Tag Archives: immigration

How Children Become American

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a column in the Washington Post addressing the critical role of the nation’s schools in integrating the children of immigrants into American culture.

Public schools are an essential tool for creating citizens–whether those citizens are “home grown” or new arrivals–and I certainly agreed with the points being made.

The idea of citizenship — of members of the republic being responsible for the quality of their own government — made America unique at its founding. Until James Madison made “We, the People” the foundation of the Constitution, other modern nations were full of subjects, rather than citizens. For citizens to choose their new leaders successfully, they needed to become informed electors. Safeguarding America’s fragile experiment required voters, almost exclusively propertied white men, to attend political discussions and read the newspaper.

As the country grew beyond the revolutionary period and the rights of citizenship began to include non-property-owning white men, the country increasingly embraced the idea that all white Americans needed to be well educated to ensure effective self-government. In the decades that followed, the country’s public education system was predicated on producing such citizens. “The children of a republic [must] be fitted for a society as well as for themselves,”said Horace Mann, the founder of the common school movement, in 1842. “As each citizen is to participate in the power over governing others, it is an essential preliminary that he should be imbued with a feeling for the wants, and a sense of rights, of those whom he is to govern.” Only schools could effectively achieve that goal.

As the column notes, when millions of Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigrants arrived in the United States, concerns about “culture change” prompted public school systems to emphasizing teaching about the Constitution, American history, and the obligations of citizens in a democracy.

Students also gained exposure to an increasing number of ways to engage politically. In textbook after textbook, discussion after discussion, students learned to write their representatives, volunteer for causes they cared about, and write pieces for their newspapers about issues that mattered to them. In at least one major American city, Boston, most students took at least five classes on how to be the type of citizen who bettered democracy.

How times have changed!

As the article concedes, today we no longer have a shared notion of what constitutes good citizenship. And we certainly don’t teach our children.

Students in many states take no civics classes. Worse, as American schools have abandoned civics, American  lawmakers have largely abandoned any commitment to public education– funding vouchers and other privatization efforts.

And it matters.

Americans increasingly access different news sites and blogs, read different books (when they read at all), patronize different entertainment options, profess different religions–the life experiences we share have diminished pretty dramatically. Public schools are one of the last remaining “street corners,” where children from different backgrounds learn together. (Given residential segregation, even public school classrooms are less inclusive of difference than is optimal, but public schools beat most other venues.)

State voucher programs disproportionately send children to religious schools, where attendees share a particular religious background. There are no requirements that such schools teach civics, and no way to know whether or how they teach what it means to be an American.

If the knowledge displayed by my undergraduate students is representative, they don’t teach anything about the Constitution and embarrassingly little about the country’s history, good or bad.

The cited article argues that the schools can and should produce informed American citizens. Obviously, I agree–this is a drum I’ve been beating for a very long time.

But first, we need to reaffirm our commitment to public education. Among other things, that means funding public schools and their teachers adequately. It means terminating the voucher programs that siphon money from those public schools, and doing much more to regulate and monitor charter schools (which are public schools.)

As Benjamin Barber has written, America’s public schools are constitutive of the public.

They are essential.

Canada Benefits From Our Asinine Immigration Policies

For those who asked: the Kindle version of Living Together is now available.

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Between the tariffs that are destroying the markets of America’s farmers and raising the price of consumer goods in the United States, and an insane and racist approach to immigration that is making it difficult for businesses to hire the people they need , Donald Trump has managed to vastly improve the economy… of Canada.

As Time Magazine has recently reported,

On a recent Tuesday, Neal Fachan walked down a dock in Seattle’s Lake Union and boarded a blue and yellow Harbour Air seaplane, alongside six other tech executives. He was bound for Vancouver to check on the Canadian office of Qumulo, the Seattle-based cloud storage company he co-founded in 2012. With no security lines, it was an easy 50-minute flight past snow-capped peaks. Later that day, Fachan caught a return flight back to Seattle.

Fachan began making his monthly Instagram-worthy commute when Qumulo opened its Vancouver office in January. Other passengers on the seaplanes go back and forth multiple times a week. Fachan says his company expanded across the border because Canada’s immigration policies have made it far easier to hire skilled foreign workers there compared to the United States. “We require a very specific subset of skills, and it’s hard to find the people with the right skills,” Fachan says as he gets off the plane. “Having access to a global employment market is useful.”

Half of America’s annual growth in GDP has been attributed to increasing innovation. While the media and politicians are focused on Trump’s crisis at the southern border, tech executives and economists warn that the growing delays and backlogs for permits for skilled workers at America’s other borders are a more significant challenge. The risk of losing both skilled workers and the companies that employ them to Canada and other more welcoming countries are arguably a bigger problem for our economic future than a flood of refugees–even if those refugees were the problem Trump and his white nationalist base insist they are.

“Increasingly, talented international professionals choose destinations other than the United States to avoid the uncertain working environment that has resulted directly from the agency’s processing delays and inconsistent adjudications,” testified Marketa Lindt, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, at a House hearing last week about processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Lindt’s organization finds that USCIS processing time for some work permits has doubled since 2014, a fact cited in a May lettersigned by 38 U.S. Senators on both sides of the aisle asking USCIS to explain the processing delays.

The backlogs in processing have particularly benefited our neighbor to the north. Canada has adopted an open-armed embrace of skilled programmers, engineers and entrepreneurs at the same time the U.S. is tightening its stance. Research shows that high-skilled foreign workers are highly productive and innovative, and tend to create more new businesses, generating jobs for locals. So each one who winds up in Canada instead of America is a win for the former, and a loss for the latter. “Really smart people can drive economic growth,” says Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C. funded in part by cable, pharmaceutical, television, and tech companies. “There are not that many people in the world with an IQ of 130, and to the extent that we’re attracting those people rather than the Canadians doing so, we’re better off.”

This is what happens when voters resentful of “smarty pants elitists” elect an intellectually-challenged President who is equally threatened by people who actually know what they’re doing, and consequently refuses to appoint competent people to important government positions.

We live in a complicated world. If the Trump Administration has demonstrated anything, it is that appointing ideologues, crooks and simpletons to manage that complexity is a recipe for disaster.

Hooray For The Resistance!

Immediately following the 2016 election, voters across the country organized into units of what they called “the Resistance.” It wasn’t entirely clear just how the members of those groups planned to resist. It still isn’t.

Obviously, most are making efforts to register voters, to encourage turnout, and to spread information about the damage being done by this administration. Naysayers–some of whom post comments to this blog–criticize these efforts as inadequate, although it isn’t always clear what other steps they are proposing.

I have friends who have traveled to the border to assist the humanitarian organizations working there, and I applaud them, but most of us have job and family obligations that prevent us from joining g those efforts. Consequently, there are significant numbers of frustrated citizens who would like to do more to resist this racist and destructive administration, but aren’t sure what actions are available and effective.

Folks in Nashville, Tennessee, have now provided us with one example.

In a Nashville suburb, an ICE agent’a attempt to take a man into custody on Monday morning proved unsuccessful when the man’s neighbors formed a human chain.

 An agent for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to Nashville’s WVTF Channel 5 (a CBS affiliate), attempted to detain the man in Hermitage, Tennessee, which is about ten miles from Downtown Nashville.

The man had entered his van with his son when the agent blocked them in, and neighbors responded by bringing them water and wet rags. After the neighbors formed a human chain, the man and his son were able to escape and enter their home — which the ICE agent was not authorized to enter.

 The agent had an administrative warrant, which allows an ICE agent to detain someone but not to remove them from a home or vehicle by force. Unable to detain the man, the ICE agent left.

 The incident was broadcast online by the man’s neighbors on Facebook Live.

Time has additional information about the incident.

After a four-hour attempted arrest — during which time the undocumented man and his young son barricaded themselves inside a van parked in front of their home — ICE agents left, and neighbors and activists on the scene created a human chain to allow the family to get indoors.

“At that point it was being extra cautious and letting the family know, look, we got your back, we’re between you and the unknown, and here’s a safe pathway back to your front door,” Tristan Call, a volunteer at Movements Including X(MIX), a collective of young activists who organize for social causes, tells TIME. Call was a part of the human chain.

By the time the attempted arrest was over, dozens of people had showed up to support the undocumented man, including two city councilmen from Nashville. The volunteers showed up as part of a network called ICE Rapid Response to protect undocumented immigrants, just one example of communities throughout the country who have responded to increasing threats of ICE arrests.

Evidently, neighbors who witnessed the attempted arrest sounded the alarm, reaching out to local activist groups, who then informed their networks.

Civil disobedience has a long history in the United States, mostly–albeit not always–for the good.

Episodes like this one–in which neighbors and good people gather to frustrate illegitimate efforts undertaken by their government–give me hope.

The Republicans in the House and Senate who are in thrall to the GOP’s white nationalist base may have been neutered, but the resistance of ordinary Americans, like this episode in (Red) Tennessee, give hope and encouragement to those of us who believe in a very different America than the one to which Trump and his base appeal.

 

Trump’s Empty Threats

At least once a day–and sometimes more often– Donald Trump reminds us that he is an idiot.

Most recently, he displayed his ignorance of economics by imposing new tariffs on China, and then confidently asserting that China was paying them. Since his massive ego doesn’t allow him to learn from anyone–not even the third-rater “experts” with whom he has surrounded himself and who (dim as some of them are) still know far more than he does–he doesn’t understand that tariffs are essentially a tax on American consumers. (His steel tariffs alone have raised the price of washers and driers by more than $100 each.)

Not too long ago, Trump issued what he clearly thought was an oh-so-clever threat to those evil “sanctuary cities.” He proposed to resettle immigrants exclusively in those cities, an idea that the Brookings Institution called “part and parcel of the president’s approach to immigration, an issue on which he has always maintained a tenuous relationship to reality.”

Tenuous indeed.

He has apparently abandoned the threat, clearly puzzled by the lack of concern expressed by those he’d threatened. (Actually, “bring it on” is more than a lack of concern…)

In Trump’s view, sending immigrants to sanctuary cities is a way to punish those Democrats unwilling to “change our very dangerous immigration laws.” In the president’s eyes, because illegal immigration is so appalling to him, it must be appalling to everyone, and the transfer of refugees seeking asylum to sanctuary cities will turn voters against pro-immigration reform Democrats.

The president’s aborted plan for sanctuary cities is emblematic of everything that is wrong with his approach to immigration. Even if the claim that a disproportionate number of immigrants are criminals were true (it is not), the obvious problem with his plan is that there is nothing to guarantee that all these “bad actors” would stay in these Democratic strongholds. Once there, they might just move to places where large proportions of Trump voters and supporters live, and data the Washington Post obtained on a small sample of recent immigrants shows that occurring.

The Brookings article also noted that implementing this cockamamie policy (my terminology, not theirs) would require numerous violations of the laws, beginning but not ending with the Hatch Act.

Think of it this way: what if a Democratic president decided that Republican states who had voted against him or her on the basis of opposition to welfare programs should not get food stamps. There would obviously be howls of opposition if deep-red states were systematically deprived of federal funds, raising concerns about political abuse of power and a subjugation of Congressional intent in appropriations.

Trump constantly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand law–not only is he ignorant of specific rules that most Americans know, he clearly doesn’t understand the role of law in governance generally. (Granted, he also doesn’t understand governance…or really, much else.)

It isn’t just the legal framework that eludes him. He is also blissfully fact-free. As the Brookings analysis explains:

 As of the halfway mark of the fiscal year, 190,000 people have been apprehended in family units—almost a four-fold increase over last year. They currently make up the majority of all border apprehensions.

What would be the impact of relocating those asylum-seekers? There are eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) totaling a population of 80.23 million. In addition, there are another 87 counties and municipalities outside of those eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary jurisdictions, with a population totaling 39.71 million. Thus, the total population living in areas designated as sanctuary jurisdictions totals 119.94 million people.

The president believes the transfer of asylum-seekers to sanctuary jurisdictions would put such an undue burden on those local governments and populations that the people would rise up against their governments’ embrace of sanctuary status. In reality, however,… all families apprehended so far this year total an equivalent of .016 percent of the population of those sanctuary jurisdictions. Put differently, if those asylum-seekers were spread across sanctuary jurisdictions according to population, those jurisdictions would receive 16 asylum-seekers per 10,000 residents.

Hardly an unsupportable burden, even if asylum-seekers were the unproductive drains on local economies that Trump insists they are. But of course, he’s wrong about that too.

In 2017, researchers in the Department of Health and Human Services conducted an analysis of the economic impact of refugees, a very similar population to asylum-seekers. They found that in a 10-year period, they contributed $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost.

The administration rejected the report, because facts aren’t their thing.

America’s Oval Office is currently occupied by an incredibly uninformed (and embarrassingly stupid) raving bigot. If the (misspelled and ungrammatical) comments his supporters post to this and other blogs are any indication, they share those characteristics.

It explains a lot.

 

Grateful For Our Nation Of Immigrants

NBC, among other news outlets, recently ran an article showcasing Jin Park, a Harvard student who recently won a Rhodes Scholarship. Jin is a DACA recipient; he was brought to the US when he was seven years old.

“I’m thankful and I think it’s a testament to if you give immigrants in America an opportunity, if you allow us to live fully in our truth and see us totally in our personhood, this is the kind of thing that can happen,” he said.

Park is currently completing his bachelor of arts at Harvard in molecular and cellular biology,according to a biography provided by the Rhodes Trust. Park plans on pursuing master’s degrees in migration studies and global health science and epidemiology at Oxford, according to the biography.

Whatever one’s feelings about undocumented adult immigrants, Jin and other DACA recipients were brought here as children. They didn’t have the capacity to make a decision to enter the country illegally, and they shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ actions.

DACA aside, there are many reasons America should be welcoming immigrants, not trying to wall them out.

I’ve previously posted about the incredible contributions to the American economy made by immigrants–both documented and not– and their children.

More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Collectively, companies founded by immigrants and their children employ more than 10 million people worldwide; and the revenue they generate is greater than the GDP of every country in the world except the U.S., China and Japan.

I was reminded of those contributions when I opened last week’s issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal. The IBJ has a yearly feature called “Forty Under Forty,” in which the publication showcases up and coming “movers and shakers”–young people who have made a demonstrable impact in Indianapolis’ business, nonprofit and public organizations and civic life. Over the years, the diversity of those included has steadily grown–there are more black and brown faces and many more women than was the case some ten or more years ago.

There are also a lot more immigrants or children of immigrants. I didn’t count, but I’d estimate that the descriptions accompanying the photos identified nearly a quarter of this year’s honorees as either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. These young men and women are already making substantial contributions to our city and state–contributions from which all of us benefit.

Sentient Americans understand that Trump’s fevered and stubborn insistence on building a wall is both stupid (most undocumented people have flown in and overstayed a visa) and racist (he doesn’t want a wall between us and Canada, and he issued an invitation to Norwegians). That isn’t to say the wall wouldn’t have an effect, but that effect would be symbolic: it would send a message to brown people that they are not welcome here, and it would reaffirm the real basis of Trump’s appeal in the eyes of his supporters: his promise to make America White again.

As I looked through the accomplishments of this year’s list of 40 Under 40, all I could think of was the incredible amount of talent, entrepreneurship and work ethic that Indiana and America stand to lose if Trump and his supporters prevail.

I for one am immensely grateful I don’t live in a nation populated with versions of Don Jr. and Eric.