Latin America

Patriotism or Panic?

A New York Times editorial published today addresses the current state of the immigration debate and we thought it worthwhile to share it in its entirety. This reflection reminds me of the values discussed in more detail in "The True Patriot", a pamphlet that NDN highly recommends we read. We are reminded that we cannot allow patriotism to be co-opted by those who use the flag not as a symbol of unity, but as a caricature or brand. We should be reminded that the flag, patriotism, is a moral code - one that believes in fairness, compassion, freedom from prejudice, acceptance, and greatness. And greatness, "lies not in the impermanent lies in the integrity of our choices."

June 3, 2008
The Great Immigration Panic

The New York Times

Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don’t mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.

A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has been eclipsed, or is slipping away.

An escalating campaign of raids in homes and workplaces has spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat. After the largest raid ever last month — at a meatpacking plant in Iowa — hundreds were swiftly force-fed through the legal system and sent to prison. Civil-rights lawyers complained, futilely, that workers had been steamrolled into giving up their rights, treated more as a presumptive criminal gang than as potentially exploited workers who deserved a fair hearing. The company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced no charges.

Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions fill the system to bursting. Unbothered by the sight of blameless children in
prison scrubs, the government plans to build up to three new family detention centers. Police all over are checking papers, empowered by politicians itching to enlist in the federal crusade.

This is not about forcing people to go home and come back the right way. Ellis Island is closed. Legal paths are clogged or do not exist. Some backlogs are so long that they are measured in decades or generations. A bill to fix the system died a year ago this month. The current strategy, dreamed up by restrictionists and embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, is to force millions into fear and poverty.

There are few national figures standing firm against restrictionism. Senator Edward Kennedy has bravely done so for four decades, but his Senate colleagues who are running for president seem by comparison to be in hiding. John McCain supported sensible reform,
but whenever he mentions it, his party starts braying and he leaves the room. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her voice on this issue more than once. Barack Obama, gliding above the ugliness, might someday test his vision of a new politics against restrictionist
hatred, but he has not yet done so. The American public’s moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a plan. But they have been vague and discreet when they should be forceful and unflinching.

The restrictionist message is brutally simple — that illegal immigrants deserve no rights, mercy or hope. It refuses to recognize that illegality is not an identity; it is a status that can be mended by making reparations and resuming a lawful life. Unless the nation contains its enforcement compulsion, illegal immigrants will remain forever Them and never Us, subject to whatever abusive regimes the powers of the moment may devise.

Every time this country has singled out a group of newly arrived immigrants for unjust punishment, the shame has echoed through history. Think of the Chinese and Irish, Catholics and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Children someday will study the Great Immigration Panic of the early 2000s, which harmed countless lives, wasted billions of dollars and mocked the nation’s most deeply held values.

An Unfunded Mandate

This recent ad by Elizabeth Dole goes along with the continuing tide of GOP ads on national security and immigration. However, unlike other ads that directly attack Hispanics, representing them as undocumented immigrants, this ad is much more moderate. Instead of showing people crossing the border, it focuses on just talking about border security; instead of showing someone being deported, it is limited to discussing deportation, and it limits the discussion to "tough" undocumented criminals, as opposed to immigrants in general. It is also telling that Sen. Dole does not speak on the issue herself - might she be heeding the warnings by GOP leadership that directly anti-immigrant tactics are counterproductive?

With a strong challenger and limited funds, Sen. Dole is, quite literally, banking on fear and the desire for a sense of security among many in North Carolina. This ad promotes her efforts to bring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to North Carolina to train local and state police to aprehend undocumented criminals. The information that is ommitted in the ad is that this type of training is performed under Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, and under 287(g), ICE must enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the county or State in question. In the case of North Carolina, ICE does not have a state-wide MOA, as expressed in the ad; ICE only has MOAs with five counties in the state, and each MOA can vary in scope and severity.

From a policy perspective, these type of agreements are criticized by Police Chiefs and law enforcement officers because they often have unintended consequences that actually make it harder for them to work with their community to fight crime, particularly in the case of areas with a large immigrant or minority population. Additionally, these agreements with Federal immigration officials come with no additional resources - only additional responsibility and strain on local law enforcement. So we're left wondering why Sen. Dole promotes her push to impose an unfunded mandate on North Carolina.

Obama on Latin America at CANF luncheon

Today in Miami, Barack Obama will deliver a major policy address on Latin America at a Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) luncheon. According to the release, Obama "will deliver a major foreign policy address that rejects the Bush-McCain approach that has neglected the Americas and failed to adapt to the realities of our changing world. He will renew the leadership of the United States in the hemisphere by using direct diplomacy to advance democracy, forging a new regional approach to combat insecurity, and aggressively promoting economic opportunity through new trade, aid and energy policies."

While I doubt the speech will be exactly like the one Obama delivered in Little Havana, I would be surprised if it didn't borrow somewhat from a speech that Gov. Bill Richardson delivered to the NDN/UCLA communities on October 27, 2007 in Los Angeles. You can watch his speech, A New Partnership with Latin America, below. You can also print or download the transcript here.


Pope reaffirms Church's position on immigration

As we've noted, the Catholic Church has been a strong ally for comprehensive immigration reform. So when Pope Benedict XVI affirmed his position on immigration, it wasn't too much of a shock. From the NY Times:

Even as he was flying to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of protecting immigrant families, not dividing them.

He raised the issue again in a meeting on Wednesday with President Bush, and later that day spoke in Spanish to the church's "many immigrant children." And when he ends his visit to New York on Sunday, he will be sent off by a throng of the faithful, showing off the ethnic diversity of American Catholicism.

The choreography underscores the importance to the church here of its growing diversity - especially its increasing Hispanic membership.

Of the nation's 65 million Roman Catholics, 18 million are Latino, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and they account for more than two-thirds of the new Catholics in the country since 1960.

It should be noted that while the pope met with President Bush to discuss a humane solution that protects immigrants and their families, more than 300 immigrants were arrested by federal agents in raids. To learn more about our work in fixing our broken immigration system, visit our website.

On return from the World Economic Forum, Latin America

I got back late last night from a two-day trip to the World Economic Forum in Cancun, and a chance to speak in a session with emerging leaders from throughout the Americas. The event itself was tremendous, featuring business, governmental and non-profit leaders from all across Latin America. Several heads of state and many other important governmental ministers participated in robust and interesting discussions on just about every issue from poverty reduction to sustainable growth, health reform, climate change, the rise of China, the disruptive power of new media, the challenge of rising food and commodity prices, the future of Latin America and the importance of Hugo Chavez to regional security concerns.

And I guess that is where I will begin with my first post of my impressions from the trip. The discussions were far-ranging, pragmatic and serious about the many challenges facing civil societies throughout the region. The talks and speeches by the heads of state and other governmental leaders showed a fluency in global economics and the upsides and downsides of globalization, and the need for strategic investment in infrastructure and human capital one rarely hears in the U.S. debate, and certainly we've seldom heard in this Presidential campaign. While there were disagreements, you can sense a true global consensus emerging about the need to maintain open trade, competitive democracies, domestic growth and flowing capital markets, reduce poverty and significantly increase investment in human capital and regional infrastructure projects and tackle climate change, all while coming to a much greater understanding that in this age of globalization and relative global peace, we are truly all in this together now; the region and the world are both growing more interdependent while at the same time offering nations many new tools to become independent and set their own course.

While the "Washington Consensus" and "neo-liberalism" were occassionally derided, it is clear that this vision of global development, effectively imagined and championed originally by the Clinton Administration in the 1990s, has become the governing consensus of much of the Americas.

What I guess is most striking from my trip is that this powerful vision, which has helped usher in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity in the region, seems to be in the process of being abandoned by many leaders here at home this year. Reading the reports of the non-debate on ABC last night when I got home just reinforced how hard it is for America to talk honestly right now about the challenges we face, and what role we intend to play on the global stage in the era after Bush. Over at Daily Kos DHinMI has more triviality last night's debate.

Congratulations to the World Economic Forum for putting on an excellent and provocative conference about our common future.

Sarukhan sets the stage for Cancún

The World Economic Forum on Latin America takes place today and tomorrow in Cancún, Mexico. The event, which Simon is attending, will "bring together over 500 top global leaders from business, politics, government, academia, civil society and the media from 46 countries." The theme of the meeting, which the Government of Mexico is co-hosting, is "Securing a Place in an Uncertain Economic Landscape." Since most of us will not be able to attend, I figured I'd post a video of Arturo Sarukhan, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, who recently spoke at NDN's forum on U.S.-Mexican relations.

The event was the first in the Latin American Policy Initiative, a series that will give policy makers and stakeholders an opportunity to discuss relations between the U.S. and the various countries in Latin America. The Ambassador was joined by Senator Bob Menendez in discussing the current relations and priorities between the United States and Mexico. Check out his remarks below:

Challenging the President on the Colombia FTA

I sent the following letter to President Bush today:

Dear President Bush,

Today your Administration announced that tomorrow you intend to send to Congress implementing legislation for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Your Administration has not done what is required to pass this important agreement. If you send it tomorrow it will surely fail, undermining a staunch American ally in a troubled region, and weakening nascent bi-partisan efforts to find a new economic strategy that responds to the recession, shores up our financial markets and once again makes globalization work for all Americans.

In the weeks ahead you will surely blame Congress for not passing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. But make no mistake - if this agreement fails the fault will be yours, and the nation will be able to add gross mismanagement of our global trade portfolio and a more unstable Latin America to your already terribly disappointing economic and national security legacy.

I call on you to put our national interest over your political party's interest, work with Congress to find a path forward on this Colombia Free Trade Agreement and introduce it when more work has been done to ensure its passage.

Given the warnings from Congressional leaders that the time was not right to introduce this important agreement, and given the stakes involved for our economy and our hemisphere, there can only be one plausible explanation for why you have chosen this reckless path now - the tens of thousands of votes of Colombian-Americans in South Florida. Out of respect for our close ally Colombia, and in recognition of the significant strides President Uribe has made in recent years, it is simply irresponsible to let this important agreement collapse out of hope for a political advantage in a pivotal Presidential state this fall.

I wish I could discern a more noble motive behind your decision, but given that Congressional leaders have told you the Agreement will fail if introduced, then your present course ensures that you will damage our ability to find a better path forward for our struggling economy and the interests of working people here and abroad; damage future efforts to liberalize global trade; undermine one of our most important allies in Latin America; and weaken our already diminished standing in the region. There can only be one explanation for why you have chosen this course - once again you have chosen your party's interest over the interests of the nation itself.

The people of both the United States of America and the nation of Colombia deserve better.

Senate Majority Leader Reid on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement:

April 7, 2008

Reid: President's Colombia Free Trade Proposal A Continuation Of Failed Policies

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to President Bush’s proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement:

“President Bush has made numerous bad decisions during his Administration that have already cost countless American workers their jobs and have done profound harm to U.S. foreign policy – harm that will take years for the next President to undo. By sending up the Colombia FTA legislation under circumstances that maximize the chances it will fail, he will be adding one more mistake to his legacy and one more mess for the next President to clean up.

“There is strong support for Colombia in the U.S. Congress, evidenced by the fact that Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. aid money in the hemisphere. Many in Congress have tremendous respect for the progress that President Uribe has been able to make under difficult circumstances. It is a major mistake, however, to set up the Colombia FTA legislation as the proxy for support for Colombia, as the Bush Administration is trying to do.

“An FTA is not a foreign-aid package. It is neither a favor for friendly governments, nor a substitute for sensible and sustained foreign-policy engagement in the hemisphere. An FTA is an essentially permanent economic integration agreement. Many Democrats continue to have serious concerns about an agreement that creates the highest level of economic integration with a country where workers and their families are routinely murdered and subjected to violence and intimidation for seeking to exercise their most basic economic rights. And the perpetrators of the violence have near total impunity.

“The Government of Colombia has undoubtedly made progress on this front, but the level of violence against trade unionists is still the worst in the world. Further, as Rep. George Miller has said, serious questions need to be addressed about the Government of Colombia’s sustained commitment to this effort. By sending up the FTA before these concerns have been fully addressed, President Bush is significantly undercutting support for the FTA.

“Further, the President’s decision to act unilaterally in sending the FTA disregards three decades of established precedent under fast-track legislation, and demonstrates yet again his lack of respect for Congress. The Colombia FTA will have enough problems purely on its merits; President Bush will exacerbate those problems by sending up the FTA in this manner. And by thumbing his nose at the basic processes that underlie Congress’ willingness to extend fast-track authority to a President, President Bush is dealing a serious blow to U.S. trade policy for years to come.

“If President Bush really believes that successful passage of the Colombia FTA is critical for U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, it is difficult to understand why he would send the FTA up under circumstances of his own creation that maximize the controversy associated with it. While it is understandable that a lame-duck Administration wants to notch accomplishments in its final year in office, I am very concerned that this short-term focus will leave long-term problems for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. trade policy.”

Sen. Menendez and Amb. Sarukhan on U.S.-Mexican relations

Yesterday, NDN announced a new series of events focusing on the future of US - Latin American Relations with the first event on the current relations and priorities between the United States and Mexico. We were joined by US Senator Bob Menendez and Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan. Check out the full video from the event below or on our website:

Our Latin American Policy Initiative will give policy makers and stakeholders an opportunity to discuss relations between the US and the various countries in Latin America. The series will focus on a different country each month, and work to establish an ongoing dialogue and research to better inform those interested in Latin American policy.

For background, check out NDN's Globalization Initiative, our work on comprehensive immigration reform, as well as a speech Governor Bill Richardson delivered to the UCLA and NDN communities in Los Angeles on Latin American relations.

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