Saturday, March 21, 2009
Abercrombie & Fitch. There it was, in the middle of discounted merchandise in a Shanghai shopping mall. On my last weekend in Shanghai, I'm doing a little shopping. In one of my lectures on civil rights and Asian Americans here at the East China University of Political Science and Law, I discussed the Asian American experience with this illustrious clothing manufacturer. Back in April 2002, Asian Americans organized a boycott and marched in front of A&F stores because of a new line of t-shirts the company released depicting sterotypical Asian caricatures.
One of the Ohio-based company's T-shirts reads "Wong Brothers Laundry Service -- Two Wongs Can Make It White" and shows two smiling men with slanted eyes wearing conical hats. Other t-shirt slogans included "Pizza Dojo," Wok-N-Bowl," "Rick Shaw's," "Buddha Bash." Eventually, the t-shirts were pulled from store shelves.
Then in 2003, the company was sued by Asian Americans, Latinos, and African Americans for its hiring practices. Turns out people of color did not fit the companies "look." A&F was only hiring caucasians to work as sales clerks and store managers. Applicants of color who were hired were given jobs in the back room out of the view of the public. Eventually, A&F was forced to settle the employment discrimination case, paying $50 million in damages, agreeing to recruit minority employees for all jobs, and creating an office of diversity.
My students here in Shanghai weren't surprised at that the company had discouraged minority applicants and that A&F was trying to maintain an all-white image. What they were surprised and pleased about was the willingness of minorities in the U.S, that included immigrant plaintiffs, to take on A&F.
Many of my students in the U.S. have walked into class oblivious to the history that A&F has had with Asian Americans. So here I am, in the aisles of a mall, in Shanghai, where shoppers who buy these products also are oblivious to the sordid history A&F has had with Asian Americans; guess I shouldn't be surprised.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has issued the following statement to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is today March 21, 2009:
On this day each year, we mark a single tragedy that focused international attention on the struggle against one of the most discriminatory political systems in modern history. Forty nine years ago today, dozens of peaceful demonstrators were massacred in Sharpeville, South Africa, by the brutal forces of a blatantly racist regime.
But the massacre in Sharpeville represents a much wider tragedy: we mark its anniversary to remember also the millions of people around the world who are still, today, victims of racism and racial discrimination.
Racial discrimination denies its victims the most fundamental of all human rights – the right to equality.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are insidious, corrosive and sometimes explosive forces that devastate the lives of many individuals and, if left to fester, can undermine societies as a whole. They present a threat to security and often feature among the root causes of violent conflict.
Taken to an extreme, unchecked – or deliberately fuelled – racial discrimination and intolerance can lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide. So we mark this day to remind people around the world of the need to fight against racism and intolerance in their own communities; to support organizations that work at local, national, regional and international levels to promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination; and to reinvigorate the efforts of governments to combat racism.
We have promised to take concrete steps to improve the lives of victims of racism: eight years ago, governments from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa, for the 2001 World Conference against Racism. They recognized that no country was free of racism and they pledged to make unprecedented efforts to eradicate it.
Just one month from now, governments and organizations will gather again, this time in Geneva, to review the progress that has been made in implementing those pledges. There has indeed been progress in the intervening years in many areas, but that progress has been partial, and there have been serious setbacks too.
The challenge we face is to translate those 2001 promises into action. The Durban Review Conference is a forum for governments to come together and reinvigorate their efforts to combat racism, to share the practices that have been successful and to highlight the areas that still need most work. I welcome the recent progress in preparing the groundwork for this conference; it is important that our efforts are collaborative and that we produce concrete steps that can be implemented at all levels. The Durban Review Conference will be convened under the banner ‘United against Racism: Dignity and Justice for All.’ Let us work together to ensure that we are, indeed, united in our efforts and that we can truly make progress in creating a world where the promise of ‘dignity and justice for all’ is not an empty slogan.
Here is a link to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. IntLawGrrl Amy Senier has a great post on the significance of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Friday, March 20, 2009
From the Associated Press:
State police have arrested a public defender in Bristol Superior Court after a dispute involving deportation of one of her clients.
Police say 53-year-old Elisa Villa tried to block immigration enforcement agents from arresting one of her clients for deportation Thursday.
Villa is charged with hindering prosecution, interfering with an officer and breach of peace.
State police were called to the courthouse after being told Villa was not allowing the immigration officer access to 39-year-old Anselmo Antonio-Valerian, in court on motor vehicle charges. Click here for the rest of the story.
Our Immigrant of the Day is former mortgage broker Alberto Gonzales (not to be confused with the former U.S. Attorney General) who just six months after opening his first restaurant in Chicago, Illinois is opening a second restaurant in May.
Gonzales left Cuba at age 11 with his family. He once helped his father sell fish in Key West, Florida Almost 30 years later, Gonzales opened his own restaurant, using family recipes.
Basketball and backlogs. Turns out that one of Shanghai's more famous migrants to the United States is Houston Rockets superstar, Yao Ming. Yao Ming (Chinese: 姚明) is currently the tallest player in the NBA, at 2.29 m (7 ft 6 in).
Yao, who was born in Shanghai, started playing for the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager, and played on their senior team for five years in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), winning a championship in his final year. He entered the 2002 NBA Draft, and after negotiating with the CBA and the Sharks to secure his release, was selected by the Houston Rockets as the first overall pick of the draft. He has since been selected to start for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game in all seven of his seasons, and has been named to the All-NBA Team four times.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a basketball star. Growing up in Arizona (in the 1950s and 1960s), I was a big fan of the local Arizona State University Sun Devils basketball team and the Boston Celtics (who always seemed to be on TV). My favorite Sun Devil was Joe Caldwell, and my favorite Celtic was Bob Cousy. I played a lot of backyard basketball, and one day my father told me that his sister, my Aunt Fong, was finally going to be able to immigrate (sibling category). My dad knew I would be particularly happy to get to know her because she was a basketball star in elementary and high school growing up in China.
Once I heard about the impending immigration of my aunt, I practiced even more, looking forward to special lessons from my aunt once she arrived. When the day came and I met my aunt for the first time, as gracious and wonderful as she was, she was in her late 50s, and her basketball playing days had long passed. That was my first experience with the effect of backlogs in family immigration categories; the second was when my mother's sister died while waiting on the backlog. The effects of severe backlogs continue to this very day. At least my father and Aunt Fong were able to eventually reunite; other siblings are not so lucky.
Comprehensive immigration reform must include a strategy to clear the backlogs for immigrants who have been waiting patiently in the family immigration categories, while maintaining the family categories. We owe it to those citizens and lawful resident aliens who long to be reunited with family members. Family immigration must remain the foundation of our immigration system.
The exclusion of politically undesirable immigrants has long been part of U.S. immigration law and enforcement, with highwater marks in exclusuions coming during the Red Scare after WW I and the McCarthy era. Congress eliminated the express authorization for ideological exclusion in 1990. Nonetheless, some critiics have claimed that politically-motivated exclusions and removals have occurred since then -- and increased in the last eight years.
Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal reports that the "American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Society of American Law Teachers, the Constitution Project, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and more than 70 other legal, civil rights and human rights organizations are urging the Obama administration to end the practice of `ideological exclusion,' under which foreign scholars, artists, and activists have been denied visas on the basis of their ideas, political views and associations."
In a letter to the Attorney General and the secretaries of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the groups contended said that the U.S. governent "had revived the practice of `ideological exclusion' during the past eight years. As a result, they wrote, dozens of prominent intellectuals were barred from assuming teaching posts at U.S. universities, fulfilling speaking engagements with U.S. audiences or attending academic conferences. Many of those barred were critics of U.S. foreign policy."
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Here is a memo by Alan Hyde (Rutgers-Newark) summarizing the studies on why eligible immigrants might not naturalize. Download Why Don't They Naturalize Here is the executive summary he posted to the ImmigrationProf listserve:
"The US has internationally low rates of naturalization of its foreign-born residents. Only 40 percent of foreign-born residents of the US have become citizens, compared with 72 percent in Canada and 68 percent in Australia. The single largest factor explaining the difference is the unfriendliness of US naturalization procedures, which are lengthy, expensive, and unwelcoming. By contrast, countries with higher naturalization rates make naturalization a policy priority. These differences in procedure explain the different naturalization rates in demographically similar immigrant communities. There are also some demographic factors that explain decisions not to naturalize. This decision is correlated with having a home country that is geographically close to the US and neither very poor nor a sender of refugees, so that return to the homeland is a realistic plan. By contrast, there are no data suggesting that economic returns to citizenship status significantly influence the decision to naturalize. The larger implication is the greater predictive power of models of migration and naturalization that treat individuals as embedded in political and social structures, as opposed to methodologically individualistic models that treat individuals as maximizers." (emphasis added).
It appears that there is a need for additional research in this all-important area. It does appear that the nation should look carefully at improving its naturalization processes and procedures.
The DREAM Act. The children of early Chinese immigrants to the United States did not have a very warm reception in the public schools. The San Francisco public schools would not allow Chinese kids to enroll. When Mamie Tape, a young girl who was born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrant parents, tried to enroll, she was turned away. Her case (Tape v. Hurley, 1885) went before the California Supreme Court, which held that the state education code required the school district to allow her to attend school. Rather than allow Mamie to attend the white public school, the district actually developed a separate school for Chinese kids. Of course, this “separate but equal” notion was endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1892) in public accommodations, and even in another case involving a Chinese student, Gong Lum v. Rice (1927). Not until Brown v. Board of Ed (1854) did we begin to see a chipping away at lawfully segregated schools.
Much of the idea about these early efforts to exclude Chinese from white schools was simply a method of excluding Chinese students from the education system. Today, we see the same intent in the attempt to exclude undocumented children from K-12 programs (Plyler v. Doe, 1982) and Proposition 187 in 1994. Fortunately, the Supreme Court would not stand for it in the Plyler case. But efforts to exclude undocumented college age students from college is essentially riddled with the same ill-conceived and evil-hearted intent to keep groups of folks uneducated.
Excluding or making it difficult for undocumented students to attending college is dumb. These are highly-motivated members of society who are not leaving and have much to contribute. Not educating them just hurts our entire society. When we educate them, they can contribute much more. The Chinese in America eventually were able to get educated and prove that they could contribute to the country. We should realize that by educating undocumented students, allowing them to become part of the mainstream through an adjustment program, and letting them roll up their sleeves to help out in the economy and society, we will all be better off.
We need the DREAM Act.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The NY Times Room for Debate blog has several experts discuss how the recession might change competition for lower-wage jobs between workers born in the United States and immigrants. hear a varirty of opinions from
Gordon Hanson, professor of economics
Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies
Michael Fix, Migration Policy Institute
Pablo Alvarado, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Philip Martin, labor economist
Annette Bernhardt, National Employment Law Project
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating its call for the Department of Justice to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the authorization to use torture at CIA secret prisons. This follows recent revelations that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concluded in 2007 that the treatment of detainees being held by American personnel constituted torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ICRC report is based on harrowing accounts from detainees about the treatment to which they were subjected. The ACLU's letter, signed by Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, states in part: "The fact that such crimes have been committed can no longer be doubted or debated, nor can the need for an independent prosecutor be ignored by a new Justice Department committed to restoring the rule of law … Given the increasing evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, and that such conduct was the predictable result of policy changes made at the highest levels of government, an independent prosecutor is clearly in the public interest. The country deserves to have these outstanding matters addressed, and have the assurance that torture will stop and never happen again. An independent prosecutor is the only sure way to achieve these goals."
"The President had a robust and strategic meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today on the topic of immigration. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The President discussed how the administration will work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term. During the meeting, the President announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Calderon to discuss the deep and comprehensive US-Mexico relationship, including how the United States and Mexico can work together to support Mexico’s fight against drug-related violence and work toward effective, comprehensive immigration reform. Since their meeting in January, the President has repeatedly praised President Calderon for his extraordinary work to solve these challenges, which are important to communities and families on both sides of the border."
According to the LA Times, Congressional Hispanic "Caucus members had met the day before to discuss whether to bring up the [decision not to appoint Tom Saenz to the top civil rights post in the Department of Justice] because, according to a member, they didn't want to take time away from their top priority -- immigration legislation."
For a less-than-uppbeat appraisal of the meeting between the Caucus and the President on the possibility for immigration reform from Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill), as reported in the Washington Post, click here.
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While President Obama has taken the important step of closing down Guantanamo Bay overseas, more than 300,000 people continue to languish in immigrant detention centers around the country. Watch the trailer, "What happened to Boubacar Bah?" It's time to End Homeland Guantanamos www.homelandgitmo.com
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Sarah (name changed) is a legal immigrant who was imprisoned in one such homeland detention center. While it’s difficult to hear her recount being separated from her two young children when she was deported for life, watch out for the surprise in store! It’s a one of a kind story. “A Surprise Visit” http://www.breakthrough.tv/video/a-surprise-visit
Every year, thousands of immigrants enter the United States from the Republic of China (Taiwan). To most of observers, this immigration pattern is, in part, a reflection of the tension between the Republic of China and mainland China, the People's Republic of China. Taiwanese have been important immigrants to the United States.
However, in spite of the political tension that has existed between the PRC and the ROC, it turns out that many Taiwanese, including investors, have been settling in China--especially in Shanghai. The exact number is hard to tell. But from several estimates, the number is around 300,000 Taiwanese settled down in the great Shanghai area--the largest settlement outside of Taiwan. And the total investment from Taiwan amounts to 70 Billions, as mush as what the US has invested in China.
China's first tourist liner, Marine Myth, set sail from Shanghai to Taiwan on Saturday, carrying 1600 tourists. There is rich exchange, as the two political entities grow closer--at least economically and socially.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The venerable Harvard Law Review will hold its 122nd annual banquet on April 18 at the Harvard Club of Boston. This year's guest speaker is Michael Chertoff, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005-09. Chertoff is an HLS alum and a HLR editor of volume 91. Chertoff had some unfortunate allegations about his own alleged immigration violations is last days in office. In an interview with the Council of Foreign Relations earlier this week, Chertoff advocated comprehensive immigration reform.
The medical care system in US immigration detention is dangerously inadequate, with unique consequences for women, and improving health care for immigration detainees should be a top priority for the new administration, Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) said. In two reports released today, Human Rights Watch and FIAC document numerous instances in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) botched, delayed or denied medical care, causing suffering and even death.
I previously blogged about a new book, Shattering Orthodoxies: An Economic and Foreign Policy Blueprint for America (2008) by A. Haag Sherman, a Houston businessman. Chapter 3 ("Immigration: America's `Free Lunch'") (pp. 46-56) outlines "a case for more liberal immigration policies, accompanied by tight border enforcement, as a potential solution to the demographic issues resulting from America's aging population." p. 46. The chapter makes for interesting reading, although I disagree with some of Sherman's proposals, such as eliminating birthright citizenship. pp. 54-55.
The Complexities of Immigration Reform Are Further Complicated: Obama Administration Dumps Civil Rights Advocate Tom Saenz
As Bill Hing wrote earlier today, there is growing pressure for comprehensive immigration reform. Yesterday, Daily Kos mades the argument for the need for the Obama administration to push reform.
But there is a possible firestorm coming with the administration pulling the rug out from under Tom Saenz, the former former vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, who had been rumored to be the next head of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. Saenz is currently serving as counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Typical of the negative response among Latino activists -- and I have talked to many over the last few days -- is that of Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). She expressed profound disappointment today that Saenz is no longer a candidate to head the Civil Rights Division:
“Thomas Saenz was a great choice to oversee a department tasked with enforcing federal statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin. He follows the law meticulously and is one of the best litigators our country has. He has dedicated his entire career to the fight for justice, equal opportunity, and dignity for those who have no voice,” said Murguía. “We are concerned that his name may have been pulled from consideration over his ‘position on immigration’ and the signal that it sends to young lawyers weighing careers in upholding the nation’s civil rights laws. Mr. Saenz has successfully litigated cases based on the merits of immigration law and has done so with integrity and professionalism. Where he stands on an issue is not as significant as his understanding of the law and his ability to argue the facts.” “I am confident that at his confirmation hearing Mr. Saenz would have been able to address any questions related to his litigation work on immigration based on the facts of the cases he argued and the law. Unfortunately he will not be given that opportunity,” continued Murguía. “This action may lead some to question whether the White House is ready to fulfill its promise on immigration reform. Along with the nomination of Tom Perez as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Latino community will be looking for further reassurance that this is not the case. Nonetheless, the administration missed an opportunity to bring the debate back to the merits of the law, rather than succumb to the shrill voices of fear,” concluded Murguía.
It appears that Saenz's immigration work for MALDEF, including his successful litigation halting the implementation of California's Proposition 187, proved to be "too controversial" for his nomination to go forward. Given that the Obama administration apparently caved on this nomination, one wonders whether it will have the backbone to press on immigration reform. One also has to wonder with MALDEF, unlike the NAACP, has somehow become radioactive in national politics because it fights for the civil rights of immigrants.
UPDATE The BLT: Blog of Legal Times reports that "Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who is a close friend of Thomas Saenz, says he was offered the AAG spot for the Civil Rights Division and accepted, but he was told on Thursday that the White House was going with Perez instead. Molina accuses the White House of seeking to avoid a controversial nomination process, where immigration would figure prominently. `It was a political decision from the White House, because of Tom’s work on immigration rights,' she says."
The L.A. Times report on the controversy is here.
Circularity. Every morning I have been going to the park across from the East China University School of Political Science and Law for a morning jog. By 7 a.m., the park is already filled with seniors doing their morning exercise--different forms of tai chi, stretching, walking, dancing, movement. It's an amazing, wonderful sight.
One particular woman has caught my attention. She situates herself in the same spot amid a grove of trees on a patch of dirt about the size of a large automobile tire. She walks gracefully, and slowly in a circular motion around the circle on the ground that is smoothed by her walking motion. One day she will be walking clockwise; today, she was walking counter-clockwise. She is in a trance. Her hands and arms flow slowly. She is meditating as she walks. She is peaceful in the circular motion. The circularity is a smooth complete motion that brings peace to her soul, and to others who take the time to watch her motion.
There is much to be said for this peace that comes from the circle. The true effect is likely beyond my comprehension. But there is something complete that I can sense.
This is the type of circularity that has been cut off ans stifled that I used to witness from my Mexican clients who traveled to the U.S. frequently and returned regularly to their homes in Mexico. This circularity has been severed by the militarization of the border that has occurred since the institution of Operation Gatekeeper along the border in the early 1990s, the 3 and 10-year bars of 1996 immigration reform, and the further militarization of the border since 9/11. We have severed the sense of peace that occurred at the border and replaced it with a violent presence that has created a zone of sadness and tension.
Steven Dennis of Roll Call Writes:
Hispanic lawmakers, with the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), are in the throes of a nationwide campaign to pressure President Barack Obama to put immigration reform on the priority list.
"The president is silent," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who is leading a 19-city tour to build grass-roots support for comprehensive reform. "If the president doesn't set it as part of his agenda, it won't happen."
Obama so far has barely mentioned immigration as he focuses on the faltering economy. Gutierrez and others in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus had urged Obama to call for comprehensive reform this year in his joint address to Congress last month, to no avail.
Gutierrez and other Hispanic Members want Obama to first use his executive authority to stop raids and deportation of immigrants, which they say splits up families. Then, they want him to push hard for comprehensive legislation. Click here for the rest of the piece.
Margaret H. Marshall is Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. A native of South Africa, she graduated from Witwaterstrand University in Johannesburg in 1966. In 1966, she was elected as President of the National Union of South African Students, and served in that capacity until 1968 when she came to the United States to pursue her graduate studies. She received a master's degree from Harvard University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School. Chief Justice Marshall was an associate, and later a partner, in the Boston law firm of Csapler & Bok, and was a partner in the Boston law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart. Before her appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court, she was Vice President and General Counsel of Harvard University. First appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in November 1996, she was named as Chief Justice in September 1999 by Governor Cellucci, and began her term on October 14, 1999 following her confirmation by the Governor's Council. Chief Justice Marshall is the second woman to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court in its over-300 year history, and the first woman to serve as Chief Justice.
Marshall was born in Newcastle, South Africa, the daughter of a steel executive. She attended University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and was a leader of students who opposed the racist apartheid system. Marshall led a student organization for three years called the National Union of South African Students, which was dedicated to ending oppressive minority rule and achieving equality for all South Africans. She moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1964 and attended Harvard University (earning a master's degree in education in 1969) and Yale Law School. In 1984, she married then-New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.