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14 James Galbraith Newt Plays the Madman Card 5 Molly Ivins Morale Morals Colonial 14 Jim Hightower Best Little Whorehouse 16 17 19 20 Poetry for Halloween Poetry by Judith Infante Bad Memoirs, Good Writers Book review by Lars Eighner Oscar Zeta Acosta Book review by Steven G. Kellman Recovered Memories Book review by Roxanne Bogucka OCTOBER 27, 1995 VOLUME 87, No. 20′ FEATURES The Myth of Suburban Power By Geoff Rips 6 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial Give us Your Rich; Taken Again 3-4 BOOKS AND THE CULTURE AFTERWORD Return to the Sacred By Amelia Malagamba 22 Political Intelligence 24 Cover art by Kimberly English N THE CAPITOL PRESS corps show up for a late-afternoon press conference at Austin’s Federal Building, San Antonio Republican Congressman Lamar Smith did something very rare. He engaged in conversation each of the dozen or so women who had arrivedmost carrying hand-lettered signsto protest the very federal legislation Smith had intended to pitch to reporters. For almost an hour, what played out on the small plaza in downtown Austin looked like a civics-class demonstration of citizen-legislator interaction. “If you are going to make the ‘open borders’ argument, we can’t have a discussion,” Smith told one woman. “Because nobody in the Congress even considers that a serious proposal. If you want to talk about who we let into the country, and the difficult choices we’re going to have to make, we can talk.” And they talked. The Congressman listened to the women \(most number of interruptions, and did his best to lay out the facts. The women were well-informed and articulate. The Congressman was never patronizing. Watching the impromptu citizens’ forum, one might have concluded that the legislation is at least as reasonable its sponsor. TICS OF SMITH’S immigration bill disagree. ‘This bill even establishes narrower standards for political asylum than international agreements allow,” said Charlotte McCann of United Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “It attempts to redefine what a political refugee is.” Ms. McCann had challenged Smith’s contention that on-the-spot reviews of asylum claims can be fairly conducted at foreign airports. The bill also places restrictive time limits on the asylum application process, denying potential applicants for asylum the time needed to recover from physical and psychological trauma they suffered in the countries they fled, and the time to find legal representation and prepare their cases. But the bill affects far more than the small number of U.S. immigrants who make asylum claims. The press release Smith provided to reporters suggests what is really driving the immigration bill. The bill, according to Smith, will increase the quota of highly skilled, educated immigrants \(read: comAt the same time, it totally eliminates legal immigration of unskilled workers \(read: farmworkers and construction laSmith’s press release. A more careful examination of his immigration bill confirms that much of what falls under its broad heading of immigration reform are provisions that will make easier the current Republican War on the Poor. Unless they can prove that their income places them 200 percent above the poverty level, for example, legal residents and U.S. citizens will not be allowed to bring members of their immediate families into the country. This would apply not only to a foreign-born legal resident who owns a small business and is saving money to bring his wife and child to the United States. Literature distributed by the Texas Immigration and Refugee Coalition describes an Illinois man, widowed and recently married to a French woman. Because his two children and his mother live with him, his $35,000 annual salary does not plate him 200 percent above the poverty line and he cannot bring his new wife into the United States. Most Texas public school teachers with fifteen years of tenure earn less than $35,000 per year and 35 percent of Americans do not have annual incomes that place them 200 percent above the poverty level. For those who do qualify, Smith’s bill \(and restrictive riders to the welfare reform deny them the most basic benefits. Non-cash assistance programs, such as school lunches, child care, immunizations, the Head Start Program, battered spouse shelters, pre-natal and children’s health care programs will be placed off-limits to legal residents. \(“The legislation does not deny noncash emergency relief such as blankets or food,” the Provisions of the welfare reform legislation would deny Social Security retirement benefits to foreign-born U.S. citizens who have not worked and contributed to the system for at least ten years. Disability payments for foreign-born U.S. citizens will be available only to those who have worked for at least five years. So, a foreign-born U.S. citizen, disabled while working for a U.S. company, will not qualify for Social Security payments of any kind. Congressman Smith has been named to the House-Senate conference committee that will reconcile differences in welfare legislation, and as sponsor of the House immigration bill will be named to the con ference committee on immigration once the immigration bills get through both houses of Congress. The legislation he defends provides a second class of citizenship, something heretofore not recognized The Culture of Contentment, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that the poverty associated with immigration was once a temporary condition and members of the underclass ultimately became working class/middle class. But, as Galbraith warned in 1991, for the first time in its history the United States has a permanent underclass. This legislation codifies an existing immigrant underclass, discourages appeals for political asylumthen sells what space remains to the rich. L.D. EDITORIAL Give Us Your Rich THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3