Justice, Politics

While we work to open ourselves, Congress moves to build fences

As our elected officials leave DC to hit the campaign trail, late Friday Republican controlled Congress succeeded in pushing enforcement-only immigration legislation to build a 700 mile fence along the border between the U.S. and Mexico through the Senate (after being passed in the House and Bush has agreed to sign) in an attempt to demonstrate why people should feel sound about re-electing them to office.
I worry that they have won over many more than I care to think.
This weekend we prepare for Yom Kippur, and I know this will be heavy on my mind and heart as I move between evaluating my own life, and my relationship to my community and the world–as Rabbi Jill Jacobs eloquently detailed.
On Tuesday, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders, including Rabbi David Saperstein, along with hundreds of Jewish community leaders who sent letters to Representatives across the country, denounced passing enforcement-only legislation.

“People of faith across the country have called for an immigration policy that remembers that each of the 12 million men, women and children who seek a better life in our nation is created in the image of the divine,” Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs Reform’s Religious Action Center, said Tuesday at a news conference in a Senate office building.
He added, “No legislation is better than bad legislation, but just and fair legislation is what is best for all those who live here.” Joining Saperstein were top Christian clerics and senators from both parties.

Listening to his full testimony, and reading letters from Jewish leaders I was moved that so many stand justly on this issue, recognizing how our histories are tied, and continue to be tied to immigration, and how this legislation panders to the worst of electoral politics.
As Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, testified, the fence is “a bumper sticker solution for a complex problem. It’s a feel-good plan that will have little effect in the real world,” he said. “We all know what this is about. It may be good politics, but it’s bad immigration policy. That’s not what Americans want.”
Now I know why I don’t do bumper stickers, and let me tell you, I’m still not sure who is supposed to be feeling good about building a wall that will do nothing except harm more people.
The passage of this legislation is nothing more than false security–a false sense of control. The idea that we must construct large walls that will only continue to breed more hate and violence, rather than honestly reflect on how we are apart of the problem and take steps and measures that acknowledge our involvement in creating a global economy where people must cross borders, with or without papers, in order to feed their families–in order to stay live–is the antithesis, to me, of the spirit of these Days of Awe.
Much to do in the new year–much to do indeed. Much to build–and I don’t mean border fences. Rather, Congress should take cues from groups like PJA who lobbied in support of household workers and support SB 1322–a bill that requires cities and counties in California to identify sites for homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities and remove zoning laws that exclude the building of homeless shelters, transitional housing and special needs facilities in CA’s local communities. While the bill failed passage early in the week, it was passed by the Assembly on reconsideration and then by the Senate and now goes to the Governor.
More to this type of building in the new year.
crossposted to jspot

10 thoughts on “While we work to open ourselves, Congress moves to build fences

  1. I wonder who will get the contract to build this fence? A company with ties to, say, the Vice President?

  2. Smoot–in all seriousness, do you think erecting a 700 mile wall will do anything to protect the country or really solve the issue with immigration? Even most basic research shows that most people who are here came here on visas and just stayed passed their expiration because they needed to stay here for work — I hate to tell you but there’s really little sound evidence that spending billions of tax dollars on erecting a partial wall along a 2000 mile border will do much, other than falsely ease fears created and perpetuated by the white house and the media.

  3. Boeing already got contracts off of this, so did Lockheed Martin…it’s going to take one HELL of a lobbying group to outvote THEIR corporatre interests.

  4. The left is in a bind: they are opposed to enforcing existing immigration law. It is hypocritical; on the one hand, they aren’t calling for civil disobedience by people willing to suffer the consequences, publicly, of openly violating an unjust law; on the other, they are demanding legal reforms as a solution to widespread lawlessness.
    I support legal immigrants to this country, and believe that sanctions against employers, large and small, would have a beneficial impact on the living standards of working class people, esp. minorities. In other words, I’m willing to live with a smaller number of illegals who are severely exploited, as they will live in constant fear of immediate deportation. It’s preferable to massive numbers of illegals who depress wages and sustain the American dream.
    My goal is a country where work is valued; eliminating the sexual and racial segregation of the workforce is a step in that direction. In other words, where any industry or business is dominated by an ethnic group, I support measures to change that. This is true for the corporate boardrooms – and for the janitors in my building. Not to mention those who pick my food.
    Living wages will follow when workers CAN’T dream of running a bodega ten years after coming here illegally. That’s the problem with US workers: they think as though they might succeed to become a boss themselves.

  5. “That’s the problem with US workers: they think as though they might succeed to become a boss themselves.”
    Actually in most parts of the world the ability to save and ultimately own a business is a sign of success. This is not unique to US workers by any stretch of the imagination. Many Chinese workers think similarly. As do many Indians. Believe it or not, even many Cubans. The ability to actually achieve that goal is far from a problem, it’s a blessing. What’s unique about the United States is we provide far more opportunities for this to happen than any other country in the world. That’s one of many reasons why immigrants—legal and illegal, skilled and unskilled, from developed and developing countries—come here in droves every year.

  6. If you say that it is not worth the massive expenditures, then fine, that’s a valid point. But the notion that the construction of a border fence amounts to some violation of human rights or affront to social justice is ridiculous. The problem with people overstaying their visas is the INS’s fault, as what happened with the 9/11 hijackers. But tons of Mexicans are constantly crossing our border illegally. This sets a bad precedent. While immigration to the US is a bitch, I agree, these illegal border crossings make it seem ok for Mexico to continue with its corrupt practices. They should improve their own problems for their own people.

  7. Smoot, I have to say that there’s nothing ridiculous about saying it’s an affront to social justice for if one reason which you already agreed was valid which is millions of dollars that could be spent on a number of issues that this country really needs it for–and again it is unclear to me how people risking their lives to cross borders to feed themselves and their families because they can’t find decent work in their own country thanks to IMF and global free trade policies controlled by the US and Europe that have ripped countries of economic independence and sustainable development, then that means they don’t care about their country. I’ll say it again–until the US acknowledges that it is implicated and involved in the reasons why people cross borders without papers, erecting a wall won’t change anything.

  8. As a Jewish woman, a New Yorker, an ex-Masschusetts woman and an American citizen, I have to say that your take on illegal immigration is very puzzling. First of all, Senator Kennedy is probably immoral at best (Chappaquidick) and possibly a killer. Secondly, he is so far left and unaware of his current constituents that all he ever thinks about is getting more votes for the Democrats – wow – 12 million ILLEGAL immigrants to vote democratic.
    Also, every year illegal immigrants deplete our medical system and hospitals are shutting down under the weight. My own husband, Spanish and a citizen of the U.S. can’t even get a part time job to get through school, here in New York City, because all the bus boy, delivery person, dishwashing, and other like jobs are taken by illegals. And what is this that no one understands what the word illegal means. There are also many stealing U.S. citizens’ identities and Social Security numbers. My husband had to go through alot to get things removed from his credit report. And what about the growing movement of some of these illegals to demand we give them the land as a new Mexico-United States country? Would Israel support 12 million illegal people and let their whole economy die to support people breaking the law in such an arrogant entitled way?
    Why don’t we just call this the United States of Mexico? And what about me and other educated citizens who can’t find any job because we are so open-armed to the people who don’t belong here?

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