24 April 2010


Reviewing several events of the past few days (click on any image to enlarge)--

A) Yesterday Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the nation's toughest, most xenophobic legislation against illegal immigrants, abrogating to the state what is in reality a Federal function. The law, which has already come under fire from President Obama (a Constitutional scholar) and from civil rights leaders, "would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and would give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status."
Indeed. It happens that Arizona channels more illegals from Latin American into the US than any of the other states (California, New Mexico, Texas) which border Mexico. Paranoid stereotypes of illegals stealing jobs from Americans, or taking advantage of American social services aside, the fact remains that undocumented workers perform the vast majority of unskilled, underpaid labor all across the country (see map below, click to enlarge) -- harvesting crops, working in manufacturing sweat shops, washing dishes, serving as maids, groundskeepers and housecleaners -- work which most US workers find too menial or low-paying.

It is disturbing that a law is now in place which will place millions of residents (documented US citizens as well as undocumented workers) at risk of racial profiling, jail and possible deportation. Further, our system of laws requires that law enforcement must have probable cause before detaining a suspect. If an officer drives past a field or enters the kitchen of a restaurant, and sees both white and Latino workers, what will be his probable cause for arrest? The color of the suspect's skin, no more, no less. Tell me we have not descended to this.
This strikes me as sleight of hand. During the past twenty years, drug-related crime along the border with Mexico has become a much more critical issue than undocumented immigration ever was. But the War on Drugs, like every other form of prohibition, has been a dismal and expensive failure. How ironic that Republicans are not turning on that very portion of the electorate whom they had been courting so amorously during the Presidential election -- the Latino vote.
It is time to face the facts. We will always have a need for inexpensive labor -- why not simply do as we've done with alcohol (and should do with marijuana), i.e., legalize and regulate? It would be simplicity itself to issue temporary green cards good for six to twelve months, and allow our economy to recover and flourish with the help of a segment of the labor force which many thousands of small, medium and large employers are only too happy to hire, legally or otherwise. With so many other problems to deal with, immigration seems to me to be a non-issue. (Please see my post on 09 April 2010 for further thoughts.)

B) Four days ago the Deepwaater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing a number of crew and unleashing both an uncontrollable fire and an oil slick before the platform evenually collapsed beneath the surface of the sea. The well head at the sea bottom, at first reported as being seals, is currently leaking up to 1000 barrels of crude oil per day, presenting the prospect of catastrophic damage to Gulf beaches, fisheries and wildlife habitat. Regular readers will recall that on 31 March I posted here, urging the Obama adminstration to reconsider its decision to open up thousands of miles of Atlantic Coast, the eastern Gulf Coast, and Alaska's North Slope to offshore oil drilling. One of the reasons I cited for my opposition was the prospect of just such disasters as this. Only six days later, in my 06 April post, I cited the running aground of a Chinese cargo ship on the Great Barrier Reef, which release a miles-long slick of oil and fuel which threatened the world's largest ecosystem. It is as though nature and man are conspiring to prove me correct -- though I would gladly forego their assistance. Clearly, money and power continue to substitute for rational thought in corporate and political America.

C) Lastly, on a much more positive note, it was 94 years ago today that the Proclamation of the Republic of Ireland was announced by Padraic Pearse outside the GPO (General Post Office - see the GPO sign below) in Dublin, Ireland, an act which was the opening salvo in the Easter Rising against the oppressive hegemony of England. For a grand and rousing description of events both before and after, I refer the gentle reader to Morgan Llywellyn's excellent series of historical novels -- 1916, 1921, 1949, 1972, and 1999, known collectively as "The Irish Century". Long live the Irish, and may their troubled island one day be reunited, freed from interference from the British crown.

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