Immigration and Welfare: What’s a Civilized Nation To Do?


The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law a welfare reform plan that not only changed things for the nation’s citizens, but also for the nation’s immigrants. Title IV of the bill contained the details on the provisions that affected “aliens”.

Title IV opens with the explanation that the basic principle of United States immigration law is self-sufficiency. With that in mind, it declares that aliens living in the U.S are to depend on their own capabilities, sponsors and private organizations to provide the resources for the needs of their families rather than depend on public resources. Despite these premises, the Act acknowledges the fact that aliens have been receiving public benefits at increasing rates. The legislation explains that this is due to inadequate eligibility standards that do not prevent aliens from enrollment in the public benefits system. One of the purposes of this legislation was to reform eligibility rules so that aliens comply with national immigration policy.

For their first five years in America “aliens” are prohibited from receiving any federal benefit. Exceptions to this are immigrants who: need emergency medical care; need short-term disaster relief; qualify for school lunch programs; qualify for Head Start programs; who need immunizations or treatment of a communicable disease; are granted asylum and refugee status; are permanent residents who have worked 40 qualifying quarters contributing to Social Security; are military veterans discharged honorably or are active duty military. Aliens who were receiving federal housing assistance up to the date the new law was enacted are exempt and can maintain their housing benefit.

So, what about immigrants who were currently receiving benefits and now were in a “disqualified” class? Is the government going to suddenly turn off the spigot and immigrant families scramble to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate a sudden loss of income support? Legislators laid out a plan for a transition period for these people. They would have a year to determine what benefit denial they qualified for and prepare for what this would mean for their home budget. Many of these programs required recipients to reapply for benefits on a yearly basis. At such time, disqualified “aliens” would simply be denied their benefit based on the parameters of this welfare reform bill.

Just what were the primary welfare programs this bill was concerned with? They were food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security temporary assistance for the needy (SSI). The exempt programs, such as school lunch programs, were considered benefits that were “means” based. In order to qualify, not only was the immigrant’s income to be considered, but also the income of the immigrant’s sponsor. This was also required for an immigrant who attempted to qualify for State funded, rather than federally funded, benefits. If it was found that an immigrant had received a Federal or State benefit they would have actually been disqualified from receiving because of a sponsor’s financial means, the Federal and State government can now demand reimbursement from the sponsor.

The overall goal of this welfare reform was to move recipients from a welfare lifestyle to a working lifestyle over a five year period and permanently keep them self-sufficient. It also sought to remove from recipient status those who were on the dole and shouldn’t be, one such category being the immigrant. Was this goal achieved? Was this goal good for America? In 1994 the U.S. welfare system logged 14.4 million caseloads. Five years later, these caseloads had dropped to 5.3 million. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say, “Mission accomplished! Way to go President Bill Clinton! Umm, maybe.”

Why maybe? You see, many of these families were not actually completely self-sufficient. They simply moved from government generated income to the status of low-income. Single mothers especially were affected by this, becoming even poorer than when they were receiving benefits. As these families lost their Medicaid benefit by entering the workforce, they were often faced with employers who did not offer affordable health benefits. A worker supporting three people would not qualify for Medicaid if they earned more than $11,920 (for a family of three) annually. Now, the gringa would like to know who in their right minds thinks a family can afford health insurance and medical bills for three people if they make less than, say, about $70,000? Washington D.C. was way off base deciding this number was the qualifying poverty line.

Families that were accustomed to a housing benefit that kept their rent very low, were suddenly faced with paying full market rate for the roof over their head. That could mean, for a family that was earning $11,920.01, a penny above the qualifying poverty line, their rent could go from $200 to $700. You tell the gringa if you honestly think these poor, working class people could afford such a thing? Many could not. Remember, they also still had to pay their electricity bill. Sheesh. What was Congress thinking? The problem was not in the legislation itself. The problem was with what Congress thought the economic threshold of “poverty” should be. This presented the nation with a demographic that still was in dire need of public assistance.

So, although welfare was definitely reformed and got a lot of people off the government dole, a whole other problem was created. More families and disabled people simply became impoverished. Many of these people worked but did not earn a living wage. So, for the many anti-immigrant xenophobes out there who thought it was the immigrants who poured across the border and stole American jobs, the gringa will tell you to look at the numbers. From 1996 until 2001 it was not the immigrants filling these low paying positions. It was former welfare recipients, about 9 million to be exact.

So, if you want to measure success by the caseload numbers, yeah, Clinton achieved his goal. However, if you want to measure success by comparing quality of life before and after, it’s a different story altogether. Consider that most of these transitioned welfare recipients could not work full-time or year round, especially single moms. Many earned minimum wage or just a bit more. Either way, it was not enough to provide a decent standard of living for their families. Once you consider achieving a decent standard of living to be the measure for success, you can see the Clinton administration failed miserably. Although welfare enrollment declined, the numbers of the poverty class increased dramatically.

Consider that the poverty line as established by the government was $11,920 for a family of three. Consider the working single mom that may be making about $8 per hour and working only when her kids are in school because she can’t afford child care. Working eight hours daily, five days weekly, ten months annually (two months off for her kids school summer break), with no days off, she then brings home, on average, $12,000 annually. So, she makes too much to be considered in “poverty” in order to qualify for government benefits, but, you tell me, does she make anywhere near the $30,000 needed to afford the basic necessities for an adult and two children in 1996?

Out of 126 New York City “welfare to work” cases, the average person was earning $7.50 hourly and 58% were supporting their families with their work income. The gringa asks, “How in the hell did they manage?” Nationwide studies reported that most welfare recipients that entered the workplace earned well below poverty level. This was actually good news because they would qualify for means- based Federal and State benefit programs. However, there were plenty more that earned over the poverty level but nowhere near the $30,000 threshold that was the bare minimum for a small family’s basic necessities. Thus, this legislation created a large poverty class in America.

When you check the specific budget cuts, it is easy to see that most of the people affected were immigrants, elderly, disabled and single mothers. These are the nation’s most vulnerable classes of people. What this legislation meant is that poor people who were dependent on government programs to feed and house them and provide medical care actually became poorer, and possibly un-housed, underfed and without health care (unless they showed up at a hospital emergency room; which is exactly what happened, starting a new trend of packed ER’s, but that is fodder for another gringa story).

Social workers who are the ground zero, in the trenches workers and see the direct effect of these programs, criticized this reform. They claimed that by replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, even if a family met all eligibility requirements, there was no assurance that children or parents would receive assistance. This was because oversight of the block grants was performed by individual states. States had their own requirements for eligibility. This meant that some states could deny aid to families with teenage parents or to families where both parents were present in the home, even if they met every Federal qualifier and regardless of their income level, if they had any income at all. Also, once the grant money ran out, states would place applicants on a waiting list for the next Federal funding period.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had its own criticisms of the reform. They considered that within the welfare system was institutional racism and discrimination. They felt the legislation did not take into consideration the gender gap in wages. Rather than help women on welfare gain meaningful employment, the nation simply cracked down on eligibility requirements.  The government focus was on “work first” without doing anything to level the workforce playing field.

Many welfare recipients whose job and below poverty line wages qualified them for benefits would tolerate discriminatory practices in the workplace out of fear of dismissal and loss of benefits if they filed a complaint. Many immigrants were discriminated against with regard to case management and receiving benefits they qualified for because of language barriers.

To remedy these discriminatory practices, the USCCR recommended that Federal funds should be allocated for enforcement of civil rights among recipients, investigations of allegations of violations and to train caseworkers in how to better adhere to civil rights statutes. They further recommended better data collection on the people registering to qualify for benefits as well as the recipients and that all welfare agencies be subjected to audits with regard to civil rights grievances and compliance. The gringa understands this need but can’t help but think, “Dear God. It cost money to save money simply because some people can’t treat other people right.”

Specifically where immigrants were concerned, the USCCR was concerned with the law prohibiting immigrants from receiving any aid until they had been in the country for at least five years. The living conditions of many of these poor families continued to just get worse. Although, among some groups of people, the immigrant was a favorite target to accuse of entering the country just to live off the backs of taxpayers, this was actually a myth. Prior to 1996, statistics show that immigrant families were greatly outnumbered by citizen families in receiving benefits. This is because most immigrants come to the United States looking for jobs and opportunity, not handouts. As for immigrants that did qualify for aid, many would not accept it for fear of retribution.

The USCCR’s final recommendation regarding immigrants and the 1996 welfare reform was to immediately restore full benefits to immigrants regardless of when they entered the country and regardless of the financial resources of their sponsors. They further recommended that undocumented immigrants, for humanitarian reasons, should at least have access to health care, education and food stamps. To protect their civil rights, it was recommended that language assistance be provided for them throughout every step of the public assistance process.

Although these families may still struggle to feed, house and clothe their families, all is not doom and gloom. As mothers moved into the workforce, many children left in-home care and entered organized formal care. Studies resulted in surprising findings. Many of these children benefited from these environments with increased cognitive development, learning gains, and school readiness. These studies further suggested that the adolescents of these families were more likely to become employed later on when compared to adolescents in welfare dependent homes.

Now that the nuts and bolts of the legislation as well as its aftermath has been covered, the gringa asks, “Who REALLY benefited from this legislation?” The answer? Well, number one, the politician who was pandering to: a. voters with money and influence; and, b. corporations who contributed lots of money to campaigns. How so? Well, think about it. When the labor market is flooded with people looking for jobs, guess what, wages stay low! And that’s EXACTLY what happened, So, this piece of “social” reform was really a cheap labor package for the benefit of big corporations. Remember the economy boom during the Clinton years? Yeah, well, those growing businesses needed workers, and they wanted them as cheap as they could get ’em.

The reality is, if the government wants people to be self-sufficient, they must simply accept the fact that now, as in 1996, wages are too low for many families to escape poverty whether they work forty hours a week or even 60 hours a week. The gringa believes so much more could have been accomplished by simply raising minimum wage standards across the board to a living income level. Anyone who works forty hours weekly should make enough money to keep a roof over their head, feed and clothe themselves and afford healthcare.

For critics who argue that minimum wage jobs are simply entry level jobs for people to use temporarily and then move on to a better paying career level job, the gringa has got news for you. Welcome to the “New America” where 61% of young Americans have a college education, 44% of those college educated people are stuck in low income level jobs earning less than $25,000 annually and half of those have student debt of around $30,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage to a living standard level will not make these people rich, it will make them self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency was, after all, the true goal of this legislation. So, critics, the gringa says, “Quit pointing the finger and start lifting a hand to help these hard working Americans become self-sufficient. Join the cause to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.”

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2015/05/11/the-5-4-unemployment-rate-means-nothing-for-millennials/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-104hr3734enr/pdf/BILLS-104hr3734enr.pdf

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act_of_1996.aspx

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/1996_Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act

http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_tanf_testimony/

https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/welfare/legislation/summary.pdf

http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/prwora/welfare.htm

https://www.facebook.com/Fightfor15?fref=photo

Photo credit: www.slideshare.net

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1943 Magnuson Act: Blueprint For Equality


December 17, the 1943 Magnusun Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt. The Chinese could once again immigrate into the United States and, even more amazing, be eligible for citizenship. Could it be that the United States was beginning to evolve socially and become less racist? Could it be that the United States had learned its lesson about insulting other nations after the disastrous and deadly outcome of spurning Japan for years?

It seems that key people banded together and put pressure on legislators, specifically, the “Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion and Place Immigration On a Quota Basis”. Quite a mouthful. Although these people may have been socially enlightened for their time, the gringa thinks they may have lacked the creative minds necessary to come up with a snazzier title for their think tank. This group of public figures formally organized May 25, 1943 with the purpose to reverse the racist legislation of 1882 that had sought to remove from white America an ethnicity that was singled out because of its racial, linguistic, religious and cultural differences.

During the 1930’s, author Pearl S. Buck’s book “The Good Earth”, a Pulitzer Prize winner, began to change public sentiment toward the Chinese as it depicted the privations suffered by the people of rural China. Where social evolution could not reach the hearts of the American people, it seems sympathy could. After suffering through the years of the Great Depression, the American people had obviously been humbled and could now overcome racial differences as they were able to relate to the sufferings of other human beings.

Time magazine also featured articles exposing Japan’s invasion of China. With American’s despising all things Japanese after Pearl Harbor, this was a prime example of just one more thing in common between the American and Chinese people that resulted in sympathetic feelings.

Politically speaking, Roosevelt’s motives most likely did not originate from the heart and soul of a man who wanted to right a racist wrong. His concern was what was in the nation’s best interest. As President, that was his job. If Roosevelt didn’t want to lose China to America’s enemy, Japan, the best thing he could do would be to perform a significant act that would pacify any doubt in the mind of China that the U.S. was their friend.

You see, at that time Japan was using United States history to make inroads with the Chinese. Japan’s cunning propaganda plan was to play up ethnic similarities between themselves and the Chinese and also remind China of the racist exploitation they experienced with the Americans and the insult of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Roosevelt’s motives were not because he was an apologetic non-racist, it was because he was a capitalist opportunist. In other words, Roosevelt was a typical American. The State Department even issued a public statement regarding the political necessity of this act: “The repeal of this act was a decision almost wholly grounded in the exigencies of World War II, as Japanese propaganda made repeated reference to Chinese exclusion from the United States in order to weaken the ties between the United States and its ally, the Republic of China”. In other words, the United States needed this critical wartime alliance with China. So, Roosevelt formed a committee to rally everyone in the nation to get on the pro-Chinese bandwagon.

Roosevelt’s committee was headed up by none other than Pearl S. Buck’s husband, James Walsh. I guess that seems fitting since she’s the one that got this party started. The committee consisted of over two hundred people who put pressure on groups larger and more powerful than themselves. These groups in turn would lobby Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Social and professional elites of the country used their connections to advance the cause of the Chinese immigrant. When the moral argument of racial equality failed, the argument of patriotism and winning the war persuaded the hesitant.

The passage of the Magnusun Act of 1943 repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, allowed for Asians to become naturalized citizens, and established quotas to allow Chinese immigrants entry into the United States. The citizenship gate that had historically swung open only for free, white, men and remained closed to other ethnicities, had now become unhinged. This, however, did not mean that domestic racism had ceased. Although many in the nation may have been softening, the labor unions could only see the Chinese as potential competition among laborers and a threat to wages. Once the work had been completed to change the laws, the work began anew to change the hearts and minds of the people. This work was necessary to reverse racist opinions toward the Chinese that had been about one hundred years in the making. Until that happened, equality, although the law of the land, was, in reality, a myth.

The United States has always been designed to be a capitalist utopia with power vested in the hands of the wealthy. Historically, powerful, white men managed the masses for their own benefit as well as to strengthen the nation. Racism is a tool. If it is profitable to be racist, racist practices take place. If it is not profitable to be racist, the leaders reverse course. Racism seems to be fused with capitalist political agendas. But that doesn’t mean every American, and every American politician, thinks this way. The writer of the bill, Senator Warren G. Magnusun, spent the rest of his congressional career working to improve relations between Americans and the Chinese. Men and women like Magnusun are just the kind of socially evolved legislators the United States needs to grow into a nation that practices true equality.

In 1943 it only took seven months for the power of just one small group of wealthy, socially influential people to sway public opinion and effect significant legislative change. Why, then, have the social elites of today not succeeded in the same for the many non-white groups in the United States who experience racism on an oppressive level? I guess ethnic groups need to find a way for their cause to be either profitable or in the best interest of national security. That’s how it worked for the Chinese.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_magnuson_act.html

http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000766

http://immigrationinamerica.org/431-citizens-committee-to-repeal-chinese-exclusion.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/591-immigration-act-of-1943.html

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8993

Photo credit:  http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/

1940 Nationality Act – Hypocrisy and Double Standards


In the late 1930’s the United States was once again scratching away at the parchment writing out the legal parameters of the Nationality Act of 1940. The problematic parts of the legislation are certiain conditions that, if not met, a person’s citizenship “automatically expires”, with no due process.

What was going on in the country that had lawmakers going to such efforts as to write new laws? With the country in the throes of the Great Depression, its economic effects rippled throughout the world. People from other countries did not have the means to emigrate. Also, because of the restrictive immigrant laws of 1924, many immigrants had been deported. As the threat of a second World War intensified throughout Europe, refugees began to challenge America’s restrictive immigration policies, although rarely successful. The gringa wants to know the facts. Digging a little deeper is required.

By the 1930’s, the religious landscape of the nation had changed. America has been historically viewed as a nation founded by, created by and governed by Christians. By the year 1930, however, the population of Jews outnumbered the ranks of the Episcopalians and Presbyterians combined. Eastern European Judaism was the predominant Jewish culture in the U.S. They assimilated into American culture but designed community programs in order to maintain their distinctly Jewish heritage. Despite their “Americanism”, many schools and colleges blatantly discriminated against Jews. With public figures like Henry Ford openly criticizing the patriotism and character of America’s Jewish population, it’s no surprise that violence was commonly visited upon Jews during this period of U.S. history.

America was becoming infatuated with it’s own national identity. Folk culture became popularized with the Library of Congress even beginning to collect American folk songs. American intellectuals churned out thoughtful manifestos such as “I’ll Take My Stand”, by the Southern Agrarians who desired a return to the simple way of life of agriculture. In direct contrast was Lewis Mumford’s “Technics and Civilization” which was more forward focused on developing technology to advance U.S. capitalism through a new age of modernism.

Such modernist ideas were reflected in the architecture and art of the 1930’s. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York made it clear to the world that America wanted to leave behind the anorexic economy of the Great Depression and this would happen through the development of “the world of tomorrow”. This “world of tomorrow” was pictorialized in America cinema and television shows of the era. This was the birth of the superhero, like Superman and the Lone Ranger. Hollywood also played a critical role in producing forms of entertainment that also served as propaganda to lift American spirits out of the defeatist spirit of the Great Depression. This was when the world was introduced to an American original comedy genre, slapstick and screwball. The financial disaster of the Great Depression gave way to fantasy and longings for a modern, futuristic world.

The nation’s economic solution for the people’s relief from the suffering of the Great Depression was the New Deal. This was not specifically a cure, but more of a stabilizing plan. This would enable people to get their feet back under them so they could focus on what Americans do best, make money. Because social and economic salvation came through the government, American perspective toward the government began to change. Americans who previously were suspicious of too much government control and power were now more inclined to believe that the intentions of Big Brother had the citizens’ best interest at heart.

As people in the United States are looking forward, the Japanese are looking back. After years of chafing at the political insults America meted out to Japan through immigration policies, on December 29, 1934, Japan renounced the Washington Naval Treaty it had entered into with America in 1922.

Five years later, 1939, Germany invades Poland. After a year of appeasement fails, aggression by Nazi Germany begins the Second World War. September 5th of that same year, the United States declares its neutrality. The U.S. had complete confidence in its isolationist position because by that time we already had the A-bomb thanks to refugee Albert Einstein that America welcomed to its shores in 1933 as he fled from the Nazis. And thus begins a flood of European immigrants seeking to escape the horrors of war which inspired the nation, known as the great hope of the hopeless, to once again reveal its true capitalist colors and reform the nation’s immigration and citizenship policies with the 1940 Nationality Act.

Section 201 of this act declares citizenship at birth for any child born outside the U.S. of at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. This parent must have lived within the U.S. or any of its territories for a minimum of ten years, with at least five of those years being after the age of sixteen years. In order for the child to maintain U.S. citizenship status the child must live within the U.S. or any of its territories for five years between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one years. These, of course, being the formative years of primary education and higher education. The nation wanted assurance that during those critical years the child was in the U.S. being indoctrinated with educational propaganda in the public schools in order to shape the mind of the child into a good patriot. If these residential conditions are not met, the child’s U.S. citizenship automatically expires without due process.

Section 401 contains wording that provides for the revocation of U.S. citizenship if a person votes in a political election of another country. This particular requirement created legal challenges that resulted in inconsistent action by the U.S.

In 1958, U.S. district courts ruled in Perez v. Brownell. Clement Martinez Perez was a U.S. citizen born in El Paso, Texas who traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, residing in either country for extended periods of time. At some point he voted in a Mexican election. Perez lost his U.S. citizenship based on the court’s finding that Congress can revoke citizenship regardless if the action qualifying for the loss of citizenship is intentional or unintentional. The Supreme Court upheld the decision based on the Necessary and Proper Clause of Art. 1, 8, clause 18 of the Federal Constitution which states that voting in a foreign political election means a withdrawal of U.S. citizenship. The purpose of this clause is so that the U.S. can avoid international embarrassment by Americans getting involved in foreign affairs.

Nine years later the United States reverses its position. Beys Afroyim, who arrived in the U.S. in 1912, a Polish immigrant, and was naturalized in 1926, also became an Israeli citizen in 1950. He voted in six separate Israeli elections. He applied with the U.S. Consulate in Israel for an American passport. At first he was refused based on the same legal position attached to Perez in 1958. Taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court, the judge determined that Afroyim had not shown intent to lose his citizenship when he participated in Israeli elections. However, this was a direct contradiction to the published court opinion of the Perez case.

Due to the country’s special relationship with the nation of Israel, Americans can hold dual citizenship here and in Israel. That is not the case with Mexico. The gringa suspects the reasoning behind the special relationship with Israel is founded in religion and guilt.

Proof of the nation’s guilty conscience resonates in the words of President Truman after the war, “I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to these thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths.” Now, if guilt is the reason for the special relationship between Israel and America, the gringa is okay with that. After all the United States should have a guilty conscience for not opening the immigration gates for the lambs who were trying to escape the slaughter.

However, if religion is the basis for this international special relationship, the gringa says, “We gots us a problem.” According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If religion is the basis for a special relationship between the United States and Israel, resulting in laws being applied in a prejudicial fashion between Americans of different ethnicities, I believe that is some pretty clear evidence of racism as well as a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

The gringa thinks the District Court of 1958 and the Supreme Court of 1967 has got some splainin’ to do because it seems America’s “world of tomorrow” was one of racial double standards.

Sources:

https://americansabroad.org/files/3013/3478/0295/18-04-2012_1318_971.pdf

http://www.prothink.org/2008/03/27/the-1940-nationality-act/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perez_v._Brownell

http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline#1930

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/jewishexp.htm

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3452

http://americasbesthistory.com/abhtimeline1930.html

Photo credit: www.designarchives.aiga.org

Emergency Quota Act of 1921 And The Spirit of Eugenics


Immigration policies of 1921 depict a government using legislation to design a population. New immigration laws were created to control the flow of immigrants into the United States according to ethnic and education classes. Laws of 1917 were to weed out undesirable classes of immigrants that had certain mental and physical health problems as well as prevent poor people from entering the U.S. In 1907 the country slammed the door on the Japanese. 1888 was the year the Chinese were rejected. 1875 established that America’s home-grown hookers were acceptable but Chinese hookers were not. Does the dear reader see a pattern emerging or is the gringa guilty of paranoid conspiracy theory syndrome?

1921 was just more of the same as far as America’s national racist agenda. If the country had not yet been clear enough that only upper class white immigrants were the preferred class of immigrants, legislators decided to pass one more Act just to make sure the rest of the world heard us loud and clear. The first thing they did was place limits on the number of people that could immigrate. True to form, our nation’s bureaucrats adopted a complicated formula of basing immigration numbers to three percent of the number of foreign born people, designated by ethnicity, according to the 1910 census. In other words, all counted immigrants would be classified by country of birth, then tallied to come up with totals of how many immigrants of each nationality were present in the U.S. This total would be used to determine the three percent who would be allowed in for the year. For example, if there were 100 German immigrants on the 1910 census, only three new German immigrants would be allowed entry. In 1921, America added controls and limits on European immigration to their dirty laundry list of discriminatory acts.

The wording of the legislation seemed to be an honest attempt to sound unbiased and fair since it’s all based on the numbers, right? WRONG! Have my dear readers not learned anything since I’ve been blogging about all this immigration mess from the beginning of the nation’s origin? Haven’t we discovered along this journey that every immigration law passed in the United States has thus far been motivated by greed and racism? Has it not been revealed that American bureaucrats are master propagandists determined to convince the world of the humanitarian spirit of the nation when the real truth is that the U.S. is a nation designed to be a capitalist utopia? Why in the world, then, would anyone be fool enough to think that suddenly, in 1921, immigration laws would be passed that would actually be fair and show no preference for one ethnicity over another?

First of all, the act provided exceptions for immigrants who were artists, performing artists, professionals, or religious leaders. These types of people were always acceptable no matter what their skin color or language barrier. With regard to how the details were actually applied and worked out, a thorough study of the end result numbers makes it clear that masters of deception were at work skewing the numbers in favor of certain ethnicities. When you get right down to the nitty gritty, bottom line, immigration figures actually reflect that the Act had little impact on the number of immigrants allowed into the country who originated from northern and western Europe. There were no limitations placed on immigrants from the Western Hemisphere. It was the “other” people that Americans were worried about.

This Act was right on the heels of the close of World War I. After the first Great War, practically all of Europe wanted to start over in the New World. Americans were afraid of the country being flooded with undesirable classes of people. This racist pressure motivated U.S. lawmakers to use this seemingly “fair” legislation to discriminate in order to prevent an influx of immigrants who would not properly assimilate into white American culture. Preferred ethnicities originated in western and northern Europe. Southern and eastern Europe were home to the “undesirables” such as the Polish, Greeks and Italians.

Ethnicity and culture was not the only consideration America had on their minds. At this time the United States didn’t need to import cheap labor any longer because the country now enjoyed a steady supply via Canada and Mexico. The nation didn’t want new working class people showing up and possibly causing a drop in wages for the existing working class. When immigration law was actually applied, professionals enjoyed fewer restrictions while working class people found it harder to gain entry to the country.

As I read through the Act, the word “eugenics” kept popping up in my mind. Although limited by a lack of technology in 1921, the spirit and philosophy of eugenics was alive and well in U.S. politics. If eugenics endeavors to improve humans by controlling reproduction in order to weed out undesirable inherited characteristics, America sought to do this through immigration control. That was the spirit of 1921 America. Has the white majority really advanced much further in its social tolerance of today? To be on the safe side, this poor, working class, epileptic gringa chooses to stay where such prejudice doesn’t exist, in the warm, accepting arms of la gente de mi barrio.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1921_emergency_quota_law.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/589-immigration-act-of-1921.html

http://northamericanimmigration.org/95-emergency-quota-act-united-states-1921.html

Photo credits:  www.in.gov

1917: The Year I Would Have Been Banned From The U.S.


Chapter 29 of the Second Session of the Sixty-Fourth Congress of the United States of America, February 5, 1917, passed “An Act To regulate the immigration of aliens to, and the residence of aliens in, the United States” (also called the “Asian Barred Zone” if you want to do some research yourself). If I had been alive and not a U.S. citizen at the time this legislation took effect, I would have been among the immigrant hopefuls who would have been banned from entry. I would have been a “defective” person on the “prohibited” list, an “undesirable”.  That’s what this piece of law was all about. The United States was expanding its category of people to discriminate against. Rather than list all the legal rigmarole that are the basic nuts and bolts of the wherefores and heretofores, the gringa will get to the heart of the matter. I will focus on the sections that express the minds and wills of the white majority of the United States in 1917.

Section one defines the term “alien” as any person not a native-born or naturalized citizen of the U.S., but specifically excludes the Native Americans of North America and the Native Islanders of U.S. territories. At this time the Philippine Islands and Hawaii were U.S. territories. Once the term alien was defined, the U.S. could then make it clear who was, and who was not, invited to the party. The following were to be banned from entry into the United States:

  • Idiots (good thing all those legislators got here before 1917)
  • Imbeciles
  • Feeble-minded
  • Epileptics (that would be me)
  • Insane persons
  • Anyone who had a single attack of insanity at any point in their life (that rules out pretty much everyone I know here in the barrio where shit gets real from time to time)
  • Persons with a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority” (At first I thought that must mean psychopaths, until I looked up the definition of those words according to that time period. “Constitutional” means a condition you are born with. “Psychopathic” means regarding the realm of the mind or emotions. “Inferiority” means sub-standard in function, adaptability and self-progress. So, persons who were born with a mind, or set of emotions, that was below average were prohibited.)
  • Alcoholics
  • Paupers
  • Professional beggars
  • Vagrants
  • Persons sick with a contagious disease
  • Persons with a mental or physical defect that would affect the ability to earn a living
  • Convicted felons of moral crimes
  • Polygamists (again, the Mormons)
  • Anarchists
  • Prostitutes
  • Contract laborers
  • Persons likely to become a public charge
  • Persons who had their passage paid for by another party
  • Stowaways
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Asians not originating from a U.S. territory
  • Prior deported persons
  • Illiterates, unless returning residents or immigrating to escape religious persecution

The classifications of some of these people, such as, idiots, imbeciles, beggars, epileptics, feeble-minded, physically defective, etc., became the basis for a following trend in American municipalities to pass what were commonly called “ugly laws”. Not only did the white majority in America want a “white” America, they also wanted a “pretty to look at” America. It remains ironic that these same classes of people who were prohibited from entering the country would often pass by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, an icon of hope, bearing a plaque which read:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

What a big, fat, American lie. And America’s been lying to everyone since the day the Puritans first set foot on the shores of Plymouth. The immigrants here in my barrio, however, are nobody’s fools. What I find incredibly interesting is that most of my immigrant neighbors are better educated on the true history of America than most native born Americans. Where they got a stiff dose of startling truth in mandatory world studies of their country of origin’s education systems, we native Americans get brainwashed with the propaganda machine our country created to make us good little American boys and girls, isolated from the rest of the world, and puffed up with a sense of superiority. Being a gringa in the barrio is a humbling experience. Especially when I realize that many of my immigrant neighbors were not on my country’s reject list like I, myself, would have been.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/39%20stat%20874.pdf

http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2850&context=jclc

https://books.google.com/books?id=pXW69O5po3AC&pg=PA165&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Photo credit:  en.wikisource.org

Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 – Proof Of U.S. Insanity?


As I researched materials for this week’s blog about the next chapter in United States immigration policies, the gringa found it difficult not to burst out in sarcastic laughter at the audacity of American legislators to entitle a piece of racist immigration policy a “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. I don’t find anything at all “gentlemanly” about the racism that permeated white American society toward the Japanese. The country had already kicked out the Chinese. I suppose it was only logical that the Japanese would soon be getting their eviction notices as well.

Although Theodore Roosevelt is generally thought of with affection and romanticized as a rough and tumble “man’s man” in our nation’s presidential histories, the truth is, he was just another racist president in a long line of racist presidents. Although we can thank him for our wonderful national parks system and for creating the Food and Drug Administration, I give him a big “up yours” for the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907. A “real” man would have stood up for what was right, which would have been to tell the bratty, white Americans to behave themselves, quit their temper tantrum throwing, be accountable for their own plight rather than play the blame-game and point fingers at the Japanese, treat their fellow human beings with dignity and respect regardless of race and skin color and to hell with re-election popularity for the party. I mean, in the barrio that’s how we mamacitas roll.

The years preceding this agreement the United States experienced a labor shortage. Probably because of their short-sighted, emotional, racist actions that resulted in expelling and banning Chinese immigrants whom they had originally imported for cheap labor. The solution to this new labor shortage was to import a new group of cheap labor. The United States turned to Japan. In 1895 the Anglo-Japanese Treaty was ratified by both nations and provided the framework for open immigration between the nations, as well as equal rights of residency and property ownership for immigrants of either nation. Japan became the new favored nation for the U.S., and we all know how well that turned out for China just twenty years earlier.

When Japanese immigration subsequently increased, California once again led the charge of social hostility toward a particular ethnic working class group. After San Francisco’s memorable earthquake of 1906, schools had to be rebuilt. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the racists of California that had revived their hatred of the Chinese and redirected it toward the Japanese, supported the decision by the San Francisco school board to segregate schools according to a specific Japanese/Caucasian line just as they had already done with the Chinese.

Such discriminatory actions struck a nerve when word traveled back to Japan. President Teddy made an effort to smooth things over with Japan. Now, don’t jump to any conclusions about President Roosevelt actually caring about the feelings of the Japanese. His desire for friendly relations with the Japanese had nothing to do with any form of admiration for their culture. The U.S., as usual, had only one interest, securing power and wealth for the nation.

At this time in history, the biggest threat to power and wealth for the United States was Russia. From 1850 until 1910 Russia was second only to America in population growth. After the terrible insult the United States had given the Chinese, China established broad and extensive trade relations with Russia. Russia was even allowed to build a naval base and sea port in the city of Vladivostok. Before the Treaty of Peking in 1860, the city of Vladivostok had been Chinese territory and was called Hǎishēnwǎi, which, translated, meant “Sea Cucumber Cliffs”. Things were warm and fuzzy between the Chinese and Russia in 1907. Understanding the true history behind the relationship of this political love triangle, I now am not so naïve as I once was when my nation’s propaganda machine goes into high gear depicting Russia and China’s alliance as a great threat to our nation. The gringa can only cock her head, squint her eyes, poke her finger at the White House, and say, “You started this big mess with your two-faced, racist, back-stabbing, behavior toward the Chinese!”

By 1907 Russia’s expansionist policies were evident to the rest of the world. It had also set its sights on Japan. Russia’s ally, China, had been engaged in hostilities with Japan for some time. In 1895 Japan achieved an important victory that led to Russia getting involved in the conflict. Ultimately President Roosevelt would negotiate mediation between all factions. The important result of all this and how it affected political consideration of the Japanese in the United States, is that the U.S. government recognized the strategic naval position Japan commanded in its geographical orientation with regard to China and Russia. America would be wise to have Japan as a friend. Strategic military interest, rather than racial respect, was Teddy’s motivation to smooth over Japan’s ruffled feathers at the nasty treatment Japanese immigrants were receiving at the hands of white America.

The result was direct intervention by President Roosevelt into the San Francisco school segregation actions. Promised by the President that he was going to deal with the Japanese issue, the San Francisco school board rescinded its segregation order. Soon after, the country saw this presidential promise fulfilled in the acceptance of the Gentlemen’s Agreement. This was not legislation but an informal agreement between the U.S. and Japan based on an exchange of diplomatic letters.

Despite the fact that no official record of the agreements was ever published, a wealth of historical evidence can still be found about how things changed in America for the Japanese that were here. In response to Roosevelt’s intervention of discrimination against Japanese on U.S. soil, Japan agreed to no longer issue passports to Japanese laborers who intended to seek work in the United States. Only Japanese professionals and Japanese business men could immigrate to the U.S. Japanese laborers already present in the U.S. would still be able to bring over their families, but single Japanese laborers that were here would not be able to look forward to new arrivals of lovely, single ladies from back home. However, one “loophole” in this agreement was that Hawaii, being a U.S. territory, could still accept Japanese labor immigrants. This resulted in the “picture bride” system of Japanese laborers in the U.S. getting a mail-order bride via Hawaii. Despite the best attempt of the Gentlemen’s Agreement to thin out the Japanese population in America, Japanese families still continued to grow and thrive. Hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do because everybody deserves a little lovin’ when they get home from a hard day’s work. At least that’s how my caveman feels.

As the gringa reads the historical documents recording this sad tale, the most disturbing aspect of it all, aside from the obvious, the racism, is the fact that the nation was repeating the events of just twenty years prior. I am reminded of the tongue in cheek definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Again, the gringa can only cock her head, squint her eyes, poke her finger at the White House and say, “What the hell were you thinking? Are you insane? Did you really think you could do the exact same thing that you did with China and it would somehow end better?”

Once again the United States has proven that it’s immigration policies are determined by greed and power. Borders are opened to an unsuspecting nation who is wooed like a predator stalking an unsuspecting victim. Cheap labor is imported. The country grows fat. The new immigrants start to get too big for their britches. The Caucasian hordes cry foul. The politicians want to secure re-election so they “burn the witch” as the angry masses demand. The only advice I can give any immigrant is, “Immigrant! Beware!”

Sources:

http://www.history.com/topics/gentlemens-agreement

http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/Extraterritoriality-Japan.html

http://countrystudies.us/russia/6.htm

http://www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-of-Peking

http://ir.library.osaka-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/11094/9499/1/oulr056-001.pdf

http://www.britannica.com/event/Gentlemens-Agreement

http://immigrationinamerica.org/516-gentlemens-agreement.html

http://aapcgroup11.blogspot.com/2009/12/gentlemens-agreement-of-1907.html

http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Gentlemen’s_Agreement/

https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/ga1907

Photo credit:  www.dneiwert.blogspot.com

Naturalization Act 1906: U.S. Citizenship – Only Whites Need Apply


1906 was the next year Americans saw big changes in immigration reform. Many people refer to this period of American history as “progressive” and/or “industrial”. I suppose both are true, depending on how you define them. As a social movement, progressives at this time believed government could be used as a tool to fix what was wrong with society. The policies of President Theodore Roosevelt reflected this ideology. Many of the ills facing society were a result of industrialization, such as: child labor, corporate greed, unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the workplace. One of the many pieces of legislation the Roosevelt administration delivered to the American people was the Naturalization Act of 1906, approved June 29, 1906. Its title indicates specifically the purpose of the laws contained within the pages that follow, the establishment of a government agency of immigration and naturalization with uniformity in how immigrants are received and naturalized.

  • Sec. 1 – Authorizes the new name for the agency, “Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization”. Designates the Secretary of Commerce and Labor as controlling director. Upon entry into the U.S. all aliens are to register and the immigrant will receive a certificate of registry.
  • Sec. 2 – According to budget appropriations, the Secretary of Commerce and Labor is authorized to provide for the Bureau necessary office space, staff and supplies.
  • Sec. 3 – Court jurisdictions are designated and will be furnished with necessary forms by the Bureau.
  • Sec. 4 – Conditions for citizenship are stipulated:
  1. Declaration on oath before clerk of court that, at least two years prior, and after reaching the age of eighteen years, it was his “bona fide” intention to become a citizen of the United States. Any allegiance to any foreign power is renounced forever, and such power is specifically named.
  2. Within a 2-7 year time window after the declaration is made, the immigrant must file a petition in his own handwriting stating his full name and address, occupation, birth place and date, place of origin of immigration, arrival location within the U.S., name of port and vessel he arrived in, time and place and name of court of declaration, and, if married, name of wife and any children. He must deny he is an anarchist and polygamist (the polygamy inclusion probably had to do with sentiments towards Mormons who were believed to be infidels and disloyal to the country because of their practice of polygamy). He must state his intention to become a U.S. citizen and renounce forever any allegiance to any other foreign power. He must reveal any denial for citizenship rendered by any U.S. court and on what grounds and prove if such denial has been resolved and removed. Two U.S. citizens, acting as credible witnesses, must provide affidavits declaring personal acquaintance of at least five continuous years with the applicant and attest to the applicant’s good moral character and qualifications to become a citizen. The petition must be filed with a court clerk.
  3. Applicant must make open court declaration on oath that he supports the Constitution and absolutely renounces allegiance to any foreign power, name that specific foreign power, and declare his support and defense of the U.S. Constitution against all foreign and domestic enemies.
  4. The court must be satisfied that the applicant has resided in the U.S. for a minimum of five continuous years and has behaved as a person of good moral character reflecting the principles of the Constitution. Two witnesses must testify to corroborate these facts.
  5. Applicant must renounce any hereditary title of nobility.
  6. After making declaration of intent, if applicant dies before becoming a citizen, by complying with the laws of this Act, his widow and children may become naturalized.
  • Sec. 5 – After petition is filed, the court clerk will make public notice of final hearing and provide, if necessary, summons or subpoenas for any witnesses.
  • Sec. 6 – Naturalization hearing dates are fixed by the court after 90 days and cannot be held thirty days prior to any general election.
  • Sec. 7 – Prohibited from naturalization are polygamists and anarchists.
  • Sec. 8 – Prohibited from naturalization are people who cannot speak English, except for those physically unable or for applicants who are homesteaders on public lands.
  • Sec. 9 – Final hearing will be in open court.
  • Sec. 10 – Exceptions to the five year residency requirement require the testimony of two witnesses.
  • Sec. 11 – U.S. has the right to cross examine the applicant and any witnesses and to produce evidence and witnesses regarding any opposition to naturalization.
  • Sec. 12 – Outlines duties and time requirements of court clerk with regard to filing, duplicating and issuing required documentation as well as establishes penalties for failure of duty.
  • Sec. 13 – Outlines duties of court clerks regarding the collection of fees for receiving, filing and issuing required documentation, subpoenas and court costs and the disbursement of collected monies to the various U.S. governmental departments with fiscal responsibility.
  • Sec. 14 – All documents must be bound in chronological order and consecutively numbered, blah, blah, blah, and various other boring details of handling the paperwork.
  • Sec. 15 – Outlines guidelines in which U.S. district attorneys are authorized to cancel certificate of citizenship on legitimate grounds of fraud.
  • Sec. 16 – Establishes punishment for participating in any fraud related to naturalization by fine and imprisonment.
  • Sec. 17 – Establishes punishment for participating in the counterfeit of citizenship documents by fine and imprisonment
  • Sec. 18 – Declares it a felony for anyone to issue a certificate of citizenship contrary to the provisions of this Act, and punishable by fine and imprisonment
  • Sec. 19 – Anyone found guilty of possession of a blank certificate of citizenship with unlawful intent to use, can be punished by fine and imprisonment
  • Sec. 20 – Any court officer who mismanages finances regarding naturalization can be punished by fine and imprisonment.
  • Sec. 21 – Court officers who demand money that are not lawful fees can be punished by fine and imprisonment.
  • Sec. 22 – Court clerks who certify a petitioner or witness was present when they were not, can be punished by fine and imprisonment
  • Sec. 23 – Anyone who is naturalized and knows they are guilty of violating any part of this Act, as well as any accomplice, can be punished by fine and imprisonment.
  • Sec. 24 – Statute of limitations regarding naturalization crimes is five years.
  • Sec. 25 – Any crimes regarding naturalization prior to the passage of this Act, existing laws remain in full force and effect.
  • Sec. 26 – Any laws inconsistent with this Act are repealed.
  • Sec. 27 – Establishes wording and format of forms to be used in naturalization proceedings: Declaration of Intent, Petition for Naturalization, Affidavit, Certificate of Naturalization, Stub of Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Sec. 28 – Secretary of Commerce and Labor has authority to make rules as necessary to fulfill duties of this Act, including all required documentation.
  • Sec. 29 – Declares appropriated provisions for carrying out the effects of the Act.
  • Sec. 30 – Exceptions to residency requirements are outlined.
  • Sec. 31 – Act comes into effect 90 days after passage.

Most of this was a whole lot of bureaucratic hoo-haw. What did all that hoo-haw boil down to? What is the meaning of this all in a nutshell? It mostly meant paperwork, paperwork, paperwork and some time in the pokey if you didn’t do your paperwork right.

At the time this Act passed into law, the following people could become naturalized U.S. citizens:  free, white guys and descendants of black slaves born in the U.S. The following people were banned from immigration, thus from citizenship: all Chinese, convicted felons (unless it was a political crime). This new legislation adds three more classes of people to the “banned” list for citizenship: polygamists, anarchists, and non-English speakers. However, for the first time women are specifically mentioned as eligible for citizenship in number 6 of Section 4. Score one for women!

You would think Sec. 26 may now mean Chinese can immigrate. Perhaps this is a brave, new era of open-mindedness for the U.S. Well, in 1922 this specific law was put to the test in the Supreme Court case of Takao Ozawa v. U.S. Mr. Ozawa lived in the U.S. for 20 years. He was a high school graduate, three year college student, had children educated in the U.S., attended church regularly, and English was the language of his household. There was no question he was qualified for citizenship, yet he was denied. Why?

It seems it all came down to the definition of the word “alien” and clarifying which classes of aliens qualified for citizenship and which classes were banned from citizenship. Justice Sutherland explained in his official court opinion: “In all of the naturalization acts from 1790 to 1906 the privilege of naturalization was confined to white persons… (with the addition in 1870 of those of African nativity and descent), although the exact wording of the various statutes was not always the same. If Congress in 1906 desired to alter a rule so well and so long established it may be assumed that its purpose would have been definitely disclosed and its legislation to that end put in unmistakable terms”.

He went on to explain that the court must assume the point of view of the original framers of the first U.S. immigration law and the subsequent law that extended citizenship privilege to descendants of African slaves. The court must consider that Asians were not specifically excluded because the original framers did not have the perspective to consider that ethnicity to ever be a possibility as immigrants on U.S. soil. Thus, the original framers did not include wording with regard to the Asiatic races. However, since “free, white person” is specified, we must assume the original framers intended for the United States of America to only be populated by Caucasian citizens. No other race had that privilege except for the descendants of U.S. African slaves. And, until some legislator comes along and lawfully redefines the term “alien”, the courts will continue to define it as it was originally meant to be defined, a free, white guy.

Although the U.S. continued to bamboozle non-Caucasian immigrants by keeping its borders open to all races and taking full advantage of any way they may help the nation prosper, by the time poor, non-white immigrants realized they had been had and would never be a part of the privileged class of U.S. citizens because they were the wrong ethnicity, it was too late. By then they were American through and through, as well as their spouses and children, and, maybe,even their grandchildren. No matter how good their moral character may have been, not matter how much they may have contributed to the growth of our nation, if they just weren’t “white” enough, well, too bad. Second class residency status was the best they could hope for.

As I peruse the annals of immigration history I keep saying to myself, “The next immigration bill, now THAT’S gonna be the one that truly reflects America as being a nation that treats all people equal.” Hey, the gringa can hope, cain’t she?

Sources:

Hansan, J.E. (2011). The Progressive Era. Retrieved 6/16/15 from http://www.socialwelfarehistory.com/eras/progressive-era/

The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 1, Supplement: Official Documents (Jan., 1907), pp. 31-47. Retrieved 6/16/15 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2212339

TAKAO OZAWA v. US. Retrieved 6/16/15 from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/260/178.html

Photo credit: www.chickasaw.tv