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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Immigration fears fuel politics

In August 2007, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, predicted that immigration would be the next weapon of mass polarization that the Bush White House would arm to distract voters from the rising scandals that today plague all the president’s men.

US Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales appears to be this newest sacrificial lamb. Questions about why he fired eight assistant US attorneys hover over whether the motivation was political. If these attorneys, all of whom had received high marks from supervisors and colleagues, were dismissed for not pursuing cases against Democrats or for pursuing cases against Republicans, the man from Humble, Texas, may have a lot of to be ashamed about.

The Gonzales saga plays out against the backdrop of immigration enforcement. Recently, federal officials arrested more than 350 women, mostly mothers, all undocumented, all working for a leather company in Massachusetts that supplies boots to the US Armed Forces. Hundreds of children were left motherless while the state and federal governments sorted out the disaster.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it warned the Massachusetts Department of Social Services that arrests were impending. DSS says it did not know. What is certain is that the mothers did not know that they would be arrested despite working for a company that manufactures goods for the very same federal government that temporarily orphaned children.

There are ways for undocumented working people -- whose children are American citizens by virtue of having been born here – can live in peace without fear of being arrested. All that’s needed are courageous politicians. That’s the hard part. Far easier is finding politicians courting ethnocentric fears.

Maybe now the White House will deflect attention from immigration to the Iraq War. Or Gonzales.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Politicians and the art of lying

Incredibly, the hottest issue for the media this past week wasn't health care, the Iraq War, the deficit or jobs going overseas, but instead the diss by a Hollywood billionaire who was once a FOB and was rewarded for his money by having a sleepover in the maligned Lincoln Bedroom.

David Geffen, who made his millions producing music in the 1970s and 1980s before making more in Hollywood, basically said that he was gathering celebrity support for Sen. Barack Obama because he was uncomfortable with how comfortable the Clintons are at that political cornerstone -- the lie.

It is an especially exquisite criticism from a Hollywood bigshot who lives quite nicely on a house built by the world of magical realism. Yet, for me, the bottom line is, who cares what Geffen thinks about lying?

I care that the media take its role seriously instead of air-reporting a la Enquire. As usual, instead of focusing on real issues that affect the middle class, for example, the media goes into hysteria mode because someone from their ilk said something about somebody they know well.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is treated as if we were part of a peanut gallery. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of the Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, promised he would run a clean campaign, which means he won't stoop to fighting over insipid things. That's good news.

In the meantime, Clinton and Obama should direct their respective spokespeople to follow Richardon's example. After all, this is a presidential election to become the leader of the world, not a sandbox duel between children.

Monday, March 5, 2007


The rules governing immigration are quite clear. Just go to the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services and read for yourself how to go about living here legally.

Yet, an estimated 12 million people, mostly from Latin America but from everywhere else as well, can't follow those rules.

The rules, many of them say, make exceptions out of them, and so even if they filled out all the paperwork, the U.S. would not let them in. Most are either too poor and unskilled to be considered by the U.S. government as welcome newcomers.

Even so, many bonafide American businesses hire them to work in construction, factory and service industries. Obviously, American businesses welcomes them.

President Bush offered a curious solution to transform some of the workers into legal employees. Basically, his proposal would allow immigrants to work here for a specific period, then return to their homelands.

This country was built on the premise that hard work leads to a measure of success. In Bush's view, all the hard work in the world cannot even help guarantee a green card.

This country is home is millions of people who have no legal right to be here. While many may have the moral right to be here, thanks to their contributions as workers and even taxpayers -- the IRS accepts money from anyone -- all must suffer as if each one were a wanted murderer.

It's as if parking meter violators became hit-and-run killers in the eyes of the law.

The solution to the plight of law-abiding undocumented immigrants and their children isn't easy but it can be summed up fairly quickly: Give them a chance to call our home their home as well.