As we usher the last decade into the realm of memory, it’s time to stop viewing immigration reform as an Us vs. Them issue. The metaphors and language we use are key to framing a debate because they can communicate broader truths via association. For example, a scientist might mention the porous nature of all membranes and boundaries found in nature to describe the ineffectiveness of the militarized U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporting for New America Media, Marcelo Ballvé defines two emerging policy terms—“complementarity” and “circularity”—that are being used to describe the seasonal ebb and flow of migrant labor and argue for progressive reform. The terms effectively render concepts impenetrable borders and zero sum supply of resources, which are key fighting points for those who oppose progressive immigration reform, rigid and backward in contrast.
Former Mexican foreign minister and New York University professor Jorge Castañeda argues that clamping down on the border and the flow of migrant labor disrupts a healthy and needed circulation.

Justin Akers
of the Progressive compares geographically targeted unemployment rates with immigration population numbers to demonstrate a similar concept. The data “shows that unemployment is more structural than the result of a direct competition for the same jobs.” Further, Akers writes, while it would cost an estimated $200 billion to remove the undocumented population from the U.S., it would, conversely, add approximately $180 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to bring these people into the system. Yet, the unfortunately pervasive story line that the undocumented steal jobs from willing citizens, an idea championed by anti-immigrant groups, continues to “poison the well of American politics,” as Akers writes.

Making matters worse, the Obama administration “has not made much effort to advertise” its various changes to U.S. immigration policy, as Edward Alden reports for Oneworld. Granted, some of these measures seem rather commonsensical and are hardly signs of ground-shaking progress—such as not immediately jailing those seeking asylum in the U.S. from “torture or persecution abroad.” But on the other hand, the Bush years plunged us into some very irrational policies and behaviors, and undoing those should be publicly declared as progress. By keeping things quiet, the White House may be trying to keep the Right calm, but as Alden writes, the administration is “walking a narrow line.”

Other positive changes in U.S. immigration policy include the closing of the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility in Texas, which became infamous as a children’s prison, and the rescinding of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s federal authority to make immigration-related arrests.

However, as Alden reminds us, “there has been no softening of the toughest immigration enforcement campaign in recent U.S. history” and the White House has yet to adequately defend itself from the charge leveled by its own “liberal allies that it is simply continuing the Bush administration’s enforcement policies.”

The human rights struggle for U.S. immigrants is a cause with multiple facets. If only reforming the detention centers were the only thing on the reform agenda! RaceWire’s Leticia Miranda reports on the tiny, cramped, unhealthy, and often-infested single room occupancies that many immigrants from China end up in. The San Francisco Gate has a video (below) that briefly lays out the story.

Over at AlterNet, those who fight for human rights and fair treatment of immigrants voice more than one call to action.

The Immigration Raids Response Network has called for a national boycott of Greyhound, accusing the bus company of working hand-in-hand with the Department of Homeland Security to racially profile Latinos. While Greyhound was “under fire” in 2005 for policies that advise profiling, this time the enforcement measures are blatant. A witness states that “Greyhound guards closed off the boarding area until passengers were checked by immigration officers and the bus was empty.” If true, this is disturbing behavior for a commercial entity to be undertaking.

And finally, also at AlterNet, Eric Ward argues that Arizona’s “Rogue Sheriff” Joe Arpaio, is “a symptom of something more sinister” that affects the rest of the national population. “What we do or don’t do will reverberate across the country,” Ward warns. The response to Arpaio’s antics has so far been confused and lukewarm. Progressive thinkers and activists must unequivocally reject Arpaio’s gross, dehumanizing, and xenophobic behavior.

It has been a turbulent decade, one in which the nation’s politics have reflected an urge to close our borders as a defensive mechanism. We need to chart a new course, one that welcomes and celebrates possibility. Our nation need not be shaped by fear, and in fact must not, if we are all to live together.

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