Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Winning the Battle for Immigration Reform

IMMIGRATION REFORM UPDATE: Senate Judiciary passed a moderated version of the Kennedy-McCain bill 12-6, meaning that 4 Republicans voted with a unified Democratic body. I.e., although Republicans spent megabucks on polling and decided that immigration would be a winning wedge (read: fear, or divide and conquer) issue for them in 2006's midterm elections, the Dems divided them. Finally some political prowess and unity on what I think is one of the most important issues in our country, it's good to have a small VICTORY.

This bill seems semi-promising in that some of the worst provisions have been stripped out. I have to read it first but I need to see that it is actually a fair bill that guarantees immigrants a path to citizenship, family reunification, and protects civil liberties and workers' rights. Let's see where this goes in the Senate and what gets changed in committee. I'll blog more on the politics behind everything later, I'm exhausted and exhilarated by the organizing committee meeting tonight.

All I can say is that this is the long hard work of the grassroots speaking, holding our elected accountable, and trying to honor and respect all the hardworking immigrants who make America what it is today. 500,000 in Los Angeles (plus Mayor Antonio Villagaroisa in attendance), over 100,000 in Chicago including Gov Blagojevich and Mayor Daley, San Fran at a standstill and hunger strikes, 20,000 in Phoenix, plus a national day of action on April 10th.

Somos companeros, si se puede! Now let's win the whole shebang.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chinese American internment redux

Following up on my earlier post about the US government beginning Chinese American internment of immigrants, I came across this 1999 article by conservative writer John Derbyshire called "Thinking About Internment."

Derbyshire writes for the National Review amongst other publications. This particular piece was for Chronicles. He begins by discussing the vast numbers of Chinese Americans in scientific fields and goes on to say that his wife is a naturalized US citizen from China. He concludes by saying that he would be alright with his wife being interned and that he hopes it would "not be very uncomfortable" since he would be accompanying his wife and kids.

My wife-- who has applied for naturalization-- is a citizen of mainland China; her father is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Our two children are, as they are already tired of being told, half English coal miner, half Chinese peasant, 100 percent American. Most of our friends (along with my current boss and three of the people who report to me) are mainland Chinese or Taiwanese.

Now let us proceed. The questions I want to address are: in the increasingly thinkable event of a war between China and the United States, what can be said about the loyalties of (a) Chinese nationals in the United States, (b) Taiwanese nationals in the U.S. and (c) people of the Chinese race (I am translating here precisely from the commonplace Chinese term han-zu) born and raised in the United States?

I think this is commonly referred to as the "I have a black/Latino/Asian friend and therefore I have extensive knowledge about all the people in this culture and am a qualified expert who can make sweeping generalizations" argument. Let's see where he goes with this:

So far as mainland nationals are concerned-- including the tens of thousands working in government labs, or pursuing graduate studies on government grants-- I think it can be said with fair certainty that practically all would favor a Chinese victory. Why should anyone think otherwise? Who would expect foreign nationals to support their host country over their homeland? Probing among Chinese colleagues and friends, I find zero spiritual attachment to America. As one of them put it: "America is not really a country. It's just a place people come to from all over to have a good life." Probably many of the Chinese would try to return to China-- though a U.S. government at war would be foolish to allow them to do so, or to remain in their posts. Internment would be the only option. Chinese nationals who have taken out U.S. citizenship should also be regarded as security risks. [Boldface by me for emphasis.]

. . . . . .If you start asking these kinds of questions, someone soon raises the issue of the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. This is generally regarded as a very disgraceful episode-- the U.S. government interning U.S. citizens for reasons suspiciously racist (German-Americans and Italian-Americans were not interned in anything like such numbers, although many were interned). I must say, I have never thought it was a very deplorable thing to do. [boldface by me]

If you didn't think he was going to go there, you were wrong. He goes on to say that actually some of the camps "were rather comfortable-- they contained beauty parlors, for example, and in at least one case a Kabuki theater."

Why don't we discuss how some of the camps had baseball teams? Really, it's just like normal life, forget about having to give up your job, your freedom, your house, your civil liberties for NO GOOD REASON. It's all okay, because hey, you can still get your nails done! These weren't sleepaway camps for a week, nor were they spa vacations. Even the US Department of Justice says that people were FORCIBLY removed from their homes and separated from family members for years. Whole families shared cramped one room quarters that were poorly constructed.

Even back in 1999, Derbyshire is arguing for the internment of Chinese immigrants "
when the first U.S. carrier is sunk by Chinese action, or the first American city is erased by a Chinese ICBM..." Notice the certainty of the "when" instead of "if."

What of those who call themselves "Chinese-Americans"-- members of the Chinese race who were born here and passed through the American educational system? All those classes on "multiculturalism" and "diversity" they must have sat through: what lesson did they take from them? That their first loyalty is to their ethnic group? What, then, is their second loyalty? To their country of citizenship? Or to the homeland of their ethnic group? The situation is not improved by the fact of ABCs being over-represented in colleges and universities (a state of affairs that becomes even more pronounced as affirmative action in college admissions is outlawed). Our institutes of higher education are the engine-rooms of the multicultural enterprise. Four years at the average university is, as a survey by National Review has found, a most effective way to turn young Americans against their country, its history and traditions. Is it unreasonable to suppose that for some proportion of these people-- five per cent? twenty?-- racial loyalty will trump national allegiance?
Right, I guess the pony in this bigotry is that if me, my friends, my family and almost 3 million Chinese Americans (according to the 2000 Census) were to be interned, we could take solace in Derbyshire being there amongst us preaching that we must
"maintain sufficient detachment to understand that a responsible U.S. government really has no choice in the matter."

Friday, March 24, 2006

quiet evening

At home with me and mine. A lovely tranquil night full of the aromas of home cooking, a stew bubbling on the oven.

Went walking around the town today and saw an adorable pug, 2 really cute Chinese American kids with their dad who was carrying what looked like a very large rubber rug, and a white man working as the hostess of a small Vietnamese restaurant.

It's the lulls like this that remind me I'm lucky to be alive, to be breathing and sleeping and thinking and worrying, anxious over the state of the world but also happy to be an active participant.

Friday evenings are the best because you know that the weekend possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chinese American internment camps in the US

For people who wonder "Why does it matter to me if undocumented immigrants are botted out of this country?", I have a response for you:

1) There are about 11-12 Million undocumented immigrants in this country, 1 Million of whom are Asian American.

2) The Department of Homeland Security as headed by Michael Chertoff recently awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root (Vice President Cheney's former company) a contract of up to $385 MILLION to build internment camps within the United States.

You might ask, who would the US intern on its own lands, and why?

Over at DailyKos I found this posting that described how 39,000 Chinese American immigrants and their families who have been denied citizenship in the US but who China refuses to allow reentry, are going to be housed in internment camps IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

These people have not been found guilty of any crimes, except that they would like greater opportunities for their kids and themselves. In a few weeks, nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants and their families will be interned. Furthermore, under the new immigration "reform" bill being proposed and debated in the Senate, there are measures for the mandatory and infinite internment of undocumented immigrants and their families - a possible total of 12 MILLION people.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Chertoff said that China last year readmitted 800 people. But that made only a small dent in what he described as a backlog of thousands illegally in the U.S.

"The math is pretty easy -- at that rate, we wind up with increasing numbers of migrants who, if we're going to detain them, we're going to have to house at enormous expense," Chertoff said.

He added: "We can't be in the position any longer where we are paying the burden and bearing the burden for countries that won't cooperate with us and take their own citizens back."

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return a call for comment.

Currently, 687 Chinese are being held in federal detention facilities, at a daily rate of $95 each, while some 38,000 have been released on bond or under a monitoring program, such as wearing an electronic surveillance bracelet, the Homeland Security Department said later Tuesday.


Chertoff also said Homeland Security would open detention facilities in the next few weeks to house entire families of illegal immigrants who hope to bring their children along in order to avoid jail time. "It'll be humane, but we're not going to let people get away with this," he said.

Chertoff's remarks comes as the Homeland Security Department aims to end its "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct. 1. After that date, all illegal immigrants will be held in U.S. detention centers until they can be returned to their nation of citizenry.

The DHS's decision to end the "catch and release" program of holding undocumented immigrants in jails with the regular inmate population (hardcore criminals) comes as The Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton its newest golden goose.

If you're not pissed as a concerned American, bleeding-heart liberal, or descendent of immigrants, I suggest that you be concerned about where your tax dollars are going, since KB&R claims it will cost them $95/day to house each immigrant. (Remember folks, this is Halliburton/KB&R, the company that gave the US government and taxpayers a $27 MILLION bill for oil that cost them $82,ooo.)

Halliburton Subsidiary Gets Contract to Add Temporary Immigration Detention Centers

New York Times

Feb. 3 - The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary...

KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space...

A spokesman for the corps, Clayton Church, said that the centers could be at unused military sites or temporary structures and that each one would hold up to 5,000 people.

"When there's a large influx of people into the United States, how are we going to feed, house and protect them?" Mr. Church asked. "That's why these kinds of contracts are there."


In recent months, the Homeland Security Department has promised to increase bed space in its detention centers to hold thousands of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. In the first quarter of the 2006 fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico were released on their own recognizance.

Domestic security officials have promised to end the releases by increasing the number of detention beds. Last week, domestic security officials announced that they would expand detaining and swiftly deporting illegal immigrants to include those seized near the Canadian border .
All I can say is: CALL YOUR SENATORS and tell them you oppose ANY Senate bill that is modeled along H.R. 4437 (House anti-immigrant bill) and that you support an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in the country
and a family reunification provision for hardworking undocumented immigrants.

3) Undocumented immigrants who become US citizens get to vote. The reason that Asian Americans have less political clout than we should given our average income and education level is that we don't have the numbers that Latinos or African Americans or Americans of European heritage do. Unfortunately most politicians only listen to money or electoral power (numbers of voters.) We give a good amount, but for the most part we don't get listened to despite our contributions.

We don't have the numbers because of xenophobic anti-Asian legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act which quickly broadened into "exclude all of East, South, and Pacific Asia." When we raise our voices at the voting booths, we will be more able to shape public policy.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

quick housekeeping note

My apologies to the people who posted comments back in December. For a long time I was a-wishin' and a-hoping someone would comment. I even wondered why no one did comment. Today I realized I set up my options so that I had to moderate all comments, which is why only now do your comments show up. The people who did comment probably wondered why I didn't write back. Now you know: I'm a bloggin' fool!

I'm newer to blogging, please forgive me. [Smiles winsomely for the nonexistent cameras.]

Actually, if someone from APIABlogs could show/tell me in short sentences and enunciate slowly how I can get the APIABlogs graphic to appear I'd be much obliged. I think I followed the directions on the site, but as they say, individual mileage may vary...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Immigrant Labor

Built this country, from Florida to Alaska, Hawaii to Maine.
Runs silently in the background like the cashier whose face you avoid.
Sustains our economic and cultural wealth.
Needed but disdained and discarded like yesterday's condom.
Implicit in your every meal, from the salad to the wine to the steak.
Serves the public good.
Dies unknown and unrenown, unrewarded and unrecognized.
Is how I came to be an American citizen.

Via Angry Asian Man, I saw that Carson City, Nevada (with aid from Senate Minority leader Harry Reid) plans on building a museum to honor the Chinese American Worker. It's going to take the form of a gold-plated mountain, or "jin san" - the Gold Mountain of so many immigrants' dreams. But it will be hollow - hollow like their dreams. I know so many immigrant parents who came here under the highly specialized visa entry status (H1Bs) gave up being doctors or professors in other countries so that they could raise their children in the United States, so that future generations could have better opportunities.

I also know undocumented immigrants who came here and overcame many obstacles, to reunite with their families, or simply to escape civil war. I even know immigrants who came for that most American of ideals - to pursue their freedom of religion. Some of these people were babies or kids when their parents brought them over, so they are noncomplicit, but this is the only country and life that they know.

Which brings me to an immigration "reform" bill that's currently being debated in the Senate. A worse one already passed the House (HR 4437.) It's a vile piece of legislation that doesn't give immigrants due process, would create a permanent underclass of immigrant workers who could be recycled for their hard labor without a chance for citizenship, could penalize Americans who come into contact with undocumented immigrants in everyday settings as accomplices to felony by "aiding and abetting" undocmented workers.

Let's review what this bill means by the very broad term aiding and abetting:
-a priest giving an immigrant parishioner spiritual consel or offering food to a hungry family (as ministering to the poor is a tenet of most religions)
-you driving your sick neighbor to the doctor's office
-a doctor being forced to ask for identification before treating a sick or dying patient (keep in mind that time is life in emergency situations)

As Angela Kelley of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan organization, writes:
It criminalizes immigrants without papers, which may amount to a backdoor effort to force state and local police to add immigration enforcement to their already full platter of duties. It also expands the definition of "alien smuggling" so that people who come in normal, everyday contact with undocumented immigrants may be criminally charged.
Immigrants and their supporters have rallied in the 100,000s in Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia and across the country. We must prevent this bill from passing the Senate, so I BEG EVERYONE:

Call your Senator (numbers below) and tell them:

1). Only a comprehensive immigration reform bill is acceptable and that the Senate Judiciary Committee should be given time to complete its work and,

2). Please support an amendment to the bill which would provide an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in the country.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are:

Alabama: Senator Jeff Session's office at (202) 224-4124

Arizona: Senator Jon Kyl's office at (202) 224-4521

California: Senator Feinstein’s office at: (202) 224-3841

Delaware: Senator Biden’s office at: (202) 224-5042

Illinois: Senator Durbin’s office at: (202) 224-2152

Iowa: Senator Grassley’s office at: (202) 224-3744

Kansas: Senator Brownback’s office at: (202) 224-6521

Massachusetts: Senator Kennedy’s office at: (202) 224-5251

New York: Senator Schumer’s office at: 202-224-6542

Ohio: Senator DeWine’s office at: (202) 224-2315

Oklahoma: Senator Coburn’s office at: (202) 224-5754

Pennsylvania: Senator Specter’s office at: (202) 224-4254

South Carolina: Senator Graham’s office at: (202) 224-5972

Texas: Senator Cornyn’s office at: (202) 224-2934

Utah: Senator Hatch’s office at: (202) 224-5251

Vermont: Senator Leahy’s office at: (202) 224-4242

Wisconsin: Senator Kohl’s office at: (202) 224-5653 & Senator Feingold’s office at: (202) 224-5323

Click on the links provided for a summary of the bill and talking points which highlight the major issues in case you have an opportunity for a longer conversation with staff. Again, the short message is that 1). the Senate Judiciary Committee should be given time to complete its work on a complicated immigration bill. Such a bill should not be rushed out of committee. Please support an amendment to the bill in committee and/or on the floor which would provide an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in this country. (An earned legalization program would provide temporary work visas for currently undocumented. It would require them to pay a fine, begin learning English, and work for six years before becoming eligible for a green card/permanent residency)

This is an important week for the chances for comprehensive immigration reform. We need your voices.

Alternately, call Senator Specter's office and ask that:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue to review and revise Senator Specter's (R-PA) draft immigration bill ("Chairman's Mark") this Wednesday and Thursday.

Call Senator Specter, the Judiciary Committee Chair, on Thursday, March 16 and let him know:

** I support realistic, humane comprehensive immigration reform.

** I oppose legislation that creates a permanent, second-class of workers who will never have a meaningful path to citizenship; the "Gold Card" proposal is unacceptable.

** I believe the Judiciary Committee should not have to work under an arbitrary deadline set by Senator Frist (R-TN) and should have all the time it needs to bring forth a REAL comprehensive immigration reform bill.

You can contact Senator Specter's Judiciary Committee office at: (202) 224-5225

Monday, March 13, 2006

The eBay Atheist

I recently came across Hemant, an atheist grad student in math, who sold his soul on eBay for the price of $10/hour of church. Since it was going to the highest bidder, there was competition amongst atheists who wanted to keep one of their own, and evangelicals who wanted to save the boy.

Hemant made out pretty well ($504) from Henderson, a former minister in Seattle
who made him a deal that he just had to go to 10-15 sermons of his choosing and then agree to blog about it. So far he's goe to megachurches and predominantly African American churches, and then he extemporizes on preachers who talk too slow or whether it's necessary to pray for a bigger parking lot. But he does it all in an open and respectful fashion, and some of the preachers have written back to say thanks for the criticism, or "I've heard it all before."

Henderson had wanted to increase the amount of dialogue between believers and non-believers in a way that gets beyond the hard-sell tactics that are off-putting to many. So far it seems to be working, and while I don't agree with Hemant on everything (like it being harder to ru for office if you're gay than atheist), I do think he brings up some very pertinent and thought-provoking questions.

Plus the kid is photogenic and media-savvy, he should go very far. Way to go, brother.