Saturday, June 16, 2007

Immigration: Seizing the day

-- by Dave

The immigration debate, for those progressives deeply involved in it, has felt rather like waiting for Godot -- we know our fellow progressives are going to be coming along any day now to join the journey toward effective reform. Still, we sit and sit, checking our watches as the clock ticks down, and we wonder.

So far, the debate has almost entirely revolved around the division between rival factions of the right: the corporate conservatives who have benefited from the status quo and would benefit even more from a "guest worker" program; and the nativist bloc that wants every one of the 12 million "illegal aliens" in America rounded up and "sent back where they came from."

If there is a progressive position, it hasn't been enunciated clearly at all -- which means that there has been precious little advocacy from the left. It's well past time for that to change.

This is especially the case because the rightist factions have managed to simply dismiss any advocacy from the left as being about "open borders." That is, of course, a typically false and nasty smear from the right. And a clear progressive position is the only way to overcome it.

As Rick Jacobs, the Dreams Across America tour's chief organizer, observed at Huffington Post:
he immigrant's rights movement has been more about rights than about movement. Up to now, we have seen hundreds of thousands of mostly Mexicans marching in downtown LA or other cities, opposing draconian law or demanding rights. But as my friend Paula Litt at Liberty Hill Foundation says, there is no inalienable right to become a US citizen. So the movement has brought lots of unions and people of color (read: Latino and Asian) together, it has not inspired the online activists who write blogs and checks or the white political elite who write checks to take action.

Matt Stoller has more on this:
What is clear is that if progressives are going to play on immigration, we need a strategy and a set of arguments. My gut says that this is going to require linking immigration and trade, since this is an issue having to do with labor, capital, and goods all flowing across borders. Our current immigration 'problems' (or opportunities, depending on whether you a big business guy who likes slave labor) cannot be disassociated from NAFTA, and I'm curious why that attempt was made.

In other words, if there's a 'grand bargain' to be struck on immigration, it should address the millions of Mexicans and Americans thrown into poverty by our trade policies, who then become immigrants or dispossessed. Regardless, the immigration debate, for it to be relevant to progressives, has to be linked to a larger narrative of economic instability. There's something about labor rights in there, but labor has so little reach now that we need new arguments.

This is exactly right, so far as it goes. However, we also need to understand that immigration encompasses much more than merely economics and trade -- it's about fundamental human decency, it's about our place in the world and our cultural and economic health, but most of all it's about the meaning of what it is to be American.

Progressive values encompass all those things, and a progressive position on immigration will naturally be about them as well. But progressives haven't taken it because it hasn't been clear to them just how they can enunciate those things in a cohesive way that makes sense not just to them but to all Americans.

This, I think, is why liberals have largely sat on their hands on this. Check out, if you will, the comments that have come in to HuffPo over Jacobs' posts, or those that have been pouring in to the Dreams Across America blog: they are all overwhelmingly nativist (with many of them claiming, without much evidence, that they really are progressives, with the less-than-persuasive caveat that they're "just opposed to illegal immigration"). It has been hard to find many liberals actually willing to engage and refute their nonsense.

It also seems clear that progressives don't quite comprehend the importance of the immigration debate -- it just seems to many of us that this is an issue raised by conservatives and is simply an in-house fight among them. But the truth is that, probably more than any other issue confronting the nation beyond the Iraq war, it is a debate that will profoundly affect America's culture and economy, and its position in the world, for decades to come.

Most of all, it is probably the greatest opportunity in many years for progressives to regain their position of cultural strength, to make tremendous gains among average Americans in the heartland, and to reestablish liberalism as a powerful force for good in the political realm.

Doing so will require two significant steps:

-- Refuting the flood of wrong-headed garbage that's been coming from both factions of the right in this debate.

-- Enunciating a clear and powerful position for progressives that encompasses their values, as well as those of Americans at large.

I'll be devoting the next two posts to precisely that project.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Immigration and the family

Family values: We Americans love to talk about them and think about them right alongside patriotism and civic duty as the ultimate expressions of our national core, the glue that binds us together.

So why do we have immigration laws that are specifically, almost devotedly, anti-family?

Many right-wing critics of American immigration policy are fond of saying that current policies would work just fine if the government would "just enforce the laws that are on the books."

It seems never to occur to them that the main reason the government doesn't do so, at least not on a massive scale, is simply that the laws as written are largely unenforcable -- or perhaps more to the point, that enforcing them actually creates larger problems, to the point of atrocities, than those they were intended to address.

The chief problem with immigration law in America is the misbegotten nature of the laws themselves. Much of this has to do with their nakedly racist origins, the legacy of which has never been erased.

This could not be any clearer than the effect of immigration laws on families. Sadly, the story of Tony, Janina, and Brian -- one in which we can watch a family being ripped apart -- is replicated every day in America. Those laws, seemingly designed to actually discourage immigration rather than deal with it both thoughtfully and helpfully, have for many years now had a devastating effect on immigrant families.

First and foremost, legal immigrants are not permitted to bring their families with them as fellow green-card holders; this has the fairly obvious effect of separating and dividing families, and in the end encouraging these immigrants to return to their home countries. And if they try to bring their families to America legally, they face a mountain of red tape and interminable waits. As a 2006 study of the issue notes:
A spouse or minor child of a legal resident (green card holder) from Mexico has a 7 year wait (a 5 year wait from other countries). A married child of a U.S. citizen must wait 7 years to immigrate (11 and 15 years, respectively, if from Mexico or the Philippines).

Moreover, as Celeste Fremon at Witness L.A. observes, the immigration law passed 10 years ago, supposedly intended to force officials to deport criminals, has had a widespread and devastating effect on immigrant families:
The new law was a doozy.

It subjected every non-citizen to mandatory deportation for committing an "aggravated felony" -- which the IIRIRA, defined so broadly that convictions ranging from murder to minor, one time drug possession all qualified. Even the theft of a $10 video game, with a one-year suspended sentence, met the definition. Worse, the law was retroactive. This meant that old convictions that had been legally expunged were suddenly treated as "active" under the new law.

The very worst thing about the IIRIRA was that removed all judicial discretion. In other words, even if a judge found that an immigrant father had extreme extenuating circumstances and there was every practical reason to allow him to stay in the country, it was impossible. There was no legal recourse. No due process. The law couldn’t distinguish between those who deserved deportation and those whose removal would do far more harm than good. And the banning from the US was forever.

Immediately upon the law's passage, horror stories of lives ruined and families destroyed began to surface There was the Vietnam Vet with three medals who was deported for an 11-year-old burglary conviction, leaving behind a wife and seven children, all U.S. citizens. People adopted as children by American couples were deported. One former child refugee from the genocidal Pol Pot regime was deported back to Cambodia for urinating in public on the construction site where he was employed. Hard working little league dads who'd been caught with a few ounces of weed in their youth were deported.

And these examples aren't anomalies. When I was researching an article on the subject for the LA Times Magazine a few years ago, I ran across scores of such cases—some exotic, most ordinary. All sad.

Fremon notes that legislation -- dubbed "the Anchor Baby bill" by the nativist right which opposes it -- has been proposed giving judges the discretion to consider the effect of a deportation on American citizen children. It's currently working its way through Congress.

Even more significant, though, has been the significant increase in raids on employers of illegal immigrants in the past year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. What's happened, of course, is that many of these undocumented workers have spouses and children who are either citizens or legal immigrants. In rounding up massive numbers of these immigrants, and ostensibly concerned about keeping families together, ICE has been sweeping up entire families and placing them in euphemistically titled "family detention centers" that are really nothing less than modern concentration camps. And in doing so, they effects of the incarceration on families has been predictably awful:
The report lauded the goal of keeping families together but urged DHS to close the Hutto facility, saying that "prison-like institutions" are not appropriate for families. "Family detention is not one that has any precedent in the United States, therefore no appropriate licensing requirements exist," the report said.

... The report recommended that ICE parole asylum-seekers while they await the outcome of their hearings. It also said that immigrant families not eligible for parole should be released to special shelters or other homelike settings run by nonprofit groups and be required to participate in electronic monitoring or an intensive supervision program that would use a combination of electronic ankle bracelets, home visits and telephone reporting.

The 72-page report also criticized the educational services for children; the food service and rushed feeding times for children; the health care, especially for vulnerable children and pregnant women; the therapeutic mental health care as insufficient or culturally inappropriate; and the recreation time as inadequate for children. The review said that families were being held for months in Hutto and for years in the case of the longer-established Berks facility.

The report also cited inappropriate disciplinary practices used against adults and children, including threats of separation, verbal abuse and withholding recreation or using temperature control, particularly extremely cold conditions, as punishment.

Moreover, in many of the sweeps being conducted by the ICE, families are also being torn apart as parents are sent off to be deported while their children are left behind. This was pronouncedly the case this spring in an immigration raid in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts social workers will travel to a Texas detention center to check on scores of workers from New Bedford accused of being in the country illegally. They were flown there before Massachusetts authorities determined whether all their children were receiving adequate care.

Patrick, at a press conference, and later in a private conference call with Homeland Security officials, protested the decision to fly 90 of the detained workers from Massachusetts to Harlingen, Texas, before state social workers had a chance to inquire about their child-care needs, potentially leaving many children with inadequate care. Two young children were hospitalized yesterday for dehydration after their nursing mothers were taken away, state officials said. Another 7-year-old girl called a state hot line seeking her detained mother. It was unclear last night where their mothers were.

"What we have never understood about this process is why it turned into a race to the airport," Patrick said. "We understand about the importance of processing; we get that. But there are families affected. There are children affected."

The two sides spent the day arguing with each other over the treatment of the detained women and their families, with Patrick's comments prompting a sharp rejoinder from a top Bush administration official.

Immigration agents "worked closely with DSS both before the operation commenced and at every stage of the operation, to be sure that no child would be without a sole caregiver," Julie L. Myers , the assistant secretary of homeland security, wrote in a letter to Patrick.

Myers, as well as a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that each of the 361 detainees was asked about child-care needs several times. They pointed out that 60 women who were found to be the sole caregivers to their children have since been released, though they will still face a court hearing.

But Massachusetts officials said some of the women -- most of whom were from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Portugal, and Brazil -- may not have been as forthcoming with federal agents as they might have been with state social workers.

"When you come from nations that have a history of violence against women and a history of a government being repressive, what can you expect?," said US Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy. "You have to have people with the ability to connect with these detainees."

State social workers who arrived late Wednesday at the interim detention site at the former Fort Devens army base in Ayer found 20 detainees, whom federal agents had not identified, and who they determined should be returned to New Bedford: four pregnant or nursing mothers, nine single mothers, and seven detainees who were minors under age 17. But by the time they were given access to the detainees, the 90 others who were sent to Texas had already left on a plane.

DSS Commissioner Harry Spence said he expected a team of social workers to be en route today to Harlingen.

"We expect to find some number of pregnant women, minors, and sole caregivers," said Spence.

Of the detainees who have not been returned to New Bedford or sent to Texas, 116 were flown yesterday to a detention center in Albuquerque, with the other 75 placed in various New England jails.

The debate and logistical issues underscored the complexities of the politically charged immigration issue, with tensions emerging between social service and law enforcement needs. Adding confusion was that most children left behind are US citizens because they were born here, and reuniting them with parents sent back to their native countries may be difficult, state officials said.

... Patrick arrived at the church in the early evening, meeting with several emotional families and advocates. "What you see in this room is a human tragedy, where policy touches people," he said. "There were stories of humiliation, fear, anxiety, uncertainty. It reflects , for me, not what this country is about."

South Coast Today has been maintaining a section front on the raids, in no small part because of the devastating local effects of the raid. Among the stories it features is one explaining what befell a local family because of the raid:
Lilo and Maria, illegal immigrants, were working at the factory the day of the raid. According to Lilo, by the time federal agents recognized the couple was married and had children at home, Maria had already been fingerprinted. So they released Lilo to care for the children and gave him an order to appear before an immigration judge May 16 in Boston.

Maria was detained and sent to the Bristol County House of Corrections in Dartmouth, where she awaits her release.

"Minute to minute she is thinking about the children," Lilo, who speaks Spanish, told a reporter through an interpreter.

Lilo has spoken to his wife on the telephone, but he has yet to visit her at the jail that is less than 8 miles from their home.

Lilo, Maria and their children are one of 98 families who were divided during this month's raid at the South End factory, according to data collected by Ondine Galvez Sniffin, an immigration attorney with Catholic Social Services. She said the number may be higher since some detainees might be afraid to tell federal officials that they have children or spouses.

Ms. Sniffin estimated that 21 of the 98 families remain separated, while 70 families have been temporarily reunited. Parents who were reunited with their children must still appear in court for deportation hearings. If the court rules in favor of deportation, families will face a difficult decision: Should the family leave the United States together or should family members, including children, who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents stay behind?
Fortunately, there is at least an investigation into the ICE's behavior in this case:
A federal judge has agreed to allow a team of immigration lawyers to continue investigating whether flying more than 200 illegal immigrants to Texas denied them due process under the law.

But U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns stopped short of the main demand of the federal lawsuit filed by the Guatemalan consul and the lawyers, which was to return those detainees to Massachusetts.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the Michael Bianco Inc. factory two weeks ago, arresting 361 illegal immigrants as well as the owner and several managers. The owner and manager were released on bail the next day, whereas the immigrants were bused to Fort Devens in Ayer. A total of 206 were flown on two separate flights to detention facilities in Texas, where 178 remain in custody.
“The recent ICE actions against hundreds of people in New Bedford, many of whom were sent out of state without due process, raises serious questions about U.S. support for human rights and access to civil legal services,” according to a statement from the attorneys, which includes Greater Boston Legal Services and a number of other private lawyers, all working on the case for free.

But ICE, in declarations made to the court and through its spokesman, asserts that the agency has treated its detainees fairly.

"ICE is fully committed to the legal process for detainees in our custody," said ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi. According to court documents, about 30 detainees have been released after posting bonds, and as many as 60 other detainees have had bond hearings in court. While a number of detainees held in Massachusetts have posted bail and been released, bail has been denied to all but two or three detainees in Texas.

The lawyers claimed that from the day of the raid, ICE has done everything in its power to move the detainees away from their support networks and have denied them access to attorneys, the right to due process and the right to a fair hearing.

"We have very serious concerns about how they went about this," said Harvey Kaplan of the Boston law firm Kaplan, O’Sullivan & Friedman, one of the lead attorneys in the lawsuit. ICE "has done everything they can to rush these people out of the country, everything they can to deny them access (to attorneys)."

Even more disturbing is that the ICE is applying Guantanamo-style tactics to interrogate the detainees:
John Wilshire Carrera, an immigration lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services, said that in the initial days after the raid, detainees were denied sleep and interviewed in the middle of the night by ICE agents.

He said ICE agents tried on several occasions to get the detainees to sign a form agreeing to be deported.

"They're being pressured into signing documents. That's something I believe is going on," he said. "They have papers where a box is prechecked to waive your rights, and they’ve been asking them to sign it."

Mr. Raimondi, the ICE spokesman, said detainees have been asked to sign voluntary removal orders.

"I stress the word voluntary," he said. As to the other document alleged to exist by Mr. Wilshire Carrera, Mr. Raimondi said he would need more specific information before he could comment.

This was followed by a hearing in Boston in which it became clear that the ICE's behavior resembled nothing so much as a rogue elephant:
The "humanitarian crisis" of families being torn apart because of a federal immigration raid could have been avoided, officials testified at the Statehouse yesterday, if federal authorities had taken the state's concerns seriously from the beginning.

The heads of three state agencies appeared before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities to discuss the impact of the March 6 raid on New Bedford's children.

"Children were placed in significant jeopardy as a result of the decision not to allow us access," said Harry Spence, commissioner of the Department of Social Services. "All we were asking was that the law be enforced in a way that ensured the safety of the children."

... Gov. Deval Patrick has called the raid's impact on families a "humanitarian crisis."

And the trauma is continuing, according to Dennis Gauthier, head of the DSS office in New Bedford.

His agency discovered two days ago that a 16-year-old girl, "living in fear," had been cared for by a landlord for the past two weeks.

DSS has also placed three teenagers who were swept up in the raid in foster care, he said, because ICE would not allow them to be released to parents who are illegal immigrants.

DSS is still pressing ICE to release 10 parents to care for children, including the mother of a 4-year old boy who is not eating and is severely underweight.

"This child needs his mother back," said Mr. Spence, noting that the child is living with his father. "This child is not safe. This child is at risk. Release the mother with a monitoring bracelet, that's what we've asked."

In the days and weeks before the raid, ICE agents met with state officials. ICE wanted help with traffic, namely a state police escort from the factory to Fort Devens in Ayer with bus loads of detainees. ICE also wanted New Bedford police to shut down the roads around the Rodney French Boulevard factory.

What ICE did not want, according to state officials, was any help or advice in dealing with the families of those arrested.

"The impact on the children and families was an issue that was constantly raised," said Kevin Burke, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. "ICE assured us they had policies and procedures in place, that they had done this many times before . . . We kept asking how they were going to deal with all the children."

ICE turned down two requests from the state for access to those arrested before the raid, and numerous requests afterwards, Mr. Burke said. Only when Gov. Deval Patrick, and U.S. Reps. William Delahunt and Barney Frank began making demands of ICE the day after the raid were state social workers allowed to interview detainees.

When asked by state officials for ICE's written policy on what constituted a "humanitarian release," ICE agents responded that they have no written policy, Mr. Burke said.

Recently, Judge Stearns ordered a hold placed on the ICE's deportation plans, at least until the status of these detainees and their families has been determined. Today, he ruled that those who signed the pressured papers cannot be deported.

What's clear is that these effects are the clear result of anti-immigrant agitation that has placed increasing pressure on the Bush administration to act. And when they have acted, the results have been predictably atrocious, especially for families:
Arrests of undocumented immigrants have grown 750 percent between 2002 and 2006, going from 485 arrests to 3,667. That dramatic increase in scale and frequency has produced far more visible humanitarian consequences than ever before, an immigrants' advocate said .

"This is the hidden underbelly of immigration enforcement," said Christopher Nugent, a Washington-based immigration attorney. "This is nothing new. It happens all the time."

Nugent and others said families are separated and children left with friends or relatives every day in the course of normal ICE immigration detentions. But the welfare of children affected by immigration raids has become a bigger issue in recent months as the scope of the immigration raids has expanded.

... "America is going to see more and more of this," said John Keller, a Minneapolis immigration attorney who represented some of the 239 Swift & Co. workers detained in Worthington. The raids are "a very blunt tool that is being applied to family situations."

Children can be separated from detained parents for months, while parents await bond hearings, or deportation. Parents who leave the United States face the choice of taking US citizen children with them, or being separated from them permanently in the hope of giving those children better opportunities here. Social service workers in other cities where raids took place told of scrambling to try to get passports for the US citizen children whose parents chose to take them back to the countries they left.

ICE is not obligated to provide for the children of undocumented workers they arrest, or to go easier on those with children, said Victor Cerda, a former ICE general counsel and a 10-year veteran of immigration enforcement.

And as Mark Silva observes, Bush's own proposed immigration reforms will actually have even more devastating effects on immigrant families:
Under the "guest worker" program that Bush proposes to allow employers to temporarily bring workers into the country, [Sen. Robert] Menendez maintains that workers "would be separated from their children and spouses as they will not be allowed to enter lawfully with the worker."

And under a "temporary worker" plan that Bush proposes to allow millions of undocumented immigrants already here to remain and work, provided they pay fines and learn English, and eventually seek citizenship, Menendez complains that the fines which the president proposes are onerous -- "Under this scheme, a typical family of five would have to pay up to $64,000 in fees and would have to wait up to 30 years in order to finally become U.S. citizens."

The American conservative movement has made an outright fetish in the past 20 years or so of pretending to stand for "family values", wielding such supposed values as a political club to bully their position on everything from abortion to gay marriage.

But while no one has ever adequately explained how allowing gays and lesbians to marry actually undermines families (logically, one would assume that it actually would help families), these same rabid right-wingers have been foaming at the mouth about illegal immigrants and the need to deport them immediately -- with the clear-cut effect of actually devastating many millions of real-life families.

What's become obvious, of course, is that conservatives care no more about real family values than they do "patriotic" values. They just like to wrap themselves in the symbolism and words, while their actions speak much, much louder.

[Note: This is an updated and revamped version of an earlier post.]

Losing Janina

It's a favorite American fantasy that when you follow the rules, pursue the American Dream, do everything right according to the law, you're duly rewarded. If you want to come to this country, you do the same: Follow the law, take all the necessary steps, and it all works out. You get to be a citizen and everything is good, right?

Well, not always. Take the case of Janina and Tony, whose remarkable story is told in the video above. If their saga does not break your heart, then check your pulse. You may not have one.

We all know, often from wholly differing perspectives, that America's immigration system is profoundly broken and in desperate need of fixing. But for most of us, it's something of an abstraction. Most Americans have only a tangential relationship with the problems -- we tend to think of immigration as a Latino thing. And, sadly, that means most white Americans just don't really relate to what's wrong. Latinos, for too many of us, are the Other.

So to make that easy, we like to talk in statistical and abstract terms about immigration. We especially like to have our bright lines that make it simple to understand: Legal immigration we're cool with. Illegal immigration, nuh-uh.

One of the reasons that nativists often tout for opposing what they call "amnesty" for "illegal aliens" is that, as they claim, it's unfair to the people who play by the rules and immigrate legally. The system, they say, is supposed to reward the latter, and "amnesty" undermines the legitimacy of their hard efforts.

But as you'll learn from watching this video, Janina did play by the rules. She emigrated from Poland with all the proper paperwork, set up life in America with her husband, had a child who is an American citizen.

And despite all that, she has been deported back to Poland, forced to take her young son with her, and leave her citizen husband behind. The family is torn apart -- and as you'll see, it was all because of a broken system that simply fails to live up to what we Americans like to think is our dream, our way of life. And as the system breaks families and lives apart, that dream breaks apart too.

Hatin' on the immigrants

A lot of people are probably wondering: Why undertake a project like Dreams Across America? What good will it do, really, to try to have conversations with other Americans about immigration?

So if you want a clear example of why we desperately need to be having these conversations -- why it's vital that we begin putting a human, and real, face on the immigration debate -- check out what happened a couple of Sundays ago in Hazleton, Pa., where the city has been passing anti-immigrant ordinances:
The publisher of a Spanish-language newspaper had to leave an immigration rally Sunday in Hazleton after a crowd surrounded him and began yelling for him to “get out of the country.”

Amilcar Arroyo, publisher of Hazleton-based El Mensajero, was covering the event when he was verbally attacked by a crowd who thought he was an illegal immigrant and a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against Hazleton.

Arroyo is an American citizen and is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“For them, I am one of those. They label us all illegal aliens,” Arroyo, an immigrant from Peru, said.

The rally was organized to show support for Mayor Lou Barletta and the city’s illegal immigration ordinance. Several hundred attended it and no other incidents were reported.

Several in the crowd began yelling at Arroyo after a rumor circulated he was one of the people suing the city for its illegal immigration ordinance, said Pamela Hauptmann, of Bethlehem, who was one of the people who confronted Arroyo.

“Someone went over to him and asked him if he was suing the mayor,” Hauptmann said in an interview Monday. “Then we said, ‘Why don’t you go home?’”

The incident was captured on video by The Morning Call, of Allentown. Some shouted “get out of the country” as others can be heard chanting “traitor.”

Arroyo, who also serves as his newspaper’s reporter and photographer, was escorted from the rally by city by police for his protection. An unidentified Hispanic man was also taken from the rally after the incident. Arroyo said that man is also a U.S. citizen.

You can see the video here.

Particularly precious was the backpedaling Hauptmann attempted, at least in public:
Hauptmann was captured in the video and photographs as she shouted and pointed at the two men. She felt the incident makes her look as though she is “picking on” Hispanics, which she said she was not.
“I am not a hateful human being,” she said. “I just want people to obey the law.”

Sounds just like Lou Dobbs and the rest of the nativists, doesn't it: "We're not against immigrants, just illegal immigrants." Right.

That would explain why Hauptmann then apparently went online and posted the following at Stormfront, the white-supremacist Web site, under the pseud "Haupti" (the comment has apparently been scrubbed, but can be found in Google cache here:
Hello, fellow SF'rs. I was the screaming blonde in the video. I am shocked and dismayed at the blatant lies and distortions of what happened!!!!!! The uneventful incident lasted all of 2 minutes and we are all turned into evil whites picking on the poor mexcriment! I will laugh one day soon when the mexcriment are stealing from them and driving through their towns waving the mexcriment flag! Coming to a neighborhood near you!"

Nope, Nothin' hateful there, eh?

This, unfortunately, has come to typify the debate over immigration: Haters who just don't want to see brown people living in their formerly all-white towns and neighborhoods, people who fear the loss of white privilege more than anything, use any excuse to attack not merely immigrants, but anyone who disagrees with them, particularly if they are Latino themselves. And the rhetoric gets so hateful that the danger of violence becomes very real.

And then, of course, they proclaim to all within earshot that really, they don't hate immigrants -- just illegal ones.

Fortunately, the Pamela Hauptmanns of the world are, despite appearances, distinctly in the minority. Most Americans, as poll after poll has found, have a much more reasonable view of their new immigrant neighbors, and a far more likely to welcome them than to try to lynch them. But they are uncomfortable with the claims made by the haters -- that these immigrants are taking away jobs, that they're bringing crime, that they're invading and want to return the USA to Mexico. And they're especially susceptible to the notion that the only problem is that these people are coming illegally -- when, as we've seen, the legal status of these immigrants is not really what has these people up in arms.

No one is engaging the other side of the conversation on this: That perhaps the problem with "illegal aliens" is not the "aliens" but rather the dysfunctional law that renders them illegal.
And if we can have that conversation with ordinary Americans, I believe they'll listen.

As for the Pamela Hauptmanns of the world -- well, there isn't much point in even attempting a conversation there. But if the rest of us are talking -- really talking -- then they likely will be forced to retreat back to the fringes where they belong.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lou Dobbs goes off the rails

Now, there's a surprise: Another Lou Dobbs report, another round of Bizarro Universe Journalism!

Dobbs and his regular partner in dubious journalism, Casey Wian, yesterday filed a report on the Dreams Train -- purportedly in the "regular news" portion of Dobbs' daily CNN broadcast, though you'd never be able to tell this "reportage" from the punditry that Dobbs likes to reserve for his second half -- that was, well, simply a train wreck in terms of journalistic fairness, accuracy, or general truthfulness.

Of course, Dobbs has already long since passed the point of anything remotely resembling objectivity when it comes to his reportage on immigration. Indeed, some of his recent work -- particularly his nonsensical and flatly false reportage on leprosy statistics, and more egregiously his flat refusal to either correct it or even admit that it was wrong, including a bizarre kabukoi dance around the facts not just regarding leprosy but his own misbegotten reportage -- really raises valid questions about not merely Dobbs' journalistic ethics, but CNN's as well.

So let's run the transcript of last night's report:
DOBBS: The Catholic Church and amnesty advocates and lobbyists today taking a new approach to further their amnesty agenda, organizing an amnesty train -- legal immigrants lobbying for illegal aliens. They will be aboard the A train, riding the rails to Washington to take their case to Congress.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): All aboard the amnesty train.

CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, L.A. ARCHDIOCESE: American people want immigration reform, and they want a path to legal residents for the 12 million people.

WIAN: It's another political stunt by the Catholic Church, labor organizations, and others seeking to blur the distinction between legal immigrants and illegal aliens. The Dreams Across America tour's stated purpose is to share personal stories, dispel myths, and provide real facts about the need for immigration reform. But some of those hard facts are at best incomplete. For example, a survey showing 81 percent of Americans believe that no one in their family has lost a job to an immigrant. But organizers don't mention the negative impact of illegal immigration on wages.

Oh really? What negative impact is that?

In reality, nearly every study of illegal immigration's effects on wages indicates that there is no negative effect on wages, or even employment, except among the lowest tier of workers -- namely, high school dropouts and manual laborers. The only study to suggest anything to the contrary was produced by Harvard's George Borjas, who found that an influx of immigrants depressed wages and especially hurt African Americans. Dobbs' reportage leans heavily on Borjas, but he consistently fails to report that, as the New York Times reported, nearly every other labor economist in the country has found his conclusions specious.

What Wian and Dobbs don't tell their audiences, in fact, is that Borjas's study is considered an outlier by nearly every other economist who has examined the issue. As the Immigration Prof Blog notes, "The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with our lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth."

The big picture is that immigrants consistently help bolster the larger economy and help create a "tide that lifts all boats." As the Cato Institute observes: "Contrary to popular myth, immigrants do not push Americans out of jobs. Immigrants tend to fill jobs that Americans cannot or will not fill, mostly at the high and low ends of the skill spectrum. Immigrants are disproportionately represented in such high-skilled fields as medicine, physics and computer science, but also in lower-skilled sectors such as hotels and restaurants, domestic service, construction and light manufacturing."

In other words, it isn't progressive immigration-reform advocates who are neglecting to tell the public significant information on the matter that would put it in a realistic perspective. No, that would describe Dobbs and Wian.

Of course, that was only the tip of the disinformation iceberg in this report:
On taxes organizers say so-called undocumented workers pay $7 billion a year in Social Security taxes. But they neglect to mention the billions of dollars state taxpayers spend on education, health care and other benefits for illegal aliens.

Of course, it isn't merely Social Security taxes that are withheld from undocumented workers' paychecks; so are federal and state income taxes. You know, the taxes that pay for those education, health and other benefits.

The Immigration Prof Blog notes: "Immigrants pay taxes, in the form of income, property, sales, and taxes at the federal and state level. As far as income tax payments go, sources vary in their accounts, but a range of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes." Nor do immigrants disproportionately use those taxpayer-supported resources.

Indeed, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found the following: "Overall, annual taxes paid by immigrants to all levels of governments more than offset the costs of services received, generating a net annual surplus of $25 billion to $30 billion."

Worst of all, perhaps, was Wian's sneering approaching to the Dream Train participants who are trying to put a human face to all the statistics that are slung about by people like Wian and Dobbs -- whose approach, as we've seen, is either to rely on bogus information from white supremacists, or to grotesquely cherry-pick certain numbers that can support their predetermined theses, usually with little regard to the truthfulness that emerges with a broader approach:
This supporter claims her landscaping business will fail without amnesty.

CATHY GURNEY, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: Without fair and comprehensive immigration reform in our country we soon won't have access to legal workforce, which will result in having to close down our business, and I will leave 60 families without an income.

WIAN: Organizers say all of the 100 immigrants on board the four Washington, DC-bound trains have legal status in the United States.

SAMINA FAHEEM, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: Right now it is impacting my Latino brothers and sisters most. I want to stand with them. Because as a Muslim it is my duty to stop injustice.

WIAN: But some came here illegally including Luz Diaz who was brought across the border by her Mexican mother as a small child.

LUZ DIAZ, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: We are here because we love this country. We are here because we want to build this country, and now that we're here we should be having the same liberties.

WIAN: Diaz served in the Navy Reserves and is now a U.S. citizen with a nursing degree.


WIAN: Organizers hope stories like hers will help persuade lawmakers to give legal status to the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens now in the United States. So far, Lou, they have not succeeded.

DOBBS: Yeah. That's sort of a strange approach, to use legal immigrants to make a case for illegal immigration and amnesty. Bizarre thinking, even by Cardinal Mahony's standards.

Wait just a minute. Does Dobbs not listen to what his own reporter just said?
But some came here illegally

Now, it's true that none of the Dreamers are currently illegal. Do Dobbs and Wian actually expect an organization to put people who might be arrested and deported at any time into a high-publicity situation like this? Or are they just wishing someone on this trip would get arrested?

Remember, when we talk about Immigration Control and Enforcement, we're talking about a government agency that actually deports American citizens if they're merely suspected of being illegal and fail to prove their citizenship for any reason. That was recently demonstrated in the case of the 29-year-old Latino man, born in the USA, who was deported to Tijuana because he is developmentally disabled and unable to prove his status before he was shipped off to Mexico. His family is still searching desperately for him.

Of course, that perspective will never make its way into a Casey Wian report. Instead, we just get more sneering:
WIAN: Yeah, there's a lot strange about this effort. The organizers insist with a straight face, I might add, that this effort has nothing to do with any particular piece of legislation, they're not trying to influence law in any particular way, they're just trying to share stories to influence the American public and give them a better view of immigrants, Lou.

Fact: Dreams Across America does not support any particular legislation. Nor can Wian or Dobbs produce any evidence to the contrary, beyond their own demeaning innuendo. Indeed, I've detected nothing but a sincere effort to reach out and start a real conversation with real Americans about immigration -- and putting flesh and blood to the numbers. No doubt their approach to immigration is starkly removed from that of the nativists like Dobbs, Wian, and the whole pack of paleoconservatives who are trying to drive the debate with little more than scapegoating and demonization. And it is this last factor that gives the lie to Dobbs' final claim in this report:
DOBBS: Well, I don't think that the American public has demonstrated any lack of understanding of the importance of immigration or the importance of immigrants and the appropriateness of welcoming those more than 2 million folks who come here legally every year through our immigration system.

The issue is illegal immigration as far as I and a whole lot of other folks can discern. But it's I'm sure a nice train ride for everybody, no matter what. Thank you very much. Casey Wian.

This is, of course, the constant refrain we hear from Dobbs and his cohort. And it is, once again, complete and unmitigated nonsense.

If it's only illegal immigration that the nativists are constantly on the rampage about, then perhaps they can explain why so much of their reportage is directed at scapegoating all immigrants generally, and not just "illegals." To wit:

-- The reportage on leprosy and other diseases purportedly brought to this country by immigrants does not distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants at all. Rather, it's merely an ugly smear of the kind that nativists have used against immigrants since well before there were even laws declaring immigrants "illegal."

-- The wailing and gnashing of teeth from Dobbs and the rest of the nativist right over the Spanish-language version of the national anthem was all about the supposedly negative impact of the influx of Latin Americans (even though, in fact, there have been multiple linguistic versions of the anthem available for many decades now). This angst, again, was not inspired by illegal immigrants but, simply, Latino ones.

-- The bogus reportage on the supposed plot by Mexican immigrants to retake the Southwest and much of the West and return it to Mexican rule as "Aztlan" -- also known as the "Reconquista" theory -- once again did not make any distinction about the legality or illegality of the immigrants; it just made all Mexican immigrants out to be part of this plot. And as I've explained several times, the "Reconquista" theory not only has no real basis in fact, it was in fact concocted by white supremacists, and has been a featured conspiracy of various hate groups for well over a decade now.

Let's be honest: The nativists only use the law -- a misbegotten, unenforceable and completely dysfunctional law -- as a club for bashing Latino immigrants. And as the stories we'll be examining this week will make clear, there really is not a clear and bright line between legal and illegal immigrants in any case; legal immigrants with green cards can become illegal if they foul up their paperwork (which, considering the maze we've erected, happens more often than not) and those who cross the border illegally are capable of finding their own paths to legal citizenship.

Perhaps more importantly, a significant portion of "illegal immigrants" are in fact family members of legal immigrants: wives and husbands, children, mothers and fathers. The same faction that loves to shout "illegal!" at these immigrants also is fond of shouting "family values!" at the rest of us. But as always, they have a funny way of showing it.

Well, as I've said before: If Dobbs and Co. don't want us to be concerned that their immigrant-bashing is, at its base, bigoted scapegoating, then perhaps they'd do well to stop trotting out nakedly racist nonsense to support their cases.

Until then, I think our skepticism -- not just about Dobbs' intentions, but his journalistic ethics, as well as that of his entire news organization, which clearly is failing to hold him accountable -- is thoroughly warranted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dreams hit the rails

Union Station, the big train depot in Los Angeles, is always bustling in the daytime, but this afternoon there was an extra charge of energy as the Dreams Across America tour got underway with a full dose of press fanfare and boisterous support from well-wishers.

There was an air of palpable excitement among the forty or so “Dreamers” -- as the tour has designated the immigrants who are riding the train across the USA to share their stories with other Americans -- and support staff. Taking in the scene, one of them remarked to me: “This is history.”

There were about fifty supporters -- many of them wearing red T-shirts from one of the service workers’ unions that is co-sponsoring the tour, and waving red flags – shouting words of support. As we marched in a cluster up the corridor toward our platform, they chanted: “Si se puede!”

Once at the platform, we were greeted by a large phalanx of reporters: TV cameramen and crews lined up, radio reporters busy with mikes, print reporters trying to nab interviews amid the din. Station officials grew increasingly irate at the crowd as it flowed over the yellow lines that were supposed to be the barriers, especially the TV camera crews eager to get in a good shot.

There were brief words at the press event from Cardinal Roger Mahony, whose Los Angeles Diocese is another of the tour’s sponsors. “The American people want immigration reform, and they want a path to legal residents for the 12 million people,” he observed. He also led the crowd in prayer.

Cathy Gurney, another Dreamer whose landscaping business depends on Latino labor, was also clear about what she hopes to achieve by riding with the tour: “Without fair and comprehensive immigration reform in our country we soon won't have access to legal workforce, which will result in having to close down our business, and I will leave 60 families without an income.”

I met Gurney yesterday and we chatted for a bit. She related a story to me about that business: She went on the air with some local right-wing radio talk-show hosts who regularly bash “illegal aliens” on their show. Among their arguments was the claim that she was taking away jobs from white laborers. So Gurney took them up on their challenge, and the next week made a specific effort to recruit and hire white workers.

Gurney hired 13 of them and put them to work. Of them, 12 quit before the day’s work was through. The one who made it through the entire day did not come back the next.

Of course, when she went back to those talk-show hosts and reported the results of their challenge, they refused to put her on the air.

You’ve gotta wonder how many of those right-wing talkers bothered to show up today at Union Station and meet some real immigrants.

In any event, we all piled on board the train after awhile, found our seats, and slowly trundled our way out of L.A. We now sit somewhere near Pomona, waiting for oncoming trains to clear the tracks, and then off we go to Tucson, our first real stop on the tour.

You can check out a map of our itinerary here. And note, of course, that this is not the only “Dreams Train” on the tracks; three other trains taking other routes will be part of the campaign, but this one is the only one going across the entire country.

Should be fun and fascinating. Here’s hoping you enjoy the ride along with us.

Coming shortly: Lou Dobbs goes off the rails.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The haters and Obama

-- by Dave

The outpouring of right-wing bile regarding Barack Obama and his presidential candidacy has probably already played a role in the Secret Service security detail he's already been given.

Unsurprisingly, the even more poisonous versions of that bile are inspiring white supremacists as well.

Fox News Chicago on Monday ran a report on the startling increase in hate groups across America that featured an interview with Ray Larsen, whose real name is Railston Loy (see more here on that), the Grand Wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan International. In it, Loy said this regarding Obama:
Well, I'm not going to have to worry about him, because somebody else down South is going to take him out. ... If that man is elected president, he’ll be shot sure as hell.

It's difficult to say how seriously the warning should be taken -- Klansmen have largely been all hood and no cattle for some time now. At the same time, as the story notes, it only takes one of these characters deciding to take action that can have devastating consequences.

It's also worth noting that Loy ascribes the recent spike in white-supremacist recruitment and activity to the immigration debate. Longtime readers of this blog, of course, are well aware that I've been observing that immigration has become a major recruitment tool for hate groups for the past couple of years. Loy's remark is not exactly confirmation, but it certainly is a bit of substantiating evidence.

Interview with an immigrant: II

[Continuing my series of interviews with the Nisei children of Japanese immigrants early in the 20th century. Below is my third interview with Tom Takeo Matsuoka, which took place Aug. 31, 2000, a little less than a year before he died at the age of 98. Once again, his daughter, Rae Takekawa, sat in on the interview and assisted.]

DN: How old were you when you went back to Japan?

Tom Matsuoka: Three.

DN: And how old were you when your mother died?

TM: Same year. I remember we went back in the spring. And she died in September.

DN: And your grandfather raised you?

TM: Yes. Oh, you know. It was a funny situation with my parents, you know. My parents were cousins, you know. My grandpa, his sister, younger sister, was married ... Well, one of my mother's ... My dad, and her, why they married, because they wanted to come to Hawaii. My dad wanted to come to Hawaii. And, oh, it was a big farm, but he was drafted in the Army. And that time, in Japan, was cleaning up Taiwan. Because China and Japan war, and China gives Taiwan to Japan because they lost the war, you know. Well, I think Taiwan really was a jungle, so the government of Japan wanted to clean it up. And so they wanted to send the Japanese Army to Taiwan to clean it up. And really, there were still headhunters in Taiwan, see.

Well, but they thought the Army should be from warm country in Japan, should go to Taiwan. And where I was raised was a pretty warm place, you know. So I guess my dad was drafted, and they were training to go Taiwan. I guess on the really hot days, they were training outside, and my dad had a sunstroke.

So, I guess, oh, that was no good. Kid like that don't fit. So that's why they released him.

So my dad was really disappointed, and he come home. And that's why it happened to be he thought about moving to Hawaii. Because in Hawaii, the sugar company, they were recruiting for the labor in Japan, you know. Well, and my dad went to the recruiting place. They said, 'No, no more, no more, that's all filled up. If you were married and a family, maybe you’d have a chance to go.'

Well, he come home and -- 'How am I gonna do it, get married? I have to find a woman!' So I guess the whole family talked, 'If you want to go to Hawaii that much, why, the only that is left is his cousin,' my mother, you know. That was the way they get married. They went to the consul to Hawaii because, if married, people why they could come to Hawaii.

That was a sure funny thing. That's why, when my mother died, why I was raised by the dad's side grandpa and the mother's side grandma. [Laughs]

I remember when I was smaller, I always hung around on my mother's side.

DN: How big was the farm that your grandfather had?

TM: Oh, he had a really good farm. He had one man as a hired hand, you know. That was a small village, and small acreage, and that man who hired at farm is supposed to be good farm, in those times.

So most of the Japanese who emigrated first, the idea was the same, I guess. They, uh -- one year income, and very small, but if, in America and Hawaii, if they exchange, Japan man needs American money, so it make a difference, see? So, if work three years, well, they think they can make a fortune. [Laughs]

DN: What kind of crops did you raise on that farm?

TM: Oh, the biggest crop was rice, and millet.

DN: When you were farming later, and you were farming strawberries and cucumbers and things like that, did you learn all that in the States?

TM: In those days, I didn't see nothing vegetable in our foods in Japan, where I was raised. Those all came later.

The only thing at the farm is the grain. Of course, the family would grow vegetables. I know cucumber we ate. My grandpa used to grow the cucumber. And the Japanese had no potato, they call it umo. Those were the things they used to eat. All this stuff so you would eat at the house.

DN: What religion was your grandfather?

TM: Grandpa was a pretty strict man. He was really religious, too, a strong Buddhist religious, grandpa. That's why I was raised in a Buddhist family, so I am still Buddhist.

DN: You say your father was strict. Did he also bring you up to be patriotic and loyal to Japan?

TM: You know, in Japan, at the school, when I went in those days -- oh, that's a long time ago, you know -- I think it starts at six or seven -- in the six years, the government ruled, you have to go to school six years. And then, after that, it is your choice -- stay home or you want to go to junior school. But you have to pay tuition after six years. I think I used to take ten cents or fifteen cents -- I'm pretty sure ten cents -- that every month to take. You know, but, I say, only few people can afford to pay it.

That's why if you go to the junior, that family most of them well-to-do. Otherwise, they can't go, you know. That ten cents, that's big money, you know. Because lots of candy and stuff, half-cents, they start from half-cent, you know. Quite make a difference in what people think now.

Well, anyway, if you go to junior school, junior high school, anyway, there's not so many. You have to walk a long way to go to those junior schools, you know. And, oh man, I know I have to walk a long way.

About halfway was Mr. Nakashima's. That's how many miles, I don't know. And their kids used to come to the same school. A long way to go to the junior school, you know. Anyway, after I graduated the six years I started at the junior school. I remember every month or so, ten cents I had to take to the tuition.

DN: Did they teach you to be loyal to Japan and that sort of thing?

TM: You know, in Japan, system was different before the war. Often when you go to the junior high school, you have to decide what you gonna be after you graduate. So, you want to be the teacher or carpenter, you have to decide. And you decide what school you go in, what future you gonna be. So after you graduate at the junior high, why you have to go to the different school, you know.

Only thing that was really strict was the military school. That have to be the good family, and good grades. If you have some relation in the military, then it's pretty easy go in. But otherwise, pretty hard to go in to military school. Because, and no, one thing, it was a pretty popular school in those days. Because when I went to school was right after the Japan and Russian war. After the Japan and Russian war, Japan win that war. That's why the military really was popular. But it was really hard to get into the military school.

DN: Did you try?

TM: No. The funny thing in my situation was that I wanted to be the schoolteacher, after I finished junior high school. My grandpa, he wanted me to be the merchant. And then, my dad -- never is a write nothing, but when he find out I graduate junior high here, he wrote, and he wrote to grandpa, want to try the military school. He was in this country and want me to try for the military school! My grandpa really upset, you know. 'I don’t know what gonna do. So now I have to sort out this bunch of bunk here. Because the dad wants military school, and we all want you to stay here, and you want to be the school teacher and I want you to be the merchant.'

So they talk, and finally, well, in that days, why, 'Maybe Dad want to see you too, so you go to America first. Then if you don't like it, come right back.' So he thought that was the best way to go to America and see what the country looked like. So if you think that you stay, why you'll stay, and otherwise, I'll send the money and you come right back.' Well, that's the way I end up.

DN: Did you want to go to America, or were you disappointed that you were being sent?

TM: No, I just do what grandpa say. Oh, maybe want to go see. That's what I think idea was when I thought maybe I would come, you know. I was fifteen years old at that time. It was pretty hard to make up your mind, you know. So, what grandpa says, that's what I always did.

Fifteen years and six months, that's what I was.

DN: So then you got on that long boat ride.

TM: If you come once, it's pretty hard to go right back, you know.

I don't know. At first, I didn't like it too well. Because I came to Seattle in February ... Anyway, end of February, I think it was that I came to Seattle. In a place called Barneston. That's where I end up. That's where my dad was working. Well -- snow, snow in February. And Dad said, 'You want to walk, go start the school? Well, but there isn’t much of a school in Barneston.' 'Oh, that's all right, I walk.' So my dad took me to the foreman in lumber yard, and they, 'That's where I bring him.' 'We give you job.' And what he gave me was shoveling snow. Every day, every day, I have to shovel the snow. Aww.

Oh, I said, 'Gee, this is hard work.' And oh, Dad said, 'Oh I think someday I'm going to [sell real estate] or something.' 'Oh,' I said, 'that's a big money, you know. I might as well I stay, then.' So I stayed. [Laughs]

Anyway, at the school in Japan, like I say, you know, you have to be very good family, otherwise you didn't have a chance to go to school. But anyway, eight months that you have to get after you graduate as a schoolteachers' school, then if you start teaching, eight there months, and that was pretty big money for those days in Japan. That's why I wanted to be schoolteacher.

DN: You were a kibei, weren’t you?

TM: Yeah. Because it's one who was born in this country, and they go to Japan, and educated, and then come back, they called kibei. I am one of those then.

Anyway, during the first World War, I stayed in Japan, see. I know that Japan and England have some kind of treaty. And England had part in China, and Japan went there in the fort where the German people, and they clean up. In town where I raised, they bring the German prisoner. I remember, we went to see those German prisoners.

Anyway, 1914 to 1919, during the war time, I was in Japan. During war time, this country really boomed, everything.

DN: How long did it take for you to become comfortable here?

TM: I don't even know one word of English. We always talk Japanese. We don't even know how the English start, and have to start with the first word. [Laughs]

DN: How did you learn English?

TM: I had to start the night school. I went to school, mostly night school. I went to the YMCA school.

And you know, it's a funny thing. After I married, same way. You know, a Japanese family, in the home, talk all that Japanese, you know. Ah, it pretty hard to learn the English, you know. Oh, like James [his half-brother] says, he knew no words of English, when they came to O'Brien to start school, you know. After I married, the same way. We lived with the wife's mother. All talked the Japanese. You know, hard to learn, that's why she [points to Rae] knows lots of Japanese. Because in the home, we used to talk Japanese all the time.

Well, that's the way I started in this country, anyway.

DN: Did you take night classes for a long time?

TM: Oh, you know, Dad started the farm because Dad, in 1903, we went to Japan, and he worked for the Great Northern, when they started the Great Northern Railroad company, that's when they put the railroad between Seattle and Chicago. So they need lots of men, so they came to Hawaii recruiting for the railroad. That's what my dad, after we went back to Japan, we had a small farm in Hawaii too I think. So my dad quit that small farm and then recruit for the railroad labor. And that's why he came to this country. And he started in the railroad.

Well, he worked there some years, and he had a rough time when my mother was dead. So I guess Dad was thinking about going back to Japan. Well, then they said that if you farm, you make a fortune. So he started farming on Vashon Island. They said they cleared up the field in Vashon and started strawberries. Then, they had pretty good money. That's how dad started. I think he rented five acres and cleaned up the land and started strawberries.

Well, he started, and he found out that just a bachelor, pretty hard farming, because in the morning and nighttime, you have to cook and wash the dishes. So this way, he thought that maybe it impossible to stay on the farm. He wanted company. So he wrote to Japan, and wanted a wife. Would they send a wife? Well, in the meantime, they had a few Japanese missus[es] over in this country already. And one missus going back, she pretty close to our old place in Japan. So I guess that she told him, my dad, 'Oh, I going to find somebody.' That's why it was that she found it. And that's how she came to this country. Well, they didn't know each other. It's called a picture bride.

I think she came out in 1910 or something like that. Just right after Mr. [Taft] in 1908. Anyway, after he [Taft] became president, then all the farm, everything is broke. My dad, the same way, and he broke. So they started in the sawmill.

DN: At Barneston?

TM: Yeah, Barneston. He started the farm in 1921, I think it was.

DN: Anyway, Mr. Wilson quit, and Mr. Harding is come in. He died right away. Then Mr. Coolidge.

TM: Well, then my brother in Barneston, was no school. And have to go to school, and they start, you know. So all that time, he decided, maybe he start farming again. So that's how he started farming in O'Brien.

You know, the first year he started, he contracted the cabbage. Ten acres of cabbage, to the Libby Canning company. Oh, ten acres of cabbage you have to plant by the hand, that takes a long time. Yeah. He called me. I was in the sawmill, and I wanted to come help, you know. So I went to help, and planted cabbage every day, every day, every day. Oh, it started around May, I think. By the Fourth of July, oh, it look like the tail end, but we're still planting. Aww, gee. Ten acres is a lot of cabbage, you know.

He farmed there just one year was all. Then he quit the cabbage business, and then he start by the Barneston, close to the highway. He started working other vegetables.

DN: What year did you meet Kazue?

TM: I met her 1925, I think. See, in 1925, those days, I think started in '24, I started working in Seattle Parlor Furniture Factory, that's the name of it. That's a Japanese company, you know. Well, Mr. Maeda is the manager, and his wife came from Japan, and he had one boy, and he was gonna have another boy, so he want someone to help, you know, help her. That was in the summertime. Well, happen in the summer vacation, and my wife is came to work for Mr. Maeda's wife and helping her. And I was working in that furniture factory.

And then I -- yeah, 1926, got married, November.

DN: And did you move to Bellevue after you got married?

TM: Oh, after that -- You know, my wife, the family, the father was dead, 1923 I think he died. And the mother was raising three girls and the one boy. He had another older boy, but he was a Kibei too. No, not Kibei, because he born in Japan. And he was -- he didn't get along with the family. And he came to Portland and he lived in Portland.

Anyway, three girls and one boy, that's what my wife's mother was raising. Pretty hard time. But she tried to stay and hang around in the small farm, you know. That's why, after married, I used to go help them on Saturday and Sunday, you know.

But then she -- Then my wife got pregnant in the springtime. So, I told her that I think we better move to your home, then I can help more your mother and it'll be much easier for pains, and stay with the family. So I moved to Bellevue.

And you know, I worked in Seattle, and oh, but you know, no car, nothing. Go to Seattle, you have to take the ferry to Leschi Park. Then you have to ride in the cable car. And the cable car take you down to the Pioneer Avenue, you know. Then I transfer onto another streetcar and go to this Seattle Parlor Furniture Factory. This factory was pretty close to Fort Lawton. That's the other side of Ballard, you know. A long ride, you know.

[I show him anti-Japanese articles from 1919 in the Seattle Star.]

TM: The Star is everything against Japan or the Japanese, that's what they put out. Oh, look -- picture brides. That when they made them stop. 1923, I think it was.

DN: What about the Alien Land Law?

TM: You know, that's -- they made that to really look bad for them to try to come to this country. But all the same, pile up, pile up, pile up, that's what started in Japan and American war.

DN: When did you feel that you were going to stay in America?

TM: Oh yeah, after the kids. I had three boys and two girls, and I never thought about those things. I know that I'm gonna be in the land of opportunity someplace. And oh, you know. Of course, there's three horses, chickens and everything. And my wife is born in Bellevue. But we never thought had to go back to Japan or anything. It's a funny thing, but my kids, none of them went to Japanese school, you know.

We never thought about those things in those days. But we didn't use the Japanese school, because both of us were speaking in English, you know. Idea to stay here, see.

DN: [To Rae] Did you speak English at home?

Rae Takekawa: Mmm-hm.

DN: So, no Japanese spoken in the house?

RT: Oh, yeah, there was Japanese, because he spoke some, and then we had a grandma. And so we all spoke.

TM: She speak Japanese better than all those kids went to Japanese school.

RT: Well, that's because we used it when we were little.

TM: Tats was very good.

RT: Was. Not anymore. Don't use it, you lose it.

DN: Was the Japanese school kind of a way for Issei to keep authority over the kids?

TM: You know, the Japanese school, when the war started, Second World War started, I think that about 80 kids were there. It was big, a big Japanese school. Because all the first generation, they think they have to learn the Japanese. Oh, but those kids just go for eating lunch, that's all. They don't learn nothing. They talk the English all the time back and forth, you know.

Well, even now, I don't know. Any kids they have a chance to use the Japanese side, I don't think so.

DN: A lot of them I talked to said that they hated it.

RT: I know his feeling was that we wouldn't learn Japanese properly just by going one day a week, you know. It was a Saturday deal out in the country. And he said that if you really wanted to learn it, you should go live in the country. You should go back to Japan and live there, and learn it there.

TM: You know, back in Japanese school, I read in Mr. Tsushima book [an Issei immigrant's account of the early Bellevue Japanese American community], around 1919 they started, I think, but they had to quit 1921 or so, because it against -- Japan and -- [points to clippings] -- yeah, like that -- That's why they close the school. And I think three or four years then they open again, but they have to change the name. And then they change their name and their name now open. Anyway, they had hard time to hire the teachers. So I think when they start again, was Mr. Tsushima and Mr. and Mrs. Okamura and all those people help to teach, you know, keep it going. Then they hired some teacher from Seattle, I think.

Well, everything they were saying those times is a quiet down, then increase, increase is all the kids -- Some parents are the kind that, you know, what you say, and they didn’t send the kids. But pretty soon they start sending kids.

I was gonna say before that. In the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, there was no transportation because nobody had the car. If they lived close to the school building, they can walk, and I think Midlakes is just about as far as they can walk. Mr. Kurita here, and in Medina, and whoever farming crops there, they can't send the kids to Japanese school. And if I'm not mistaken, that Japanese school was in Downey Hill. So whoever had the chance to walk there is come, you know.

But into the 1930s, is people starting to getting the second-hand car, and somebody in the neighborhood have transportation to the school. That's why the increase and increase, you know. Before the Second World War, I think is around eight years or so.

There's a mother, one of the teachers -- Mr. Tajitsu and Mrs. Takekawa, they used to come teach at the Bellevue School on Saturday. And so they come on the ferry, and somebody have to go on the ferry and pick them up, and take them back to the ferry after the school. I never sent the kids, and had nothing to the Japanese school. So I don't know so much about the school.

[Tom Matsuoka with his sons Tats and Tyrus outside the Bellevue Vegetable Growers Association warehouse in the 1930s.]

DN: How about the Vegetable Growers Association? How did that start?

TM: Well, you know, the vegetable growers idea, everybody had the idea. We have to pay the commission to the buyer, you know. For our vegetable, well they take, I don’t know how much. Anyway, that commission was a pretty big commission, you know. That’s why everybody hoped that maybe, if we own our own self, we can make back the commission, you know. That’s the idea that it started, I think.

DN: Who were the leaders?

TM: I don't know who started. Really, like myself, it really was a favor as some way to sell ourself, you know. I don't know, I can't say who started.

Anyway, Puget Sound Vegetable Growers Association, that's a warehouse in Sumner, and most of the growers were around Fife, Fife and Sumner. And they had already before Bellevue. And we knew they were doing very well. So they started to talk.

Already Sumner was doing that. Then, you know, is Mr. Sakahara, he was secretary manager for long time at Puget Sound. But he at one time lived in Bellevue too. So could be some friend he had in Bellevue. And he could have told them how they operate and how much it cost.

You know, we have to ask to some our sales, you know. Sell us the car. We load up in the car, and then have to ship it back East, but we have to find some buyer back East where this car go, you know. That's what White River, Mr. Saito's packing house. And they were doing that before.

So first we ask them to the sales. We load up the car and they did the sales. That's how it started. Kinda shaky, you know, the financial. That's why we asked Puget Sound to sell us our car. So we load, but sales, what you call it, Puget Sound Dealers --

RT: A sales agent.

TM: Well, it was pretty good. That didn't take commission, and we done real good. And the funny thing, we had Northern Pacific, they had the railroad that goes through Midlake. And we have the place to load the car, so we asked Northern Pacific for a sideline. And build a warehouse so that we can load up there and ship it out in the car, you know. So they did that.

So in 1935 or somewhere around there, Northern Pacific they kind of give up the building because they have to keep it up, and the paint and this and that, and what they get for the chargeable freight from around fifty or sixty cars didn't pay. So they wanted to save that from that building. So we had a meeting, and I said, 'I think the best way is we buy it, then it will be our own building, that we can use for storage too.' Oh so finally, I think it was $350 or something -- it was very cheap -- Northern Pacific sold us, so we bought that building. We can't buy the railroad, but we bought that building.

And well, so, we thought, oh, this is ours, this is our building. So the war started, and we rented it out. Then in 1955, I think around 1955 or 6, somebody wanted to buy it, buy that building. Well, there wasn't too many Japanese left in Bellevue. So they had a little meeting, so I was in Montana, oh they wanted me to come. So I came too. And oh, anyway, not too many Japanese stayed in Bellevue that time, 1954, 55. And, it was OK, we sell. Anyway, it was quite a chunk of money, because at that time the price went up a lot. And of course the railroad helped the offer. So anyway it sold, and we have to distribute all this money. So tried to find whoever paid the $25 when we started. So we had to say -- I don’t know how many boys were there, not too many, anyway they tried to find, and most of them they find. And by gosh, when divided, that $25 was just around $600. Around $600, $700 each. That’s a full year of food for a family, you know. Everybody was tickled.

Tok was there, my brother in law, Tok was still there. And, well, Matsanuga, he had a small eating shop on Main Street and Fifth Avenue there. And Tok said, you know, we went with the check, and Mr. Matsunaga just about jumped up to the ceiling, he was surprised to get the money. So he was, ‘Everybody eat all you want, that is on the house!’

That’s how end up the warehouse. But one I don’t know how end up is the Kokkaido Building, Japanese hall, and the schoolhouse there. I don’t know how they end up.

DN: I wanted to ask about your arrest. Did you have any idea that the FBI had been watching you?

TM: Oh, when the war started. I don’t know, no. I think the FBI, they know that a war gonna start. And if a war start, who they gonna pick up. I guess they all know it, I think. Of course, my was totally by surprise.

Anyway, they picked them up, and went to the Immigration. That’s where the first they -- all the ones they picked up they bring out to the Immigration building. They picked them up, then went in. They don’t even say name: “99!” My number was 99. Oh, that’s it. They knew, 99, who it is. So they must have been already prepared.

And now I went in, in the one room -- ‘Holy smoke! You come too, Tom? Aw, doggone it!’ And that was, the country people in company -- export-import company people was in room where I went in. There must have been 40 or so.

Then next morning, said breakfast, and here they went, and a whole bunch of Japanese was in the hall already! ‘Oh, there you are! You in the house too!’ That’s all we know. But we know that the leader in Seattle town, all those one are picked up first, I think. Those people were already there for eating breakfast.

Oh, they got to talking and it’s back and forth, back and forth. ‘Is Freddie here? Is Freddie coming?’ [Laughs]

DN: Did you have any idea that they had you on a list?

TM: Anyway, when we got picked up, we don’t know what, why, you know, they have you picked up. Somebody must have asked them someone who people know, is people, you know. Why in the heck do they have to pick up all the Japanese leaders? Well, that’s why. If there’s something on the head, that’s what they pick.

DN: Did it have anything to do with being Kibei?

TM: No, nothing to do with Kibei. If you were an American citizen, I think not supposed to pick. Because when I first went in, was lawyer, master lawyer, it was Ito, and all this lawyer for Kiyahara, the manager for main fish company; and all this American boys, you know; but December 27, so oh, they gonna send to Missoula. And at that time, all who had citizenship paper didn’t have to go. And they released them from Immigration office. And I couldn’t be released because I didn’t have paper.

And whoever had good father or somebody still alive and still didn’t have birth certificate paper, but they didn’t take them because their father is there, you know, and they know is American citizen. So Kibei is originally American citizen. See, that’s why they didn’t take it.

When we went to Missoula, I think they made a mistake. They released right away one boy. That was it, I didn’t have the paper.

RT: Well, they had both citizenships, a lot of them.

TM: Like a me too.

RT: Yeah, he did too. So he says that some of them already revoked one or the other.

TM: When it was haiseki [a term referring to anti-Japanese prejudice, in this case the 1914-24 period], you know, well, it was quite complicated stuff. That’s why lots of Kibei took the Japan [Japanese term].

RT: He says it’s a lot of it due to the prejudice. So that’s why he says that a lot of them gave up their American citizenship.

DN: But he never felt that way, I gather.

TM: No.

RT: He had a hard enough time getting here.

DN: Were there Army barracks at Fort Missoula?

TM: No. The Army barracks the Italians were in.

RT: Oh, what were you in?

TM: When they want to take in the prisoners here, is new buildings.

RT: Oh, they made them.

TM: Yeah. Just like in the camp. The same kind of buildings. It's a building.

Missoula, you know, they think that was a hell of a cold place, you know. But it's not -- Missoula is not that cold.

People in Montana, they call it the Banana Belt.

Well, nothing to do all day long. So we go outside and dig up the rock, and we give it a wash and clean up with a blanket, and go to the bathroom and right in the cement -- ahh hey! Quite a thing.

DN: When you left the camp, why did you take the whole family?

TM: Because we had the whole family, when we go to the sugar beets, Mr. Blatter said, best if we have six men, that is the best crew for harvesting the sugar beets. That’s why the five of use -- me and Kaz and the three kids, Tats and Ty and you -- Rudy was two or three, and one short. That’s why we took Tik, that’s my wife’s sister. And it made six-man crew.

DN: You didn’t like the camps, did you?

TM: Oh, but you think about that, the camp life, oh, that’s hard. You were going to school in the camp?

RT: Not yet.

TM: That’s it. No school. Like the younger boy, Ty, day in and day out, go to look for the scorpion, that’s what he was doing. Then go out in hills and try to find that Indian arrowhead. Oh, I said, this is not the place to stay. Oh, Kaz said, let’s go out.

Now we finished harvesting, is the kids start school. That was first year. They start school you know. Then winter come.

DN: I wanted to ask you about baseball.

TM: Oh yes. When I was young, I played baseball, baseball, baseball. There was nothing else to do, you know.

But anyway, between 1920 and 30, I was young, and no one played golf.

DN: What position did you play?

TM: I always was a catcher.

RT: His fingers are all bent from being a catcher.

TM: Anyway, I stayed 48 years, you know, in Montana. Oh but that was not so bad a place for to live. You know, Montana, people is a nice. Naturally, the weather is bad, but the people is really nice.

I had company from back East, one of the boys' relation came and they stayed one time. And she, Mrs. Hanawaske, want to walk in the morning. And she go out to walk in the road. And she said, ‘I don’t know how many people stop and want to take me to where I am going. I have to tell them I am walking.’ Oh, so I said, ‘Montana people can’t understand walking.’

RT: Oh yeah, that was in the days before people did walk for exercise.

TM: You know, like when you have trouble on the road, flat tire or something, oh, they always stop.

DN: Japanese society is very class-conscious. Did the class status transfer from Japan to the USA?

TM: No. Nothing in this country. They talk on the back. But never in the company, get-together, no nothing. But in the back they usually talk. You know. Like when one family married, is Sakuich now, Takeshini, and other family, I think they didn’t have a father or something. And the missus used to talk, ‘Oh they think that they really big, but in Japan, that a stink.’ So they talk in the back something like that. But in public never had trouble like -- no.

But until I get married around that age -- or even a year later -- had lots of family investigate the family in Japan. So when they get married or something. Like my stepmother, same way. When marry, when the boys went to get married in California, and mother send the investigators to her brother, and what later came back was ‘Nakasaki’s fired.’ Oh, she said, no, you can’t marry him. But my sister stayed unmarried.

RT: Yeah, poor Molly. That sort of thing held on for awhile.

TM: That happened a lot, you know.

RT: Yes, yes, I know. Even Tok.

TM: Mr. Nakashima, he is -- someone told my dad that there was a nice girl, and she’s of age to get married, how would be Mr. Nakashima for wife? So I asked him, would -- [couple of names] or something -- the girl who was of marriage age, why didn’t you marry her? ‘Well, if it, we’ll look, and if it all right, why I marry.’ ‘Oh, why don’t right away you go and look at what she like.’ Oh, he went and look. And he was touched by the heart, you know. But he said, ‘I think I have to write to Japan and ask them if it’s all right or not.’ And he wrote to Japan, and the father sent the letter back to Nakashima-san, and, ‘No, that’s not a suitable family, so you can’t get married.’ Oh, so he really despondent. Yeah, he tell me. ‘My dad said no, that family is no good in Japan, so you can’t get married.’ Oh, he was really strict.

You know, your dad is told, so I thought this would be all right. And, ‘Well, how we can be happy if family in Japan is not satisfied or the dad.’ So he didn’t get married.

RT: No, he never got married. I’m sure there’s one or two of those.

TM: That’s all kind of case like that.

DN: Well, some of the folks at the reunion would say things like, ‘Oh, the Matsuokas were a better class of family than ours,’ and things like that. And I wasn’t sure if they meant the old class status from Japan or where you stood in the States.

RT: I think that the one advantage that we had was that our mother spoke English. I mean, she was educated. That’s the only thing I can think of. Because financially, any kind of background that might have carried over from the old country, we didn’t have anything out of the ordinary.

DN: How did you get out of Fort Missoula?

TM: Well, in this hearing, the hearing board was one FBI, and some well-known people of the neighborhood, you know. And the one was [inaudible], some labor connection -- I think he was a bank president of Orting or someplace. They must have another banker there -- Anyway, what they asked, not too much about the Bellevue stuff, you know. Only thing they ask about is when I took the boys to Japan. That’s most of -- lots of question. Main thing, why is you a second-generation American and you lots of Japanese groups’ officer. I did religion stuff and Nihonjinkai, you know. Oh, then come into the camp, what they ask you, how does the board ask you, what do they ask, and they talk this and that, you know. But hearing other people talk, I think is state of Washington FBI people was much, much better than the California. Oh, California people said that when they had hearing, oh I guess they really hit hard.

RT: What did you answer, when they asked you why you were the officer for so many Japanese groups?

TM: Oh, I said I’m not Japanese. I said, Even I’m an American citizen, still I am in Japanese. Because the American government did not support the Japanese. They didn’t do nothing for the Japanese, you know.

DN: Can you describe old-time Bellevue for me?

TM: That was it, around sixty families. Oh, but kids, every family have a bunch of kids, you know.

Oh, Bellevue town. Bellevue town was really small. Really just a one-street town. Only good store was the drug store, that’s all.

DN: Kirkland was the bigger town back then, right?

RT: Oh, yeah. Kirkland was the city.

TM: Town was a really small town. Oh yeah. You know, our next door was -- who was that? Mr, ah, he open up soft ice cream place.

RT: Who, Alberts?

TM: Alberts!

RT: Oh, Mr. Alberts.

TM: Yah. But I think he broke, I am pretty sure. He went to Alaska, you know.

RT: That’s right, he went to Alaska, so he disappeared into Alaska.

DN: How long did you do that long commute?

TM: In 1926, we married. I think in ’27, I bought a 1926 Ford car, second-hand. Not a real second-hand. Preview. He died and he want to sell, I think Mr. Odell or something, and that’s why I bought that 1926 Ford. After that, well, I thought that nothing’s easier than this. Man! Go to the Medina boat there, and Tok come and he drive. Oh, it was good.

I think it must be before you born. Because for you, I can’t take to hospital, nothing but the sick for hospital. So midwife, that’s Mrs. Nomura, she lived in Seattle. I think I went to get her through Renton, have to go down through Renton and Rainier Avenue.

RT: All the way around.

TM: Oh, yes, long time to get her. Oh, and hard time till you were born. And then, man.

RT: Took a long time for me to get in the world, huh?

TM: Yah.

RT: I always heard about that.

TM: You know, there was no electricity, you know, 1927, no electricity. I don’t know how they start electricity. Anyway, I think next year or so I put the electricity.

DN: How about running water?

TM: Oh, no no, that took a long time to get. You have to get the electricity.

RT: Well, even so, we had a well, we used to have pull up the darn buckets from the well.

TM: Oh, grandma was so tickled when running water, you know.

RT: And even then it was just running cold water.

TM: In 1942, we went to harvesting the beets in Chinook -- no electricity, no running water. Toilet outside.

RT: Waaay outside. It was cold, too.

But we were laborers, and we were given the labor house, and it was two rooms for six people -- one room for sleeping and one room for the rest of the stuff.

TM: Two years after we move to Gus place, finally we have the electricity.


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