This is my second in a string of reports from the panel discussions and workshops I attended at UUA’s 2012 GA. The Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations has their annual meeting once a year at a different host city each year. June 2012 Phoenix hosted. This article is still about the panel discussing immigrants “Caught in the Political Crossfires.”
Right, how to achieve the thread of thought that was running through the previous post on this workshop, and maintain some small sense of continuity despite the time elapsed since last I wrote. . . at least I did take notes for *this* workshop. Alas, they are sparse after the first presenter, and so I fear this will be a shorter reflection than the previous.
Julie Erfle spoke after that initial presenter, Todd Landfried. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Erfle, she is a widow, her husband Nick a Phoenix Police Officer killed by a man who had been deported once and came back again, illegally.
She does not blame all immigrants, not even all illegal immigrants, for her loss. One man murdered her husband, not a country or class of people. I will paraphrase, since I remember not the exact wording: If a white man had killed my husband, would you expect me to hate all white men?
Her story, in her own words, is on her blog http://politicsuncuffed.com/ (the About tab links to her story specifically). There are further links covering her activities and investigations from the home page (that is what the home page is for, after all!).
At the workshop she spoke about her husband’s murder in 2007, how she started chasing stories about the reality of immigration and refused to be the poster child for those who wanted use her husband’s death to push their own agenda of restrictive immigration and chasing non-Anglos away from Arizona.
(In the Civil Rights Era, she would have been labeled a Race Traitor like those Anglos riding the freedom buses with African-Americans.)
She helped convince the Phoenix Police Department to change its policy regarding illegal immigrants. from azcentral.com:
Her first task was to persuade the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which had blasted the department’s immigration-enforcement policies, to support a revised version of the policy. The group agreed to support it, leading to Erfle’s May press conference.
(end quoted material)
She cited some of the problems facing anyone who wants immigration policy reform. First and foremost, not everyone wants actual facts. She has personal experience with those who put ideology before facts or compassion (e.g., http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2008/08/bruce_jacobs.php), being harshly verbally attacked by a local radio host. Ms. Erfle stands for human rights, for compassionate reform of the immigration system. Many here in Arizona do not want compassionate reform. Anyone who takes a stance for reform must be ready to face attacks for doing so.
Ms. Erfle also countered the “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” argument by noting that the Naturalization process is as complicated as the Federal tax code. “Why can’t they wait at the back of the line?” Because there is NO line. There are only 5000+/- visas available to enter the US, and there is no line because they are gone before any “line” has time to form.
Remember that the US has long had a love-hate relationship with immigrants from anywhere other than England. In the 1840s and 50s English-descended people resented an influx of Germans fleeing the 1848 revolution and the Irish fleeing starvation due to the Potato Famine. While the Chinese were welcomed on the railroads to lay track they were limited as to how many were allowed in, and God forbid that any of them be allowed to ask for living wages. Italians, Poles, East Europeans, Russian Jews, anyone who was not born an English speaker was unwelcome, and often limited in housing to the slums and tenements; not being allowed to move into better housing, the immigrants gained reputations as ugly or filthy,
Here are some links from the traveling Exhibition _Race_ on just how hard immigration has since the US declared independence:
http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/west_exp_post_mex.html (The clause in the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo guaranteeing Mexican nationals’ land rights and US citizenship was deleted by the US Senate when ratified in 1848 after the Mexican-American War.)
http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/us_control.html (Lasting effects of the Doctrine of Discovery here)
http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/antichin_law_spanam_war.html (Chinese exclusion act!)
http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/eastern_southern_immigration.html (Quotas in the 1920s and later)
http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/civil_rights_vietnam.html (Operation Wetback in 1954, forcible adoption of Cuban children to US families via Operation Peter Pan ca 1959 show governmental and social hostility to Latinos)
Sorry, so much for brevity after all. But I just needed to add some more background to give you Good Readers a sense of the depth of the difficulty to legally come to the US. Having done so, I will save the reflection on teh rest of this workshop for a later Note.