Injustice: Bush Deported Spouse to Country of Past Rape

The case of Genesio Oliveira and Tim Coco needs a whole bunch more focus in our country. The Bush Administration ripped apart their marriage when they deported Mr. Oliveira, clearly motivated by wanting to make a statement about MA gay marriage laws. John Kerry has stepped forward to help, but we need internet outrage as well.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Let me be far more direct that Senator John Kerry, who is certainly doing the humanitarian thing by taking up the cause of Tom Coco and Genesio Oliveira. You see, they married in Massachusetts, fully expecting to live a life together in that state. Genesio had come to this country after abuse and rape in his native Brazil, but had found love and stability here. Then the Bush Administration deported Mr. Oliveira, seperating the couple, violating the bonds of matrimony and the commitment our government should have to the happines of its law abiding citizens. All because Genesio Oliveira is gay. Oh sure, his immigration status was not in order, but the real factor here is that Genesio Oliveira is gay, and it is highly likely he was a target of the Bush Administration for that reason and because Genesio Oliveira was married in Massachusetts.

John Kerry is stepping in, asking that the Obama Administration do something about the case to reunite Tim Coco. He’s also co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act, something the family-obsessed GOP will surely get their panties in a bunch about. Here’s a bit from the Boston Globe:

Genesio “Junior” Oliveira, who is married to Haverhill advertising agency owner Tim Coco, returned home in August 2007 after he lost his asylum case and appeal, which was based on his story that he had suffered a brutal rape and discrimination in Brazil.

In a letter this week, Kerry asked Attorney General Eric Holder to overrule the lower court and grant Oliveira asylum. In the letter, Kerry criticized Immigration Judge Francis Cramer for rejecting the asylum plea even though Cramer had found the testimony credible. Kerry said it was “outrageous” that Cramer noted that Oliveira was not physically harmed by the rape.

“The injustice of the initial denial of Junior’s asylum claim continues to this day,” Kerry wrote in the letter. “I hope that you will review this case and determine that the denial of Junior’s asylum claim was in error and let him return to this country.”

As head of the Department of Justice, Holder oversees the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Holder will review the letter and respond to Kerry, spokesman Charles Miller said yesterday.

Evidently, stressed more heavily in the New York Times report, the immigration judge had said in his ruling, with no evidence, that Genesio Oliveira was not harmed when he was raped, a conclusion that can only be reached if one imagines that gay men wish to be raped. Yeah, there’s some stark and ugly logic going on here by the judge in his actions to tear apart a family, but stark and ugly logic on the issue of gay and lesbian citizens is par for the course for the extremists who walk with Bush on the issue.

The Obama Administration has much to clean up after eight years of Bush. It isn’t just the bungling by Bush, but also the meanspirited laws designed to harm Americans. There’s the bottom line. Genesio Oliveira harms nobody be staying in this country, and the stable family relationship he holds with Tim Coco profits all of us as a society. But the Bushies are not about profiting us as a society, not by any evidence.

This is a crime, a moral crime.

Monday, March 23rd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Mining Racism in a Coal Region Town

Did any of the six teens in Pennsylvania who murdered Luis Ramirez listen to talk radio, watch Fox News or Lou Dobbs, or read web blogs and anonymous call-ins and letters to the local newspaper? It doesn’t matter. They didn’t have to, because racial and ethnic hatred has many vectors in a hateful society.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

On a street in Shenandoah, Pa., deep in the heart of the anthracite coal region, six White teens took their racial hatred to a higher level. They confronted 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, an undocumented worker, and beat him to death.

At first the police chief, the mayor, and borough manager refused to believe racism was involved. Although there was already racial and ethnic tension in the 5,000 population town, the town’s political leaders were united in one belief–it was just another street fight gone bad. “I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling,” said the borough manager.

It took police almost two weeks, even with several witnesses, to finally arrest four of the teens. The district attorney charged two of the teens with homicide, aggravated assault, and ethnic intimidation, and two others with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Unindicted co-conspirators are millions of Americans and the far-right mass media.

It’s common for people in a nation that is in a Recession to complain. They’re frustrated with their lives, with bad working conditions, dead end jobs, and low incomes. They’re frustrated by skyrocketing prices, obscene corporate profits, and do-nothing legislators. The problem isn’t “us,” they believe, but “them.” The “other”. Outsiders who “invaded” America.

A century ago in the coal region, good ole boy Americans complained about the Irish and Poles who took “our” jobs in the mines. For decades, Whites kept Blacks out of almost all but the most menial jobs, and then lynched those who they found to be too “uppity.” During the 1920s and 1930s, the masses of Germans, trying to rationalize their own economic distress, decided the problem was the Jews–and Americans went along with that ethnic racism. We blame Asians. Africans. Muslims. Anyone who’s different.

In today’s America, it’s the “Illegals,” the code-name for undocumented Mexicans. Of course, undocumented Swedes or Canadians or anyone with White skin pass under the radar. Anyone with dark skin doesn’t.

However, politicians and pundits together yell that “illegal” means just that. “What’s not to understand about –illegal’,” they screech. They claim they aren’t after any one race or people. Just get rid of illegals. You know, the ones who take “our” jobs. Take “our” welfare. Take “our” education. Take “our” health care. For free! And, while they’re taking, say the forces of righteousness and purity, these illegals become criminals. Some do. But most don’t.

You can’t reason with people in their own crises. You can’t tell them that our prisons are filled not with undocumented workers but with American citizens. You can’t explain that most undocumented workers don’t want hand-outs because they don’t want to be known to the authorities. Volumes of data won’t convince some of the masses that undocumented workers, the illegals, often live in near-poverty and don’t get welfare. They don’t even go to the ER when necessary, and so their illness or injury “runs its course” while destroying other body systems because these undocumented workers, already exploited by American business, are afraid of being identified and deported.

In our schools, hatred festers and breeds. Jokes about race, ethnicity, religion, women, gays, and anyone not “us” are told and retold by students–and by teachers and principals who should know better.

Two decades ago, the hatreds would have been somewhat isolated, confined to the corner saloon or social club. But now, self-aggrandizing politicians and media talk show hosts and pundits, who erroneously believe they are populists, spew hate-filled torrents of bigotry and fear-mongering.

I don’t know if the six teens who murdered Luis Ramirez listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, or read web blogs and anonymous call-ins and letters to the local newspaper. They don’t have to. Their community does.

[Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, author of 17 books, and occasional ASZ contributor. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through amazon.com and other stores.]

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

Sometimes When You Get Too Close, You Get Too Far

2008 will be a historical election…but whether it will be a transformative one remains to be seen. Transformation likely means different things to different generations. Fulfilling the hopes and dreams of some of us can be seen as a threat to the rest of us. Perhaps the lessons learned in 2008 will bring all of us closer to where we belong.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

“Sometimes when you get too close, you get too far” is one of many pearls of wisdom handed down from my Italian immigrant grandparents. They used the expression to warn their children that all relationships weren’t the same and that there are circumstances whereby getting too involved is ill advised. Fortunately, my parents passed those same words along to their children. I’ve been focused on the saying for several weeks as I’ve been seeking an understanding of my own indeterminate malaise.

Let me offer some background and then some explanation. I love politics and psychology and I often focus on their overlap when writing. I’ve done so because I’m convinced that all of our actions can be traced back to the individual’s psyche. Try as we might, I suspect we actually understand very little about the mechanics of that entity…other than the fact that it undoubtedly makes each of us uniquely flawed individuals.

If we look close enough, perhaps we can find themes or threads that connect some of us. At the same time, it seems safe to infer that the reverse is true…meaning there are also threadbare holes in this imperfect human tapestry that divide us. Politics is thus the tundra upon which these commonalities and these differences unfold.

This current election cycle is a unique moment in our American history. Never before has it been inevitable that either a woman or an African American would be the nominee of one of our political parties. Part and parcel of that eventuality is the concept of change. Confronting this change, in my estimation, involves many of the same dynamics found in my grandparent’s thoughtful insights.

There is a spoken belief that our nation long ago confronted issues of race and gender and set in motion the removal of the barriers associated with either. There is also an unspoken reality that neither has been achieved. As we approach the moment where our lip service may well be forced to acquiesce to the living of these lofty proclamations, we begin to see that the closer we get to its achievement, the further we may be from its existence.

The evidence that exists is no doubt the equivalent of a DNA match. Whether it’s a product of our capitalistic mindset that idealizes winning and posits that the opposite is losing, I don’t know for sure…but I suspect it may well be. If so, then nothing could be more divisive than to ask voters to affirm one oppressed group over another. It’s as if fate is bringing us to the precipice of progress…only to ask us to make a choice that will catapult one group to the pinnacle while seemingly pushing the other into the abyss. While this isn’t actually the choice, it may be the perception.

Worse still, those groups who lack a contestant in the competition for the quintessential prize worry that the elevation of one of their fellow second class societal equivalents may well result in the further disproportionate distribution of the spoils of success. Hence, if the perception exists that the proverbial pie isn’t large enough to nourish us all, then the thought that one’s longtime competitor (for the crumbs that fall off the table) is about to receive not only a place at the table, but a plate…and a bigger piece of the pie, is apt to create angst…and resentment. Therein lies what we must attempt to understand.

An example might be beneficial. I received a distressing call from my younger sister last week. As I picked up the phone and said hello, all I heard on the other end was my sister sobbing…telling me that she had just gotten off the phone with my mother. My heart sunk as my mind raced to guess who had died or was diagnosed with a terminal disease or fallen gravely ill. It’s amazing how many thoughts can occupy a few seconds. I immediately asked, “What’s the matter?” As I braced for the bad news, she replied, “I told mom I had caucused for Obama and she got mad and hung up on me”.

You see my mom is in her seventies…and the thought that a fellow woman would choose to support “the other candidate” (a man who happens to be black) is akin to treason. Add to that the fact that she grew up in a small Colorado community as a Catholic whose Italian immigrant parents had distinct accents and customs that were foreign to those around them and one begins to see the generational impact.

Such is the insidious nature of discrimination and prolonged periods of lost or limited opportunities. Let me be clear…my mom doesn’t have a racist bone in her body and I can’t recall a single disparaging remark about any minority (save for her angry comments at my announcement many years ago that I was gay). Nonetheless, she is a product of a society that relegated her and other women to a lesser status and in so doing served to rob her and many others of the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The fact that she saw similar limitations placed upon her foreign born parents only exacerbated her awareness of the issue.

When I subsequently spoke with my mother on the phone, the gravity of the situation was revealed when she stated, “I want to see a woman elected to the presidency before I die.” Yes, the same woman who idolized the charisma and the hope she found in JFK couldn’t envision that my sister had seen the same in Barack Obama. She could only feel her own sense of loss and sadness at the fact that time is cutting short her chances to witness the culmination of her dreams and her hopes.

2008 will be a historical election…but whether it will be a transformative one remains to be seen. Sometimes the closer we get to fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the least of us, the more difficult it can be to preserve them for the rest of us. Hence, transformation can be a double-edged sword.

My love for my mom and my sister is unlimited…and yet it can’t always bridge the gaps that come between people from disparate eras. When injustice has been administered and experienced over lengthy periods of time, it may be impossible to repair the damages or remove the regrets that accompany it.

We each see life through our own prisms. We occasionally see the same thing when looking through those prisms…yet if we see those things in our lives at differing chronological points, they will likely have different meanings. In the end, sometimes when you’ve gone too long without, you’ve gone too far within. Perhaps the lessons learned in 2008 will bring all of us closer to where we belong.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, February 11th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

The Daily Show: Mittens, Marriage, & Massachusetts

Mitt Romney can reconstruct his positions at the drop of a hat. Let’s just hope that Mittens doesn’t eventually try to reconstitute himself into one of his remaining eight political identities. I’m of the opinion that it’s best to let sleeping dogs…err…Mittens…lie. He does it so well!


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

If you didn’t see Mitt Romney’s announcement that he is suspending his campaign, you missed the coup de grace of Mittens’ prolific pandering. It seems that on the heels of contributing 35 million dollars to his campaign, repositioning himself on virtually every issue, and attempting to wipe away his record as the governor of Massachusetts, Mittens chose to feed all the red meat he could muster to the rapacious CPAC crowd.

I must say that Mittens “Not-Knute-Rocked-Me” right out of my knickers when he offered his illogical linkage of all that ails America with none other than gay marriage. Not only does Mittens connect gay marriage with moral decay, he infers that it is the final piece in the long progression from a responsible citizenry to a society filled with lazy welfare gamers who do little more than watch pornography while engaging in wanton sexual escapades that bear illegitimate children…and they do all of this without ever having to pay taxes.

All he needed to complete his cockeyed soliloquy…and what has to be viewed as the epitome of a compassionate Christian clusterfuck…was to assert that same-sex marriage is also responsible for the acceleration of illegal Mexican immigration. Poor Mittens…always one conservative criteria short of a trifecta.

Here’s Mittens in his own words:

ROMNEY: In the 1960s, there were welfare programs that created a culture of poverty in our country. Now, some people think we won that battle when we reformed welfare. But the liberals haven’t given up.

At every turn, they tried to substitute government largess for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever.

Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is culture killing. It’s a drug. We’ve got to fight it like the poison it is.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography, even celebration of it, and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare, have led to today’s grim realities: 68 percent of African- American kids born out of wedlock, 45 percent of Hispanic kids, 25 percent of white kids.

How much harder it is for these kids to succeed in school and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and a father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of the nation.

I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality, so oblivious to the millennia of recorded history.

It’s time for the people of America to fortify marriage through a constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it.

Fortunately, Jon Stewart has done a yeoman’s job in deconstructing Mittens’ moribund manifesto. Stewart focuses on Mittens assertion that he’s withdrawing from the race in order to keep America safe from the terrorist onslaught that would result from a Democratic president’s rush to admit and accept defeat. Mittens just can’t allow himself to empower and encourage the terrorists…he loves America too much…not to mention that he loves his money and hasn’t a chance in hell of winning the nomination.

In the end, I think Mittens should have run as an independent candidate…perhaps a Reconstructionist Republican? After all, who can name another politician with the ability to reconstruct his positions at the drop of a hat? Let’s just hope that Mittens doesn’t try to reconstitute himself into one of his remaining eight political identities. I’m of the opinion that it’s best to let sleeping dogs…err…Mittens…lie. He does it so well!

Jon Stewart On The Mittens Appearance At CPAC

A Daily Show Classic On The Impact Of Gay Marriage

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, February 8th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Political Strategy: Handicapping The Homestretch

The presidential field has narrowed. With John McCain apparently having the inside track on the GOP nomination, it makes sense to handicap his chances against the two remaining Democratic candidates. Our future may depend upon our willingness to transcend our divisions in order to elect a president to represent all Americans.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Now that it appears that John McCain has the inside track on the Republican presidential nomination, it’s time to draw some general election comparisons with his two potential Democratic opponents.

Before focusing on narrow specifics, my general impression has long been that McCain is the most formidable GOP candidate…despite the tepid support he receives from establishment conservatives and his shaky bona fides with the evangelical base.

Race & Gender:

When looking at either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, both must overcome potential bias…her with regards to being a woman and him with regards to being an African American. My own suspicion is that gender and race could cost either candidate a segment of the voting public. I’m of the opinion that could equate with a low to mid single digit percentage. Advantage McCain.

Conversely, race and gender may be an advantage for both candidates with their respective voter contingencies. If so, it would seem that Senator Clinton would have the most to gain given that women make up a larger portion of the overall voting public. However, that advantage may be somewhat offset by the fact that Clinton elicits high negatives amongst GOP voters. No clear advantage.

Experience (Age) vs. Change:

With regards to experience, the lines of demarcation are relatively clear. Clinton and McCain have more experience and each can be viewed as a Washington fixture. McCain can argue his maverick persona gives him an advantage over Clinton…pointing out that her election would be a return to a prior era of partisanship and acrimony. At the same time, John McCain’s record as a Senate contrarian could lead some Republicans to sit out the election. No clear advantage between Clinton and McCain. Both have an advantage over Obama.

As to change, this may be an area where one candidate has an unmistakable advantage. The mood of the country and voter dissatisfaction with the country’s direction support the notion that voters are looking for measurable and meaningful change. Obama’s age and his inspiring orations position him as a man of vision. Advantage Obama.

Nonetheless, that segues into two important caveats. One, while Obama’s message of change provides him with a noticeable advantage, the degree to which he is able to convince voters he can implement it and that they should forego the safety of two known commodities would be essential to his success in capitalizing upon it. Two, this requires a look at age. McCain could appear too old and Obama could be viewed as too young (green vs. eclipsed). Thus a slight advantage affords to McCain based upon historical data suggesting that the elderly turn out in greater numbers than the youth vote. Clinton’s age is generally neutral though her primary success with the elderly offsets McCain’s age advantage and leaves her with the same n

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

A Thoroughly Modern America…Think Again?

I have doubts about the potential of a woman or a black man to be elected to the presidency…not as a function of their competency to lead…but as a function of inherent prejudices that lurk within the psyche of some segments of our society. Simultaneously, I’ve felt that the growing opposition to our rapidly expanding immigrant population contains an element of ethnic bias. I have to wonder if we aren’t standing upon the precipice of a period of exclusion and a re-kindling of old, yet inextinguishable inequities.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

We Americans like to think of ourselves as evolved individuals who embrace freedom and equality for all…and in many ways our history has demonstrated the truth found in this assumption. At the same time, we haven’t encountered that many recent opportunities to test the merits of our hypothesis.

As I read the news this morning, I found myself wondering if we may be on the verge of moving in the opposite direction…or, at the least, if our stated commitment to such beliefs might be little more than a nice piece of veneer applied to a hidden harbor of hostility.

The events of 9/11 undoubtedly created a heightened level of fear…a level we Americans have rarely been forced to face. In its aftermath, we have seen a growing willingness to suspend some of the civil liberties which have highlighted our purported belief in an open society and a transparent system of governance.

While I understand the inclination and the necessity to act in this manner (within reason), I find myself concerned that such actions may be a slippery slope towards the adoption of other attitudes that serve to undermine the principles upon which this nation was founded.

I suspect many readers may be thinking I’m about to discuss the efforts of our President to allow for greater clandestine surveillance along with other measures he has sought to detect and minimize terrorist threats. While I do view such measures with a healthy degree of skepticism, my observations today are focused upon the thoughts and beliefs we each hold as individuals and which impact America’s status as a beacon for the tenets of democracy and equality.

For some time now, I’ve expressed doubts to friends and acquaintances about the potential of a woman or a black man to be elected to the presidency…not as a function of their competency to lead…but as a function of inherent prejudices that lurk within the psyche of some segments of our society. Simultaneously, I’ve felt that the growing opposition to our rapidly expanding immigrant population contains an element of ethnic bias in addition to the many legitimate concerns that can be associated with shoddy border control.

Today, three articles caught my attention and lent support to my suspicions. The following excerpts are from the first article.

From McClatchy News:

DES MOINES, Iowa – A pair of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmares trudged past a giant blue “Hillary for President” sign outside the Iowa State Fair here with palpable disgust.

“Hillary can go to hell,” said Alice Aszman, 66, a Democrat from Ottumwa. “I’ll never vote for her. I don’t think a woman should be president. I think a man should. They’ve got more authority.”

Her husband, Daniel, 50, also a Democrat, agreed: “I think women should stay home instead of being boss.”

A July poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers by the University of Iowa found that Clinton had 30 percent support among women and 18 percent among men. By comparison, there was no difference in gender support for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who got 21 percent from both men and women.

The same poll found that 32 percent of women strongly agreed that Clinton was electable, while only 14 percent of men did. And 30 percent of women strongly agreed that Clinton was the Democrats’ strongest candidate, while only 17 percent of men did.

In a general election however, it could be a major problem, because men traditionally vote for Republicans at a higher rate than women vote for Democrats.

“She has to be careful the men don’t split against her more than women split for her,” Smith said.

As I read the article, two items stand out. One, we tend to view bias or prejudice as coming exclusively from those who are different than the one at whom the bias or prejudice is directed…meaning bias towards women should come from men and bias towards men should come from women. Unfortunately, that assumption isn’t accurate and the evidence…in the case of Senator Clinton…pours out of the mouths of other women who embrace established societal notions that gender can and should be a limiting factor in certain circumstances.

Two, the long established view that women should have narrowly defined roles in society…roles that are predominantly subservient to men…remain well established among men in America and women who operate outside these parameters are frequently met with derogatory characterizations. While a strong male figure receives the admiration of many males, a strong female is frequently viewed as acerbic and the object of misogynistic ridicule.

Moving onto the next article, the following excerpts point to the underlying obstacles faced by a black man when seeking to hold the highest office in the land.

From The Philadelphia Enquirer:

A computer search finds 464 instances in which Obama’s name appears in print in conjunction with the phrase black enough. The first was in the Chicago Sun-Times in 2003 when he was preparing to run for the Senate. Writer Laura Washington recalled his loss in an earlier House race to a South Side incumbent. “Whispers abounded,” she wrote, “that Obama was –not black enough.’ “

Washington went on to recall how her uncle, a retired black railroad worker, had seen Obama wearing “a thousand-dollar coat” while visiting a public-housing project. Her uncle, she said, “dismissed him as an –elitist.’ “

And isn’t that telling? A black rapper who visited that same housing project wearing a thousand-dollar coat would be celebrated and emulated. A black politician who does so is an elitist.

Man, I wouldn’t walk in Barack Obama’s shoes for a million dollars. Oh, he seems like a swell guy. But it must get real old real fast being America’s tabula rasa, its blank slate upon which it projects unresolved racial aspirations and fears. If it has been painful watching some conservative white Americans project upon him the latter (Is he too black? Is he Muslim? What about that weird name?), it has been just as painful, if not more so, watching many black Americans grappling with the former.

So the question of whether he’s “black enough” reveals more about the people asking than the man being asked. Liberal, and black, and conservative, and white, we have projected our own realities upon this guy, have written like mad upon the blank slate.

Again, we see much the same with regards to Senator Obama. His obstacles are twofold. He must overcome the objections that emanate from within his own racial profile. Senator Obama, much like a woman candidate for president, has to contend with the objections of blacks who see his success as an indication that he has abandoned his racial constituents in favor of winning the approval of whites.

I was particularly struck by the comparison made with regard to the expensive coat. The success achieved by a senator with a good education and excellent credentials can potentially be viewed to be inferior to the success of a rapper. In that dynamic, one can’t help but notice the built-in resistance to change and the peer pressures that exist to prevent certain types of social, cultural, and economic mobility.

At the same time, the senator is confronted by the bias and prejudice that one might well expect to be directed at his candidacy from those racial groups which have had a history of viewing blacks as lesser and unfit to serve as president.

The following excerpts from the final article confront the question of immigration and the growing animosity that permeates the topic.

From McClatchy News:

Scores of organizations, ranging from mainstream to fringe groups, are marshalling forces in what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls “a war here at home” against illegal immigration, which he says is as important as America’s conflicts being fought overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While most of the groups register legitimate, widespread concerns about the impact of illegal immigration on jobs, social services and national security, the intense rhetoric is generating fears of an emerging dark side, evident in growing discrimination against Hispanics and a surge of xenophobia unseen since the last big wave of immigration in the early 20th century.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said the number of “nativist extremist” organizations advocating against illegal immigration has grown from virtually zero just over five years ago to 144, including nine classified as hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan supremacists.

Demographers and immigration experts say the passions over illegal immigration in the opening decade of the 21st century are comparable to those that swept through American cities with the surge of immigrants who descended on U.S. shores from the 1900s to the 1920s.

The latest wave of immigrants – both legal and illegal – is predominated by Mexicans and other Latin Americans who are venturing deep into the U.S. interior to follow the job market, often settling in towns and cities that, just a few years earlier, were unaccustomed to Hispanics.

The resulting demographic impact on local communities can often lead to social tensions that help explain the intensity of feelings over illegal immigration, said Meissner and other experts.

John Trasvina, president of the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), said the backlash over illegal immigrants is clearly generating widening anti-Hispanic sentiments, often exemplified in hate rhetoric on talk shows and over the Internet.

MALDEF has thus far prevailed in legally defeating municipal immigration ordinances, but Trasvina said that “a poisonous atmosphere” remains.

“What these ordinances do is add tension to the communities,” he said. “So a woman in the grocery is talking to her daughter in Spanish. It emboldens the person standing in line behind her to say, –Hey, speak English.’”

It seems to me that the growing opposition to the expanding Mexican and Latin American immigrant populations may be the best example of the pervasive nature of bias and prejudice. I would argue that the recent outcry results from the perceived threat to our established cultural structure has reached a point of critical mass.

For well over two decades, the influx of immigrants served our interests…interests which included cheap labor in the form of migrant workers, nannies, housekeepers, landscapers, and other roles which Americans viewed to be inferior. While these immigrants remained in the background such that their impact on society was difficult to observe, many Americans were willing to benefit from their presence.

As these immigrant populations became a visible and measurable force in society, their presence has met with a growing disfavor…some of which results from racial prejudice and has led to such vocal and vehement opposition. Efforts to portray the negative impact of immigrants upon society has suddenly overwhelmed much, if not most, of their positive contributions.

In the end, these three articles paint a troubling picture. Despite numerous admirable attributes and an historical willingness to be welcoming and inclusive, I have to wonder if we aren’t standing upon the precipice of a period of exclusion and a re-kindling of old, yet inextinguishable inequities.

While the current administration seems to be focused upon exporting our way of life to the obviously oppressed, we at home may well be in the process of dismantling or erasing the hard fought principles this country has toiled to achieve…the same principles this president has so persistently sought to promote. At the moment, I find myself struggling to view this as a win-win situation.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, August 20th, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |

Do Immigrants Reduce Crime Rates In Urban Areas?

Murder rates are on the rise in a number of urban areas in the Northeast and one possible explanation being offered is that those metropolitan areas with the lowest immigrant population are more unstable. Murder rates in cities with higher immigrant populations seem to have remained relatively stable in recent years. While immigrant population is [...]

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Murder rates are on the rise in a number of urban areas in the Northeast and one possible explanation being offered is that those metropolitan areas with the lowest immigrant population are more unstable. Murder rates in cities with higher immigrant populations seem to have remained relatively stable in recent years. While immigrant population is offered as one explanation, officials point to other factors in a growing problem with murder rates in the Northeast.

PHILADELPHIA – Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities in a bloodstained corridor along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, and one of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts is this: not enough new immigrants.

The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down.

It is a theory that runs counter to the widely held notion that immigrants are a source of crime and disorder.

‘œNew York, Los Angeles, they’™re seeing massive immigration ‘” the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world,’ said Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson. ‘œThese are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’™re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble.’

I think the argument has merit though it is always risky to generalize. Regardless, it isn’™t difficult to imagine that the fear of deportation or being apprehended by a justice system that one doesn’™t understand would offer some level of deterrence. Additionally, my own anecdotal experience suggests that many immigrants spend long hours working and they frequently have more than one job. That alone limits the time one might have to get into trouble. Lastly, it may also be safe to assume that immigrants view living in the U.S. as an opportunity and the means to a better life’¦and happy people are generally peaceful people.

In interviews with The Associated Press, homicide detectives, criminal justice experts and community activists point to a confluence of other possible factors.

Among them: a failure to adopt some of the innovative practices that have reduced violence in bigger cities; the availability of powerful guns; and a shift in emphasis toward preventing terrorism instead of ordinary street crime.

Others blame a resigned acceptance of ‘œquality-of-life’ crimes, such as running red lights and vandalism. Some law enforcement authorities argue that ignoring such crimes breeds disrespect and cynicism and leads to more serious offenses.

The last paragraph makes a lot of sense to me. When people are desensitized such that they view others as little more than annoyances or obstacles’¦rather than as fellow human beings with feelings, emotions, and families’¦it becomes easier to disregard human life. Anyone who has driven in traffic should understand the phenomenon whereby we think the worst of anyone who happens to cut us off or drive erratically’¦until we witness someone we know doing so and then realize that real people are in those vehicles and they don’™t always have bad intentions.

University of Pennsylvania criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman is a prime exponent of the theory that immigration exerts a moderating effect on crime among poor black men.

‘œCities that have heavily concentrated and segregated African-American poverty are the places that have increases in homicide,’ Sherman said. ‘œThe places that have lots of immigration tend not to have nearly as much segregation and isolation’ of poor blacks.

Sherman acknowledges the theory is evolving and unproven.

He said immigrants ‘œchange the spirit’ of a community and affect the way young black men in poor areas relate to each other.

The percentage of foreign-born residents is 11 percent in Philadelphia, compared with 22 percent in Chicago, 37 percent in New York and 40 percent in Los Angeles, according to 2005 census figures.

Alison Sprague, executive director of Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia, suggested there is some merit to the theory. Immigrants in Philadelphia tend to be crime victims rather than perpetrators, she said.

‘œI really do think the vast majority of people are trying to earn a living and support their families and stay under the radar,’ Sprague said. Illegal immigrants, especially, ‘œhave every motivation not to get involved in something.’

‘œThe second-tier cities have fewer economic possibilities for people,’ said Arlene Bell, a former prosecutor who now runs youth centers in Philadelphia. ‘œWhen there are no opportunities for kids growing up, no possibility of entering the work force ‘” particularly with their level of education ‘” they’™re left to their own devices.’

No doubt economic opportunity is a factor’¦and it may also explain why immigrants choose the locales they do. Cities with better economic conditions are apt to have more immigrants and cities suffering high unemployment are apt to have higher crime.

The fact that immigrants choose cities with more jobs and better economic conditions does suggest that their intentions and ambitions make them less inclined to criminal activities. In other words, they enter the U.S. believing they will have an opportunity to pursue their hopes and dreams.

Cities with high crime rates and blighted areas are likely inhabited by people who feel trapped by their economic status’¦people who are living generational poverty and have come to view their opportunities with little hope’¦making them more susceptible and inclined to crime. They simply have a much more negative perspective of their situation than their immigrant counterparts. Despite the fact that immigrants may also come from generational poverty and have experienced similar economic struggles, they have, by virtue of their efforts to enter the United States, demonstrated a more hopeful perspective and a compelling desire to improve their station in life.

I think that perspective may have a significant impact on how one behaves. No doubt hopeful people are more mindful of the pitfalls of crime and therefore make choices to avoid such behavior. People who feel hopeless simply begin to believe they have nothing to lose and are unable to see beyond the moment which makes them prone to bad behaviors.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

“It Didn’t Work” Says Bush

That’™s what Mr. Bush said about the defeat of the immigration bill he had fought for for several years. Once again, he won’™t take responsibility, using a passive construction when he should instead step forward and admit reality. There are reasons the immigration bill didn’™t pass, and it takes little to figure those [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’™s what Mr. Bush said about the defeat of the immigration bill he had fought for for several years. Once again, he won’™t take responsibility, using a passive construction when he should instead step forward and admit reality. There are reasons the immigration bill didn’™t pass, and it takes little to figure those out.

The Washington Times blames the steadfastness of the young Republican Senators for the defeat of the bill, or that Mitch McConnell wouldn’™t himself stand up for immigration reform. Hey, they even imply that an irrational fear of Ted Kennedy is behind the opposition to the bill. (Kennedy joined Bush on Bush’™s only two accomplishments in the last seven years, the Prescription Drug bill and NCLB, both of which are ugly, flawed projects.) So who is to blame? The young Republicans in the senate? Mitch McConnell? Ted Kennedy? Or George Bush?

I’™ll go for Bush. He’™s squandered every bit of moral authority he may have kept and nurtured after 9/11. He’™s squandered that authority with distinctly immoral stands involving renditions, Gitmo, illegal eavesdropping, exposing CIA agents, etc. To push through an immigration bill against the xenophobic and nativist movements in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, Bush needed moral authority. He doesn’™t have it, he ain’™t going to win.

The immigration reform initiative will stand as Mr. Bush’™s last failed chance at a legacy. Oops, I forgot. Bush has a legacy, and that is of damaging our country more than any President in history. He needn’™t worry. The Bush legacy will occupy the next four or five Presidents, who will be forced into heavy lifting in order to repair our country and its reputation.

Friday, June 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Judge Tosses Out Charges Against Posada Carriles

On the same day that the Department of Justice was singing its own praises for busting an alleged terror ring in New Jersey, mostly unnoticed was the fact that the DOJ may have intentionally tanked the prosecution of an international terrorist in our own midst.
As a result, convicted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a free [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

On the same day that the Department of Justice was singing its own praises for busting an alleged terror ring in New Jersey, mostly unnoticed was the fact that the DOJ may have intentionally tanked the prosecution of an international terrorist in our own midst.

As a result, convicted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a free man today.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone threw out immigration charges against Posada Carriles, and ordered his electronic tracking bracelet removed. He had been free on bail, pending an immigration trial that was scheduled to begin this week.

ASZ has been following this saga for a long time, and it’s no surprise that Judge Cardone took this action. In fact, given the history of this case, it’s almost crystal clear that this was the intended result of the Department of Justice’s case against Posada Carriles. Since he was first detained in the U.S., the DOJ has displayed a level of case management skill that is beyond mere incompetence – in fact, to the untrained outside observer, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the prosecution of this case was intentionally botched.

According to CNN, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are “reviewing Cardone’s decision”, and it is not clear at this point whether or not the judge’s ruling will be appealed.

What is clear, beyond all reasonable doubt, is that Posada Carriles is an international terrorist who was trained and financed by the U.S. government. Whether he was operating as a freelancer, or at the behest of his CIA handlers when he carried out his terrorist acts is completely beside the point. Documents from the U.S. government make it clear that the man plotted the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and he has admitted being involved in hotel bombings in Havana. In fact, he’s quite proud of his curriculum vitae as a terrorist.

Today, the Bush administration’s favorite terrorist is strolling the South Beach waterfront in Miami unencumbered, and grateful that the concept of quid pro quo has stood the test of time. In some cases, there is indeed honor among thieves.

A call to your congressional representatives might be in order.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 by Richard Blair |