Friday, May 28, 2010

Borders, Dollars, and Persons

Even as the census ends and nativism erupts in Arizona, federal immigration policy remains in the background. Recent events sure do help to bring the recent past into sharp relief. For example, many Latinas/os recall President Obama speaking with dignity about the needs of undocumented immigrants, but the number of deportations since he assumed power has increased to an all-time high. In the meantime, the economic stimulus package and the healthcare reform debate seemed to have consumed all the political oxygen. However, neither of those efforts provided any specific or significant relief for brown or black people in the United States. Moreover, when President Obama decided to allocate a single sentence in his first State of the Union address to immigration, some Latinas/os began to express openly their sense that a pattern of neglect had become all too real—then Arizona erupted.

During all this time, the current problems with borders, dollars and persons are being addressed directly by wealthy folks abroad taking advantage of current U.S. immigration law. Under current law, wealthy immigrants can obtain visas (like EB-5, E-1 or E-2) for themselves and their families if they invest between $500,000 and one-million dollars in a U.S. business. In 2008, nearly 2,000 such visas were issued, nearly triple the level of a decade before. This option is dandy for millionaires, but leaves the rest of us wondering about the justice of a policy regime so nakedly mercenary.

The upside, of course, is that these wealthy immigrants generate “jobs” for whichever local economy they join. Perhaps those from the Global South will create some jobs that benefit some of their countrymen in the U.S. who remain without resources or opportunities. But that is only a hope, naturally. In the meantime, will nativism continue while the federal government does nothing?


By Frank Valdes

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