The Marriage of Two Movements (new WLAA blog post)

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 29, 2011 10:50 PM GMT
    Alabama1529.jpg

    Last week I attended an event in Birmingham that launched a campaign to repeal Alabama’s anti-illegal-immigration law, HB-56. What I found most interesting about the rally was the coming together of veterans of the African American Civil Rights Movement and Hispanics pushing for immigration reform.

    The event took place at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of the infamous 1963 bombing that killed four young girls, sparking a series of riots that lead to two more deaths. One of the speakers was U. W. Clemon, the first African American to serve as a federal judge in Alabama. Clemon, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Birmingham in 1963 recalled hearing King’s calls to action from the same podium where he now stood. “Injustice anywhere,” he reminded us, “is a threat to justice everywhere, so now--even as senior citizens--we must put our marching shoes back on.”

    A high school student who identified only as Y. J. told the audience that he is here illegally, as are his parents. He doesn’t remember crossing the Rio Grande as a toddler on his father’s shoulders, he said. In fact, he claims, he has virtually no memory of his native Mexico. His English is perfect--better, I suspect, than his Spanish. “This is where I grew up, this is the only home I know,” he exclaimed into the microphone. “How can you look me in the eye and tell me I don’t belong here, tell me I need to go?”

    As a legal immigrant who is soon to be an American citizen, I could not help but be moved by Clemon and Y. J. Regardless of what you think of the decision made by Y. J.’s parents, his is a plight that he did not choose, and the fear under which he lives now is as unjust as the fear under which Clemon lived as a teenager. Hearing them, just days before Thanksgiving, reminded me of all I have to be thankful for. I have never suffered the injustice that this gentleman and this boy have suffered. And the way they’ve refused to let victimhood take over their lives has inspired me to face my comparatively smaller troubles head on.

    America is my country, and I love it dearly. I even dislike it when people call it my “adoptive” country because the word implies that there is some other country to which I might hold allegiance, and that is not the case--like Heidi, the German immigrant I met in South Carolina, I believe that “you can’t sit on two chairs at the same time.” I have but one chair--the one I have chosen, not the one I was born with.

    I have worked hard to get where I am, and I won’t pretend that I’m not proud of my achievements. But hearing Y. J. humbled me. It reminded me that I have in a sense been lucky to be able to legally call this my home since the day I arrived. Much like the native-born Americans who take for granted their citizenship, I am guilty of sometimes taking my legal status for granted.

    People like Y. J. keep me honest. He reminded me of an important person in my life, someone who I admire, and someone who was once in Y. J.’s situation. One of the smartest men I know--a doctor with an undergraduate degree in Math from MIT, a medical degree from Columbia University, and now a resident at Cornell--was brought here by his parents when he was a young child. My friend, his brother, and his parents--Christian immigrants from the Middle East--were here illegally well into my friend’s teenage years. I see what he has achieved, and what I’m sure the future holds for him, and I think of what a loss it would have been for the U.S. if his teenage fears of not getting his papers before going off to college had come true. Thankfully, he was able to get a green card just in time, and he is now a citizen.

    Just like the plight of people like Clemon helped open the eyes of other Americans in the 1960s, the situation faced by Y. J. and others like him is opening the eyes of many legal immigrants and native-born Americans. It makes sense, then, to see the black community here in Alabama advocate for the people that are being unjustly targeted by HB-56.

    A professor at the American Studies Department of the University of Alabama told me he sees the rally at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as the marriage of the Black Civil Rights Movement and the immigration reform movement. I think he’s right, and I look forward to seeing how the alliance develops. There is very little precedence of collaboration between blacks and Hispanics--if anything, the two groups have traditionally been at odds. Only time will tell how much of the rhetoric at the leadership level will trickle down to the rank-and-file (most Hispanic immigrants I have interviewed have expressed an antipathy even towards President Obama), but the good news is that things seem to be moving fast here in the slow-paced South--I’m sure we’ll have answers soon.


    Constantino Diaz-Duran is a fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University. He is chronicling his walk from New York to Los Angeles to celebrate his eligibility for American citizenship. Follow Constantino’s progress.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 29, 2011 10:58 PM GMT
    How wonderful of you to share this with us. Honestly, it's nice to get this kind of story and to hear your perspective on it. I can only read so much about this stuff on Univisión. It'll be interesting to follow how things continue to unfold in Alabama and in other states with similar situations.

    I certainly feel bad for some of my friends who are here and taking the rap for something their parents did. None of them could've helped it at the time since most of them were so young when they came here. Unfortunately they've been told things like: "You should right a wrong by going back to your parents' country." Well, what does that do? To them their parents' country is as foreign as can be, especially having no other ties there. Boo.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 29, 2011 11:34 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidHow wonderful of you to share this with us. Honestly, it's nice to get this kind of story and to hear your perspective on it. I can only read so much about this stuff on Univisión. It'll be interesting to follow how things continue to unfold in Alabama and in other states with similar situations.

    I certainly feel bad for some of my friends who are here and taking the rap for something their parents did. None of them could've helped it at the time since most of them were so young when they came here. Unfortunately they've been told things like: "You should right a wrong by going back to your parents' country." Well, what does that do? To them their parents' country is as foreign as can be, especially having no other ties there. Boo.

    I don't see how their going back to their parents' country would right a wrong. That's sad that some people are telling them this.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 30, 2011 1:46 AM GMT
    19c79 said
    pocketnico saidHow wonderful of you to share this with us. Honestly, it's nice to get this kind of story and to hear your perspective on it. I can only read so much about this stuff on Univisión. It'll be interesting to follow how things continue to unfold in Alabama and in other states with similar situations.

    I certainly feel bad for some of my friends who are here and taking the rap for something their parents did. None of them could've helped it at the time since most of them were so young when they came here. Unfortunately they've been told things like: "You should right a wrong by going back to your parents' country." Well, what does that do? To them their parents' country is as foreign as can be, especially having no other ties there. Boo.

    I don't see how their going back to their parents' country would right a wrong. That's sad that some people are telling them this.
    You dont see 'conservatism' in today's US of A! icon_wink.gif (and thats not a bad thing either!)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 30, 2011 2:41 AM GMT
    I go to a historically hispanic serving university and I have to be real... send their asses back where they came from. I don't care if you were an embryo, 4, or 30 when you crossed... take your illegal ass BACK where it came from. I view it like this. People say they pay taxes... sales taxes don't make up for all the taxes we all put in to services that many of us never get to take advantage. Now with cuts to thinks like Financial Aid and other services, this is a time when we should be limiting access and discouraging illegal immigration, not rewarding it. This whole crap of oh well they had they're baby here so we can't send the whole family back cause the baby is now a US citizen. I say do this... let the kid stay and our system can care for them cause that's what the constitution says and I don't think we should amend it. We give the family a simple solution, the kids stays and you go back or you all go back and the kid comes back when and if they choose to. I do not believe in illegal immigration and I hate how CNN for example is always doing these things on "Latino in America" and its like I have to be some Latina trying to be Rocky or I have to be in support of illegal immigration cause I have roots to Mexico Lindo... screw that. Truth is people that support amnesty, the dream act, or any of that crap that are latino do not speak for me! If was to ever run for political office, which I would as a Democrat cause I consider myself a Clintonian-Democrat, It would most likely be my race that would elect me... and it's a good portion of my race I'd deport. I like the fact that Alabama has done what it has. OWS has a good point. Anyone will do just about any kind of work for a decent pay and conditions. It's the right thing to want right? The problem is that people are too damn consumerist and want anything and everything at a cheap price. The question is will American's be willing to pay a higher price to benefit their fellow man? Most likely not. People say immigration is a human rights issues but it's not. First and formost its a social-economic issue. It's another form of slavery and bondage that enslaves us all! As I am sure I'll be trolled for this... I figure I'll say this simply my opinion and respect yours. Have a good night. =-D
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 30, 2011 3:44 AM GMT
    @Ryan_Andrew, I see where you're coming from, but there's one thing you're wrong about--taxes. Actually, most illegal immigrants pay payroll taxes too, many of them using an IRS-issued "tax identification number," and some using fake social security numbers (this constitutes a problem of its own, but at least means they are in fact paying income tax, social security, etc.). And in some states, Alabama included, sales tax actually constitutes the bulk of the state's revenue--in Alabama you pay sales tax even on groceries (which in most states are exempt).
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 30, 2011 8:07 AM GMT
    19c79 said@Ryan_Andrew, I see where you're coming from, but there's one thing you're wrong about--taxes. Actually, most illegal immigrants pay payroll taxes too, many of them using an IRS-issued "tax identification number," and some using fake social security numbers (this constitutes a problem of its own, but at least means they are in fact paying income tax, social security, etc.). And in some states, Alabama included, sales tax actually constitutes the bulk of the state's revenue--in Alabama you pay sales tax even on groceries (which in most states are exempt).


    I see your point as well as far as the payroll taxes as well but the problem is in most cases you can't hire illegal workers so they are paid in cash which can't be tracked. I've seen these kinds of behaviors first hand and that for me is a problem. Also as for sales taxes, one thing we have in here Texas is called a "manifesto". What this document allows for them to do is actually get all their receipts from stores they have purchased from and then receive tax reimburstments because they are going to be "exporting" back to Mexico. So now they aren't paying sales taxes. Anyone with a Mexican ID can make a manifesto and have the taxes paid out back to them by the store, then the store's sales tax liability is reduced by the state. It's a big deal here. I worked for a store with volume of about 11.1 Million anually with about 65% of its total traffic being from Mexican nationals. So imagine how much we paid out in sales taxes that Texas is losing out on. Try going to Mexico and having them do the same thing for you. I think it has to do with NAFTA but stil.. if Alabama has something like these then.. here's another way around it.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 30, 2011 10:43 AM GMT
    Ryan_Andrew saidI see your point as well as far as the payroll taxes as well but the problem is in most cases you can't hire illegal workers so they are paid in cash which can't be tracked. I've seen these kinds of behaviors first hand and that for me is a problem. Also as for sales taxes, one thing we have in here Texas is called a "manifesto". What this document allows for them to do is actually get all their receipts from stores they have purchased from and then receive tax reimburstments because they are going to be "exporting" back to Mexico. So now they aren't paying sales taxes. Anyone with a Mexican ID can make a manifesto and have the taxes paid out back to them by the store, then the store's sales tax liability is reduced by the state. It's a big deal here. I worked for a store with volume of about 11.1 Million anually with about 65% of its total traffic being from Mexican nationals. So imagine how much we paid out in sales taxes that Texas is losing out on. Try going to Mexico and having them do the same thing for you. I think it has to do with NAFTA but stil.. if Alabama has something like these then.. here's another way around it.

    Yeah, I'm familiar with the sales tax reimbursement for tourists (that's who it's meant for) that Texas has in place. Louisiana and other states have the same arrangement. Alabama does not. And, of course it's undeniable that a large number of illegal immigrants are paid under the table. But companies are increasingly asking for some kind of documentation for tax purposes.