Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Title IX: Ensures Equality In Education

By Janet Bandows Koster (pictured on left) and Betty Shanahan

Recent efforts by federal agencies to verify university compliance with Title IX are under scrutiny. Some claim Title IX compliance reviews are a “new” way to apply the law to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but this law has been applicable to all educational programs receiving federal funds for 36 years. Title IX compliance can open the doors to the so-called “male-typical pursuits” in STEM fields to women, just as equal opportunity mandates have done for once-closed careers of firefighters, police officers and military personnel.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. It requires gender equity for boys and girls, men and women in every educational program that receives federal funding - not just in college sports. It also authorizes and directs federal funding agencies to implement the provisions of the law.

A 2004 Government Accountability Office report noted that the federal agencies have not discharged their obligations to ensure that educational institutions comply with the statues. In fact, most only passively receive statements of compliance with Title IX -- usually in the form of a pro forma assertion.

Title IX compliance reviews can help to confirm that academic institutions receiving federal funding establish a climate that ensures a representation of women in STEM disciplines that reflects their level of interest. Any difference in participation, then, is a result of the personal interests of women and not due to environmental factors that discourage them from entering or remaining in these fields.

There have been several recent articles arguing that women don't want to be scientists and engineers, and that those of us advocating for more women in these fields are not acknowledging innate gender-specific career inclinations. In fact, the problems encountered by women considering a STEM career vary by discipline. The low number of women earning degrees in physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering is often attributed to a lack of interest, but the fact that many women with excellent academic performance enter but later abandon these fields suggests otherwise.

Asking federal agencies to complete Title IX compliance reviews will not lead to a quota system. No one is suggesting that the number of men participating in science careers be cut to achieve gender parity in participation. Rather, such reviews can help to create an academic environment in which more women -- and men -- can succeed.

The arguments against conducting compliance reviews completely ignore a large body of recent research exploring reasons for the poor retention of women in science and engineering fields and examining the issues that female students and faculty confront. They avoid the question of why women scientists are not showing expected career advancement even in fields where they earn 50 percent of the degrees.

Women enter faculty positions in engineering and physics roughly in proportion to their presence in the PhD pool, but then gradually disappear from higher ranks. This pattern suggests a discouraging environment once they join the faculty. The existence of a discouraging environment is supported by the trends seen in life sciences, where women have earned close to 50 percent of the PhDs for several decades. Biology departments rarely have more than 30 percent women faculty, and women average less than 25 percent of the full professors in biomedical departments at research universities. Isn't this alone sufficient reason for federal agencies to examine what is going on?

To remain competitive in the global economy, our country must educate and retain the brightest minds in science and engineering to provide the needed talent and diversity in our workforce. Providing federal Title IX oversight helps America compete, and ensures that a large segment of our population is not left out of the educational, economic and other opportunities STEM fields present. Forty years of experiences have shown us that when the gates to opportunity are questioned, the entryways become larger, and all of us benefit. This is what Title IX reviews will help achieve. To be competitive in this new global economy, women -- and the nation -- cannot afford to wait.
Koster is the executive director of the Association for Women in Science. Shanahan is the executive director of the Society of Women Engineers.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 7/08

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Railroading Immigrants…and the Constitution

By Kathleen Walker

Federal immigration officials swept into Postville, Iowa in May and detained nearly 400 workers at a kosher meat processing plant. Swiftly, local enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency arrested, charged with crimes, extracted pleas, and sentenced 297 of these individuals by the end of the following week. Apparently, this shock and awe strategy was specially designed to drop the hammer on undocumented workers doing backbreaking jobs under reportedly sub-optimal conditions.

This new high-speed judicial railroad required extensive planning and coordination between the U.S. Attorneys' office in Iowa, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Judiciary. The tracks laid down to carry this new enforcement train were designed to force rapid guilty pleas under the threat of serious jail time, avoid the inconvenience of trials, limit access to immigration counsel, eliminate the prospect of all future relief, and impose criminal sentences and removal orders simultaneously. To speed the process up, the court appointed attorneys were required to represent groups of 10 to 20 or more individuals, and more than 90 individuals were processed by the court in a single day.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association wrote to the U.S. District Judge who apparently authorized these expedited procedures, Chief Judge Linda R. Reade, expressing our deep concerns with the process. Chief Judge Reade subsequently said that "the immigration lawyers do not understand the federal criminal process as it relates to immigration charges." It would be hard to overstate our respectful disagreement with that assertion.

It is precisely because immigration lawyers understand the complexity of the interplay between immigration law and criminal charges that we have recoiled so forcefully at this new approach. Leveraging excessive criminal charges through an exploding plea bargain (sign the deal within seven days of arrest or face max prosecution) to secure jail time and forfeiture of all possible immigration relief, shows an utter disregard for that very complexity.

The nearly 300 individuals subjected to this process who reportedly pled guilty to the use of false documents (in order to work, mind you) in exchange for five-month prison terms and deportation were neither adequately screened, nor advised of their rights under U.S. immigration law. Some may have derivative U.S. citizenship claims. Others may have legitimate fears of persecution or torture in their home country. Still others may be eligible for visas as witnesses to crimes that may have been committed by their employer. Many are ethnic Mayan Guatemalans for whom Spanish is a second language and who signed agreements without any Mayan interpretation. In the interest of government efficiency, however, these individuals were denied access to the experts needed to help them make informed judgments about whether pleading guilty was in their best interest.

With the “government” bearing down hard and fast, these folks did just what the engineers of this new machine intended, they got on board and signed away their life in this country. The court proceedings in Iowa were a travesty of justice and have no place in a constitutional democracy. Immigrants, even those working without documentation, deserved their day in court, not a five-minute ride on a judicial cattle car that compromises the integrity of our system.
Walker is the immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 7/08

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

HHS Proposal Undercuts State Birth Control Laws

By Cristina Page

The Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been called "ground zero for the ideological wars in this country," and a new HHS proposal leaked this week proves why. In a spectacular act of complicity with extremists on the right, HHS is proposing to allow any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception.

The American public is nearly unanimous in supporting contraception: 90 percent favor wide availability for birth control, and 90 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age are using it. It is simple common sense: the average woman spends nearly three decades of her life attempting to be sexually active without getting pregnant, and access to contraception is the only proven way to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

For most women, birth control is a basic health care need. But with this new proposal, the Bush administration plans to hand over the gears of health care to the few extremists who want to impose their deeply unpopular right-wing doctrine on the many. The "Pill Kills" fringe has generally been ignored for its warped pseudo-science, but not at Bush's HHS. Its new proposal would make agencies receiving HHS funding promise not to discriminate in hiring against anyone who objects to abortion -- and then redefines abortion so as to include most commonly used forms of birth control including oral contraceptives and IUDs.

This is the latest -- and now incontrovertible -- proof that the anti-abortion movement, and the administration that appears beholden to it, opposes basic pregnancy prevention and is firmly committed to control over Americans' sex lives. If the HHS proposal is approved, anti-contraceptive operatives will seize health financing, one of the most important levers of control. The regulations would be vast in scope and serve as an open invitation for local extremists to directly meddle with your most important life decisions.

Under the new rule, any health care provider who receives federal funding and would like to prevent women from having access to prescription birth control would have federal protection for doing it. State laws requiring hospitals to give pregnancy prevention to rape victims would be automatically invalidated. Pharmacies nationwide could be granted instant permission to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control. Health centers may be forced to hire religious extremists who would refuse to provide contraception to their patients, even if contraception service is the main focus of the facility.

The new regulation would overrule laws in 27 states requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives. Keep in mind that reluctance of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to cover contraception was what led to these state mandates in the first place. Health insurance plans would likely be able to eliminate contraceptive coverage, re-imposing on women 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care expenses than men pay.

President Bush has been committed to restricting Americans' access to pregnancy prevention since his first days in office. In 2001, he attempted to eliminate contraceptive coverage for federal employees and soldiers. At the request of the anti-contraception movement, he has obstructed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's process of approving proposals for wider access to contraception; appointed self-described anti-contraception leaders to oversee the nation's federal contraception program for the poor; eliminated funding for international family planning programs; appointed anti-condom activists to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS; promoted programs that withhold information about birth control from sexually active teens; and sunk unprecedented sums of public funding into these no-sex-until-marriage programs, even after witnessing, as governor of Texas, that the result there was the highest teen birth rate of any state in the union.

The proposed regulation is just one of many campaigns against contraception, all led entirely by the anti-abortion establishment. Few Americans know that not one anti-abortion organization in the United States supports contraception. Even fewer understand that every effort to ensure Americans' access to pregnancy prevention is met with fierce, well-financed, and increasingly successful opposition by anti-abortion groups.

The Bush administration has been able to implement these deeply unpopular attacks against birth control and family planning because the American public doesn't really believe that an anti-contraception movement even exists. Under the cover of public denial, behind the banner of "Who could be against contraception?" ideological extremists have accomplished much of their agenda. Approval of the HHS proposal would be the most encompassing and far-reaching attack on the right to contraception they could hope for. What the anti-birth control extremists need now is for the public to continue to believe it can't happen.
Page is the author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex and spokesperson for
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 7/08

Thursday, July 17, 2008

G8 to Poor Women: Let Them Eat Dirt

By Yifat Susskind

Last week, leaders of the world’s richest countries, the Group of Eight (G8), met to chart the course of the global economy at the luxurious Windsor Hotel Toya Resort and Spa in Toyako, Japan. While President Bush and his colleagues discussed world hunger over a six-course lunch, women in Haiti were preparing cakes of dirt for their children’s dinner.

Eating dirt, mixed with salt and vegetable shortening, is the latest coping strategy of Haitian mothers trying to quiet hungry children in a year when the cost of rice (Haiti’s staple food) has risen nearly 150 percent.

Ironically, many of these women were once rice farmers themselves. But in the 1980s, U.S.-grown rice began pouring into Haiti. Thanks to federal subsidies, the imported rice was sold for less than what it cost to grow it. Haitian farmers just couldn’t compete.

Neither could millions of other farmers around the world, who have been bankrupted by the influx of rice, corn, and wheat from the U.S., Europe and Japan. These farmers have gone from growing their own food and feeding their countries to having to buy food that’s priced on a global market. Now that these commodity markets have spiked, millions of more families cannot afford to eat.

Even here in the U.S., still the world’s richest country, more and more families are struggling to afford food these days. Thankfully, we are not forced to feed our children mud cakes. But ultimately, all working families and small farmers, whether in Haiti or Iowa, are hurt by farm policies that are designed for the benefit of giant food corporations.

Consider the U.S. grain subsidies that have pushed so many Haitian families to the brink of survival. They have also hurt family farmers here at home. That’s because the lion’s share of this $307 billion goes to the largest factory farms, leaving small-holder farmers to fend for themselves.

As we saw last month, when floods wiped out hundreds of acres of crops in the Midwest, farming is a risky business. It’s the family farmers who don’t have much of a financial cushion that we should be protecting with subsidies.

The same goes for small-holder farmers in Haiti and other developing countries. Most of these farmers are women, are mothers, who like most moms in the U.S., are responsible for putting dinner on the table every day. In developing countries, these mothers often grow their family’s food from scratch.

The small-holder, women farmers had no say in the decisions that the G8 leaders’ made about the global food crisis. Yet, it turns out that they have a lot to say when it comes to finding solutions to the crisis they are facing.

Just before the G8 meeting, a network of women’s groups from Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Colombia issued an open letter to the G8. Brought together by the international women’s human rights organization, MADRE, the women called on the G8 to support real solutions to the food crisis. They proposed concrete changes in the global economy, like international mechanisms to stabilize the cost of food and protect the livelihoods of farmers. They called for billion-dollar-a-day agricultural subsidies to be converted from support for big agribusiness to incentives for sustainable, small-scale and organic farms.

These are solid proposals backed up by research and years of first-hand experience in communities that are on the frontlines of today’s food crisis.

But instead of taking steps that could remedy the problem, the G8 plugged more of the same corporate-friendly trade and agriculture policies that brought on the food crisis in the first place.

G8 leaders called for more “open markets” in food trade. Openness sounds good, but in practice this means that poor countries can’t use tariffs to protect farmers from unfair competition.

The G8 also pushed for stricter patent laws. These rules take ownership of seeds -- the very basis of all agriculture -- away from small farmers and enable giant biotech companies like Monsanto to control our food supply.

The G8 did call for more aid to countries like Haiti that have been hard hit by the spike in food prices. That’s an important step when lives are at stake. But the money is to be administered through the International Monetary Fund, famous for making offers with strings attached. In this case, governments will be required to implement more of the kind of trade liberalization that hurts poor people and small farmers and has created record profits for big food corporations this year.

But as the women’s letter to the G8 clearly shows, it’s not corporate profits, but human rights --including the basic right to food -- that will underpin real solutions to the food crisis.
Susskind is the communications director of MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide.
Copyright © 2008 by the American Forum. 7/08

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Creating a Stronger, Safer Juvenile Justice System

By Frances Deviney

Texas’ juvenile justice system is necessary and critical for protecting our citizens and helping to rehabilitate troubled youth. Unfortunately, it has not done either very well in recent years.

Last year, reports of physical and sexual abuse of youth in custody by Texas Youth Commission (TYC) staff rocked the state, shedding light on Texas’ troubled juvenile justice system and prompting Texas to make much needed improvements.

The state immediately jumped into action after the scandal. In response, the legislature authorized increased training for juvenile corrections officers, greater oversight for the entire juvenile system, and in an effort to further reduce the strain on the system, prohibited future incarceration of youth for misdemeanor offenses.

In addition, the Texas Youth Commission created a special Blue Ribbon Task force whose recommendations included placing more emphasis on preventing children from entering TYC; increasing parental involvement throughout the juvenile justice process; and providing specialized programs to treat drug abuse and mental health problems which plague more than one in three youth in Texas custody.

Although these were important first steps to reforming Texas’ beleaguered juvenile justice system, a new report reveals that more work is needed.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book, released last month, Texas was in the top third of states with the highest rates of youth ages 10-15 in custody at juvenile justice facilities in 2006 (136 of every 100,000 Texas youth). In 2007, Texas began addressing their over reliance on incarceration by releasing youth in custody for misdemeanors and prohibiting future misdemeanor incarcerations. There are still areas where incarceration policies and procedures are still highly questionable.

For example, Texas must reduce the number of youth involved with the adult corrections system (TDCJ). In 2006, more than 700 Texas youth ages 15 to 17 entered adult prisons. Although the number may seem small, the practice is problematic. Research finds that youth tried as adults go on to commit more violent crime and more crime overall than youth with similar offenses who remain in the juvenile system. In 2003, 47 percent of Texas youth released from adult prisons were rearrested within three years compared to only 27 percent of adults released from prison. Unfortunately, Texas’ recent changes have only increased the number of youth going to adult prisons by reducing the age TYC youth can be transferred to TDCJ from 21 to 19.

We also must take vigorous action to reduce the persistent overrepresentation of youth of color in our juvenile justice system. In Texas, youth of color are twice as likely to be in custody as white youth. However, national studies repeatedly find that youth of color do not commit crimes at higher rates. Texas should review underlying biases and promote practices that equalize treatment.

Past improvements made to Texas’ juvenile justice system in the wake of the Texas Youth Commission scandals were necessary and critical. Texas should continue its commitment to our youth, not only by preventing future abuse, but by drawing upon additional data, local recommendations, and best practices to create a stronger and safer juvenile justice system that sets youth up for future success, not failure.
Deviney is Texas KIDS COUNT director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the Texas Lone Star Forum. 7/08

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rebate Checks Alone Won’t Rebuild the Economy

By Blanca Rojas

As millions of Americans receive their tax rebate checks in the mail, the government is waiting to see whether this cash infusion will trigger a mass spending spree. Supporters believe this strategy will create rebate-fueled purchasing power that will give consumers the confidence they need to purchase that new flat-screen TV or simply pay off their overdue bills, jolting the economy back to life in the process.

The problem with this scenario is that no one can predict whether the rebate checks will do the job. Rebate checks are only one piece of the economic recovery equation; Congress must also create a growth package that contains proven initiatives for pulling the country out of a recession. This package should include four things: an expansion of unemployment insurance, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits, increased aid to state and local governments, and investment in infrastructure projects that would immediately put people to work.

There is no question that more and more Georgia families are struggling to meet basic needs. In the past year alone gas prices have soared 20 percent, while food staples such as bread, milk, and eggs have surged at double-digit rates. As of April this year, the number of people seeking food assistance from the Open Door Community House in Columbus, doubled from 300 to 600 over the same period last year.

At the same time, more people are facing unemployment or reduced work hours. In Georgia, unemployment rates rose from 4.2 percent to 5.3 percent between March 2007 and 2008.

With at least 25 states facing a combined estimated budget shortfall of $40 billion for fiscal year 2009, there is little that financially strapped states can do to ease the burden. Georgia’s current budget deficit of $200 to $300 million, according to the most recent figures available from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is already producing harmful cuts in heath care, education, and other vital services.

None of this is likely to be solved by a $1,200 rebate check for a family of three. Any responsible effort to pull the country out of the current recession should start with an expansion of unemployment benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor ranks expanding unemployment compensation as the No. 1 tool for stimulating the economy. Studies show that for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance, anywhere from $1.73 to $2.15 is re-circulated back into the economy.

A temporary increase in food stamp benefits is another quick way to stimulate the economy and assist those in need. The recession has forced more people onto the food stamp rolls, where they receive an average of just $1 per meal. A temporary increase in that allotment could be easily added to food stamp electronic debit cards and spent quickly, boosting the economy while helping to prevent millions of children and seniors from going to bed hungry.

Increasing aid to state and local governments is also imperative to stem job loss and halt further cuts in critical programs and services including Medicaid and SCHIP. Without help, the budget shortfalls confronting states will increase hardships for low-income people and push the country into a deeper recession.

Finally, investing in much-needed infrastructure projects would create jobs, rebuild communities, and strengthen the economy. This is especially true of projects that are already underway but could be accelerated or repaired.

Before the economic downturn, average Americans worked hard but lost ground to rising costs in health care, food, gas and housing. In the midst of the current economic crisis, the Bush Administration has done little to help them get back on their feet, yet it has managed to provide tax breaks to the wealthy, bail out investment banking giants, and spend $12 billion a month on the war in Iraq. It’s time to give a hand to families in need and states facing serious financial crisis. Our elected officials must act now with a recovery package that stimulates the economy by helping those who are hurting most.
Rojas is the Invest in America’s Future coordinator for the Georgia Rural Urban Summit Affiliate
Copyright (C) 2008 by the Georgia Forum

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Eating American on the Fourth of July

By Rinku Sen

[Click here to read this essay in Spanish. You can also see a video of Rinku Sen speaking.]

On this Fourth of July, I will be eating hot dogs. While I was trying to fit in as an Indian immigrant child throughout the 1970's, they represented the quintessential American food. I begged my mother to let me have them for dinner every night instead of chicken curry and rice. She nixed the hotdogs but sometimes allowed spaghetti and meatballs -- straight from a can. Hotdogs were "invented" by German immigrants serving their traditional sausages in the hustling streets of the new world, and spaghetti, everyone knows, came from Italy. If I had been celebrating Independence Day 150 years ago, however, neither would have been on the menu. In those days, Germans and Italians weren't considered Americans, or even white. When they fought over the most lucrative street corner for food vendors in the 1880's, the press reported these incidents as "race riots."

I'll be sharing this holiday with a group of restaurant workers, largely immigrants. Along with the hotdogs, we'll have tacos, samosas, falafel. According to one side of the immigration debate, we can keep our goodies to ourselves. America doesn't want them, or us.

Immigration restrictionists argue not only that we need to stop undocumented immigration, but cut back drastically on legal immigration as well. They argue that this economy -- no longer industrial but focused on information and service -- has no room for masses of poor immigrants. There's a fear that technology makes travel and communication so easy that new immigrants won't break ties with the old country and reassign their loyalty. To them, the telephone is a dangerous device and communication with relatives a terribly un-American act.

Restrictionists have tried to modernize their argument, but it hasn't changed much through the years. Immigration of the late 19th century was dominated by Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Jews, and other groups from southern and eastern Europe. At that time, these new residents were widely seen as inferior to native-born whites. They were reviled for their refusal to speak English, for their political and economic demands on American corporations, for being so poor that they became "public charges" or undercut the wages of the native-born workers, and for their unacceptable sexual behavior.

The Immigration Acts of 1920 and 1924, the most restrictive immigration policies we've ever had, limited new entrants to 150,000 per year, which was less than a quarter of the total immigration rate at that time. These laws crafted large quotas for northern Europeans while setting limits for countries like Russia and Italy. Thousands of southern and eastern Europeans, however, continued to come.

As immigrants were deported for violating the quota policies, social reformers began to fight for long-time residents who had built families and communities in the U.S. These reformers won a series of changes that gave immigration officials the ability to change someone's status.

The liberalization remade the American identity, but kept it white. Mexicans, for example, were left behind by the process. According to historian Mae M. Ngai, They weren't explicitly excluded, but they had little access to the mechanisms through which to change their status, and no one cared to correct that oversight. In 1929, Congress also passed the Registry Act, allowing people to change their status if they paid $20, hadn't left the U.S. since 1921, and were of good moral character. Of the 115,000 people who were forgiven between 1930 and 1940, 80 percent were European or Canadian. The attorney general began to suspend deportation orders after 1940, and an internal Justice department study in 1943 revealed that the overwhelming majority of suspensions went, ironically, to Germans and Italians; only 8 percent involved Mexicans. Instead of liberalization, Mexicans got a guest worker program, and in 1954, Operation Wetback, the country's first mass deportation program.

Restrictionists have frozen images of a "true" America, as though our identity hasn't changed since 1776. Stasis, however, is a fiction. Cultures do not stand still, nor should we want them to. We have the chance now to remake our immigration policy in the modern era, not by taking it back to the 1920's, but by grappling honestly with the fact that the American identity is always undergoing cultural change. Modernity challenges us to create a policy that finally recognizes the full humanity of all immigrants without regard to their racial identity.

If we are indeed what we eat, Americans are already eating like the world. It's time for our policy to catch up to our palates.
Sen is the president of the Applied Research Center and the publisher of ColorLines magazine. Her book, The Accidental American, will be released in September.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 6/08

Comiendo a lo Americano el Cuatro de Julio

Por Rinku Sen

[Click here to read this essay in English]

Este Cuatro de Julio, voy a comer hotdogs. Mientras que estaba tratando de pertenecer como un niño inmigrante Indio a través de los años 1970, que representaban la quintaesencia comida Americana. Le rogué a mi madre que me dejara comerlos para la cena cada noche en vez de pollo con curry y arroz. Ella me negó los hotdogs pero a veces permitía espaguetis y albondigas directamente de la lata. Los hotdogs fueron “inventados” por los inmigrantes Alemanes sirviendo sus tradicionales salchichas en las bulliciosas calles del nuevo mundo, y espaguetis, todos saben, vienen de Italia. Si estuviera celebrando el Día de la Independencia hace 150 años atrás, ninguna de las dos cosas estarían en el menú. En esos días, los Alemanes y los Italianos no eran considerados Americanos ó ni siquiera blancos. Cuando se peleaban por las esquinas más lucrativas para vender comida en los años 1880, la prensa reportaba estos incidents como “disturbios racistas”.

Voy a compartir esta fecha patria con un grupo de trabajadores de restaurantes, la mayoría inmigrantes. Además de los hotdogs vamos a tener tacos, samosas, falafel. De acuerdo con un lado del debate de inmigración, podemos quedarnos con nuestras delicias para nosotros mismos. America no quiere eso ó a nosotros.

Los restriccionistas de la inmigración discuten que no solamente necesitamos parar la inmigración indocumentada sino que también debemos cortar drasticamente la inmigración legal. Ellos discuten que esta economia, no más industrial pero enfocada en la información y el servicio, no tiene lugar para masas de inmigrantes pobres. Hay temor de que la tecnología hace a los viajes y a la comunicacion tan fácil que los nuevos inmigrantes no van a cortar sus contactos con su vieja patria y reasignar su lealtad. Para ellos, el teléfono es un aparato peligroso y la comunicación con los familiares, un terrible acto anti Americano.

Los restriccionistas han tratado de modernizar este argumento, pero no ha cambiado mucho a través de los años. La inmigración al final del siglo 19 fué dominada por Italianos, Polacos, Húngaros, Judíos y otros grupos del sur y el este de Europa. En ese tiempo estos nuevos residents eran vistos como inferiores a los nativos nacidos blancos. Ellos eran insultados por negarse a hablar Inglés, por sus demandas económicas y políticas a la corporaciones Americanas, por ser pobres y convertirse en “cargas públicas” ó bajar los salarios de los trabajadores nacidos nativos, y por su comportamiento sexual inaceptable.

Los Actos de Inmigración de 1920 y 1924, la política de inmigración más restringibles que hemos tenido, limitó nuevas entradas a 150,000 por año, que era menos de un cuarto de la cantidad total de inmigración en esos tiempos. Estas leyes construyeron grandes cuotas para Europeos del norte mientras que establecía límites para paises como Rusia é Italia. Sin embargo miles de Europeos del sur y del este continuaban viniendo.

Mientras que inmigrantes eran deportados por violar la política de las cuotas, reformistas socials empezaron a pelear por viejos residents que habían formado familias y comunidades en los Estados Unidos. Estos reformistas ganaron una serie de cambios que dieron a los oficiales de inmigración la habilidad de cambiar la situación de alguien.

La liberalización rehizo la identidad Americana, pero la mantuvo blanca. Los Mexicanos por ejemplo, fueron dejados atrás por el proceso. De acuerdo al historiador Mae M. Ngai, ellos fueron explícitamente excluídos, pero ellos tenían poco acceso a los mecanismos a través de los cuales cambiar su condición y a nadie le importó corregir esa situación. En 1929, el Congreso también pasó el Acto de Registro, permitiendo a la gente a cambiar su condición si pagaban $20, no habían dejado los Estados Unidos desde 1921 y eran de un buen caracter moral. De las 115,000 personas que fueron perdonadas entre 1930 y 1940, 80 por ciento eran Europeos ó Canadienses. El abogado general empezó a suspender las ordenes de deportación después de 1940 y un estudio interno del Departamento de Justicia en 1943 reveló que la mayoría de suspensiones fué ironicamente a los Alemanes é Italianos, solo 8 por ciento envolvia a los Mexicanos. En vez de liberalización, los Mexicanos recibieron programas de trabajadores invitados, y en 1954, la Operación Espalda Mojada, el primer programa de deportación en masa del país.

Los restriccionistas han congelado las imágines de la “verdadera” America, como si nuestra identidad no hubiese cambiado desde 1776. La estasis es una ficción. Las culturas no permanecen quietas, y tampoco queremos que lo hagan. Tenemos la chance de rehacer nuestra política inmigratoria ahora en la era moderna, no llevándonos atrás a los 1920, pero lidiando honestamente con el hecho de que la identidad Americana ha ido siempre cambiando culturalmente. La modernidad nos desafía a crear una política que finalemente reconoce la humanidad total de todos los inmigrantes sin importar su identidad racial. Si realmente nosotros somos lo que comemos, los Americanos ya están comiendo como el mundo. Es tiempo que nuestra política alcanze a nuestro paladar.
Sen es la presidenta del Applied Research Center y el publicista de la revista ColorLines. Su libro, The Accidental American, va a ser publicado en Septiembre.
Derechos reservados © 2008 por el American Forum. 6/08