” Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, posits that “to codify a person who lives in this country but will never have an opportunity for citizenship creates a second class. It seems completely un-American.”

Lady Liberty

I carry nothing but hope and a Bible. I open it.
An outdated photograph. An unfamiliar face. My father.

My favorite church dress is mutilated,
soiled by my own bodily fluids.

My stomach angrily speaks to me. Why can’t you help me?
Food is placed before me. I am not hungry anymore.

I feel trapped. I gasp for air, but the
putrid smell of shit and vomit is overwhelming.

The wind begins to howl, and as it does, so do I.
Mama shushes me, telling me that I have to be brave.

Children ask me to sing with them. Sing for what?
There is nothing harmonious about this journey.

I see a lady dressed in green, a torch resting in her hand.
I reach out to touch her, but the fog prevents my success.

Free at last. Free at last.
Is that you, father? Is this really freedom?

“Necessary” Drones to Fight Immigration

NPR reports: Congress is calling for more drones to patrol the U.S./Mexico border in new immigration reform bills. These drones contain highly specialized technology, equipped with a “night camera, day camera, low-light camera, and laser target illumination,” some of the same devices used in drones patrolling Iraq and Afghanistan.  What does this push for more drone usage along the border say about America’s opinion of illegal immigrants? These drones have highly specialized equipment, yet are not armed, but they might as well be.  Such tactics to try to control illegal immigration seem extreme–using these drones to locate people so that ground officers can apprehend them is aggressive and excessive. What’s more, Congress is calling for drones to patrol the border 24/7, an increase from the 16 hours they are doing right now. What does this say about the way we view immigrants trying desperately to come to America? Yes, some of them may be involved in illegal activities, but some are just searching for a better life and opportunities they can’t find at home; crossing the border illegally may be the only method they can afford. Employing extreme measures in dealing with these illegal immigrants seems heavy-handed and even unnecessary, as NPR reports,

“[Some] say the emphasis should shift from border security to interior enforcement, such as employer verification. That, they say, would catch those crossing illegally, the people employing them, and those who entered legally and overstayed their visas.”

This extreme method of controlling our borders seems disproportionate to the means and the cost. Not only does the use of drones seem aggressive and excessive, it sends a powerful  message that America is severely restricting its borders. Are we still open to receiving immigrants nowadays? It our increasing border control simply our method of curbing illegal immigration? Or is there something deeper happening here–are we acting out of fear?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Drone

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Drone, equipped with specialized cameras to catch illegal immigrants

sources: (article) (image)