I took a quick look at this video promoting downtown Cleveland as a hip, diverse place full of opportunities for life and business. My first impression is that it covers all the bases one might imagine in terms of gender, ethnicity and race. The Cavaliers and Browns are wisely featured not the Indians. Given its target audience, it is not particularly socioeconomically diverse–being quite the well scrubbed film–but that is to be expected.
I wonder if this means that those in search of a vibe only found on the coasts can now come to my backyard.
Listening to last week’s This American Life podcast “Switcheroo,” I noticed that the Philippines played a prominent role. First, the Philippines were the source of cheap labor in the story about outsourcing local journalism and reporting. The piece talked of how a company providing local news content has farmed out writing responsibilities to Filipino writers paid cents per article. Additionally, they did not get credit for the articles, instead having to select generic traditionally American sounding computer generated pseudonyms. This American Life also gave the writers a limited voice, reaching out to contact one but only quoting him saying a single word.
Second, in the final piece in the show, the Philippines were the source of a mail-order bride who did not take a maternal interest in her new stepdaughter. This mail-order bride later sued her stepchildren for possession of the family home when her husband took up with another Filipino bride and fled to the Philippines. The entire piece is a narrative from the stepdaughter and except for a brief fact checking epilogue, no other source is presented and the brides have no voice.
Taken together, the listener gets a view of the Philippines as a source of oppressed workers with limited options open to being exploited by Americans. Also, the stories reinforce the sense of Filipinos as low-cost laborers willing to make money in ways the average American would not accept. What listeners do not get is a sense of Filipinos as authors of their own stories, as speakers in their own voice.
I know this show was not meant as a piece on the Philippines, but it did strike me in a way as a microcosm of the history of American interactions with the Philippines, interactions that have involved imperial occupation and an unwillingness to listen to authentic Filipino leadership. See Stanley Karnow’s “In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines” for details.
Charles Garcia’s piece for CNN “Why Illegal Immigrant is a Slur” makes a strong argument that this is a loaded term and should be avoided. This is not a new argument and I do not intend to rehash the all the arguments on both sides. I will point out that what I see as one original point and that is Garcia’s invocation of language from the recently decided Supreme Court case, Arizona v. United States.
In the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy writes, “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”
This quotation alone gives clear support to those like me who oppose the use of “illegal immigrant.” If it is not a crime for an individual stay in the country when his or her status is such that he or she could be deported, how is he or she “illegal”? As Justice Kennedy points out immigration violations are civil not criminal offenses. Therefore, there are much more accurate terms to use (like Kennedy’s “removable alien”) that do not presuppose criminality the way “illegal alien” does.
It is also worth noting that in this entire decision, except when quoting other sources, the justices do not use the term “illegal alien.” The Supreme Court is obviously fallible (see Plessy v. Ferguson for example), but I am happy to be able to use the weight of this august institution in making this linguistic point.
Manuel Bartsch of Gilboa, Ohio in 2006 after he was released from the Bedford Heights jail where he was awaiting deportation. The case against him was later dropped but he has remained in legal limbo for seven years since. (Photo by John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer)
This morning Manuel Bartsch was on the cover of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Bartsch is an Ohio youth from Germany who is an undocumented immigrant. President Obama’s recent decision not to deport individuals brought to America before age 15 who have a clean record benefits Bartsch. In 2006 he received a lot of local coverage when he was jailed and nearly deported, so it is logical that a decision that gives him a chance to remain and get a job would lead to his being back in the paper.
When Bartsch was first in the news the coverage was quite sympathetic as he had been brought to America by his godfather who left him behind at which point Bartsch discovered he was not here legally and would up jailed about to be deported. These sad circumstances aside, at that time I found the amount of sympathetic coverage he got troublesome. I was not sure an undocumented youth from Mexico would get the same coverage with the same tone even under the same circumstances.
Although I was at first suspicious of the sympathy he received, now I am a big fan of Bartsch. He puts a diverse face on immigration issues and the need to pass the Dream Act. According to the Cleveland paper Bartsch asserts, ”he is proof that this isn’t solely a Latino problem.” If more readers of the Plain Dealer are likely to agree with Obama’s decision when the cover features Bartsch’s white face, while pictures of celebrating Latina and Latinos are only found deep inside the paper, so be it. He is also now part of an effort to diversify the perception of immigrant youth on the national level. He is one of 35 undocumented youth on the cover of Time. This seems to me like a wise strategy.
I just read this piece, “I’m a Successful Entrepreneur but Might Get Deported” on CNN. The article talks of undocumented immigrants who came to America as children when their parents entered the country illegally. The children grew up, got educations (sometimes hindered by lack of access due to undocumented status) and have started businesses.
I have two contradictory reactions to this piece. On the one hand I am saddened that these individuals find themselves in this situation. Their stories of hard work and fear, determination balanced with ever lurking deportations, tug at my heartstrings. These individuals did not choose to be in this situation, making me even more sympethetic.
On the other hand, these individuals are choosing to remain in this situation. They could go back to their country of birth even though language and cultural issues would make that difficult. Also, it is possible that their entrepreneurial activities are filling niches in the economy that other individuals here legally could fill. Thus, they could be taking money away from others who according the law have a greater right to reside here. I am not, however, sure of that fact. It is just a supposition.
In the end borrowing from Christian teaching regarding the poor and the oppressed as well as the idea of looking to a higher power beyond the laws of the state, I tend to take the side of the undocumented entrepreneurs, but I certainly sympathize with the argument on the other side.