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.

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