As alarming as the dragnet tactics of ICE might be, and as heartbreaking as the disruption to immigrant families, none of this should be a surprise to Zoë Carpenter [“ICE’s Widening Net,” Sept. 22], or anyone. So long as neighboring countries with insufficient resources encourage birth rates higher than they can sustain and provide a level of education inadequate to change the situation, there will be desperate people pouring over the borders. Accompanying them will be the predictable, often politically motivated reactions of individuals and government agencies, many of which reflect shamefully on civil society and its members.
If progressives want to do anything about any of this, they need to direct their energies to identifying and resolving the root causes of this tragedy rather than decrying the symptoms of a problem that has been largely ignored for decades.
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The Bush administration, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, suspended enforcement of immigration laws in the affected areas to encourage immigrants to work on rebuilding New Orleans. In other words, they were invited here. Now they are being kicked out. It’s the immigrant bait and switch: we take their labor at cut rates, and then get angry when they want to stay.
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Zoë Carpenter wrote: “By the winter of 2012, authorities in Louisiana were arresting more people for immigration violations per capita than any other state except the three that border Mexico.” Four states border Mexico. Overall, however, a fine (if disturbing) article.
It should have read “…except for three states that border Mexico.” —Ed.
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Thank you for your interesting articles by Zoë Carpenter and Adam Goodman [“A Long Series of Uncertainties”]. I’d like to add my story. I was asked by a church group to go to the Adelanto Detention Facility to “get stories” from the inmates—“they need someone to talk with.” Most of the detainees were from Latin America, but mine were Africans seeking political asylum. One, Sulaiman, had left Sierra Leone in 1999 when his family was scattered by war and never found. At 14, he walked to Guinea, found work and slowly saved money. Nine years later, he flew to Ecuador and began working his way north. About five years later, he asked for asylum at the US border. Conditions were bad. He was shackled. The diet was insufficient (1,200 calories a day).
He told me at Adelanto that all he needed was a US address to write on his papers. I said he could use mine, and I asked the ICE officer what my responsibilities were. “None.” “I don’t have to feed him, give him a job and help with clothes?” “No.” ICE had no procedures for applying for work papers or a green card. Four days later, at noon, Sulaiman was told to pack up—he was going home. What home? No one knew. He was given no food and dismissed. A taxi driver tried to charge him $100 to take him two miles; he finally paid someone $40 to ride in the trunk of a car. Around midnight, I picked him up in downtown Los Angeles. He believes that Allah sent me to get him.
My family and friends have gone out of their way to help. He has gotten his working papers, opened a bank account, started saving for a car and moved, with ICE’s blessing, to Columbus, Ohio. Someday he will be a fine US citizen. But the system, even for those who get out, is stupid. There are few procedures to help the inmates.
We still visit Adelanto and “get stories,” but there’s so little we can do to help; one man has been there for four years.
“Stupid Stuff” of Empire
Re Michael T. Klare’s “‘Don’t Do Stupid Stuff’” [Sept. 22]: I served as a medical corpsman in Vietnam, so I take going to war very seriously. After all the horrific things I saw at the base hospital where I served, I find President Obama’s guiding principle of “Don’t do stupid shit” a prudent approach to using our armed forces as a blunt instrument of foreign policy. It is a much-needed and long-overdue corrective to impulsively blundering into military disasters like Vietnam and Iraq.
I just don’t get the faux machismo from the journalists and politicians Klare mentions. They remind me of naïve, careless children playing catch with live hand grenades. And even though Senator John McCain is a fellow Vietnam veteran, and I usually censor myself when it comes to criticism of fellow veterans, I find him to be an embarrassment of epic proportions. I cringe when he starts beating his little tin drum for war as the only solution to foreign policy crises. The test for a policy is how it ends, not how it begins, as Henry Kissinger observed in a March 5 op-ed in The Washington Post. The hawks wanted a war in Iraq. Well, they got their war. Now they are complaining that the only solution to the debacle in Iraq is another war there. It’s bizarre.
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The triumphalist American empire will always do “stupid stuff,” compelled by the stupid idea of our God-given supremacy and our right to exercise hegemony over the rest of the world. How stupid is our swollen defense budget? How stupid are the estimated 900 military bases in 130 countries around the world? How stupid is cutting back on food stamps for children?
In the same issue, Adam Goodman’s “A Long Series of Uncertainties” tells the truth about the consequences that follow from the United States doing stupid stuff—the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and the millions of displaced drifting into Mexico and the States.
Doing stupid stuff is as American as cherry pie. It is the legacy of our arrogance.
Gum and Shadow-Casters
Michael Sorkin’s September 22 architecture column, “The View,” was wonderful. From appreciation to critique to irony to parody to fantasy: the spectrum of architecture and urban life today.
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Michael Sorkin’s “The View” was a wonderful piece, touching on so many aspects of our sorry man-made environment. But, Mr. Sorkin, what is going up before your window is not “architecture.” Living spaces for the affluent, yes; a Babel of windowed cubicles, yes; but architecture, no. And it is definitely absurd to even imagine a straight line from gum droppings to genocide, when Germany was the cleanest country before 1939. Finally, unfortunately, cash registers no longer go ka-ching—they open their money drawers stealthily.
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