Friday, January 27, 2017

There Have Already Been Deportations in the Bronx; Thoughts on Current Challenges from Eileen Markey

I love this description of my community. It's the analysis I use when I explain to people how the Bronx began to recover. Immigration (and community organizing and massive government investment) was key. 
And many of us are outraged, obviously, by Trump's xenophobia, racism and general wretchedness. But the Bronx has been under a deportation regime for several years with deporter in chief Obama who deported more than 2 million people (nationwide) while in office. 
Places like the amazing Bronx Defenders (legal services) have been swamped, scrambling to delay deportation orders and find ways to keep families together under Obama. A few years ago a retired appeals court judge and Robin Hood Foundation and others came together to launch the Immigrant Justice Corps, an infusion of lawyers posted to community organizations across the city to help staunch the flow of people caught in Obama's dragnets. 
The thing is, while ICE indeed conducts raids and delivers years-old removal orders in person,  they don't come for immigrants with pitchforks and torches in a way that neighbors can romantically and cinematographically resist. It's bureaucratic. It's an arrest on a drug charge, a plea and then suddenly a series of immigration court dates- often stretching over years. 
There was a long campaign to get ICE out of Rikers, but I don't believe it is completely won. My friends who work as immigration lawyers saw most of their deportation-at-risk clients deported under Obama. It was heart breaking. Clearly we are under more threat now from an administration that doesn't even share Obama's belief in a multi ethnic America. But if we are going to be able to fight we need to have clear eyes. 
When Trump talks about deporting people who have been convicted of crimes he's talking about continuing an Obama administration policy, that was made possible by the 1996 immigration reform signed by Bill Clinton. I remember marching on D.C. against that law as a sophomore at Fordham. 
More relevant for us, I think, is to know this: Trump is not going to come and "round up" all the immigrants in a way that we can easily see and chant down.  It happens slowly and invisibly and therefore needs to be fought by sharing information, by speaking out loud about status in order to remove shame, by offering to accompany our neighbors to court, by referring neighbors to legitimate nonprofit lawyers who can help them and by educating across ethnic groups about these issues. We need to organize 'know your rights' seminars in our schools and workplaces and places of worship. We need to educate each other about what is possible and where the levers of power are to make legal change. And we need to acknowledge and fix the divisions between groups in the Bronx.  Because I don't live around many white people, I don't hear much white racism (I'm not saying it doesn't exist and I do believe it utterly shapes the structures of our society, etc). What I do hear is vile anti immigrant talk from African Americans, ugly anti Black talk from Latino immigrants and Islamophobia from everyone. The times the Syrian student who lives with us has been accosted and called a terrorist, told "we're going to get you" it hasn't been a white person talking. 
Anyway, I write all this to say, yes, Doc, that's a heart-warming vision of the Bronx but the devil is in the details and in the suspicious between ethnic groups - and the blue print for how to resist or not resist Trump's immigration plans are in how we did and didn't resist Obama's. 
We've been complacent.

Why The Bronx Will Defend the Undocumented

One thing I am fairly confident about: the political, religious and educational leaders of the Bronx will defend the undocumented immigrants in their midst. Why? Because these hardworking, family loving people have helped the Bronx rebuild and recover from the multiple tragedies that plagued the borough from the Sixties through the Nineties- ranging from redlining, arson and abandonment; to drug epidemics and crime waves; to the cutting off of vital city services. In the last 20 years, when immigration has been at its height, once abandoned Bronx neighborhoods have been rebuilt; crime rates have plummeted; business districts have revived, schools have improved and new churches and Islamic centers have opened all over the borough. Wherever you have new apartments and homes and businesses going up, you can find immigrants from West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the West Indies, South Asia and Eastern Europe. Whether legal or undocumented, they have been part of a great American Success Story.
The Bronx was once the place people came from all over the world to see how neighborhoods could be abandoned and destroyed without warfare. Now it is a place where people come to see how such neighborhoods can be completely rebuilt, and, increasingly, to hear great music and eat great food.
Immigrants have been an integral part of that success story. Anyone seeking to deport them- no matter what's their legal status- will meet fierce resistance

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thank You Mr.President

I campaigned hard for President Obama in 2008, cried tears of joy when he was elected, and yet found myself in almost immediate opposition to many of his policies-not all of which could be blamed on Republicans. When it comes to issues like education and financial policy, I have more than a little ambivalence about the 8 years of the Obama Presidency. Yet I have a deep admiration for how he and the First Lady have conducted themselves as public figures, as parents and as our First Family. They have set a standard for dignity eloquence and grace under duress which will last a very long time. Facing levels of hatred, suspicion and contempt rooted deep in our racist history, they responded by creating a moral high ground for discussions of race and justice that we would be well to retain. The policy legacy of Barack Obama will be critiqued and discussed for years to come. But the huge positive impact he and Michelle Obama have had in providing a model of dignified leadership for families as well as our nation is something we can cherish for years to come. Thank you Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Proud to Be A Loser

If being married to the same person for 43 years and still seeing her as the love of my life makes me a loser-- then I am proud to be a loser

If teaching at Fordham for 47 years without trying to move to an Ivy League school makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If refusing to apply for merit increments for ten years so my younger colleagues can get bigger salary increases makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If cheering on people I know-including former students- who publish more important books than I have makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If working with attractive people without viewing them as objects of sexual consumption or sexual assault makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

and finally

If reaching the age of 70 with no ambition to gain great power or wealth makes me a loser- then I am so proud to be a loser that I will even wear a "loser" tee shirt and hat!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Subversive Thoughts About Crime and Social Policy

New York has half the murder rate of Chicago even though it has twice the population-and this is AFTER drastically reducing "stop and frisk."
Why? Two big differences come to mind
First, Chicago knocked down many of its large public housing complexes while New York has not (yet) taken that step. Doing that not only destabilized neighborhoods, it sharply reduced the supply of affordable housing, and put added stress on low income families
Second, New York City attracts far more immigrants than Chicago, undocumented as well as legal, and immigration works to REDUCE crime in decaying working class neighborhoods because immigrants bring energy, optimism and hope to places which have been neglected by business and government

We need to look very carefully at these two cities before defunding public housing and launching a crusade against immigrants. Both of those policy initiatives could have disastrous consequences