Here at the Observer we don’t like to say, “I told you so.” Instead we prefer to say, “You read it here first.”
In our May 5 issue, Forrest Wilder wrote, “For the savvy investor looking for a growth industry, South Texas offers a sure thing… More immigrants than ever are being apprehended. That means that the federal government needs more detention centers.” Maybe that’s why we were struck with one of those “Ah-ha!” moments on June 21, when we read an AP story indicating that “ground has been broken for a 2,000-bed detention center to help end the ‘catch and release’ policy for non-Mexican legal immigrants.” The location? Raymondville, Texas.
That AP story was one of several we collected in a 48-hour period. (Must have been the excess ozone or the summer solstice.) Among the others: The library board of a suburban Georgia county where one in six residents is Latino “has axed money budgeted to buy more ‘adult Spanish fiction’—books like the latest John Grisham thriller in Spanish or a Marcela Serrano novel in its original language.” (Gwinnett Daily Post, June 21). In Houston a new group called Protect Our Citizens wants a ballot referendum that would give city police the authority to ask people about their immigration status. (Houston Chronicle, June 21). A routine vote to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act was canceled in the U.S. House of Representatives “after rank-and-file Republicans revolted over provisions that require bilingual ballots in many places and continued federal oversight of voting practices in Southern states.” (The Washington Post, June 22). That vote, said to have “surprised Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and his lieutenants,” came in the wake of Hastert’s own surprise announcement that GOP House members would hold an unusual series of summer hearings around the nation on immigration. (AP, June 21).
The hearings, Hastert said, are intended to educated the public about the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill. With all its flaws, the Senate bill had called for a gradual legalization program. The House prefers its own draconian bill. Or as party fundamentalists repeatedly said during the Texas GOP convention earlier this month, “No amnesty! No how. No way.” Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced he would hold his own hearings early next month “to ensure all issues are fully aired.”
Whew. Got that? Enough excitement to keep the pundits busy all summer as they ponder the split between President Bush and his “base.” Time to whip up even more anti-immigrant hysteria out in the provinces—a nice distraction to keep the voters from thinking about Iraq and a hard place. Should be really interesting.
But we’re getting one of those “Ah-ha!” moments again. We suspect you won’t be hearing much about historical and economic forces that drive migration. Or the truly Byzantine aspects of our truly Byzantine law. To borrow a phrase from immigration lawyer and occasional Observer contributor Dan Kowalski, the law “allocates the same number of green cards per year for Mexico as it does for every other country, from the smallest to the largest, from Liechtenstein to China: 25,620.”
In other words, if a U.S. citizen petitions for a green card for her sister in Mexico, she has a 40-year wait. Yes, amigos. Forty years. (Austin American-Statesman, June 13).
But ni modo. Don’t bother us with the facts. Let the dueling hearings begin. (Check out Laredo, for example, on July 7). And God help those high school students in Georgia who might want to read a book by Chilean novelist Marcela Serrano in the original Spanish.