Category Archives: race

Arizona Shames the Nation

Comprehensive immigration reform moved to the front burner this afternoon at 4:30 ET.  At that moment, saying she did not know what an “illegal alien” looked like,  Governor Janice Brewer criminalized her entire state. She signed a bill into law (SB 1070) that presumed every person in the state of Arizona to be an “illegal alien,” and she made being an “illegal alien” a crime.  If Arizona recognizes that racial profiling is illegal, and if the Governor herself cannot categorize what her law enforcement will be forming reasonable suspicion about, then everyone is presumed guilty.

In so doing, Governor Brewer joined southern governors during the 1950s and early 60s in nullifying the constitution and federal civil rights law.  Arizona has just become the Mississippi of the 21st century. Further, to the extent SB 1070 is part of a larger Republican Party strategy– informed by the right wing nativist/Tea-bagging faction, then the southwest just became part of the GOP’s  southwestern strategy which appeases old whites and writes-off swelling numbers of Hispanic voters. A stupid electoral strategy  in addition to being racist and illegal.

Here’s what SB 1070 is about:

Makes it a crime to be in the country illegally ◦Requires local law enforcement and other state officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they encounter as part of a “lawful contact” if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that person is in the country illegally ◦ Race and ethnicity not to be used as sole factor but it can be used as a factor. Police can conduct warrantless arrests of anyone who cannot immediately produce documents ◦If a lawful permanent resident, can get 6 months in jail and $100 fine if don’t have papers on spot but produce them later.   If residents believe local police not enforcing immigration laws, they can sue them ◦Outlaws the hiring of day laborers ◦Prohibits anyone from knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant for whatever reason

The kicker of SB 1070 is that  it leaves the Hispanic community to live in fear, and shame.  Just today, Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) said he will now think twive before going to see his Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said on TV she now considers herself a target were she to go to Arizona. which leads to considerations about constitutional violations. The Obama Administration DOJ is investigating possible civil rights violations.

And perhaps the economic ramifications can hurt the state most. Congressman Raul Grijalva recommends an economic boycott of his home state.  And as Keith Olbermann pointed out this evening, consider Manny Ramirez– who plays spring training in Arizona, being pulled over and arrested for not carrying his paper. Olbermann suggests it wise for major league baseball to look elsewhere for spring training next year.


Obama Must Break w/ past on Immigration Parole to Haitians!

The Obama Administration made two symbolic moves regarding Haitian immigrants since the Tuesday earthquake. It granted TPS to Haitians already in the U.S. It also gave former president’s Clinton and Bush highly visible roles in the Haitian relief efforts. Looking at immigration history during their administrations,  I get a queasy feeling that Obama is not going to extend immigration relief to Haitians fleeing the current catastrophe, which might well taint Obama beyond the initial generosity of his response to this crisis.

When DHS granted TPS status to Haitians who had been in the U.S. on or before January 12, it was the latest act in a long running drama about Haitian refugees in the U.S.

Like most immigration programs directed at Haitians, TPS is– in itself– insufficient to address the much larger need that Haitians have had since the earthquake for safe haven in the U.S.  So, don’t get excited by TPS, which the Administration was correct in awarding.  It doesn’t go far enough; it ignores the needs that tens of thousands of Haitians are going to have in the coming days, weeks, months, for safe haven.

During the Carter Administration, Haitians, along with Marielitos from Cuba were labeled “Cuban-Haitian entrants.”  Awarding such status was a discretionary act of the AG.  In 1986, Congress added an adjustment of status provision in IRCA, which allowed Haitian-Cuban entrants to become legal permanent residents, on path to citizenship.

But once Reagan entered office in 1981, he implemented a Haitian interdiction program. Rather than permit Haitians to stay, Reagan instructed the Coast Guard and INS to board Haitian vessels, interrogate the passengers and send them back to Haitian ports. This was the agreement Reagan made with Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Following the 1991 coup that overthrew Haiti’s first democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, President Bush (41) worked w/ the UNHCR to have other countries (incl. Honduras, Belize…) take in the interdicted Haitians and provide temporary safe haven. The number of Haitians fleeing during overwhelmed resources, which led the US to take them to Gitmo for an asylum prescreening. Haitians with a credible fear of persecution were paroled in the US (about 10,490 Haitians).  By summer 1992, Bush compassion fatigue led him to reverse course, interdict Haitians at sea and once again return them to port. The Bush Administration established in -country refugee processing but never provided adequate resources nor a commitment to bring eligible Haitians to the U.S.

The Clinton Administration continued interdiction and forced repatriation, and helped Haitians with a credible fear of persecution to leave for third countries– not the U.S..

In 1998, Congress enacted the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA), which enabled Haitians who had been paroled in the US or received asylum to adjust their status to become permanent residents.

Following enactment of IIRIRA in 1996, undocumented Haitians were subjected to expedited removal. Haitians with a ‘credible fear” of persecution would be detained until an immigration judge could examine their case (asylum and removal hearing)

In 2002 and 2003, The Bush (43) Administration issued a notice that declared Haitians– and others interdicted at sea — a risk to national security.  Since 9/11 it has been Administration police to not parole Haitians into the United States. The voiced concern has been that paroling some Haitians will encourage others to make the life-endangering voyage to get to the U.S., which the US government opposes.  Thus thousands of Haitians in fear for their life have been returned to Haiti.

Hence the past’s challenge to the present.

This policy is even more restrictive than already restrictive laws are against other groups of migrants and asylum seekers.

Now, several days after the Haitian earthquake, it is becoming apparent that the Obama Administration wants to play by the same rules as his predecessors Bush (41/43) and Clinton and Reagan.

In part, the symbolism of naming Clinton and W. to help raise money and concern for Haiti helps suggests approval of past policy. . Comments made by DHS Secry Napolitano when TPS was announced implies the Obama policy is not likely to change much from previous program.  The pattern of 3 decades of unfair immigration treatment of Haitians makes this concern of vital importance.

Perhaps more than at any time since 1981, the US government has a moral and international law obligation to end its embargo of Haitians, and to parole Haitians into the country. Whereas TPS was a good start, it looked into the rearview mirror at immigrants already here. Parole is forward looking.  As the Administration endeavors to rebuild its reputation in the international community; parole would dovetail nicely with USAID’s relief programs.

Michelle Obama: Race and Post-Racism

Michelle Obama had an impossible task last evening. Her job was to bridge the huge gap between modernity and its still festering wounds of racism, and post modernity where racism and race for that matter are signifiers of things no longer relevant.  Barack has the same challenge which, admit it or not, makes winning this november more difficult than we like to admit.

First, let me agree with Olbermann and suggest that Michelle was brilliant. Now, here’s the challenge.  Michelle’s objective was to 1) sell America on the possibility of having an African-American first family in the White House. This task supposes a modernist America that remains muddied in the racist waters of the not too distant past in terms of law and the very real presence in terms of every day realities. As commentators suggested last evening and this morning, Michelle needed to convince America that the Obama’s were not “the Other.” Something unsettling about having mainstream media discussing and even judging whether the Obama family (a black family) “deserves” or should be considered eligible to be treated like a “white” first family.  I don’t think Cindy McCain will be expected to give this sort of speech.

2) second, has to do with a “post racial” America,  the idea that many people associate with barack’s candidacy.  As the idea applies to Michelle’s speech, she needed to show america that the Obama’s are no different than any other American family.  As unsettling as the first task was, this one strikes a different chord: on the one hand it is such a “no-brainer” as to challenge commentators to say anything at all that is not incredibly stupid or blatantly racist. And is there not something incredibly patronizing about forcing the Obama’s into the white fantasy of a color blind country? You see, the thing about post-racism is that it plays out on two different fields: one is the field of mainstream media fixating on the faux notion that if Obama gets elected, then, fantastically, racism becomes a thing of the past.  Obama’s bio happens to represent the more complex notion of post-race and post-racism.  This is the idea that Obama is mixed race, and is only considered black or african american because of the binary categories established and maintained by mainstream culture.  It is my guess the Obama’s would rather challenge America to think about the latter category of post-race; but last, evening, Michelle was forced into the “black and white” version of the term.

Finally, as much as the Obama’s face an incredible test over the next 70 days or so, I believe the real test lies with the american voter who must answer some vital questions about american identity in the 21st century.

Obama Address Raises Two Questions

If Barack Obama had one obstacle to the presidency before the vote in November it was to appear presidential, and pass the commander in chief test. Today he crushed these obstacles. It was that good.  His speech in Berlin could have been given by John Kennedy, and was better than the one that Reagan delivered.

The speech was eloquent and fluid; it commanded respect and drew great favor with the crowd of more than 100 thousand. This is the first time I have seen live television shots of people in Europe waving american flags rather than wearing paper mache masks.

In terms of symbolism, Obama won the day on two counts: 1st, he passed the presidential threshold with aplomb; 2nd, he took substantial strides towards repairing america’s image on the world stage. if only he wins.

The speech leaves two challenges to consider:

1st has to do with the wall metaphor Obama used repeatedly, following Reagan. Reagan said to tear down the physical wall separating west and east; and the metaphorical wall of ideology separating these two hemispheres.

Obama echoed the sentiment that walls should and could come down; sounding a metaphor for race, religion and ethnic divisions around the globe. The challenge for Obama during this campaign is to propose a similar call to Boeing to take down the wall it is constructing along the US-Mexico border, with the ethnic and class divisions that coincide with construction of the virtual and physical fences to our south.

Second, is a challenge to the American people, which I think is an important subtext to the Obama speech.  Since it has become abundantly evident that Obama represents the sort of candidate that Americans say they are ready for, even crave: one who will replace the republican disaster of the past 8 years; one who can string together more than a couple half sentences that McBush passes off as a speech; one that appeals to the hopes and dreams of americans while regaining some respect in the world; one who pledges to end the war in Iraq…..  The challenge here is obvious: would americans elect a man whose father was born Kenyan.

The latest polls just released showing McCain having pulled ahead in Colorado and edging closer in minnesota and Michigan and this despite the horrendous gaffe-filled; competency questioning couple weeks McCain has had, well this speaks the challenge for americans to dig a little deeper here to see the real choices before them.

Obama’s Bill Cosby Take on Personal Responsibility

Jesse Jackson made an utter fool of himself last week with his crude comments on a hot Fox mike. He must know there is no big job waiting for him in the new Obama Administration.

But he raises an important point about the government’s responsibility to end racism, and end the conditions for poverty in urban areas that fuel the sort of despair that Obama then focuses on at the level of individual responsibility.

This debate is perhaps the next chapter following the battle between Bill Cosby and Eric Michael Dyson a couple years ago. This debate is not going away, and it is an important one to have.

I saw Cosby speak in Baltimore a couple years ago; it was in a black church in West Baltimore.  Nearly everyone there (but me) was black, and over 90% of the crowd was male.  The gist of Cosby’s talk was that  black men have to take personal responsibility; they need to be dads and they need to be present in the household. He received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response.

Obama’s message is roughly the same.

At the same time, just this morning NPR had a story about driving while black “dwb,” where about 70% of the stops on Rte 95 are of black drivers. This is not an issue of personal responsibility; it is an issue of government responsibiity.

In Baltimore, young black boys are street fodder, particularly during summer. The main reason? nothing to do. The lack of jobs, summer enrichment programs or summer school is not the result of personal responsibility; it is the result of a lack of government responsibility

The lack of jobs for black males in Baltimore and the poverty of Baltimore City’s public education system create the conditions for the sort of lack of personal responsibility that Cosby and Obama preach against. 

Personal responsibility is important. I don’t think that Dyson or Jackson would disagree.   But when conditions beyond the control of any single individual diminish the quality of one’s social existence, it is simply unjust to harp on the issue of personal responsibility without also giving equal time to address these policy problems.

So, Obama is partly right; Now he needs to present his urban agenda; his agenda for public education– beyond saying NCLB needs to be fixed (quite frankly it needs to be replaced); and he needs to present an agenda to getting real, well paying jobs (sustainable wages), with health insurance, into Batimore’s east and west sides.

’08 Results Foretold by Racial Demographics?

Chuck Todd from MSNBC made the most telling remark last evening about the 2008 primary season. Todd, really a numbers guru, made the comment that all the histrionics aside, all you really need to do to assess which states have been going to Clinton and Which to Obama is to look at a census report and apply freshman level statistics.

Basically the claim, as David Sirota has written, is that Obama wins states with under 6% African-Americans and states with over about 18% African-Americans. Clinton wins states that have an African American population of between 6-18%.

My question for this post is: Is it likely that this model will apply this NOvember?

This thesis explains Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and pretty much all the states Obama lost. I say Obama lost, rather than states that Clinton won because Obama is going to be the nominee.

Question: Are there sufficinet states fitting the Sirota thesis to give Obama an electoral college lock?

If they do, then Obama is likely to  win the election in November. If they don’t, then something pretty substantial will need to change for Obama to win in NOvember.

I recognize that there is little to no correlation between states that a candidate wins in a primary and the subsequent voting in the general election. But, there might well be some legitimate connection between voters that won’t vote for Obama because he is black in the primary and those same voters voting in the general election.

The thesis behind Todd’s comments, and Sirota’s model is that states that have between 6-18% african american populations, have had the collective experience of racial tension since the 1960s.  As racial tensions harden over the decades since the 60s and 70s,and are hardnede still by economically troubled times like we are in now, they can approximate voting patterns regarding the racial makeup of the candidate.  very sad, but apparently true.

Todd and Sirota suggest that neither Obama nor Clinton needs to have raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars this primary seasons. In a sense, the conclusion was foretold by this one demographic statistic. 

some serious analsyis is needs posulating how this thesis applies to the general election this fall.


Did Supreme Court “Gin” System for McCain?

Justice Scalia is on record saying he doesn’t want folks to dwell much on the Florida recount and 2000 Bush v Gore decision. Quite the originalist,  and disregard for precedent notwithstanding, the decisions is dead as a doornail just like, Scalia suggests, the constitution itself.

Sure, it unconstitutionally imposed George W Bush on the country for the last 7 1/2 years, framing a presidency upon extralegal and unconstitutional moorings. And in this regard, the administration did not disappoint.

And now, scanning the horizon to see how it might affect yet another presidential election, the Court recently focused its attention on the state of Indiana (Crawford v Marion City Election Bd.).  In the wake of this decision, as the NYT reports, Missouri lawmakers are seeking a constitutional amendment that would mandate proof of citizenship to vote.

If a referendum on this matter is held in Missouri in August as currently planned, and it passes, the vote could swing this key swing state to McCain.  If other nativist state legislature get wind of it, the Court’s Indiana Case will then open the door for other states to similarly disenfranchise racial minorities under the auspices of excluding non-citizens.  

At issue is the desire to exclude noncitizens from the polls. Apparently, the fear of an immigrant casting a vote for president is mobilizing nativists and xenophobes to plan a constitutional amendment mandating proof of citizenship to vote. A passport, birth certificate… many folks don’t possess either.  Once again, immigration is being used as the wedge to exclude minorities from the political system.

If McBush wins Missouri this November, chances are it won’t be because of his compelling policy positions. Rather, it is likely to be because 240,000 mostly African American voters will be denied their vote.