Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Family Has Arrived

The family is all together here in Guadalajara. We've spent some great quality time enjoying the city and the restaurants and the swimming pools and the sun. More to come. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Historic Guadalajara

Yesterday, our group toured the historic district of downtown Guadalajara. It's quite impressive. I've done this little excursion multiple times now and it never gets dull or boring.

Guadalajara is the capital city of the State of Jalisco. Jalisco is the birthplace of one of Mexico's most famous 20th Century painter and muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco; and Orozco's paintings are all over the place here.

Of course, we saw the beautiful cathedral, the Orozco murals in the Government Palace, and the amazing Orozco murals in the Hospicio CabaƱas.

After walking the downtown historic district, we ended up at La Chata restaurant for a sabrosa y deliciosa comida Mexicana.

Tomorrow, my family arrives. Can't wait to see them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Credit Annoyances

Every summer I have to face the prospect of having one or all of my credit cards turned down at least once while in Mexico. I assume that this is for my protection because a charge in Mexico probably elicits a fraud red flag. But it's a royal hassle nonetheless to have to call the credit card company from Mexico and explain the situation and get the block removed. Now, I should say that I've had this problem even when I call the credit card companies ahead of time and inform them that I will be in Mexico from such and such a date to such and such a date and to accept charges from Mexico during this time as legitimate. But to no avail. I have yet to have a smooth experience as far as credit card usage in Mexico goes. And this poses particular stress because I use the credit card for program expenses and activities that I organize for my group. Oh, well ... the price one pays for overzealous credit card companies. I guess I shouldn't complain. I'd rather be having to make calls to verify legitimate usage instead of having to make calls to contest fraudulent usage. But it is annoying and frustrating nonetheless.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Huckupchuck in Mexico

Well, I'm now blogging from the lovely Mexican city of Guadalajara. I arrived yesterday with my gang and got everyone settled in with their families just fine. With the exception of one student who ended up without one of her bags, the trip was relaxing and uneventful. In fact, I can remember no other time when my group's arrival went so smoothly.

I'm staying at a place called the Suites Margarita. I've stayed here once before. It's a bit of a splurge on my part, but when my lovelies come to Mexico for an extended time, as they are doing this year, I always splurge on them. My daughters love it here.

In fact, as I write now, it is about 8:00pm (Guadalajara in the summer is in the same time zone as New Orleans) and I am sitting on the terrace connected to the Suites Margarita's wireless internet service and sipping on a Pacifico beer. I would upload a picture for you, but my internet signal is weak and the photo is having trouble uploading to Blogger's servers. But I'll try to give you a glimpse of what my moment is like tomorrow when I have a stronger signal.

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 19, 2008: 9:15AM: Here's the glimpse I promised:

Life at the moment is, as they say in Spanish, "muy tranquilo." I had a good day today. It was our group's orientation and all went very smoothly.

I did notice some changes in Guadalajara. A number of businesses have shuttered and there seems to be a slight, but noticeable sense of anxiety in the air. Though no one here has spoken to me of it, I get the feeling that there is a bit of an economic recession gripping the city. As another saying goes, when the US economy sneezes, the Mexican economy gets the flu. Perhaps the doldrums we're experiencing at home are having their repercussions here.

The US Dollar is weaker here, but only by a little bit compared to other places in the world. Last summer, I could get about 10.7 pesos to the dollar, now the best rate I've seen is about 10.3 to the dollar.

While on the plane yesterday, and also as I was relaxing last night, I finished my friend Lucas Diaz's collection of short stories that take place in a fictional town about 15 miles down river from New Orleans called New Domangue. I'm a pretty tough critic when it comes to fiction; but I have to say that I was really impressed with these stories. The book is called Passing Unseen: Stories from New Domangue. If you like Lafcadio Hearn's stories about New Orleans, I think you'll dig on Lucas Diaz's stories. Lucas has an amazing perceptive ability about the minds and languages of different age groups, racial and ethnic groups, and the culture of the region. If nothing more, this eclectic variety of the stories give witness to Lucas's expansive literary talents and cultural knowledge of the Louisiana Deep South.

More Mexico blogging to come ... stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Confirmed: Immigration Bills Are Dead

I received this email update summary from a source up in Baton Rouge who was working closely on the immigration bills and whose credibility is unassailable:

There were 8 bills brought this session dealing with immigration. The results are as follows:

HB 25 (police checking status): Geymann – dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 24/1357 (harboring): Geymann – dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 26/1358 (transporting): Geymann - dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 887 (medical malpractice): LaBruzzo – dead; passed through House committee as restricting the cap on medical malpractice suits, morphed into an anti-immigrant bill on the House Floor due to an amendment that essentially became the body of the bill, challenged in Senate committee and the author decided to voluntarily defer the bill because he did not have the votes to get it passed

HB 1097/1380 (biometrics card): Harrison – dead; passed through the House committee but author decided to recommit the bill to its original committee once it was to be heard on the House Floor due to its incredibly high fiscal note; became a study resolution

HB 1157/1365 (renting property): Burns, T. – dead; passed through the House committee but will not be heard on the House Floor by decision of the author

HB 1103 (prohibits employers from hiring unauthorized aliens) – the author, Rep. Williams, never moved the bill

HB 1082 (prohibits state agencies from contracting with persons who employ illegal immigrants): Geymann – was assigned to House Appropriations but has never been heard
Batting a thousand. Not too shabby. But, as this source also noted, this is just the beginning of the fight. As long as the Feds don't act to reform a broken federal immigration system, we can expect to face such kinds of bills in future legislative sessions. For now, though, we can savor a small (even if ephemeral) victory.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, it's been a while since I last posted. Frankly, I've been quite busy with a number of things. But I at least wanted to give a bit of an update. First, regarding the immigration bills ... it looks like every immigration bill that was working its way through the Louisiana legislature has stalled. There are less than two weeks to go in the current session and all of the bills have bogged down in the Senate Committees. If any of these bills are going to make it to the Governor's desk, they'll have to pass through Committee, then be scheduled for debate and vote on the Senate floor. There just isn't enough time to do this. One bill, HB 1365 by Tim Burns on renting property to undocumented immigrants hasn't even made it out of the House yet. So, that bill is dead. HB 25, HB 1357, and HB 1358 haven't even really been heard in Senate Committee yet. So, for all intents and purposes, they're dead, too. I guess the sponsors of these bills can go back to their districts as heroes for having tried to do something, even if their efforts failed. If that's how they want to play it, that's fine. In the end, it's still a legislative defeat for them and a victory for those of us who opposed these bills. They were bad pieces of legislation anyhow. The sad part of it all is that I never got to testify. And even if some of the bills are resuscitated next week, I still won't be able to testify given that I'll be in Mexico. And that's my next point ...

Part of the reason why I haven't been blogging so much lately is that I'm getting ready for my jaunt to Mexico. I've got to tie loose ends up at the office and at home. I've got to pack, prepare my course, and make sure final arrangements are set in Mexico. That's consumed a good bit of my energies.

I've also been frantically trying to close out some home repair and remodeling projects that I've had in the works for a while now. I've made some good progress on that front, too.

But once I'm in Mexico, I'll have more time to blog. I can leave the immigration stuff alone for the time being and turn my attention to Mexico, to the upcoming national elections, and to other aspects of Louisiana life and politics.

Oh, and I have to pay up on that bet with my wife's former pastor that I lost once Obama sewed up the Democratic Party nomination! Go, Obama!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Times-Picayune Again Editorializes on Immigration

I have to give it to the editors at the Times-Picayune. They have been relentless in their coverage of the immigration bills before the Louisiana legislature, and they have been clear in their opposition to such bills. Today's editorial, titled "Give up flawed effort," is the third editorial in as many weeks on the topic. In case you missed it, here it is in full:

Friday, June 06, 2008

It's comforting that some lawmakers have finally raised concerns about the misguided immigration bills proposed by Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann.

Rep. Geymann, however, is vowing to bring his proposals back next week. He should instead heed the flaws highlighted by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee B and abandon his proposals.

House Bills 1357 and 1358 would make it a crime to "harbor, conceal or shelter" and to transport illegal residents. Another of Rep. Geymann's proposals, House Bill 25, would require law enforcement agencies to verify citizenship and immigration status of every person arrested.

These bills are unenforceable, likely unconstitutional and a vehicle for racial profiling of people who look Hispanic, whether they are here legally or not. These are reasons enough to scrub the proposals.

Committee members apparently understand these problems. At a hearing this week, Kenner Sen. Danny Martiny questioned how police officers could determine whether someone is here legally or illegally.

That's a good question, considering most Americans don't carry passports, birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Many people don't even have those records readily available.

Sen. Eric LaFleur of Ville Plate worried about many innocent residents and employers being trapped by the dragnet these bills would cast.

Defending the measures, Rep. Geymann said the bills aim at people who exploit illegal immigrants or businesses that hire them knowing of their illegal status.

But as Sen. Butch Gautreaux of Morgan City pointed out, the proposals do not make those distinctions. Sen. Gautreaux said the result would be profiling against people who "look a little different" or "are not speaking the king's Cajun English."

That's the most pernicious of these bill's flaws. Yet Rep. Geymann assured his colleagues that such profiling would not take place and that prosecutors would not abuse the bills. If he truly believes that, he's being naive.

Profiling was one of the problems Louisiana courts found in a 2002 law that made it a felony to drive without proof of legal U.S. residency.

Having no way to discern who may be here legally and who may not, police officers used the bill to unfairly target Latinos. Several U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent were wrongly charged for failing to carry documents proving citizenship -- which no American is expected to have on them. The courts appropriately ruled the law unconstitutional last year.

Our country needs strict border control and a sensible immigration policy that gives illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Trying to pass constitutionally questionable proposals at the state level is not the answer.

The Senate committee members can see that -- so should Rep. Geymann.
I agree with every word. [And the Times-Picayune finally got Rep. Geymann's first name correct, too!]

Other states may find it more to their liking to go after undocumented immigrants with such legislative initiatives; but it just isn't in the spirit of the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic gumbo that is Louisiana to follow the same path. We are a very heterogenous, welcoming, and culturally pluralistic state, especially in the more populous Southern parts of the state. And the majority of the Senators in Judiciary Committee B come from Southern Louisiana. These bills just don't fit who we are. For these reasons, I'm confident that they'll be defeated. Rest assured that I'll be in Baton Rouge this coming week to testify when these bills will be scheduled for a hearing once again.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

On Immigration: We're Talking Past One Another

The Times-Picayune has published a letter to the editor from an individual by the name of Joe Molyneux who writes in response to City Council President Arnie Fielkow's letter regarding the illegal immigration issue. Mr. Molyneux wrote in opposition to Fielkow's position and expressed support for efforts to curb illegal immigration. Here's what Mr. Molyneux wrote:

Re: "Piecemeal laws no way to handle immigration," Metro, June 2.

New Orleans City Council President Arnie Fielkow wrote a very moving and politically correct letter relative to immigration. However, the issue we face in America is illegal immigration. National security of this country should be a concern to all of us, not just the federal government.

Those who condone illegal immigration may not realize it, but they undermine our own laws in taking this position sending a message to those who break our laws that it is OK. Because most illegal immigrants come to the United States to make money does not make it right to subvert our laws. The end does not justify the means.

We do an injustice to those who come here illegally if we look the other way. We are implicitly telling them that our country is not based on the rule of law, that one can pick and choose reasons for breaking the law and suffer no consequences.

Joe Molyneux

First, let me note that Mr. Molyneux's letter was respectful and understandable. He speaks about respecting the rule of law, which is an important concept and is one that I think most of us would agree with. I certainly do. His reference to this "rule of law" argument in defense of the kinds of anti-illegal immigrant legislation working its way through the Louisiana legislature is one that I often hear anti-illegal immigrant folk make. But, I don't find that this "rule of law" argument is really being contested or challenged by those of us who oppose the kinds of anti-illegal immigrant legislation we are seeing in Louisiana (and in other states throughout the country). That is not the source of our complaint within the illegal immigration debate, nor is it the root of our disagreements, especially regarding the state-level anti-illegal immigration measures being considered. We are talking past one another. Let me use Mr. Molyneux's letter, Mr. Fielkow's letter, and Martin Gutierrez's recent Op-Ed piece in the Times-Picayune to demonstrate this.

Mr. Molyneux's argument assumes that the positions held by Arnie Fielkow and Martin Gutierrez are ones that "condone" illegal immigration. His entire argument is based on that assumption. He says that by thus condoning illegal immigration, Fielkow and Gutierrez are undermining the rule of law in our country. If Fielkow and Gutierrez were condoning illegal immigration, he might have a point. But if you read Fielkow and Gutierrez carefully, neither of them at any point condones, either explicitly or implicitly, illegal entry into the United States. Nor are they condoning or justifying breaking the law. I think what both are doing, in their own ways, is simply stating that regardless of the method of an undocumented immigrant's arrival to our community, it serves the broader interests of public safety and the general welfare, not to mention serves the moral imperative to good-neighborliness, to approach these individuals in our midst with compassion, charity, and in a welcoming spirit. Now, there may be some disagreement as to the severity of the illegal activity, but I would imagine that most fair-minded people would recognize that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are not the kinds of hardened criminals that would warrant punitive social isolation and rejection from our community. I have heard many people say that they would happily welcome the very same undocumented people into their communities if they would just go through the proper channels to get here. To me, this implies that, unlike the hardened criminal, people recognize the goodness of most undocumented migrants such that having them as neighbors would pose no problem. They are not the drug dealers, the sexual offenders, the property damagers, the disturbers-of-the-peace, etc., whom most people either fear or wouldn't want in their neighborhoods.

It is recognizing this aspect of undocumented immigrants that motivates Fielkow, Gutierrez, and myself in terms of how we should approach the problem. There is no condoning of disrespecting the rule of law in this case any more than there is condoning law breaking of the chronic speed-limit violator. Unlike what Mr. Molyneux claims, national (and local) security is a concern for all of us. It is this concern for security which partly drives opposition to what Fielkow called "piecemeal state legislative efforts." Let's revisit what Fielkow actually said:
As we have seen in Congress, the immigration issue is a complex issue that cannot be thoroughly and equitably addressed through piecemeal state legislative efforts.

As a nation, we have a responsibility to develop and implement a comprehensive national immigration policy that is enforceable, does not create an undue burden on law-abiding citizens, respects and protects human rights and creates an atmosphere in which a community can thrive.
Where does Fielkow condone illegal activity? Seems to me his focus is on what these state legislative efforts will do to law-abiding citizens and our communities. Gutierrez is more direct and explicit in his comments about the "rule of law" concern. He writes in his Op-Ed:
The Catholic Bishops of Louisiana and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans strongly believe in enforcement of the law. We do not condone illegal immigration. We are not in favor of open borders and are not suggesting blanket amnesty, but rather an earned path to citizenship for the deserving among the millions of hard-working, community-minded undocumented individuals and families in this country.

We support requirements to earn legal status including learning the language, undergoing a criminal background check, paying back taxes and paying a penalty. We support putting this group behind others waiting for their applications to be processed.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if these 12 million undocumented residents were suddenly deported, as some have demanded. Many of these people have been living in the United States for decades. They hold jobs, belong to churches, and have children and grandchildren who are native-born U.S. citizens.
Again, here Gutierrez explicitly says that the Catholic Church, whose position he represents, does not condone illegal activity. But, like Fielkow, his concern is what such legislative efforts at the state level will do to human dignity, families, and local communities.

In the end, I don't think Mr. Molyneux's "rule of law" argument is what is at issue. He misreads Fielkow, Gutierrez, and many others who oppose these state-level anti-illegal immigrant bills. Fielkow, Gutierrez, and others who oppose these state-level anti-illegal immigrant initiatives and who advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level wouldn't dispute the importance of the rule of law. But it seems that Mr. Molyneux, though he may not realize it himself, is refusing to see that what concerns Fielkow, Gutierrez, and other is what rash and polarizing local anti-illegal immigrant legislation will do to our security and to our sense of community. What Mr. Molyneux seems not to want to recognize is that what is driving these local anti-illegal immigrant initiatives is not so much grounded in maintaining the rule of law in the face of those who would break it, but playing on the fears of citizens and even threatening law abiding citizens with punitive action in the context of the illegal immigration issue.

Mr. Molyneux's letter contends that "the end doesn't justify the means." He was basically arguing that whatever benefits might be driving illegal immigration, those benefits don't justify subverting the law. Along the same lines, I might argue to Mr. Molyneux that targeting law-abiding citizens with punitive consequences and jail time for potentially doing a humantarian good deed for an undocumented immigrant is not the proper means that justifies resolving the illegal immigration problem. Yes, indeed, "the end doesn't justify the means." That's precisely the argument that many make against these local anti-illegal immigrant measures. And even then, there's no concrete evidence that the very means deployed in these measures will achieve the desired end. So, in a sense, Mr. Molyneux uses the same argument that I might use. Another striking bit of evidence that we are talking past one another.

On this issue, we need to talk to one another more, instead of talking past one another. If we could talk to one another more, we might find that we may agree more than we disagree. And we would certainly understand better what motivates us in those areas where we do disagree.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Super Day

Today was not just a good day for me, but a super one. First off, I completed the last formal academic obligation I had before heading off to Mexico. So, it was great to get that off my shoulders.

Second, although I couldn't make it to Baton Rouge to testify before the State Senate Judiciary committee on the immigration bills being considered there because of my academic obligation, I learned that one of the anti-illegal immigration bills (HB 887 on medical malpractice lawsuit rights) was defeated in the Senate committee. I also learned that HB 25, HB 1357, and HB 1358, which have been very much focal points for me, were voluntarily deferred by the bills' author, Rep. Brett Geymann, following initial tough questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee that indicated he didn't have the support to get them through Committee. Rep. Geymann, in voluntarily deferring these bills, reserves the right to bring them up at a later date for a continuation of the Senate Committee hearing. But, the current legislative session ends on June 23, and so the likelihood of resuscitating deferred legislation at this point is very slim. Usually, when bills get deferred at this point, whether voluntarily or unvoluntarily, it suggests that they are pretty much defunct for this legislative session. But we shall see. It is certainly a positive sign for opponents of the bill. And I can confirm that the Senate Committee chamber was filled with plenty of people registering opposition to the bills. This must have made an impression on the Committee. And if the bills do manage to come up again sometime next week, I will have nothing preventing me from being able to go to Baton Rouge myself to testify against them.

And, third: YES, WE CAN! YES, WE DID! Barack Obama defeated the Clinton machine and has secured enough delegates to be the Democratic Party's official nominee for the November Presidential elections.

It has, indeed, been a super day!

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 4, 11:00AM: Lucas Diaz, who went to Baton Rouge yesterday to testify against the immigration bills, gives a riveting first-hand report on the events of the day. Here's the most illustrating, revealing, and shocking part of it:

Our next order of business was to make it to Judiciary A, where HB 887 had not yet been heard. Thirty of us found open seating where we could and patiently waited for 887 to be heard. When it was called, Representative LaBruzzo stepped up. He, too, was shown the thirty-plus red opposition cards to his bill. He had one in favor, one single lone green card. The Chairman, Senator Quinn, followed the same script, it seemed, as had the Chairman in the previous committee room. She asked hard questions about the bill, specifically the constitutionality of the bill. Rep. LaBruzzo stated (again, I remind you that this is public record and anyone can look it up at the Louisiana Legislature) that he wasn’t a lawyer but that his Senate staff lawyers had not advised him that his bill was unconstitutional. Senator Quinn then responded by reading the section of the constitution that applies to his bill, the section in which it clearly states that “no person” will be denied due process. She then asked Rep. LaBruzzo if he considered “illegal immigrants” as persons, to which Rep. LaBruzzo responded that when it came to his bill he did not. WAIT. WHAT??!!??

So, there we had it: straight from a legislator’s mouth. According to Representative LaBruzzo, of District 81 (Metairie, folks), “illegal aliens” are not to be considered persons–DESPITE the fact that the United States Constitution clearly states “person” and not citizen, or non-citizen, or legal resident, or whatever–it states PERSON. Last I checked immigrants were human beings, regardless of their legal immigration status, and last I checked human beings were considered persons. Unfortunately, our Metairie Representative does not appear to agree, so it begs the question: what does Representative LaBruzzo believe “illegal aliens” are? This would be funny if it wasn’t so scary. We are talking about people’s lives, about laws that one legislator seriously believes should be State law, and that a majority of House members voted up to the Senate. This would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.

But that’s not the end of it. A heated argument began between Senator Quinn and Rep. LaBruzzo regarding federal and state constitution (by the way, the State’s constitution reads in similar fashion as the federal constitution when it comes to due process). The voice of the Nursing Home Association chimed in its support, then the arguing continued until eventually Senator Quinn decided to chide the representative. She accused him of political pandering and expressed her extreme distaste for such activities in her committee and warned him to refrain from repeating the same offense in the future. After that the arguments between the two took on an even more intense flavor until Senator Quinn halted and motioned for a withdrawal. At the same time, Rep LaBruzzo voluntarily withdrew, keeping all of us and the rest of the Senators on the committee from asking further questions or testifying in opposition. However, Senator Kostelka had one comment to add. He chided the Chairman for attacking a representative in public and then publicly and clearly stated that while he was opposed to the proposed bill prior to the committee discussion, he now would vote for it because of the poor treatment Rep. LaBruzzo received. WHAT??!!?? Did we hear that correctly? Yes, we did. Senator Kostelka, a former judge, replied that constitutionality issues were less important than the “de-facing” of a fellow legislator. How interesting. So even when there is experience and expertise at the table, there is no guarantee of impartiality, objectivity, and concern for the common good. But I thought we elected officials to be concerned about the public well-being and not the individual well-being of a fellow elected official? I guess I was wrong in believing differently.
Well, let me add just one comment: Of course, LaBruzzo doesn't consider undocumented migrants to be persons. Anyone who uses the term "alien" to describe someone is consciously choosing a term that purposefully seeks to "dehumanize" that person. So if he doesn't think undocumented immigrants are humans, why wouldn't he interpret the constitution in the way that he does? [As an aside, I wonder what LaBruzzo thinks of a fetus's "personhood"?]

The Empathetic Position on Immigration

My colleague, Martin Gutierrez, had an op-ed column published in today's Times-Picayune. Here's the piece in full:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Martin Gutierrez

When I was a teenager, close to 30 years ago, my parents were forced to leave the country where we were born for political reasons. Our leaving Nicaragua was a matter of survival and freedom for our family.

During these 30 years, I have lived a fruitful life. I graduated from Chalmette High School, worked my way through college to earn a degree from UNO, purchased a home in Metairie and had a successful banking career. I will always be grateful to my parents for allowing me the opportunity for a better life, and to the United States for allowing me to contribute back to our society.

As executive director of the Hispanic Apostolate Pastoral Services of the Archdiocese, I now find myself asking my fellow American citizens (yes, I am very proud to be a naturalized United States citizen and registered voter) to consider granting others, who are already in our country, a similar opportunity to the one I had.

It makes good sense to reform immigration laws. The system is clearly broken. But the state Legislature is not the place to make the much needed repairs. These complex reforms belong in Washington, D.C.

The Catholic Bishops of Louisiana and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans strongly believe in enforcement of the law. We do not condone illegal immigration. We are not in favor of open borders and are not suggesting blanket amnesty, but rather an earned path to citizenship for the deserving among the millions of hard-working, community-minded undocumented individuals and families in this country.

We support requirements to earn legal status including learning the language, undergoing a criminal background check, paying back taxes and paying a penalty. We support putting this group behind others waiting for their applications to be processed.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if these 12 million undocumented residents were suddenly deported, as some have demanded. Many of these people have been living in the United States for decades. They hold jobs, belong to churches, and have children and grandchildren who are native-born U.S. citizens.

These undocumented workers contribute to the U.S. economy and are employed in many sectors that would be severely impacted if they were suddenly no longer here. The Social Security Administration estimates that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes which annually contributes $7 billion in Social Security funds that they will never be able to claim and another $1.5 billion to Medicare.

An unintended consequence of deporting millions of undocumented workers would certainly be the potential harm to their children. According to the Pew center, about 3 million American-born children have at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant. A 2007 study analyzed the effect of workplace raids, which almost always result in deportation, on children. For every two illegal immigrants apprehended, one child was left behind.

Children should not be punished for the sins of their parents, and families are the cornerstone of society. If 12 million undocumented were suddenly deported, which most believe is economically unsound and logistically impossible, millions of children could be left behind.

What about amnesty? Should all 12 million simply be documented and made legal? The answer is no. As is the case with any large group, there is an element among the undocumented that should be deported. Instead of blanket amnesty, we must advocate for changes at the federal level that would allow for an earned path to citizenship.

Allow the good, productive people who came here fleeing poverty, starvation, violence or political repression to come out of the shadows and become integral members of our communities.

The issues of immigration reform are complex and continue to be debated, but action to reform the laws and fix the system belongs in Washington, not Baton Rouge.
I probably fall out much more on the more liberal side of the issue than Martin does, in the sense that I favor an even easier path to citizenship for undocumented migrants. Martin indicates that no special privileges be given to undocumented migrants in any comprehensive immigration reform program: that they have to pay a penalty for being here without proper documents, that they have to wait at the end of the line, etc. I don't disagree with the spirit behind this position because it is imbued with a sense of fairness and justice; but I'd also prefer that the economic and social contributions a migrant makes to the fabric and wealth of our society, including their contributions to the federal, state, and local treasuries for the taxes that they pay, count for something in terms of a comprehensive reform package. I'd rather that legislators weigh the "negatives" of being undocumented against the "positives" of the contributions undocumented migrants make to our economy and society and craft comprehensive immigration reform more along the "rewards" side of the "path to citizenship" equation rather then the punitive side of it. But I agree 100% with Martin that any immigration reform must be undertaken at the federal level, and not at the local or state level. There are just too many problems and complications with state legislative efforts. It invites more government and competing jurisdictions (not to mention additional costs to the taxpayer) to cloud and muddle even more an already complex and messy immigration system. Why would "good government" advocates desire this? Putting aside any humanitarian arguments in defense of a more liberal immigration policy, and regardless of the competing and opposing positions on the merits of local legislative initiatives, I think it's best to leave immigration reform and border security in the hands of the federal government, where our national constitution locates this responsibility.

Martin raises some very good points that provide an empathetic and dignity-based rationale for comprehensive immigration reform. And while we may disagree on some of the specifics, I think we share a solidarity regarding the way we should be responding: with empathy and respect for the dignity of the human being and the family.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Arnie Fielkow Against Immigration Bills

New Orleans City Councilman and President of the City Council has come out against the immigration-related bills in the Louisiana legislature. Here's his letter in full:

Recent letters to The Times-Picayune as well as an editorial published by the newspaper have addressed the recent initiatives in the Louisiana Legislature dealing with illegal immigration.

Some have opposed the bills as a practical matter of making sure that we have a sufficient workforce to do all the jobs required in our rebuilding efforts. Others have opposed the bills on moral grounds, claiming they impose burdens and penalties on citizens who do nothing more than provide humanitarian aid.

Others have opposed these bills for jurisdictional reasons, arguing that the establishment and enforcement of immigration laws is a federal, not a local or state, responsibility.

What is clear to all is that the target for this legislation is the growing Hispanic population in New Orleans.

As a City Council member for the city of New Orleans, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to meet and talk with folks from all walks of life. I embrace the diversity within our community and the richness in experience this diversity brings to our community.

As we have seen in Congress, the immigration issue is a complex issue that cannot be thoroughly and equitably addressed through piecemeal state legislative efforts.

As a nation, we have a responsibility to develop and implement a comprehensive national immigration policy that is enforceable, does not create an undue burden on law-abiding citizens, respects and protects human rights and creates an atmosphere in which a community can thrive.

I am glad to see the Hispanic community take leadership in speaking out about the various problems bills circulating in Baton Rouge.

In Louisiana, our Spanish-speaking neighbors have been with us as long as our French-speaking families. As a state, I hope that we remember this, and I hope that we are able to find solutions that benefit our community rather than divide us.

Arnie D. Fielkow
City Council
New Orleans
Fielkow could be our next mayor. Regardless, I am pleased that he has taken such a public position on the issue; and I take pride in the fact that the people and groups I work closely with in New Orleans on issues of importance to the Hispanic community here have played no small role in educating and cultivating a strong and positive relationship not only with Fielkow, but with the entire New Orleans City Council and the Mayor's Office.