Monday, November 26, 2007

Belated Kudos for Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer has put himself in the running for the first annual "Immigration Heroes" end-of-year superstar list, coming soon from Open Border Central. NY Governor Spitzer made the mistake of proposing a constructive change in New York's driver licensing policy -- a change that would have
made undocumented immigrants eligible to get a license.

The good sense behind Spitzer's proposal was that it's better to have people driving with a license rather than without one or with a fake one. For one thing, they're able to get insurance.

A colossal outcry poured forth, led by Lou Dobbs. Now, I've never actually watched Lou, but I've heard an awful lot about him. Apparently, he's the know nothing who preaches against immigration from CNN, the TV news equivalent of Tom Tancredo.

Spitzer struggled, flirting with a compromise proposal that would have altered the licenses for the undocumented, making it impossible for them to board planes. Still the plan failed.

The highpoint in the furor for me came early on, when the dreaded New York state county clerks denounced the Spitzer plan. It's the clerks who in many counties process DMV applications.

The second peak moment -- more widely reported -- was when Hilary Clinton bobbled a question about the Spitzer proposal during one of the Presidential debates. Congratulations to Hilary for at least thinking about the issue, even if she ultimately didn't have the political courage to back Spitzer.

Spitzer's brave stand on the driver's license issue reminded me of another bold position taken by a New York governnor: Mario Cuomo's unwavering and politically inconvenient opposition to the death penalty.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Congratulations to Craig Trebilcock

Golden Venture advocate Craig Trebilcock has scored another victory for sanity. Craig was part of the legal team in a civil suit against a Kansas church group that showed up at the funeral of a marine killed in Iraq with placards stating "Thank God for IEDs" and "Fag Troops" (see the coverage in The Baltimore Sun). The small Kansas church has targeted military funerals around the country for its protests, forums to express its view that US losses in Iraq are God's way of punishing us for allowing gays in the military. A federal judge awarded $11 million in damages to the soldier's family.

I'm not quick to advocate anything that restricts freedom of speech -- but crashing a funeral is such an egregious infringement on the rights of the grieving family that a punitive aware seems justified.

The news coverage didn't mention it, but Craig must have been particularly effective in making the case because he himself is an Iraq vet.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sister Hillary?

At last, the Fujianese in New York's Chinatown have a new woman to revere and admire. Ever since the "notorious snakehead" Sister Ping was convicted and sent up river last year, there's been a void that Hillary can now fill: the most popular woman on East Broadway.

The La Times reports today that Hillary's machine has successfully raised hundreds of thousands in contributions from hard working Fujianese, including many who have not registered to vote and others, according to the various records tracked by two LAT investigative reporters, don't officially exist.

This development is a bit ironic given Bill Clinton's actions during the Golden Venture years. When the freighter ran aground in June, 1993, Clinton's political advisers were telling him that he was facing political trouble, particularly in California, where a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment was sweeping the electorate. It was this advice that led him to make an example out of the Golden Venture passengers -- to establish a new, get-tough image for himself on the immigration issue.

Fourteen years later, Hillary has a thick "red envelope" bulging with checks from the same people her husband put in jail.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mukasey, Abortion, and the Golden Venture

A surprising and fascinating development: Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey has run into opposition from anti-abortion advocates because of a judicial decision he made in a case involving a Golden Venture passenger.

As a federal judge, Mukasey denied asylum to a Golden Venture passenger who claimed he was fleeing China because of its coercive birth control policies. As the media has reported, the asylum seeker claimed that, in violation of a government mandate, his wife became pregnant with a third child, and that to avoid severe punishment, he put her into hiding and fled the country. He claimed that we would face severe punishment if he were sent back to China.

Mukasey ruled that asylum should not be granted because the case did not fall within the law's definition of a legitimate asylum claim.

Sadly, the asylum applicant's fear that he would face severe punishment in China was very real. In fact, at least one Golden Venture passenger who was sent back to China was forcibly sterilized. Others were fined and severely beaten.

The Mukasey connection to the Golden Venture started surfacing over the weekend, before the Bush's nomination was officially announced.

The first inkling came out in the Times in a Sunday piece, which mentioned Mukasey's abortion decision, without indicating that it involved a Golden Venture passenger. A day before, an anti abortion, Catholic advocacy group, Fidelis, came out with a statement opposing Mukasey, citing his decision in the Chinese coercive birth control case.

Just today, the New York Sun weighed in with an editorial endorsing Mukasey. Apparently the Sun did a bit of reporting and found out that the asylum case involved a Golden Venture case.

Mukasey's Golden Venture connection goes beyond this one case. He was also the judge in the Sister Ping trial -- the proceeding that ended with Mukasey handing Ping a maximum sentence of 35 years.

I wonder how Mukasey's thinking was influenced by what he learned while sitting on the Ping case? He heard all the gory details of that horrible voyage -- the suffering in the hold of ship that the passengers endured for three months.

And I wonder what Mukasey would say now if asked about his decision to send a Golden Venture passenger back to China -- and what his reaction would be if he were told that the same man was forcibly sterilized?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Golden Venture Trailer, Wausau Project

Just posted the Golden Venture trailer on YouTube, after long procrastination. You can see the same trailer below.

Also started a YouTube "community": Open Border Central.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Spanish Language Debate: Political Overkill Obscures Historic Importance

The Spanish language presidential debate snuck up with little advance fanfare, and receded quickly from the headlines. While newspapers and TV dutifully reported that it was "historic" and the first Spanish-language presidential debate, the story was not (at least in the New York Times) front page news. The media struck out here: this debate was truly a milestone, a crucial marker of the nation's demographic and political evolution.

I missed the debate and was annoyed and surprised when I couldn't find a transcript in the paper or anywhere on the web. Reading the coverage, a few things struck me as quite amusing.

Bill Richardson definitely scored with his quip about building a 12-foot "security" fence along the Mexican border -- the obvious consequence will be "A lot of 13 foot ladders."

Dennis Kucinich hit home with his statement that "There are no illegal human beings."

Hillary scored with her direct jibe at Lou Dobbs.

Obama wiffed again, sticking to platitudes and generic references to Martin Luther King. His statement that a president needs to "make sure that all workers are being tended to" is a fabulous Bushism.

And what about that shockingly idiotic decision by Univision (or whoever makes the rules) to forbid Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd to speak in Spanish? And the equally-shocking-idiotic rush by the candidates to make it clear that they did not support Spanish as the "second national language."

While of course the debate was characterized by political wishy washyism, the Democractic consensus evident there puts us on track for some kind of meaningful immigration reform in 2009.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Back to School Special: Primary Source Document Library

I'm pleased to report that I finally took care of something that's been on my to do list for years: posting a library of primary source documents about the Golden Venture on the web, at the Golden Venture movie web site.

The documents provide a fascinating window into policy making in the early days of the Clinton administration, and they trace the origins of a major new get tough approach to immigration that has its roots in those somewhat troubled times.

Clinton had been in office for barely six months when the Golden Venture ran aground. He was already in trouble: gays in the military and Hilary's health care initiative blew up in his face. The economy was coming out of a recession, and there was a virulent wave of anti immigrant sentiment sweeping the nation. Losing California in the upcoming Congressional elections and in the next presidential election was a growing concern.

The documents clearly show that the Clinton officials decided to make an example of the Golden Venture passengers, primarily to deter other undocumented Chinese immigrants from boarding ships to cross the sea.

It's hard to argue with many aspects of that policy. There's no doubt that major multi-national criminal syndicates were involved in the smuggling operations and that the magnitude of the problem -- there were many "Chinese boats" besides the Golden Venture -- was very, very big.

However, it's also clear that a concern for protecting human rights and offering fair treatment to the Golden Venture passengers was not a central priority.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bounty, Jackie Chan and the contributions of immigrants

The new nativist, know-nothings want to seal the borders to protect American jobs and keep out lazy freeloaders who will overwhelm our schools and hospitals.

One thing Tancredo et al need not worry about is that immigrants will use up all our paper towels. An immigrant I know was recently chastising me for overusing paper towels. Wipe up a mess, throw out. That's the way I've always done it.

He, on the other hand, makes multiple uses of the same sheet. For example, one sheet to wipe a bowl, then clean the dishes, then clean the counter, then clean the floors. And then perhaps soak the dirty paper towel in water, dry over night, and reuse.

This is apparently common practice in China. There is even a rumor in the Chinese immigrant community that Jackie Chan has publicly spoken out on this issue, criticizing US citizens for wasteful paper towel habits.

I'm glad to report, however, that this immigrant paper towel expert is a loyal supporter of American big business. He recommends Bounty over all other brands, claiming he uses exactly one case (12 rolls) per year.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Grudging Recommendation: Today's Krugman Column

As a non-card-carrying libertarian, I'm not a particular fan of Paul Krugman. But I do admire his persistent, and aggressive anti-Republican attack posture. Today's column in the Times is a good one -- nailing the Republicans for hoisting the anti-immigration issue as the new "Willie Horton" red flag of the coming elections. I wasn't aware that Republicans were trying to exploit anti-Hispanic sentiment in connection with the recent shootings in Newark. Krugman must watch more Fox News than I do -- I wasn't aware of it. Apparently, my old friend Tom Tancredo showed up in Newark to denounce the city's leaders. This is only sparking my interest in posting some of our footage of a trip Trancredo made to New Hampshire a number of years ago, where he was presenting an award to a local police chief who had taken it upon himself to arrest illegals. It was well before Tancredo became an officially declared candidate.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Golden Venture in the News

New York 1 ran an update story on the status of the Golden Venture passengers Aug. 14th. You can read the story and watch video here. A link to the story is also posted at the Golden Venture documentary web site, here.

There's not much new in the story. The Golden Venture passengers "paroled" by President Clinton in 1997 remain in limbo, still waiting for permanent legal status, still waiting for the status what would make it possible to move on with their lives, and to travel back to China, to see family they haven't seen in more than a decade.

NY1 reports Ruschell Boone, who wrote the piece as part of the "Queens, Then and Now" series, based much of the article on an interview with Ben Chen, a Golden Venture passengers in York, PA.

I've known Ben for years. I wonder how Ruschell got Ben to speak on the record. I was never able to convince Ben to be in my documentary, even though he is one of the lucky Golden Venture passengers who received political asylum fairly early on, and today is a US citizen.

I'm glad that Ben is speaking up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Immigration Service Outrage: Checkups and Vaccines

Welcome to my first blog. And good timing it is, because just today I found out about a new immigration service scam. Maybe it's not a scam -- but someone is making some money out of it. And it's definitely an annoyance.

The offending policy? Mandatory health check ups for green card applicants. A good friend depends on her H1-B visa to maintain continued employment at a US university, and also has a green card application pending. Her lawyer ($2700 fee for H1-B extension, green card fee for three steps, about $6700) informed her that it's time to get the mandatory health check up for the green card application. (Green card application pending: since Dec. 2004!).

For the third step of the green card process, change of status (isn't this fun!), my friend now has to get a health check up -- from a government certified doctor! The list of government approved physicians is available on the USCIS web.

The cost for the check up? A survey on the phone indicates the normal fee is from $150 to $200. The doctor she picked asked her to bring $180 cash, with appointment available on the same day. She headed downtown, and in the office, found out that the $180 did not include lab fees, another $65.

The poor friend had to get 1 shot, 1 skin test and 1 test.

One more visit required, at no extra fee (she hopes).

Thank god the US government and the medical profession are keeping America safe!