Archive for the 'immigrants rights' Category Page 2 of 2

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

The Catholic Church: doing something right, for a change.

I’m an ex-Catholic. Catholicism was a big part of my life for a long time. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. As a kid, I used to love to read the Bible – not for the rules and regs, but for the stories, the imagery. I was obsessed with the Vatican. For a while when I was in elementary school, I went on a kick of lecturing my heathen cousins (who all went to public school and – gasp – didn’t even go to CCD!) about how wonderful Jesus was. God, was I obnoxious.

Anyhow, my zealous Catholicism all started crumbling down during high school, when I started realizing that I was not only a leftist, but a big ol’ queer. I think the real turning point was when I went the big anti-abortion march in DC during my Junior year. Ironically, the primary reasons for going to the march were to a) get out of school for a day and b) more importantly, spend a lot of time with the uber-Catholic girl who I had an incredibly huge crush on. I got there and was totally horrified by most everything I saw, from the huge placards with the gross and utterly misleading images of fetuses, to the gay anti-choice activists protesting from the sidelines because they weren’t allowed to march, to the creepy fervent droning chanting of the Rosary that was going on around me. Luckily, I was able to convince my crush to escape with me and go hang out in some random government building for much of the afternoon.

Since parting ways with Catholicism, I’ve had many opportunities to cringe, sigh, and scream over the activities of my former church. The large majority of what gets the Catholic church into the news is very cringe-worthy stuff, from the rampant child abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups, to the Church’s continuing persecution of queer folks, to the total disregard for women’s rights perpetuated by the anti-choice movement.

But, every once in a while, there’s a news story that shows that, sometimes, the Catholic establishment can do something right. My friend Dex sent me one such article today: an op-ed piece from the New York Times lauding Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for taking a stand against the appalling anti-immigration legislation that’s being pushed through Congress right now.

I didn’t actually know much about this legislation, H.R. 4437, until a few weeks ago, and I was both horrified at its contents and at the fact that I didn’t even know about it. I try to stay relatively abreast of stuff like this, and was shocked that I hadn’t heard more uproar about it. The uproar is there, I’m sure, but I just wasn’t hearing it for some reason.

Anyhow – in case you’re in the same boat, here’s a good summary from the Immigration Legal Resource Center of this awful piece of legislation. There’s some really horrendous stuff in there, including the creation of a whole new federal crime of “unlawful presence,” the transformation of minor offenses into aggravated felonies when involving undocumented immigrants, and the expansion of “alien smuggling” to include merely assisting undocumented immigrants, making such assistance a federal crime. That’s right – individuals and social service organizations who merely help undocumented immigrants survive could be charged with fucking crime. And it’s already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate.

It’s absolutely disgusting, frightening and enraging. And Cardinal Mahony thinks so, too. From the NY Times article:

If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.

… Cardinal Mahony’s defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. “As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,” he said.

It’s refreshing to see the Catholic Church, or at least one member of the Church establishment, rallying people and using their political clout around the good parts of Catholic doctrine – that people should care for and help one another, that charity and justice are important, and that Catholics have a duty to help those who are most abused and neglected by our society. It’s a nice change from the usual stories about Catholic political pressure, like when the bishops decided to start denying communion to Catholic politicians who were not anti-choice.

One can only hope that those Catholics who are all too willing to use church doctrine as an excuse for their rabid homophobia, sexism and anti-choice attitudes are equally willing to heed this call to defend the human rights of immigrants. Of course, Catholics tend to let me down with their hypocrisy all the time, especially those who are virulently anti-choice but are either silent about or supportive of the death penalty. So I guess my hope is kind of slim. I’m prepared to sigh, cringe and scream as usual.

Legislating love

From my friend Dex: He looks too ‘aloof’ in photographs, so Immigration rejected his wife. This is a Canadian incident, but similarly racist, xenophobic, and just plain heartbreaking applications of immigration laws occur in the US every day. As Dex put it, “this is what happens when the government tries to legislate love.”

Speaking of legislating love, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice recently released this report about queer Latina couples, based on the 2000 census (thanks to Julie for the link). Some of the findings: Latina queer couples earn less and are less likely to own a house than white queer couples, which is not very surprising – racism and classism affects queer Latinas just as it affects all Latinas.

What was particularly interesting to me were findings that about two-thirds of Latina queer couples are raising kids, and nearly half of Latina queer couples include someone who is not a US citizen, both statistics indicating that gay marriage could have very important affects on Latina queer folks – and that a lack of gay marriage can have very negative affects, when it comes to raising children and immigration struggles.

I often hear (and often agree with) arguments that the mainstream gay movement leaves many people out by focusing so singularly on gay marriage, that gay marriage is not priority number one for many low-income queers and queers of color, and that gay marriage is all about legitimizing certain kinds of queer relationships (monogamous between two people) and delegitimizing others. But it’s important to remember that gay marriage really could have an important and beneficial impact on many queer immigrants and queer people of color.