Ethnicity/Immigrant Experience blog #28-final

Reactions to SB1070 in Arizona are pretty varied.  Some of the same old gang continues to stay on top, notably the governor Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce-the notorious author of the bill in the state senate.

According to this article in the Economist, there are some other changes.  100,000 Latinos have left the state Arizona has lost ” $217m in spending by conference visitors and $388m in economic output from cancellations and booking declines in this and the next two years.”

I wonder if the exodus of Latinos, most of whom are of Mexican decent, is a desired effect of the legislation by some of the administration.  The loss of funds from these conferences and functions might be considered acceptable. If the Latino flight and direction economic opposition are acceptable losses, I would ask what the end goal actually is.

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #27

I’ve been noticing a lot of news about food growers, particularly in Florida.  During the week of Thanksgiving, CBS posted an old report from 1960 called Harvest of Shame.  Edward Murrow leads us through almost an hour of a personal look at a few of the people who are  relied on for their work in food production but are not given the respect or pay that they deserve.

One of the most interesting things about this piece is that it’s sponsored by Philip Morris, Inc and Murrow smokes cigarettes through much of the report.  It was an understated point, but because of how much it dates the piece I couldn’t let it go.

Murrow’s final words in the report were “The migrants have no lobby. Only an enlightened, aroused and perhaps angered public opinion can do anything about the migrants. The people you have seen have the strength to harvest your fruit and vegetables. They do not have the strength to influence legislation. Maybe we do. Good night, and good luck.”

The same question stands.  Do we have the strength to influence legislation?  Food growers continue to be exploited and dehumanized by political policy and apathy of consumers.

Ethnicity/Immigration post #26

In Southwestern Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have been fighting for over a decade for some basic labor rights.  This NY Times article highlights that one of the big pushes is for wages to be increased by $.01 per pound of tomatoes picked.

That would be roughly a 60% increase in labor wages.  The coalition-made up of mostly Haitian, Central American, and Mexican workers has had some recent success with negotiating a Code of Conduct with restaurant chains.  The current effort is targeting large grocery stores to try to get them to agree to pay a more fair wage for those who harvest tomatoes and other fruits.

The change is still being resisted by all supermarket chains besides Whole Foods.  If it passes, it would bring up 30,000 workers from abject poverty into survivable poverty.  It would be an approximate wage increase from $10,000 per year to $17,000 per year.

Ethnicity/Immigration post #25

Remember apartheid in South Africa?  For Branden Huntley, an Afrikaner, the tables have turned.  This Toronto Sun article mentions his plight, having survived three stabbings over the course of seven robberies at the hands of black South Africans he is seeking renewal of his refugee status in Canada.

The decision has still not been made as to his future.  Interestingly, Huntley first arrived in Canada illegally in 2004 and overstayed his visa before applying for refugee status.   If the Canadian government allows him to stay as a refugee or not, I’m left wondering about what black South Africans could do about their situation.  It has been a few decades since the end of apartheid, but I remember a general lack of sympathy for those who may have wanted to leave if their situation couldn’t be improved.

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #24

A recent NY Times article about hardliner ideas for immigration reform mentions a few ideas.  Leaders in the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steve King (R-Iowa), have begun unveiling some drastic changes.

There are plans to build a bigger, better, wall on the Mexico-US border complete with spiral barbed wire.  The likelihood of raids on suspected illegal immigrants, more money spent on border patrol, and harsher restrictions on the USA’s foreign born population.   The article above mentions that many of such politicians like Smith & King are potentially interested in disqualifying children from citizenship if they are born in the US to illegal immigrants as they keep people coming here.  According to this articl

Those seem like harsh accusations to me and the “anchor baby” sentiment likely marginal.  But looking at Texans For Lamar Smith, he is alleging that immigration “is a national security issue as well as an economic issue, especially with millions of American citizens and legal immigrants out of work.”  According to this article in Mother Jones, Steve King compared border-crossers to livestock, asserted that President Obama “favors the black person,” and described illegal immigration as a “slow-motion terrorist attack.”

A valid question has been raised.  Do you know who is going to be leading our immigration reform over the next few years?

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #23

There is a brilliant photo essay on Foreign Policy (FP) called the Grayest Generation that Dr. Allen linked to.  It is 31 snapshots followed by a three sentence caption that describes the demographics in the respective countries pertaining usually to populations over 65 and their plight.

Nearly every country featured has similar trends.  There is a growing gap between high elderly populations and people under 15yrs old.  Nations are needing to come up with solutions for aging populations such as health care but many are increasing the age of retirement to around 65.

Sweden and Malaysia seem to be exceptions.  The former has what the authors call a model system of caring for the aging and the latter has a more even distribution of age throughout their population.

The most interesting insight was on Russia, where the average lifespan is 60yrs old.  There are more than 34,000 villages, mostly populated by 10 women each, where the they are averaging a lifespan of 73 years.

When the population does not replace itself, where is the care for the aging generation?  The familial connections are hard to replace, and they seem to have a positive effect on health of the elderly.  A big question arises about the shrinking tax base after people do retire.  The local economies and national budgets are needing to accommodate more spending and less income.

Ethnicity/Immigration Post #22

A NY Times article about emigration and “brain drain” in Venezuela attempted to show some different reasons why some people are coming and large numbers are going.  The long-term effects of some changes that President Hugo Chávez has been making are yet to be seen.

Over the past year, Venezuela was the only country in South America to have a shrinking economy.  This article makes the connection between the economic redistribution with a flight of human capital.  President Chávez has made enemies by doing things like the “socialization” of oil and the expropriation of 207 private businesses this year.  Such acts are a threat to some individuals’ personal economic gain, and are likely the primary cause for the exodus of much of the nation’s middle class.

While the movement out of the upwardly mobile continues the influx of hopeful small business entrepreneurs and those seeking a new life from Haiti, Jordan, China, and neighboring Colombia. For some, new economic opportunity in Venezuela is made sweeter by political ideologies.

Those same polarizing ideologies force others, and not necessarily wealthy others, to take a side.   Jews who came 60 years ago leaving because of Pro-Palestine stance by the government.  It is causing new issues for Venezuela including some violent conflicts and increased crime.  Although for now we are looking at an economic shrivel, the future of the changing nation is anything but certain.

Ethnicity/Immigration post #21

Spoiler alert for Lorna’s Silence plot details.

For two classes we watched Lorna’s Silence and I caught the end on Netflix Watch Instantly. The central issue in the film was how the two Albanian immigrants in Belgium had a dream to start a snack bar but got wrapped up in several compounding dubious schemes.  Mobility isn’t easy for everyone, even hard-working ambitious people who want to not only better their own lives but contribute to the culture where they are living.  This is a story about how the pursuit of dreams can go awry and into a terrible spiral of one disappointing moment to the next.

In order to gain legal status in Belgium Lorna marries Claudy, a heroin addict who was paid for his part in the bogus union.  When a potential opportunity to make ten thousand Euros comes up Lorna is convinced by Fabio, the ambitious Italian cab driver, to kill Claudy so they can take advantage of her status and marry her off to a Russian cigarette smuggler.

Claudy is murdered, likely forced to overdose while he was trying to kick his drug habit, freeing up Lorna to escalate negotiations to marry the Russian.  Before he is killed, Claudy and Lorna have sex.  After he is dead, Lorna begins to lose her grip on reality.  Lorna is then convinced that she is pregnant.   She puts a down payment on the snack bar but almost gets an abortion (before her pregnancy was confirmed).  She unsuccessfully tries to convince the Russian to allow her to have a baby.  It is agreed that there will be no baby, so Fabio takes Lorna to get an abortion.  The doctors who examine Lorna say she is in fact not pregnant.  In the end the deal is broken off and her snack bar idea is sunk.

She is made to leave the city and in transit to a more remote location she assaults her driver and flees to the forest.  Inside and around a cabin she discovers, Lorna speaks to her “child” in a consoling manner before going to sleep to a cozy fire.

What set Lorna off down this path to being an accomplice to murder, perhaps murder herself, and mental instability?  Was it her participation in the illegal economy?  Perhaps.  The film suggests that the difficulties of her situation drove her to extreme measures to live her dream.  Those measures led her down a road that no one would want to go down.

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #20

Last weekend was the annual Lupus Loop, a fundraiser 5k run or 2k walk for the Lupus Foundation of America, Philadelphia Tri-State Chapter.  I ran and my family walked in support of our friends who are struggling with the disease, as well in memory of a friend who died from Lupus complications a few years ago.

Lupus is an autoimmune, rheumatic disease that causes the body to attack not only threats but its own tissue.  Most commonly affected are the lungs, kidneys, nervous system, heart, skin, and joints.  Over 1.5 million Americans are affected, 90% of them are women.

African American women are three times more likely to contract Lupus as are white women and more commonly suffer harsher neurological affects such as seizures, hemorrhage, and strokes.  Native American, Latina, and Asian women are twice as likely as white women.  Latinas  are most likely to experience kidney failure.

Lupus is still thought to have genetic causes, but poverty and lack of proper insurance has a direct connection to fatality and extremity of suffering.  In my team’s wiki, we summarized Jorge Ramos’ work A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.  In the first chapter Ramos tells of Walter who came to the US from Bolivia for adequate medical care for his wife who was suffering from Lupus.  Even in the US, early diagnosis and proper medical care are not guarantees.  Lupus continues to devastate lives, most of whom are women of color.

Ethnicity/Immigration post #19

spoiler alert-plot details of the French film Entre les murs, to follow.

I got to finish The Class on Netflix (watch instantly) after we began the award-winning film in class.  The tension in a multi cultural high school classroom in Paris is palpable.  There are kids from various nations, religions, social classes, and teacher François Marin is struggling to teach them French as well as other life lessons.

It’s an urban high school.  There is a realistic depiction of how teachers can run the gamut in terms of their experiences, methods, hope, and discipline style but wrapped up in a very polite French sort of way.  Some of the debates shared by teachers over punitive action was more respectful than what most of my teacher friends have explained to me in Philadelphia.  The administration seemed supportive and generally functional, also a contrast to Philadelphia schools.

The key conflicts of the film are around how to get through to kids, especially the hard to reach ones.  Souleymane was the main relationship explored, an immigrant with his family from Mali.   When a difficult conversation over inappropriate disclosure of a teachers’ meeting sets tempers in the classroom boiling over, Souleymane is involved in an accidental injury of one of his fellow students.

The process that the disciplinary board, with Marin taking center stage, shows the fuller dimensions of the problem.  If the student is expelled, a rumor from students say that not only would he be beaten but possibly sent back to Mali.  It had been difficult to process the growing problems with his parents because of language barriers and another student’s mom had just begun deportation hearings.  If expulsion is the final option for some sort of solution for the classroom environment, had they done everything they could in the meantime?

With a disappointing end to François’ attempts to get Souleymane engaged in the learning environment, on the last day of class the students are recounting what they learned during the school year.  One student, who was silent throughout the film, depressingly confesses to François that she was not sure she had learned anything that year.

This story of trying to teach in a difficult situation may not strike a chord of hope for many.  The realism depicted may elicit compassion for urban education and the multi-cultural reality of many urban centers globally.  Particularly for viewers the US, I think the Parisian setting is helpful to show similar situations to what we have but in a different context.  It allows for showing a subtle mirror to our culture without bludgeoning points about neglect, lack of fair immigration laws, and lack of resources in urban schools.