Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 2 of Texas Tribune Festival

#tribunefest I can't cover all of the discussion today, but will look at a few of the comments that I found interesting.  We started early today with breakfast and Representative Aaron Pena giving us his take on border issues, security, and the need for a guestworker program.  He and I agreed that a guestworker program should be considered a security issue, so that we can actually keep track of immigrants   He emphasized both at breakfast and later in the day at the panel on the economics of immigration reform that those who live on the border have a very different perspective than those who don't.  He noted that it would be a lost opportunity if we don’t deal with immigration.  "Mexicans are like us, carry values that we hold dear, are people of faith, have strong family bonds, and are an asset to us in a global marketplace when when we are competing with India and China." He has been a proponent of a Utah-style guestworker program and thinks the states could be a laboratory for new approaches to immigration.

Eddie Aldrete argued that we have a bad habit of focusing on law enforcement – it’s a component but it can’t be the only focus. "We don’t need to increase the size of the border patrol, if you provide visas they can focus on the bad guys."

Sylvia Acevedo noted that we need to look beyond Mexico -- the demographics show that they are no longer growing as fast and we may need to rely on workers from Pakistan or other parts of the world.

Todd Staples took a more typical approach on illegal immigrants "Comprehension immigration has become a signal that we are giving up.  We need strategies and principles that can get us to where we need to be, like enforcing labor laws through e-verify, but we can’t do that without reforming the immigration system.  We have a failed guest worker program,we need to be documenting current immigrants and a have a pathway to citizenship – from country of origin."

Although some of the panelists emphasized the need for more "boots on the ground" at the border, the overall sentiment from left, right and the business community was for comprehensive immigration reform. They also recognized that we are in a time period when immigration is a visceral issue that is being driven more by emotion than logic.  It will be interesting to see how these issues play out in Texas over the next couple of years and the role that these leaders will  play.

Overall the conversations were interesting, and the participants provided some insights into the way that the discourses around immigration, race and border security are playing out in the state of Texas. Eddie Aldrete's recommended that we need a new bipartisan commission that can look at the immigration issue. I promised to provide some background on previous commissions and their impact, and will try to do so in the next few days.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

At the Texas Tribune Festival Race and Immigration Panels

#tribunefest #tfrace  Spent today at the Texas Tribune Festival, where they had a track on race and immigration in Texas.  The first panel I attended focused on Criminal Justice and Illegal Immigration.  The panelists agreed that border security was important, but it was also important to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. Several panelists agreed that a guestworker program would help in terms of being able to keep tabs on immigrants (as long as it didn't  take away American jobs), and that more cooperation between federal, state and local governments would help the security situation. Linda Graybill from the ACLU stated that we need smart policies that are constitutional, and that don't erode rights.  Charles Foster argued that by cutting off legal immigration options for Mexico and Latin America we created the current illegal immigration problem and that comprehensive immigration reform would encourage circular migration and allow homeland security to track immigrants.  Henry Cuellar emphasized that the security situation at the border (at least on the U.S. side) was not as bad as it is made out to be, according to FBI statistics.  He concluded that immigration has become an emotional issue and politics needs to be taken out of it.

Former ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Garza, had similar comments.  His session was focused on why Mexico and the U.S. need each other.  He argued that the economies are converging and that the political class has not kept pace with the realities of the marketplace, "Politics is the lagging indicator, markets and capital are the leading indicator.  We have a strategic interest in a more prosperous and secure Mexico."

On immigration:  "how we talk about it is important!  We have issues of security, we want to get a grip on who is in this country, and an aggressive guestworker program would help. The Bush initiative was good, but now the issue is toxic, amnesty is a death knell for any legislation, even though it wasn’t amnesty.  We need to build out from a guestworker program. Allowing people to have documents is important – we’ve lost circularity.  A path to citizenship wasn’t as critical as being legitimately in the workforce without fear of being rounded up."

More tomorrow!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Europe, the Arab Spring and immigration

As reported in the New York Times: The European Union authorities Friday sought to set new rules to maintain passport-free travel across large parts of the region, a response to recent moves by some governments to reinstate border controls because of mounting concern over what some see as uncontrolled migration from North Africa and the Middle East. More...

As the Euro crisis continues, it is likely that the immigration issue will become more heated, in conjunction with the increased flows from the Middle East and North Africa. Also, the continued success of the far right will play a role as the political season heats up with elections in France coming up in the spring.  However, the recent Danish election with the left winning the majority leaves the far right Danish People's Party out in the cold after 10 years of supporting the minority conservative government. Certainly more interesting results to come...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Muslims in the West

Several books have come out recently, or in the case of Peter O'Brien's book, in the last couple of years, addressing issues surrounding Muslims and the West.  To quote from an article on Peter O'Brien:

"Professor O’Brien set out to explore Europeans’ self-perceived rivalry with Islamic civilization in pre-modern times and with the USA in the modern era. “I’m interested in how people from different cultures view each other and ultimately how they can learn to live together.” This interest has spawned his next research project on contemporary European responses to the existence of large numbers of Muslims residing in Europe"

European Perceptions of Islam & America from Saladin to George W. Bush: Europe’s Fragile Ego Uncovered (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Justin Gest's recent book on Muslims in the West also focuses on Europe:

Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West (New York: Columbia University Press; London: Hurst, 2010)

Apart explores why many Western Muslims are disaffected, why others are engaged, and why some seek to undermine the very political system that remains their primary means of inclusion. Based on research conducted in London's East End and Madrid's Lavapies district, and drawing on over 100 interviews with community elders, imams, extremists, politicians, gangsters, and ordinary people just trying to get by, Justin Gest examines young Muslim men's daily existences. Confronting conventional explanations that point to inequality, discrimination and religion, he builds a new theory arguing that alienated and engaged political behavior is distinguished not by structural factors, but by how social agents interpret their shared realities. Filled with counterintuitive conclusions, Apart sounds an unambiguous warning to Western policy-makers, and presages an imminent American experience with the same challenges. How both governments and people discipline their fear and understand their Muslim fellows may shape democratic social life in the foreseeable future.

Writing as an advocate rather than an academic, Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, global media commentator, founder of and global managing editor of The Crescent Post. Additionally, Arsalan is also a regular weekly legal affairs/political commentator for the National Public Radio (NPR) show Tell Me More with Michel Martin and a contributing writer for and Esquire Magazine (Middle East edition). His new book is Islamic Pacificsm: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era.  From the Amazon description: "With the tragic rise of extremism and global racism around the world today, the sociopolitical philosophy of "Islamic Pacifism" is a humanitarian ethical platform rooted within the general concepts of nonviolence and basic Muslim ethical teachings of mercy and compassion towards all of humanity. "

Saturday, September 3, 2011

At the APSA meetings in Seattle

The politics of immigration is a top issue here in Seattle at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association.  There is a working group on immigration and citizenship, and many panels related to immigration issues.  I participated in a panel on Friday that covered a variety of issues, including deportations as a form of immigration control, guestworker programs, citizenship policy, international cooperation on immigration policy, and my own paper on antidiscrimination policy.  Some of the issues that resonated across all of the papers included the role of left and right politics, particularly the role of the far right in setting the agenda and pushing policy in different directions.  Many political scientists are trying to develop quantitative analyses which can help us understand which factors are influencing policy change, and the consensus seemed to be that the economy (e.g., unemployment, gdp) was not an important factor in policy change.

On the news front, immigration is heating up as an issue in the Republican presidential race.  Mitt Romney is making clear his differences with Rick Perry as described in the Washington Post and In New Hampshire, Perry says he opposes Mexico border fence.

In the meantime California passes its own version of the Dream Act, while Georgia businesses are confused over the new law they are dealing with.