by Francis Wiget
This past summer the Phoenix Convention Center hosted the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2012 “Justice” General Assembly (hereafter UUA and GA). All those Unitarian and Universalist and UU congregations who have chosen to merge their faiths together have joined together to make the UUA, and once a year we hold a GA to discuss matters of faith and service. GA is much like a science fiction or a comic convention, with special guests, discussion groups, and panels.
I attended this GA as an alternate delegate and as an acting delegate. As such, and due to the changing nature of journalism in this age of blogging, I will use the “I” instead of “This Reporter” to share my stories.
I attended an afternoon session, armed with a transmitter and ten receivers for translating “Caught in the Political Crossfire” into Spanish for those who did were not already fluent in English. (The only person to listen was doing so to improve her Spanish. Still glad I was there. . .)
Forgive my failing memory: this was the second session I attended, but the first wherein I took copious notes. I believe the moderator or first speaker for the panel was Todd Landfried, as his is the most Anglo male name on the program.
First, consult azeri.org for information about the subject of immigration. Nine out of ten public assertions about immigration (legal or otherwise) are not factual. They may be honest mistakes, a failure to check facts before quoting them, a bind parroting of words heard before. They may be distortions or misrepresentations of reality, or they may be total falsehoods propagated for the benefit of those who want attention focused on “illegal immigration” instead of on job creation (or the lack thereof), on corporations being treated as people, or on the failure of police agencies to investigate 400 + cases of alleged sexual assault and rape (just to give some examples from my experience and not provided by the workshop). We here in Phoenix have AZfactcheck available from the Arizona Republic and azfamily.org to doublecheck on statements by politicians regarding immigration. Between AZ fact check and Politifact (which is no longer as reliable as the site admins have taken up denying the disparity between politicians of the two major Parties being honest in their statements and speech: Republicans of this Know-Nothing flash-back generation are all too often too willing to put ideology before fact, but Politifact has taken to accusing Democrats of being less truthful to make an illusion of balance. Insert sigh of frustration here.)
One example of falsehood marshaled to cloud the issue of immigration: “Anchor Babies” is a misnomer, a pejorative term introduced to allege that undocumented immigrants are trying to use a back-door to sneak into citizenship by bearing children in the United States. While the children born here are automatically citizens of the US, being a parent of a citizen does not automatically make one a citizen as well. False outrage has been created to fuel xenophobia over a non-issue.
There are many economic fallacies perpetuated about “illegal immigrants”; these are a few truths instead: Undocumented immigrants paid $2.8 billion in taxes (I believe for 2011, perhaps annually–I failed to note specifics as I do not do the shorthand (sniff)). Only 2% of incarcerated undocumented people are in jail for allegations of identity theft. That means 98% of identity thieves are either legal immigrants or born US Citizens. Undocumented immigrants are not rushing in to steal Social Security numbers; we have a home-grown industry full of people incarcerated for that.
In 2011 some 1592 bills were introduced as proposed laws about immigration but only 162 actually passed to be signed into law. That is a 10.1 % success rate. There have been 30 variations on Arizona’s SB1070 law introduced across the country–the presenter used the word “copycat,” but (background information alert!) since Russell Pearce (then AZ Senate President) did not write the bill himself, but used a template provided by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council–see this page for more http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/27/1103574/-Arizona-Deserves-Better-Than-SB1070-and-ALEC , and one of their lawyers, Kris Kobach; the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is a large backer of ALEC and also a heavy contributor to Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce’s 2010 campaigns. Of those thirty laws introduced, only five actually passed into law: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah (ACLU’s link here: http://www.aclu.org/arizonas-sb-1070-and-copycat-laws). For those statistically challenged, that is a success rate of 13%. Most States are not so xenophobic as Arizona (oddly though, I grew up in Indiana, leaving me embarrassed and ashamed of two States I have lived in).
The presenter then discussed what passage of anti-immigrant or anti-migrant workers laws does or has done. Oklahoma tried to pass a sort of prequel to SB1070 but the bill failed as analysis showed how much loss of income taxes would hurt the State. Here in Arizona, the tax base has deteriorated as migrant workers and undocumented people have fled the State, taking their (sometimes untaxed) money with them and not spending it here in Arizona at our shops and businesses, making our economy that much worse (thanks so much, Governor Brewer). In Georgia, the peach crop rotted on the trees because the migrant workers (documented or otherwise) fled. Unemployed probationers did not fill the gap, as only a few appeared to try the work and fewer came back to keep doing it (14 and three, IIRC–open question of my recollection, though so do not quote me). CCA or some other private and for-profit prison company offered inmates to harvest the crop (CCA in concert with ALEC has been accused specifically of trying to engineer such a situation–incarcerate a lot of undocumented people and then rent their labor out for the prison’s profit). Riddle me this, dear Readers–would you really want to give alleged criminals knives and freedom to work on farms–people who would have a motivation to flee and the freedom to climb trees? (Which begs the question of how many of them deserve to be in the jails anyway–see Michelle Alexander, _The New Jim Crow_ and Kim Bobo, _Wage Theft in America_ on wage slavery and prison population racism and disenfranchisement.)
That sort of attrition law, written to scare people away, does not help the State that enacts it. The State loses money: Undocumented people need food, gasoline or buses, shelter, clothes, and fun just as much as the Anglos writing these laws; scare them away, and the business owners, the grocery stores, the thrift stores (in this economy everyone is shopping at thrift stores, don’t go calling me economically classist here!) and clothes stores, the pet stores and others all lose the money they would have spent, and Arizona loses the taxes from those sales that didn’t happen.
General observations from the first speaker of the panel: Like computers, public policy is going to be GIGO–Garbage In, Garbage Out. So long as one is using or receiving bad data, bad information, one cannot make good policy. So long as one is rooted in a bad policy (and possibly ignoring any information that opposes or contradicts the policy), one will be enacting bad laws. Bad laws, laws based on bad policy and bad data (and possibly on pipe dreams of privileged minorities that resent losing their privileged position–not the presenter but MY point there) will have bad results.
As good citizens, therefore, we are responsible for getting better results by demanding better from our policymakers and elected politicians (time was, at least on occasion, they were the same people but ALEC deliberately subverts that). We need better results, which we can only achieve by basing policy on real data based on real numbers, and not on fear-mongering and hearsay and purely anecdotal evidence (Brewer’s story of “illegals” decapitating citizens here in Arizona, for one glaring example of error). Remember that nine out of ten assertions about immigration are untrue.
More when I can. . .