Liberty and inclusion for all

In the face of a fresh round of disturbing attacks against Muslims and Muslim immigrants (or people perceived to be) across our nation, we need to re-affirm some core principles.

First, non-citizens and people of all faiths have constitutionally guaranteed rights and civil liberties in the United States, and these rights and liberties must be upheld and protected.

Second, all immigrants, whether permanent residents, asylum-seekers, refugees, or undocumented immigrants are all deserving of the same dignity as everyone else in our society. They play a vital role in all aspects of our communities and our economies, and they have made this nation great. No one should be discriminated against by the state, by employers, by public accommodations, or by their fellow residents because of their lack of citizenship. No one should be physically attacked or threatened because of their religion (or for any other reason, of course).

Third, we should strive to promote full integration, socially and legally, for all non-citizens in our nation at every opportunity, rather than seeking to exclude or partition people because of their origins. This mission we undertake for the stability of our communities, as well as to meet our moral obligation to our fellow men, women, and children – wherever they were born and whatever brought them to our shores.

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Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965 turns 50

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Although it didn’t take effect until 1968, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was signed into law on October 3, 1965 — 50 years ago today — by President Lyndon Johnson. It was instrumental in transforming the racist eurocentric immigration quota policies that preceded it into a truly global immigration system focused on worker skills and family reunification.

However, as The Atlantic explained this week, the latter point was almost accidental — and its effect was unanticipated. The White supremacist faction in Congress at the time, disappointed in the abandonment of explicit national quotas, introduced family reunification in the hopes that it would encourage recent European immigrants to bring their extended families over and thus keep the balance of immigration overwhelmingly White and European. Instead, it created a beachhead for so many other countries’ migrants to make a new home in America.

In the subsequent half century, the pattern of U.S. immigration changed dramatically. The share of the U.S. population born outside the country tripled and became far more diverse. Seven out of every eight immigrants in 1960 were from Europe; by 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world.
[…]
The heightened emphasis on family unification, rather than replicating the existing ethnic structure of the American population, led to the phenomenon of chain migration. The naturalization of a single immigrant from an Asian or African or Hispanic background opened the door to his or her brothers and sisters and their spouses, who in turn could sponsor their own brothers and sisters. Within a few decades, family unification had become the driving force in U.S. immigration, and it favored exactly those nationalities the critics of the 1965 Act had hoped to keep out, because those were the people most determined to move.

 
The large numbers of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian immigrants and naturalized citizens in the United States today are here thanks in large part to the family reunification provisions passed in 1965.

Why We Should Keep the (Whole) 14th Amendment

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” When a country is united by ideals and not bloodlines, defining citizenship is a unique challenge, one that the United States has grappled with time and time again in its history.

In recent weeks, many of those seeking to be the GOP’s candidate for president have begun talk of getting rid of a constitutional amendment in order to redefine who is a citizen. Frontrunner Donald Trump and others would like to see the United States do away with the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anybody born within US borders and subject to the the jurisdiction of federal laws (i.e. the baby’s parents are not foreign diplomats or have other formal relationships with foreign governments). Rick Ungar, a contributor for Forbes writes:

It turns out that those who have long enjoyed portraying themselves as the “Guardians of our Constitution”, through strict interpretation of the same, and the proponents of law & order as the bulwark of an orderly society — of course I’m speaking of Republicans — are the very folks who no longer have much use for the Constitution when it fails to meet their desires or live up to their expectations.

 
The argument around the 14th Amendment is largely due to frustration over so called “anchor babies”, a derogatory term for babies born to illegal immigrants in the United States supposedly under the pretense that the child will somehow help the parent gain legal status. It is true that for the past 147 years, all children born within US borders are legal US citizens, regardless of their parent’s legal status.

However, the idea that these babies and US citizens are helping to grant their parents legal status in the United States is a fallacy for which there is no legal backing. In fact, in 2011 there were 5,000 children in state care or foster homes because their parents had been deported. In 2013, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement deported 72,410 people who had at least one child who was a US citizen.

Still, the term “anchor baby” and the vitriolic desire to get rid of the 14th Amendment persist. The amendment was a Reconstruction Amendment, adopted on July 9, 1868, with the goal of providing citizenship to African-Americans who had formerly been slaves with no protection under the law. The Citizenship Clause of the Amendment overruled the Supreme Court’s findings in Dred Scott v. Sanford, which stated that African-Americans, even those who were free, were not American citizens and therefore could not sue in federal court.

When the 14th Amendment was originally debated, there were a few mentions of children born to immigrants on the debate floor. However, in 1868 there was no limit to immigration into the United States, meaning there was no illegal immigration at the time of the amendment’s adoption. In 1898, the Supreme Court cleared this up in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, by ruling that the children of immigrants born in the US are indeed entitled to citizenship.

Since that time, America has continued to grapple with immigrant policy and citizenship laws, but with little exception, those born within the borders of the United States are citizens of our country. While American immigration policy leaves much to be desired, the 14th Amendment has provided continuity and stability to the definition of citizen. Our country’s greatness is derived from the diversity of our citizens and the uniqueness of our history. Paternity tests or another arbitrary way to obtain citizenship would rob future generations of the philosophy and ideology on which this country was founded and continues to grow.

14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, section 1. (National Archives of the United States.)

14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, section 1. (National Archives of the United States.)

July 29, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 136

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Nicki Minaj, Sandra Bland, Misogynoir; No Child Left Behind, Illegal Immigration, Prison Reform. People: Bill, Kelley, De Ana, and Guest Maria. Produced: July 26th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Why it’s ok to talk about both Nicki Minaj and Sandra Bland in the same week (and how the two stories relate to each other).
– What Pres. Obama is doing on prison reform. Can Congress find a compromise on No Child Left Behind? Texas isn’t handling illegal immigration very well.

Episode 136 (52 min):
AFD 136

Related Links

AFD: De Ana: Policing Black Women’s Emotions and Opinions
AFD: Maria: What Happened to Sandra Bland?
AFD: Bill: Utah’s Homicide by Police Epidemic
AFD: Kelley: President Obama stands up for second chances
AFD: Kelley: 8 years late, Congress ready to revisit No Child Left Behind
AFD: Kelley: 3 Dem Senators say NCLB reforms don’t go far enough
AFD: Kelley: Texas abandons the 14th Amendment
AFD: Kelley: Mass graves of immigrants in Texas elicit little response

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Mass graves of immigrants in Texas elicit little response

Since 2009, remains of over 400 immigrants have been found in Brooks County, Texas — a fact that came to light in an investigative documentary, The Real Death Valley, by the Weather Channel, Telemundo, and the Investigative Fund.  You can read the report here.

Many of the bodies were buried with haste and carelessness, in conditions that can only be described as mass graves. With hundreds more to go, 118 bodies have been exhumed by researchers at Baylor University, who hope to identify the remains and return them to their families. Reporter John Carlos Frey, author of The Real Death Valley writes:

The analysis shows that 51 of the 118 sets of human remains were not buried in coffins. Fourteen of the remains were placed in red biohazard bags; four in what appeared to be grocery store trash bags. Five were covered only in plastic wrap and packing tape. One set of remains was buried in a milk crate, while another was simply wrapped in clothing.

 
The story has now moved from one of a horrifying discovery to one of a horrifying and negligent response.

Last year, on June 25, 2014 the Texas Rangers Division of the Department of Public Safety launched a preliminary investigation on the grave sites, promising that charges would be filed if any wrongdoing was found. Just two days later, on June 27, 2014, Lt. Corey Lain, the primary investigator, announced in a four-and-a-half-page report that there was no evidence that any laws were violated. Lain concluded:

“It is my opinion that sufficient information and evidence does not exist to support the initiation of a formal criminal investigation.”

 
Frey, who recently published a follow-up report titled Graves of Shame, concludes that, in fact, there were many law violations. The most egregious violations may not be those regarding the burial of human remains – although regulations regarding the depth of burial and type of burial container do appear to have been violated – but the violations which prevent the identification of the remains and their reunification with their family.  You can read the complete report here.

For example, despite a county law that a DNA sample must be taken from all unidentified remains and sent to the lab at the University of North Texas (UNT), it appears that DNA samples were rarely even collected and never sent to UNT.

Additionally, in Texas, the clerk’s office are required by law to retain all death records for a minimum of 10 years. However, despite the fact that the sheriff’s office was able to turn over 361 crime scene reports regarding the discovery of human remains, they were able to produce records for only 121 remains regarding the retrieval and burial of the remains; two-thirds of the bodies were unaccounted for, making it nearly impossible for their loved ones to ever know the fate of these immigrants.

In the 13 months since the Texas Rangers reached their conclusion, only one law has been passed by Texan legislators regarding the remains of immigrants. The law states that after one year the death certificate of unidentified remains becomes public. That is hardly comforting to the hundreds of unknowing families of those buried unceremoniously in Brooks County, Texas.

Dr. Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist from Baylor University working to identify the remains of those in mass graves sums up the story in a hauntingly true statement:

“Nobody cares about dead immigrants. They’re invisible when they’re alive, and they’re even more invisible when they’re dead.”

 

Texas abandons the 14th Amendment

United States Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

 
Since 1868, the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution has guaranteed citizenship to all children born within its borders. The recent influx of illegal immigration, largely from Central American countries, has led to a large increase in children born to undocumented immigrants.

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This seems to have inspired some in Texas to take matters into their own hands, even if it meant abridging the 14th Amendment rights of some natural-born citizens. Officials of the counties of Cameron and Hidalgo have been refusing to issue birth certificates to children born to men and women who lack documentation proving that they are in the United States legally.

Previously, to prove their own identity, parents could use a foreign passport when applying for their child’s birth certificates. However, county officials are now insisting that parents applying for birth certificates using foreign passports must also have a current U.S. visa, leaving many children without a birth certificate.

What difference does it make? Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer representing women whose children have been denied birth certificates in a civil rights lawsuit, points out “It causes all kinds of problems.” Without a birth certificate, parents are unable to prove that a child is their own, leaving them unable to enroll their child in school or even make medical decisions for their child.

Texas “going rogue” is clearly not a new phenomenon. The Lone Star State takes pride in their Wild West roots and their independent thinking. However, Texas has taken to flying in the face of federal mandates and even the United States Constitution. Most recently, two of Texas’ county clerks have refused to abide by the US Supreme Court’s decision and are still refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The failure of Texas to issue birth certificates to natural-born United States citizens because of their parentage paints an ugly picture of both the State’s contentious relationship with the federal government and their open hostility to immigrants. It is also simply unconstitutional and illegal.

AP: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence”

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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Last month from AFD: “Border fence politics comes to the EU”

Yesterday, Associated Press: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence to bar migrants”

Using materials prepared by inmates in Hungarian prisons, 900 soldiers will build a fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia by December to stem the torrent of migrants, officials said Thursday
[…]
Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Hungary does not want any migrants from outside Europe. But over the past months, 80 percent of the refugees requesting asylum in Hungary have come from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most leave within days to richer EU countries like Germany before their asylum claims are settled.

The government’s anti-immigrant billboard campaign and a questionnaire sent to voters linking migration with terrorism have been criticized by the U.N.’s refugee agency, among others.

 
Orbanism Rising.