Claus’s Recap of Week Four

By Claus Whiteacre

It was the week that wasn’t.

A senator introduced a “zombie bill” to once again try to kill greenhouse gas emission rules. Harrison Schmitt withdrew his name from consideration as Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Uranium boosters and conservation advocates united to defeat a uranium-mining bill. And the week culminated with the Rev. Al Sharpton addressing a joint session as part of the annual African-American Day at the Legislature.

Immigration Issues

The week kicked off Monday with a sizable immigrant rights rally at the Capitol to protest Gov. Susana Martinez’s executive order mandating inquiry about immigration status of criminal suspects and her plans for legislation to revoke driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The first of the bills to strip immigrants of licenses, HB 261, died Thursday in a House committee.

Rep. Andy Nunez, (I- Hatch) has announced that he will sponsor HB 78, which, in addition to containing language similar to HB 261, also includes a measure to cancel existing licenses that have been issued to illegal immigrants.

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Think “Expulsion” Sounds Harsh? It’s Where We’re Headed

University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabriel R. Sanchez

By Tracy Dingmann

“Expel” isn’t a word we hear often in these United States.

It’s a harsh, ugly word that literally means “to force out.”

For people like me who love words and appreciate their every connotation, “expel” brings to mind vermin or trash – something so vile that it must be hurled violently away.

But I was forced think about that unpleasant word the other day when I came across this story, headlined “France To Seek Support For Roma Expulsion.”

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Not St. Pete!

By Tracy Dingmann

We like this post from blogger Matt Reichbach, who blogs at NMFBIHOP.com and writes occasionally at the New Mexico Independent.

In the post from NMFBIHOP last night, Reichbach linked to an interesting post from the SEIU blog. The SEIU post that noted that, under the drive currently being pushed by some U.S. lawmakers to revoke the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and withdraw citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants who are born in America – former New Mexico U.S. Senator Pete Domenici would have not been considered an U.S. citizen.

That’s St. Pete to all you old-timers who remember how Domenici brought home the bacon for New Mexico all those years.

Here’s an explanation of Domenici’s situation, from the SEIU blog:

Former GOP Senator Pete Domenici’s (born in U.S. May 7, 1932)
In 2007 on the Senate floor, Sen. Domenici (R-NM) recounted his mother’s arrest by immigration agents, after unwittingly learning she was an undocumented immigrant. “I wish to tell about both my parents who came to this country as aliens… one day during the Second World War, [my mom] was arrested by several men who came in black cars to the backdoor while we four children were playing with marbles… [USA Today, 6/4/07]

Under Pearce’s world “order” Domenici would have been deported back to his parents’ native Italy and not gone on to serve six terms as a Republican Senator for New Mexico.

According to the New York Times, “Domenici said he decided to tell his story when the hostile rhetoric about illegal immigrants started to boil. He said he wanted to remind his fellow Republicans that the sons and daughters of this century’s illegal immigrants could end up in the Senate one day, too. ‘I wasn’t trying to impress anybody,’ he said of his story. ‘I think it just puts a little heart and a little soul into this.'” [New York Times, 4/4/06]

SEIU says others who’d be deemed non-Americans under the proposal include former U.S. Atty General Alberto Gonzales, astronaut Jose Hernandez and Lousiania Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Just a little something for everyone to think about as they talk about immigration reform.

City Councilor Rey Garduño Speaks Out On Arizona Immigration Law Ruling

Albuquerque City Councilor Rey Garduño

By Tracy Dingmann

Albuquerque City Councilor Rey Garduño remembers what happened last May when he and fellow councilor Ken Sanchez introduced a measure calling for Albuquerque to stop doing business with Arizona over its controversial immigration law.

His city email and phone were besieged with calls from people telling the Albuquerque native to “Go back to Mexico” and stop being a “wetback lover.”

So it was somewhat satisfying for Garduño to hear that a federal judge in Arizona scaled back the law just before it was about to take effect on July 29. The judge struck down the most controversial parts of the law, under the premise that Arizona cannot not preempt federal law by making state laws on immigration.

Now banned are the provisions that would have forced local law enforcement to check the immigration status of those who they suspected were in the county illegally.

Relieved The Law Was Struck Down

Like many others who protested the law, Garduño believed it went beyond concerns about illegal immigration and would have invited abuses of citizens and non-citizens alike.

“My first thought was that I was glad that at least the judge realized how egregious this law is, and made sure that the parts that are flawed are not implemented or made into law,” Garduño said last week.

“The law is about wanting to make sure that people we don’t like or don’t agree with or don’t seem like the rest of us are criminalized and denigrated,” said Garduño.

“The parts that were taken out by the judge speak to the concerns that many of us had. The whole idea of wholesale just stopping folks, because someone thinks that someone is not, in their terms, documented. It gives police agencies carte blanche to do whatever they want. And racial profiling would occur as a result.”

“It’s just not the way this country should be run.”

Proposed Boycott

Back in May, Garduño and fellow city councilor Ken Sanchez introduced a proposal for the city of Albuquerque to suspend financial business with the state of Arizona as long as the law is in effect.

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Long-Form Debate on Immigration Deserves Kudos

By Tracy Dingmann

An interactive, multi-media forum on immigration devoted a healthy chunk of time to an immensely complicated and explosive issue – and for that, KUNM-FM, KNME-TV and the New Mexico Independent deserve kudos.

The July 14 panel discussion at the KNME studios featured Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, a former FBI special agent; Marcela Diaz, an immigrant-rights advocate with Somos Un Pueblo Unido; and Dante DiGregorio, a professor at UNM’s Anderson School of Management who specializes in business relations between the U.S. and Mexico. Trip Jennings, senior writer for NMI, moderated the discussion.

A live studio audience looked on as KNME cameras filmed the discussion for webcast on NMI, while reporters from NMI liveblogged the proceedings and relayed questions from online viewers and the audience. Meanwhile, KUNM news director Jim Williams relayed questions as he anchored the station’s live broadcast of the event, which came during the public radio station’s all-important evening drive time.

A transcript of the forum is available here on the NMI site.

(Full disclosure: Although I am a correspondent for KNME-TV, I was not involved in the planning or execution of this particular forum. The station has hosted similar forums on other topics in the past and will likely do so in the future.)

A Long-Form Discussion
One of the best things about the forum was the generous amount of time afforded to the topic and the effort that organizers made to balance the discussion, said Adonai Morales, a community organizer at the local immigrants rights group El Centro de la Igualidad y Derechos .

Morales was born in Mexico. At El Centro, his outreach and advocacy includes giving workshops that inform immigrants about their basic civil rights.

Morales, a former journalist, said he was impressed with the format of the event.

“It was an excellent forum. It is always good to have different sides and different viewpoints. A lot of what you see in the media is one-sided, most of the time,” he said. “It was more than an hour long. Immigration is a very complicated issue, and the fact that they gave it enough time to really flesh out the arguments was great.”

In the forum, Diaz made an often-passionate case for immigrants who live in New Mexico now, saying that their lives are disproportionately subject to misinformation and fear. Diaz tamped down the myth that there is an immigrant crime wave going on, citing figures that show immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the restof the population.

DiGregorio offered up a number of interesting facts and figures regarding immigration, including that rates are currently declining due to the downturn in the U.S. economy.

A Focus on Law and Order

And while he stressed several times that he favors immigration reform that is fair for all, Rep. Kintigh repeatedly attempted to frame the debate as one largely about law and order and the need to protect law-abiding American citizens from crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Kintigh’s repeated mention of two or three ghastly crimes committed locally by illegal immigrants as justification for his hard line position caused some head shaking and eye-rolling among some members of the audience. Reactions from the audience heated up even more after the KNME cameras were turned off at 7 p.m. and the discussion continued on.

For his part, Morales said he understands that public safety needs to be part of any discussion about immigration.
“Focusing on crime is always an argument that is used, and there is a real basis to it,” said Morales. There are hardcore trafficking and kidnapping syndicates, as well as whole industries based on the forgery of documents and of smuggling people and weapons into and out of the country.”

However, he continued:

“The problem is when sometimes a couple of bad actors – criminals on either side of the border – get all the attention when the majority are honest, working immigrants who are just here to work get cast in this wide net of strategy.”

“It’s not an excuse for not solving the problem and tackling the issues. And it’s not an excuse to not work for comprehensive immigration reform that is fair for all.”

FAIR Report On Immigration Costs Is Anything But

By Tracy Dingmann

Just because a group calls itself FAIR doesn’t mean it is.

Take the Federation for American Immigration Reform – FAIR – the group behind Arizona’s odious new immigration law (scroll to the end for the part where the group takes credit for helping craft it).

Not content with passage of the law, FAIR has continued to advise Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on measures that seem to have nothing to do with illegal immigration and everything to do with hating people who are brown and speak Spanish.

Those who track extremist hate groups in the United States have long had FAIR on their radar. In 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated FAIR a hate group, noting that its founders and key associates have ties to white supremacist and Holocaust denial groups.

People who were paying attention when AZ 1070 was passed knew full well that FAIR and its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, was behind it.

But apparently FAIR’s unsavory connections were not of concern to some media outlets who jumped on the group’s dubiously-sourced July 6 report claiming that undocumented immigrants cost American taxpayers more than $113 billion a year.

The New Mexico Business Weekly carried a story and linked to the alarming-sounding numbers in FAIR’s report. On Monday, the right-wing talk radio station KKOB-AM featured the report on its 9 a.m. call-in show and offered the numbers up as red meat to its rabid anti-immigration listeners – including some that were supposedly calculated just for New Mexico. Nationally, FOX News trumpeted the study’s findings throughout the weekend.

What you might not have heard is that, within hours of the study’s release, the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit think-tank dedicated to “standing up for sensible and humane immigration policies that reflect American values” came forward with three “fatal flaws” in FAIR’s study – flaws so grave as to render its findings meaningless.

From the AIC press release:

“….in its rush to portray unauthorized immigrants as nothing more than a drain on the public treasury, FAIR completely discounts the economic contributions of unauthorized workers and consumers. Moreover, FAIR inflates their cost estimate by indiscriminately lumping together native-born, U.S.-citizen children with their unauthorized parents.

FAIR’s report suffers from three fatal flaws:

The report notes that the single biggest “expense” it attributes to unauthorized immigrants is the education of their children, yet most of these children are native-born, U.S. citizens who will grow up to be tax-paying adults. It is disingenuous to count the cost of investing in the education of these children, so that they will earn higher incomes and pay more in taxes when they are adults, as if it were nothing more than a cost incurred by their parents.

The report fails to account for the purchasing power of unauthorized consumers, which supports U.S. businesses and U.S. jobs.

The report ignores the value added to the U.S. economy by unauthorized workers, particularly in the service sector.

At least the FOX story included this information about FAIR, calling it “a conservative organization that seeks to end almost all immigration to the U.S.” and included this passage:

Groups that support immigration reform immediately attacked FAIR’s report and pointed out that it is the polar opposite of the Perryman Report, a 2008 study that found illegal immigration was actually a boon to the American economy. It estimated that illegal immigrants add $245 billion in Gross Domestic Product to the economy and account for 2.8 million jobs.

Unfortunately, the lopsided, inaccurate report issued by a known hate group was picked up and taken as gospel by way too many media outlets.

It really is a shame.

“Anchor Baby” Legislation Doesn’t Have A Chance

UNM Political Science Prof. Christine Sierra

By Tracy Dingmann

Anchor baby.

It’s a hateful term used to describe a child of undocumented immigrants who is born in the U.S. and thus an American citizen.

And it’s being used a lot right now by folks in Arizona who are working on a bill to deny U.S. citizenship to children born here – children whose citizenship is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The people who are pushing this notion are the same folks behind SB 1070, the Arizona law that has sparked widespread protest since Gov. Jan Brewer signed it back in April.

It doesn’t matter to these folks that states don’t have the right to decide who gets American citizenship. It doesn’t matter that what they want to do would violate the U.S. Constitution.

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How to Win a Drug War: It’s a Good Thing Mexican Drug Cartels Aren’t the British Empire

The Mexican drug cartels are armed and dangerous.  And their business model is thriving.  They sell massive amounts of product in the U.S. – and U.S. arms dealers sell literally tons of weapons to the cartels. (Mexican President Calderon brought this fact to the attention of our Congress:  Of the 75,000 assault weapons seized by Mexican authorities during the last three years, over 80% came from the U.S.)

Indeed, the violence of the drug war is escalating – in Mexico.  Ciudad Juárez is the homicide capital of the western hemisphere. Yet, very little of this violence is spilling across the border according to the latest FBI crime stats.

Christopher Dickey in Newsweek on the FBI stats:

The FBI numbers show that in the midst of the supposed crime wave, many other cities in the Southwest have had declines in crime similar to Phoenix. El Paso, Texas, just across the Rio Grande from a ferocious drug war in Juarez, where some 5,000 people have been murdered in recent years, saw almost no change in its own crime rate and remains one of the safest cities in the country, with only 12 murders last year. San Antonio saw violent crime drop from 9,699 incidents to 7,844; murders from 116 to 99. Compare that with a city like Detroit, which is a little bigger than El Paso and much smaller than San Antonio—and not exactly a magnet for job-seeking immigrants. Its murder rate went up from 323 in 2008 to 361 in 2009.

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Rep. Antonio Maestas’ Seven-Point Plan For A New Mexico Boycott of Arizona (UPDATE)

Rep. Maestas

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque was already outraged about the state of Arizona’s decision to pass a law requiring state and local law enforcement officers to ask for identification from people they believe are in the country illegally.

Maestas, an Albuquerque attorney, and many others believe the law gives police the right to stop and harass anyone they choose, based only on the color of their skin.

But news that Arizona has now banned ethnic studies in public schools as well has convinced Maestas that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her supporters are finally showing their true colors.

“They’re all really showing their hand as to what the real issue is,” said the two-term Democratic representative from the city’s West Side.

“It’s not about illegal immigrants – it’s about Mexicans, whether they are legal or illegal. It’s about people from Mexico who are brown and speak with an accent.”

How New Mexico Is Different Than Arizona

Maestas said he believes the law passed in Arizona because so many Arizonans are “culturally disconnected “from Arizona’s demographics. Arizona’s population includes a high number of Anglos who have moved there from somewhere else, have never encountered Hispanics and feel innately uncomfortable around them, he said.

“They have formed their own demographic reality,” Maestas said.

In contrast, New Mexico’s history includes the long and established presence of Hispanics who own land and vote – which translates into political power for Hispanics in New Mexico.

“Nuevo Mexicanos are a different breed – They own land and they vote, unlike a lot of Latinos elsewhere in the country,” Maestas said.

According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, New Mexico’s legislature is 44 percent Hispanic, a contrast to 16 percent in Arizona. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state — 45 percent, compared with 30 percent in Arizona.

Hispanics United Behind Opposition To Law

Historically, immigration has been a wedge issue for Hispanics, many of whom are socially conservative and favor strong government action to limit illegal immigration.

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