Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hispanics not welcome, say some Springfield officials (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION: Springfield, not Shelbyville, is where these events took place

In two stories (here and here), WKRN reports on two Springfield officials' suggestion that Hispanics should be excluded from city parks.

"In last month's Mayor and Aldermen Meeting on July 18, City Manager Paul Nutting and at least one Alderman made negative comments about the large number of Hispanics that populate the park on the weekends."

"In last month's city meeting, Alderman Ken Cherry expressed concerns for safety in the parks because of the big Hispanic crowds on weekends. Monday, he admitted his sentiments are not limited to the parks. He said, 'If I could do what I wanted to do, any illegal alien would be holed up in a barbwire tent and we'd haul them up to where they came from and turn them loose.'"

"When asked to comment on the possibility that not every Hispanic using the park was an 'illegal immigrant', Alderman Cherry responded, 'If they're speaking Spanish, I tend to think they are illegal.' ... On Tuesday he said, 'The comment that I made about if they're speaking Spanish they're illegal immigrants, that's probably a little strong. In my mind, that's an indication that the possibility may...

"Not all members of Springfield's Board of Mayor and Alderman, however, are in agreement with Cherry's position on the issue. Assistant City Manager Gina Holt said, 'If you polled all seven of them, they'd all have a totally different opinion probably and as a board they have not taken any action yet as far as establishing any policies related to the parks or any other services right now.'"

"Springfield's Board of Mayor and Aldermen plan to hold a community meeting on September 7 to discuss the issues they've encountered with what Alderman Cherry terms the 'growing Hispanic problem.' ... Assistant City Manager Gina Holt said the goal of the September 7 board meeting is to achieve an arrangement that is fair and equitable for all."

In the 1960's, Nashville closed its public swimming pools rather than allow them to be open to desegregated use.

Photo from The Fight in the Fields on PBS

Focus: Justice

Asociacion Latina party in Clarksville September 9

One of many parties on the horizon

With Hispanic Heritage Month beginning on September 15 and running through October 15, Tennesseans will be invited to a number of parties in the next few weeks. One is the first anniversary celebration of the Asociacion Latina of Clarksville, just a few days before the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. The party starts at 6pm on Saturday, September 9 and lasts until midnight:

Asociacion Latina 1st Anniversary
Host: Members of A.L.
Location: Clarksville Jaycee's
1180 Cumberland Dr.EXT, Clarksville, TN
When: Saturday, September 9, 6:00pm -
Sunday, September 10, 12:00am
Phone: 931-9066114
Please join us for our 1st Anniversary. Asociacion Latina in Clarksville, TN.
Latinos Unidos.
It will be six hours of entertainment as Ballet Folklorico of Panama and Mexico, Cultural Fashion Show, a Latino Live Band, and a Latino DJ playing a variety of music to close.
Cost is $5.00 before August 31. $ 8 at the door.
We also partner with a Child Care Center and Transportation Van so there is no excuse to not come.

Monday, August 28, 2006

All the Rage profiles Diana Holland

Source: The TennesseanAll the Rage published this profile of Nashville's Diana Holland, director of Tango Nashville and Hispanic Link Consulting. Here are some excerpts:

"Diana Holland loves to create relationships, from linking businesses in English and Spanish-speaking countries to bringing the art of Argentine tango to Nashville. Diana's not a dancer herself, but she is the president and executive director of Tango Nashville, a nonprofit organization that produces local dance classes, workshops and Hispanic cultural programming. Diana's work is all about cross-cultural facilitation, which began at an early age in her hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina."

When did you learn to speak English?

DH: "From the day I was born! My stepfather was American and his mother was British. Crosscultural is who I am. I learned English and Spanish when I first learned to talk."

More here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Healing the sick on a Sabbath, or saving New Orleans in someone else's boat

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports here that a man who commandeered a boat to save many New Orleans residents from Hurricane Katrina has been sued by the boat owner.

This illustrates the point made by Christianity Today in this recent editorial about immigration, stating that the law is not everything:

"This is nothing less than a biblical principle, as witnessed in Daniel's determination to worship his God despite 'the laws of the Medes and Persians,' in Rahab's betrayal of her people to help Israeli spies, in Jesus' unwillingness to submit to Sabbath laws when they harmed people, in the early apostles' refusal to cease preaching despite the authorities' command. As Peter put it to them, 'Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God' (Acts 4:19). In each instance, the law of man was superceded by the law of love—of God and of neighbor."

"It is arguably the case with our current immigration laws, and especially with some of the more draconian bills recently introduced (but now apparently abandoned) in the House of Representatives. Since 9/11, U.S. law has made it so onerous and expensive to gain entry into this country, immigrants whose lives are being destroyed by economic and/or political oppression, have determined to pursue life and liberty regardless. Before 9/11 there were some 8 million undocumented workers in the U.S. Now there are 12 million—a 50 percent increase in a mere five years—despite increased surveillance and enforcement. Clearly the current immigration law not only fails to address the needs of desperate people, it is for all purposes unenforceable."

"The question is: Under what circumstances is it appropriate to disobey a law? And the particular question facing us now is: If a person from another land is suffering economic and political hardship, and if the immigration policies of the U.S. make it nearly impossible for some immigrants to enter this nation, is it legitimate (albeit regrettable) for an immigrant to enter this nation clandestinely to gain those freedoms?"

"About this particular concern, Christians will disagree. Some will argue that compassion for the suffering should take precedence over strict adherence to law."

This New Orleans lawsuit highlights that same struggle between law and compassion.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Middle Tennessee Hispanic real estate pros host 2nd anniversary celebration September 7

NAHREP logoThe Middle Tennessee chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) will celebrate its second anniversary on September 7 with a reception featuring Mr. Gary Acosta, co-founder of the national organization. Music and dance will follow the reception. Reservations are requested by August 31. Call Miguel Torres at 615-293-1885.

NAHREP of Middle Tennessee
2nd Anniversary Reception
5:00 p.m.
September 7, 2006
Nashville Airport Marriott Hotel
600 Marriot Dr. Nashville, TN 37214

Gary AcostaThis year’s reception will focus on introducing the co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) Mr. Gary Acosta, and will offer new marketing opportunities in the Hispanic community. The event will bring a very important tool of education to Middle Tennessee’s leading real estate professionals and housing agencies. Our own NAHREP co-founder, Mr. Acosta, will share his knowledge, wisdom and vision so others can visualize a larger scope and perspective of the Hispanic housing industry.

Mr. Acosta is a recognized authority on Hispanic and other housing issues. He has testified before the United States Senate Banking Committee, the House Small Business Committee, and has been a guest on CNN Moneyline and FOX News. He has been published by several national publications including the American Banker.

During 2003 Mr. Acosta was selected by Realtor Magazine as one of the nations 25 most influential people in real estate, an honor he shared with former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Director, Nic Retsinas, and former Fannie Mae CEO, Franklin Raines. In 2004 Hispanic Business Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in America. Mr. Acosta serves on the board of Stewart Title of California, and has served on national advisory councils/boards for several Fortune 500 companies. including Freddie Mac, J.P. Morgan, Chase, Fannie Mae and First American Company.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Interview with Nashville's beauty queen/radio star Janet Abeja

WNVL Activa 1240AM sent out this pre-packaged interview with their radio personality Janet Abeja, the reigning Miss Tennessee Latina. Abeja is known to her listeners as "La Barbie."

The bubbly, fun female voice you hear early mornings on Activa 1240AM belongs to “La Barbie”, the radio persona of a young rising star in Nashville’s Latin community, Janet Abeja. We interrupted La Barbie to find out more.

“Working for Activa1240 at the moment is incredible. The morning show El Gallo de la MaƱana y la Barbie is a lot of fun. We try to be as entertaining as possible but also we try to listen to our people and help them in any way we can.”

“Both Ricardo and I believe that our listeners always come first. It is very satisfying to go home at night and know that I made a difference in someone’s day, with a laugh, some great music or some important information.”

“When I’m not at the station I keep busy doing all I can for my community and especially in helping to support Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne in Iraq. I’m also proud to say that I will be representing the state of Tennessee in the national Miss Latina pageant later this year.”

Why the name, La Barbie?
“It is hard for me to answer this so I asked a colleague, Raquel Lopez to put it in words for me. 'Barbie is synonym of physical beauty but it also attributes to inner beauty and the ability to brighten the day of those who surround her.'”

What's your favorite night spot in Nashville?
“I truly enjoy the downtown area. I’m a city girl, so I love the buildings, the people, and the great energy.”

You are representing Tennessee in the national Miss Latina contest. What is so appealing about pageants?
“Pageants give me the opportunity to show my competitive side, meet new people with similar goals and make new friends. Pageants also push me to stay in shape.”

Do you play any sports?
“I enjoy swimming and soccer.”

What are your favorite sports teams?
“My favorite is boxing, LIVE! I also like football (Titans), and baseball (Chicago White Sox.)”

What's your favorite TV show?
“My television time is limited however, I like to watch a lot of the Fox17 shows when I can.”

If you could take just 5 cds on a road trip what would they be?
“Anything by Andrea Bocelli, Mana, Juanes, Shakira, and La Secta.”

What do you like about your radio partner Ricardo?
“I like the ease in what he is able to take the morning show in which ever direction is necessary or most appropriate for the radio. His sense of humor is the best! Even when we are off the air, we are still laughing and joking. He brightens my mornings and pushes me to being a better person; he's kind of like a big brother to me.”

Where is your family from?
“My family is from Michoacan, Mexico. I’m first generation born in Chicago, and very proud of my roots and background. I look forward to passing down my traditions to my children when I have a family.”

How important is your family to you?
“I think that family is the only true treasure worth any sacrifice.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lauren Turner recounts mission trip to Chile

In this article in the Tennessean, Nashvillian Lauren Turner describes her July mission trip to Chile. In this accompanying article, the Tennessean reports that Turner's activities involved "buil[ding] houses, door-to-door missionary work and group activities intended to 'create a community between the students and become closer to God.'"

Turner is a senior at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mario Ramos: Nashville's first Hispanic videoblogger

Nashville immigration attorney Mario Ramos* has become the first Hispanic videoblogger in Nashville by uploading a series of interviews and commentaries to the popular web site YouTube. The videos mostly feature commentary on the recent Congressional hearings in Brentwood (story here), and are in both Spanish and English. All of his videos are accessible here.

"Videoblogger" may be too strange a term for some; the intent here is to say that Mr. Ramos is an amateur diarist/journalist using video on the Internet as a method of communication. Mr. Ramos was one of the few Hispanic Nashvillians quoted in the local media in the late 1990's and early 2000's.

Nashville has at least two professional video journalists who are also Hispanic - Amy Napier Viteri and Carlos Jasso; both work for WKRN-Channel 2.

*Mario Ramos is no relation to Nashville attorney and former President of the Nashville Bar Association Gregg Ramos.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Hispanic chamber in Middle Tennessee

A lucky fourth?

The City Paper announced the formation of a fourth Hispanic chamber of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the "Middle Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce." Add that to the three other Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled all three of the then-existing Hispanic chambers in the area in this article in June 2006.

There has been some concern in Nashville that the Hispanic chambers are too numerous, but on the other hand, until now, they more or less matched the number and geographic nomenclature of non-Hispanic chambers in the area, such as the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce.

No activities have been announced for this new chamber.

Update 9/4/2006: The original story failed to mention the non-Hispanic Brentwood Cool Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Focus: Business, Chamber

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Spanish chat club resumes Thursday August 24

conversationThe Spanish-language chat club "Charlemos Spanish" picks up again on August 24 after a summer break:

"Charlemos Spanish," a social conversation group of the Spanish Committee of Sister Cities of Nashville for adults who want to speak Spanish on a regular basis, 7-8:30 p.m. every second and fourth Thursday of the month, resuming Aug. 24, Montgomery Bell Academy's Wilson Library, 4001 Pike. Free and open to the public. elizworrell@comcast.net or http://www.scnashville.org.

The group began meeting in February 2006 (story here).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Woman justifies theft from Hispanic grocery store in Dayton

The Tennessean reports in this story that a woman has admitted to stealing a Mexican flag from a Hispanic grocery store in Dayton but denies any wrongdoing:

"June Griffin, an advocate of Ten Commandments displays and a frequent political candidate, has pleaded not guilty to civil rights, vandalism and theft charges after a Hispanic grocery store owner said she stole a Mexican flag."

"Griffin has said she took the flag because public officials refused to act on her requests to restrict displays of flags to only American flags. She said she took the Mexican flag to a rally she attended and later gave it to police."

"Griffin, 67, pleaded not guilty to charges of civil rights intimidation, phone harassment, theft under $500 and vandalism at a hearing in Rhea County circuit court on Friday."

This is another example of things "getting ugly" (most recent story here) because some Tennesseans are acting ugly instead of showing love (story here).

Hat tips: Volunteer Voters, Nashville21

Focus: Justice

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Middle Tennessee Hispanic Democrats gather on August 24

Gregg and Sandy Ramos sent out this invitation in support of the newly formed Middle Tennessee Hispanic Democrats:

Gregg & Sandy Ramos
Invite you to meet and support
The Middle Tennessee Hispanic Democrats

Thursday, August 24
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
9454 Chaucer's Court, Brentwood, TN 37027

Host Committee
Chairman Bob Tuke
Harold Ford, Jr.
Cristina O. Allen
Jerry Maynard
Fabian Bedne
Gabriela Castillo
Gregg Ramos
Jerry Lee
Mabel Arroyo
Maitane Tidwell
Terry Horgan
Representative Rob Briley
Representative Gary Odom
Representative Ben West
Senator Doug Henry

Suggested Contribution is $50 per person
Check made to the MTHD

RSVP to player@tndp.org by August 21

Focus: Justice

Franklin Chamber discusses September festival tonight

The Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sent out this invitation to a meeting tonight to plan a September festival:

Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Invites you to a special Chamber meeting on TUESDAY, AUGUST 15th at 5:30PM at the Bethel Outreach Center.

We will be discussing the Chamber's first ever Festival de las Americas to be held on Sept. 9, 2006. There will be 22 countries represented from the Americas (North, Central and South America) and all annoucements will be in both English and Spanish. We are looking for volunteers to help with the booths, distribute flyers around town and in the Spanish speaking churches, setup, take down, etc. We are also looking for performers from various countries, food vendors, service vendors, media trades, information booths, etc. Please join us and help make our first festival a huge success.

TUES, AUGUST 15 at 5:30PM, Bethel Outreach Center, 5670 Granny White Pike (take I65, west onto Old Hickory Blvd, right onto Granny White Pike, it's on the corner). Follow the signs to the gymnasium on the 2nd floor.

*Hispanic Chamber 101: There are three Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled all three chambers in this article in June 2006.

Focus: Business, Chamber

Monday, August 14, 2006

Time profiles Carla Valenzuela of Nashville in college choice cover story

Time Magazine's cover story this week - "Who Needs Harvard?", profiles Nashvillian Carla Valenzuela in a look at college applicants choosing practicality over name recognition:

"Carla Valenzuela, 18, who graduated in the spring from Martin Luther King Academic Magnet school in Nashville, Tenn., applied to 13 schools--and wound up picking her last choice. She turned down Amherst, Wellesley and Dartmouth in favor of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Part of the draw was being near a big city; part was the offer of a Meyerhoff scholarship, a prestigious, four-year grant for talented high school students studying science and related fields. All 52 Meyerhoff scholars from the class of 2005 went on to graduate schools, 45 of them to M.D., Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. combination programs."

"'If I wanted to work right after college, I would have gone to a more 'name school' like Dartmouth,' Valenzuela says. But she hopes to become a doctor, so she did some research. 'I definitely looked at the medical-acceptance rates of each college and how strong their pre-med programs were, and that helped knock out a lot of colleges.' Students with clear professional goals will pay more attention to the reputation of a single department than the whole university."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Committee of Latino Parents featured at Metro Schools First Day Festival

The Nashville City Paper reports that "the Hispanic community will get an opportunity to find out about Committee of Parents Latinos (COPLA), [Nashville Public Schools Director Pedro] Garcia's 2006-07 initiative for Spanish-speaking parents," at the Mayor's First Day Festival for Metro Schools on Sunday.

"Last year, about 21,000 parents, students and stakeholders in the community thronged the Gaylord Entertainment Center and its surroundings. This year’s expanded festival will include more outdoor activities with live music at Gateway Park."

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Nation finds nativism in Nashville

The August 28 cover story of the national magazine The Nation describes the growing international population in Nashville and a part of the city that is fueling an emotional backlash:

"[T]he country-music capital has rapidly morphed into what one writer dubbed 'a new Ellis Island,' the unlikely symbol of America's biggest refugee and immigrant resettlement since the Industrial Revolution. For more than a decade now, most immigrants have been bypassing traditional urban destinations in favor of Middle American towns and cities where jobs are abundant and unemployment is scant. Music City has ranked first among US cities since 1990 in immigration growth, and now has the largest community of Kurdish refugees in the United States."

"As the temperature over immigration keeps rising, [an activist] says she worries about the level of frustration she's hearing, more and more, from other nativists in Tennessee and around the country. 'The most popular formula is, 'soap box, ballot box, ammo box.' They'll X out the first two, like those options are gone and all you can do is arm yourself and get ready. I'm looking at that going, phew! It's going to get ugly.'"

"Welcome to Tennessee, white-hot nexus of the new American nativism. When Governor Phil Bredesen complained this summer that Tennesseans were being whipped into a 'frenzy' over immigration, some took issue with the culprits he cited--opportunistic Republican candidates--but not a soul could challenge the accuracy of his description."

"The son of a former Democratic Congressman in North Carolina, [radio personality Phil] Valentine is a leading voice--and instigator--of Tennessee's nativist backlash. 'Wake up and smell the tacos,' Valentine likes to say, flaunting his political incorrectness. His website recently featured a full-color image of the Statue of Liberty wearing a sombrero, with a huge black mustache pasted on, a jar of salsa instead of a flame and a bottle of Patron cradled in her lower hand. Liberty rests on a tottering foundation of Chicklets, Tostitos and a Taco Bell sign."

"[O]n the campaign trail, especially this year, nativism rules. The big statewide race this year is to replace Bill Frist in the US Senate, and it features three Republican contenders who've spent much of the primary season honing their Wyatt Earp imitations. One of them, former State Representative Ed Bryant, got so carried away in May that he lit out for the Arizona border to help the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps splice together a fence. Not to be outdone, shoo-in Democratic nominee Harold Ford Jr., the whiz-kid Congressman with a generally moderate voting record on immigration issues, hit the airwaves in June with a startling new ad."

"Fears of a Ku Klux Klan revival in East Tennessee have been stoked by large turnouts of Tennessee Klansmen at recent rallies of a newly invigorated KKK in nearby northern Alabama--and by two hate crimes that put Tennessee immigrants on notice last year. In one case, a former Klansman named Daniel Shertz was arrested for plotting to blow up buses carrying Hispanic immigrants from Tennessee to Florida. In the other, a Mexican grocery store in Maryville was torn up by five young white supremacists who scrawled swastikas, 'SS,' and 'WP,' for white power, on the front of the store as their calling card."

The article does offer reason for optimism, however, pointing out the defeat of nineteen of twenty restrictionist immigration bills this year in the state legislature, and the launch of the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative (story here).

"While there's no doubt 2006 has already been a tumultuous year in Tennessee, [advocate Stephen] Fotopulos says he's 'not pessimistic at all. I'm constantly amazed at how we'll go out to a rally where people have these Phil Valentine talking points and are as certain as they can be. We start talking about it, and we usually end up at a reasonable place where we see that we really do want the same things. It's bad to have a system that doesn't work. It is. And there are people here who have very real cultural concerns, who see the life they've known being submerged. We can talk about that. But what truly changes people is human contact. In fifteen years everybody here will know Hispanics personally, and it just won't be so much of an issue.'"

Nashville has been in the national spotlight on this issue before, including an article in the Carnegie Reporter (story here), a nationally syndicated column (story here), and the web site Working for Change (story here).

Help with unreimbursed care, not immigration, say experts

NurseRecapping the Congressional hearing held in Brentwood yesterday, the Nashville City Paper reports that Dr. Darin P. Gordon, the director of the Bureau of TennCare, testified that an estimated 0.2% of the TennCare budget is spent on underground internationals. The Tennessean reports that Gordon "rejected the idea that illegal immigrants are sneaking onto the TennCare rolls for regular medical care, saying the program has always required various types of documentation for enrollment."

Both the City Paper and the Tennessean recounted the testimony of Gary R. Perrizo, the director of patient accounting at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. According to the Tennessean, Perrizo attributed about 5.1% of VUMC's total unreimbursed health care expenditures to illegitimized expatriates. The City Paper reported on Perrizo's testimony that "the hospital admitted 174 undocumented patients between Jan. 1 and Aug. 6, 2006, which is a 17 percent increase versus the same period in 2005. In addition, Perrizo testified that between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2006, 504 possible illegal immigrants received emergency care but were not admitted to VUMC."

"'We are morally and legally obligated to provide care for anyone who is in urgent need,' Perrizo said. But that moral commitment and legal requirement to care for those in need has come to carry a significant price tag for hospitals and doctors alike.'"

The Tennessean reported that "Perrizo, Duncan and another representative of Tennessee hospitals all asked for the return of federal aid known as disproportionate share payments. Tennessee is one of only two states that don't receive the payments, which help compensate for unreimbursed charity care, they said."

Photo: Gary R. Parrizo

update 8/21/06: The Tennessean published this editorial denouncing legislators' finger-pointing at illegal immigrants and their failure to propose broader health care solutions. The editorial tracks the sentiment of this 8/16/06 letter to the editor from Nashville ER emergency physician Michael Hasty.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Aric Almirola races at Nashville Superspeedway August 12

Aric AlmirolaAccording to Insider Racing News and Almirola's web site, Cuban-American race driver Aric Almirola will compete in the Toyota Tundra 200, part of the Craftsman Truck Series, at the Nashville Superspeedway on August 12.

Almirola was one of the first drivers to participate in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, which formalizes NASCAR's push for diversity and a growing Hispanic fan base (stories here).

Tickets for this weekend's race are available at nashvillesuperspeedway.com.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Thursday in Brentwood: U.S. House committee hearing on immigration and health care

NurseAccording to this announcement, the Subcommittee on Health for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce will convene a hearing in Brentwood on Thursday at 10am regarding the relationship of the Senate immigration bill to Medicaid and healthcare in general:

Field Hearing, Day 1
Subcommittee on Health
August 10, 2006
Main Room at the Brentwood City Hall
5211 Maryland Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
10:00 AM

According to politicians in both parties (story here), these hearings are designed to further weaponize immigration (latest story on weaponization here).

The position that these hearings will attempt to push is that "proposals to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants would increase the cost of entitlement programs" (story here). This argument is revealing as it contradicts the supposed position of exclusionists - that they have nothing against legal immigrants. Through these hearings, they are now saying that legal immigrants under the Senate bill would be a financial burden to the U.S.

My question is, what is the plan for the millions of currently undocumented/illegal/underground/oppressed immigrants who will not ever be deported? Would it be better for them and for us for the law to provide a reasonable avenue for legal status and total integration and participation in our society and economy? Or would it be better to them and for us to maintain the current legal framework that makes it nearly impossible for many to obtain legal status, forcing millions into a semi-isolated civic, economic, and social existence?

The problem with the Senate bill isn't that it provides legal status to immigrants; it's that the legal status is a one-shot grant of legal status, not a systemic change. This makes it similar to the 1986 law. What we need instead is a systemic change to provide reasonably accessible methods to immigrate legally and also to convert to legal status after illegal immigration. Any immigration system that does not have those two features will forever condemn a large portion of the population to isolation and exclusion via illegal status. The illusion of cracking down on enforcement to decrease illegal immigration ignores the draw of our economy and the fact that the only decade of the 20th century that saw a significant drop in immigration was the decade of the Great Depression.

This two-pronged system - more reasonable ways to immigrate legally, and more reasonable ways to become legal after entering illegally - is not so foreign to this country. The very idea of illegal immigration was what was foreign for the first century of our national existence, from George Washington's presidency to Abe Lincoln's. Anyone who came here was eligible for citizenship within 3 years. In an unfortunate irony, after the Civil War saw the great grant of freedom to African-Americans, we turned our sights to restricting the freedom of movement of foreigners, starting with the Chinese. Our first real illegal immigration laws were passed in the 1880's to exclude any and all Chinese immigration to the U.S., lumped in with other prohibited classes like the insane, criminals, prostitutes and the sick. The idea of "my ancestors immigrated legally to Ellis Island" is a misunderstanding in itself, because through most of the history of immigration to Ellis Island, there was no way to illegally immigrate there unless you were Chinese, sick, a criminal, a prostitute, or insane. Even when literacy tests (English or foreign language) and money requirements were instituted, only small percentages of the applicants were turned away - only two percent.

As for ways to become legal after entering illegally, our laws would be more American if we made that process more common. Most of our laws carry the American value of balancing the perceived harm to society of the offense with the perceived benefit to society of not punishing the offense. Putting aside for a moment whether immigration or illegal immigration harms society, and how much punishment that harm would merit (even though it's hard to dismiss 500+ leading economists who agree that "overall, immigration has been a net gain for American citizens"), we need a system that reflects other areas of the law that keep people from being stuck in dead-ends and failing to integrate. Bankruptcy is an example - we abolished debtors' prisons because we are better off as a whole giving people a fresh start in the worst of circumstances, even though we believe a person should pay his debts, because it doesn't do us any good if someone is in a debtors' prison and they have no hope of further contributing to society. Any law student knows the concept of adverse possession - if you stay on someone else's land for a long period of time, and they don't challenge your open claim on their land, the law says that you are officially the owner after that long period of time. We currently have nothing like adverse possession in immigration law. And consider crime, which we abhor. We recognize the benefits to society of plea bargains, probations, parole, and time off for good behavior. The concept of a statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time the government can punish a crime, contains this American value of balance. But currently, there is no statute of limitations for immigration violations - an arsonist can get in less trouble after a decade than a family of illegal immigrants! Immigration law is clearly out of balance with our American values in our other laws - the ones that apply to us.

We are in a position of power, and therefore responsibility, when it comes to immigrants. Don't let politics create a fear for your pocketbook that takes your sights off the high ground. If we oppress the poor and the immigrant in our struggle to prosper, we will surely fail.

Update: Testimony at the hearing contradicted the preconceived argument that foreign citizens without immigration authorization are a significant factor in rising health care costs (story here).

Friday, August 4, 2006

Hispanic Artists Group exhibit opens August 4

The WPLN Happenings calendar announces this free art exhibit featuring the Hispanic Artists Group:

Friday, August 4 to Friday, August 25
call 862-8442
price: free
A variety of artwork in various media by Nashville's Hispanic Artists Group are exhibited at the Centennial Park Art Center gallery thru August 25th. An opening reception is Friday Aug. 4th, 5-7pm. This exhibit is free and open to the public. Centennial Park Art Center, 25th Avenue North & Park Plaza, Nashville; 615-862-8442

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Who must the "Protector" protect, and who can a candidate disregard?

The Nashville Scene reports in this article on the political candidacy of Juan Borges, Nashville Police's official liaison to the Hispanic community as part of the "El Protector" program started by Chief Serpas. The article tracks existing dissatisfaction with Borges but also points out that his political positions further threaten his relationship with the very community he is still charged to protect.

"Like most politicians these days, Juan Borges has staked out a hard-line, conservative stance on immigration. If elected as a Republican to the state House in November, he says he’ll push for an English-only driver’s license exam, punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants and authorize local cops to uphold federal immigration laws. As it is, police aren’t permitted to punish immigrants for being illegal."

"Sounds like almost any candidate running for office here in Middle Tennessee. Problem is, Borges isn’t just any candidate. He’s one of two officers appointed by Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas to run El Protector, a program designed to improve relations between the cop shop and Nashville’s blossoming immigrant community, legal or otherwise."

The Scene points out the tension between community participation in a program like "El Protector" and the constituency of a political candidate:

"[Borges] speaks to the voters about his conservative principles—he has signed a Tennessee Eagle Forum pledge and has been endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life—and his contempt for career politicians. The voters are mostly older and white. They like candidate Borges. A retired couple even agree to put one of his signs on their lawn."

"Many of these folks are on the same page with Borges when it comes to immigration, and that’s a good thing for him. After all, these people count. They’re voters."

Borges is the Republican candidate for the 60th District in the state House of Representatives and would be the first male Hispanic to serve in that body. He will run against the Democratic incumbent Ben West, whose father was Mayor of Nashville during the civil rights movement and one of the first public officials here to denounce the segregation of the city's lunch counters. WKRN-Channel 2 produced this recent report on the tightly parallel political positions of the two men, who say that immigration and taxes are two of the city's primary problems.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Day of Solidarity and Citizenship: August 12

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition announced a Day of Solidarity and Citizenship to be held August 12, from 2pm to 6pm at Glencliff High School, located at 160 Antioch Pike in Nashville. There will be music, door prizes, and refreshments, as well as speakers on the following topics:

  • Register to Vote

  • Learn more about the Voting Process

  • Learn about Your Rights on the Job

  • Voter Registration

  • Permanent Residents: Learn How to Get Your Citizenship

Front-page story describes immigrant children as health risk, homeless

The front-page story in the Tennessean today paints the picture that immigrant children are a health risk and homeless. Under the headline Immigrant influx tests shot policy the article creates the following word associations with young immigrants:
  • "Children who aren't vaccinated against dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases"

  • "those kids start class without proof"

  • "homeless kids" and "homeless students"

  • "a risk for her child"

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Nolensville churchgoers see immigration as a ministry

This article in the Tennessean describes the perspective of Nolensville churchgoers that immigration is a ministry opportunity more than it is a topic for debate. The author points out that "there are also two or more ways that people deal with issues — immigration being one of them. I'm not talking about United States borders; I'm talking about right here, the 'us' vs. 'them' theory..."

As the story describes the efforts of Diana Hough, Sandy Shawhan and Heather Thomas of Nolensville First United Methodist Church, Angelica Rosas of Glencliff Church of the Nazarene, Jerry Patton of Ebenezer United Methodist, and Armando and Cassie Vera of Stonebrook Baptist Church, it becomes clear that these Nolensvillians have chosen a more excellent way:
[D]uring this vacation Bible school week, kids can help by bringing in school supplies for Hispanic children in Nashville. A carwash will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at NFUMC to raise money to buy backpacks. The goal is $1,500.

Why the interest? "I'd taken Spanish for three years, and I've always had a love of it," Thomas said. And, obviously, she has a heart for people in need. She uses her Spanish now and Rosas helps her by sometimes speaking only Spanish to make her practice. In turn, Thomas helps Rosas, who's been in the States for 10 years, with the intricacies of English.

Thomas shared her ideas with new pastor Sandy Shawhan, who hopped on board and suggested Thomas try to get other churches in town involved.

Speaking of, Stonebrook Baptist Church's youth minister, Armando Vera, led a mission trip to one of the poorest areas of Mississippi outside of Tunica. He and a pastor there ministered to migrant workers. Seven people were baptized.

Raylene King, wife of Stonebrook minister Dennis King, looks at immigration not so much as an issue but as a really big ministry.

She says, "A few weeks ago at service Dennis said, 'All I know is our job is to love people.' " Well said.
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