Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are Immigration Arrests Unfair?

On Saturday, March 28th, there was an article in the Boston Globe titled Marchers Urge an end to Immigrants Jailing by Globe reporter Maria Sacchetti and in last Thursday's Globe, Kevin Cullen's column, Absence of Reason, explored the same subject recounting the story of how one immigrant family is torn apart because the father, who has been in the United States for seventeen years, has been incarcerated to be deported at any time. I reread both articles with deepening frustration as it brought to mind, a long forgotten incident in my life as a youngster.

I am also an immigrant brought to America from Albania when I was one year old. My family had immigrated legally under circumstances which at that time were a far more welcoming atmosphere than is present today.

I joined the U.S. Navy during WWII and served aboard a Destroyer Escort, the U.S. S. Chaffee, DE 230, that was on its way to Bayonne, New Jersey from Boston for outfitting before our assignment in Paciifc Ocean War Areas. Our crew knew that in a few moments, we would be passing the Statue of Liberty - an image I had seen many times in newspaper photos, school books, and in newsreels. But, now, it was about to happen. All members of the crew stood on the starboard side of the ship as we came in view of the Statue. We stood at attention as we cruised by the Statue in dead silence, and frankly, I am not ashamed to say there were tears in the eyes of many of my shipmates. For, here, before us, was this majestic symbol of America that our fathers and mothers had sailed by and gazed at with such hope for us, their children, many years before. I was not the only immigrant aboard my ship - there were other immigrants from Austria, Poland, France, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere in the world. Passing the Statue of Liberty doubled my pride, that as an immigrant from Albania, I was in the service of my adopted country in a time of war.

Kevin Cullen, in his April 2nd column, describes the story of an Honduran immigrant, Adalid Artega, who was working as a stone mason, paying his taxes and providing for his family. Now, he is in jail, leaving his family without income and due to be deported. He is a man with the same dreams our parents had when they came as immigrants to the United States. Kevin Cullen quotes Leah Artega as saying, " My children will lose a father. I will lose a husband. We will lose our house, and what will this accomplish?" I defy any one to give a reasonable answer to that question!

Maria Sacchetti's article described a demonstration by hundreds before Boston's John F. Kennedy's federal building to protest a surge in the number of immigrants who are jailed pending deportation. In New England, for example, immigrant detainees have tripled from an average of 1,365 a day a decade ago. I was extremely proud of the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Coalition (MIRA), Albanian-born Eva Millona, who exclaimed, "It is time for us to stand up and say enough," and called on Congress to create a path to legal residency for the 11 million immigrants in the United States. I most passionately share Eva's opinion!

Links to both of these articles are listed below.

I have given you my opinion, you have read Kevin Cullen's and Eva Millona's opinions, so please let me know what you think.,


At April 6, 2009 at 2:06 AM , Anonymous Barbara Tzetzo Gosch said...

Shortly after reading, "Are Immigration Arrests Unfair?" I turned to my local newspaper in Eau Claire, WI and was surprised to read, "Immigration Laws Exist for a Reason" on its editorial page.
While the Boston Globe article addressed the issue of detaining immigrants (I want to say illegal or undocumented immigrants)--the article in our paper referred to "Should the taxpayers fund college for their chilren?" Two different topics but connected by the "key" word "illegal." In my opinion this is what makes the issue frustrating and complex. address.

Certainly, I do not want to inflict suffering on people who come here withe the American Dream, particularly since my relatives came for the same reason. However, they didn't break the law to come.

So how can a tragic situation be viewed in the best interests of those involved? Just the other day I had a meeting with an economist who stated, "Life is about choices. You need to weigh the costs with your decision to come out with the best answer."

While some may not agree with approach--it does create the possibility of viewing the issue with a certain perspective. I read that Adalid Arteaga had a job and was a husband and father. This is a person who's contributing to the U.S. economy not to mention other ways intrinsic to a bettering community life. In addition, I read that there are thousands of detainees and to keep them confined--is extremely costly. Is this sensible? Is it moral to detain people without a fair hearing or have rights ignored? It seems totally against what our country has stood for.

In addition, I have another concern identified with illegal immigrants. It relates to abusive labor practices they are often subjected to but out of fear will not report.

Perhaps one proposal could be to establish a reasonable time limit (provided they've contributed in some way to adding to society). Thus they could no longer be deported.
Barbara Tzetzo Gosch

At April 8, 2009 at 5:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Illegal immigration is illegal immigration for which the penalty is deportation. Why is that so hard to understand?

At April 13, 2009 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous Papa Lazo said...

I wish this issue were as cut-and-dry as it looks on the surface.

Surely the anonymously submitted comment above leaves no room for debate, and that is what the law states. We all understand that. But life isn't now, nor has it ever been that black and white. That's the way that Biblical literalists speak - they divide this world into those who follow the word literally and those who don't. Believers vs. Non-believers, Legal vs. Illegal. Life's just not like that in a country of more than 3,000,000 souls, founded on and sustained by immigration.

I'm inclined to agree with much of what Ms. Tzetzo Gosch has written above.

We can most certainly say that if a person's been in this country for years, contributing to the dynamism of our economy, paying taxes, and raising a family responsibly - ie, acheiving the American Dream, they should be given a route to citizenship. They have earned it by helping pay for our schools, healthcare and infrastructure through their labor. I'll never forget after 9/11, I was at the window of my apartment, looking down into W170th Street from above, and a livery cab drove by. The driver had painted in white on the top of his cab "US ARMY: I'm not a US citizen, but I'm ready to die for the US! God bless America - sign me UP!"

All of that said, we must make our borders and customs entry points the most secure in the world. The best way to reduce illegal immigration is for our nation to live up to the values we espouse, to have responsible sustainable domestic and foreign policies. Want to reduce and eventually stop people fleeing to the US to escape drug-lord violence and poverty in Mexico, Central and South America, well, how about curbing insatiable American demand for coke, pot and heroin from south of the border and helping local farmers in these countries retool for the sustainable economy of the future based in renewable fuels, fabrics and organic foods? Want to stop the terrorist threat from the Middle East? Well how about making our economy entirely green and not buying Arab oil under any circumstances because we don't need it anymore?

I want to say that I believe the Obama administration is certainly headed in the right direction on all of these issues. I do believe that immigration reform is just one part of how we make our collective Phoenix rise from the ashes of our present circumstances. I'm with Eva Millona and Van Christo: it's time to create a path for the legalization of these immigrants. Let's get it done at the same time we work to make our country and our world safer and more sustainable. Never has the climate been more amenable to do more good for more people in America - and the world - than it is now.


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