Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts

Monday, October 12, 2020

Ciao and shalom, it's Columbus Day

It was painful and offensive to me to see the Columbus statue in Baltimore ripped down and thrown into the harbor on the Fourth of July.

I appreciated Trevor Noah's Daily Show commentary on Columbus Day, aired last week, because he recognized the meaning of the holiday to the Italian-American community.

Noah excerpted a Vox video (story), from 2018, which gave a good concise summary of how the Columbus holiday came to be.

The video describes "the legend of Columbus," and it is a legend.  Italian-American immigrants, such as my grandparents, came to embrace a legendary Columbus who bore little resemblance to the real historical figure.  Which is not to say that the legend lacked real meaning for real people.  There was a time when Italian-Americans were a "non-white" minority in America, Noah acknowledged.  The community reached out to adopt, and partly to create, a galvanizing icon.  

I studied Columbus quite a bit as an undergrad majoring in Spanish-language literature during the quincentenary of "the Discovery."  As best as we can know Columbus, which is not much, given a paucity of surviving and conflicting accounts, the truth must be that he was complicated.  People are.  He had a multiplicity of motives, some more morally laudable than others.  And probably he wasn't the sweetest sort of guy.  Crossing the Atlantic Ocean with a potentially mutinous crew of adventurers in 1492 was a rugged business, if not recklessly suicidal.  But Columbus did not invent Euro-centrism, Caucasian supremacy, or slavery.  The cultural arrogances and inhumane institutions of the 15th century were certain to encircle the globe aboard every ship that departed the continent.

Columbus statue (Brent Moore CC BY 2.0)
So my family, arriving in America in the 20th century, embraced a legend.  It wasn't a terrible choice of legend.  The first Italians to populate Baltimore sailed from Genoa, which is where Columbus probably was from.  My grandparents, who also came to America by boat, from Tuscany, revered Columbus well before the dedication of his Little Italy statue in 1984.  Through their Italian-American organizations, they contributed to the creation of the statue, which was made of marble and crafted by an Italian sculptor.  President Reagan and the mayor of Baltimore dedicated the statue in Baltimore's Little Italy, where my family first lived after immigrating.  When I was a kid, I was taken to Little Italy when my family volunteered and participated in religious rites and Italian-American festivals.  Later, and for many years, my uncle played the character of Columbus in Baltimore's Columbus Day parade, which started and ended at the Columbus statue.  I remember him decked out in cartoonish royal robes, standing atop a float mock-up of the Santa Maria, waving to smiling people, of all colors, who lined the streets.  

He stopped when it became dangerous to be Columbus.  Dangerous to celebrate our history in America, however reimagined and romanticized.

I'm not opposed to taking down statues of Columbus.  I've advocated for "fallen monument" parks, as abound in former Soviet states, Hungary's being the most well known.  They're immeasurably valuable to teach history.  They proffer powerful evidence that, try as we might to be good and to do right, morality has proven a stubbornly mutable ambition in the human experience.  

But taking down Columbus in Little Italy should have been a decision made by a cross-section of community stakeholders, not by a mob.  An effort had been under way in the Italian-American community already to raise money to move Columbus elsewhere.  The mayor of Baltimore promised prosecution of the vandals on July 9, but I've found no report of any arrest or charge to date.  The Italian-Americans who contribute still, vitally, to Baltimore's identity deserve better.  They deserve respect, right alongside every other community that has built Baltimore as a vibrant and diverse city.

As Noah observed, American history is now populated by many Italian-Americans who don't need aggrandizing legends to demonstrate greatness.  It's not too late to create the commission that should have been and to start talking about how to honor immigrant history and the City of Baltimore at the intersection of Eastern Avenue and President Street.  I don't know who, or what, might, or should, stand in "Columbus" square.  I do believe that if we work at it, we can find, or make, an icon that my grandparents would have appreciated, and at the same time raise a testament to a new story.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Scharf urges rational statutory construction to ease immigration plight of child victims of abuse, neglect

My colleague Irene Scharf published further research into easing immigration hardships for undocumented youth who have been victimized by abuse, abandonment, or neglect.  She explains (footnotes omitted):

In 1990, aiming to ease the difficult situation for undocumented child immigrants who were dependent on juvenile courts for their protection, Congress enacted the Special Immigrant Juvenile provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, located at 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) (the provision). In 2008, in an effort to further ease the plight of these young people, it amended the provision to relieve the proof requirement from proving abuse, abandonment, or neglect by both parents to that of one or both parents. Unfortunately, the provision maintains its “two-tier” citizenship system because one of its subsections denies Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) who naturalize the same rights as other citizens possess to petition for their parents to immigrate [8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(iii)(II)]. In Second Class Citizenship? The Plight of Special Immigrant Juveniles [40 Cardozo L. Rev. 579 (2019)], I concluded that this limitation violates Due Process by creating this two-tier citizenship system. To address this inequity, courts should employ the doctrine of “rational legislating” to interpret this provision in a way that would place SIJs on an equal footing with other citizens. This would more accurately reflect the intent Congress had when it amended the provision in 2008, and permit naturalized SIJs to reunify with their parents.

Professor Scharf in the article further frames the problem in describing its impact on the lives of young people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, relating experiences amalgamated from real clients of the immigration law clinic she has supervised for nearly two decades.

The article is Robbing Special Immigrant Juveniles of Their Rights as U.S. Citizens: The Legislative Error in the 2008 TVPRA Amendments, 30 Berkeley La Raza L.J. 41 (2020).

Saturday, August 15, 2020

'Our Side': Short film on immigration crisis in Italy earns Academy nomination in narrative


Last year, my daughter, Morgan Steele, worked as a script supervisor on a short film in Sicily.  Our Side (2020), directed by Nicola Rinciari, is an intriguing and timely snapshot of fictionalized human drama amid the very real immigration crisis in Europe.  The film has been nominated for the Student Academy Award in narrative.  Here is the trailer:

 

"Our Side" Trailer from Nicola Rinciari on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Scharf laments executive disrespect for courts in immigration enforcement

My friend and colleague Irene Scharf has written for the Human Rights At Home blog on "mid-case deportations" by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Professor Scharf is expert in immigration law, which I know next to nothing about.  But Professor Scharf raises the alarm about worrisome incidents of executive defiance of the courts, implicating the separation of powers and raising questions about the very rule of law in America today.

Responding to a Boston Globe editorial (pay wall) at the end of February, Professor Scharf wrote on March 20:

While I of course deplore the acts these crimes involved [subject of charges against immigration detainees], as an immigration lawyer and advocate I am deeply disturbed by ICE’s systematic and ongoing attacks on the Massachusetts judicial system.  The Globe editors referred to their hope that the federal courts will address and contain these actions. However, given what we’ve seen recently, it is unclear whether the federal government, acting through ICE, would even abide by a federal ruling. To me, that is the most alarming issue behind these ICE moves.

She quoted respected Seventh Circuit Judge Easterbrook in a recent opinion (Justia), "We have never before encountered defiance of a remand order, and we hope never to see it again.... [I]t should not be necessary to remind the Board [of Immigration Appeals], all of whose members are lawyers, that the 'judicial Power' under Article III of the Constitution is one to make conclusive decisions, not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government."

Friday, May 3, 2019

SCOTUS, climate change, drug addiction, immigration highlight law and policy issues at UMass colloquium


Today at the Fifth UMass Interdisciplinary Legal Studies Colloquium in Boston, scholars talked about a range of intriguing work, from politics to climate change to drug legalization, being done across the University of Massachusetts campuses—Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell, and Law (at Dartmouth) and Medical (at Worcester).  Here’s a taste.

View of Boston from One Beacon Street today.  "Back Bay is called 'Back Bay' for a reason," UMass Dartmouth Professor  
Chad McGuire said, referring to reclaimed land that is threatened by rising sea levels.
Law and Policy Inside the Beltway
Panel 1—Moderated by yours truly

Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jeremiah Ho, UMass Law.  Professor Ho explicated his theory of “interest convergence,” and how a lack thereof explains the result in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the LGBTQ-rights cakeshop case.  His research shows how images—sometimes literally—of gay identity have informed public and judicial perception of LGBTQ rights cases.  Three more cases lie on the horizon, in the Court’s next term, Ho said, so stay tuned.   Meanwhile preview his "Queer Sacrifice" work, just out in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, at SSRN.

Can Presidents Influence Public Attitudes Toward the Supreme Court? Evidence from a Survey Experiment, Paul M. Collins, Jr. (blog), Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst.  Collins’s long-term research digs deep into how statements and action by the President of the United States exert influence over public perception of the U.S. Supreme Court and its decisions.  What the President says matters; consider, Collins proffers, the White House has a whole office dedicated to SCOTUS spin.  Collins also notes that low public knowledge of the Court is a factor in allowing public opinion to be influenced by forces external to the Court.  I can’t help but think about the Court’s intransigence on cameras and public access.  Anyway, Collins has discovered that the public is more easily influenced on “low salience” issues, but less so on “high salience” (I’d say “hot button”) issues, such as immigration.

On the Supreme Court of the United States of America (and Congruent Agencies and Ministries in the Term of President Donald Trump), Judge Francis Larkin, UMass Law.  Judge Larkin shared observations of recent events in President-Court interaction.  He recalled FDR’s Court-packing plan, relative to its recent resurgence in politics (e.g., WaPo).

Forcing Disclosure, Justine Dunlap, UMass Law.  Professor Dunlap is looking at mandatory disclosures under Title IX, especially faculty duties.  She observes that the evolution of Title IX over recent decades, under administrations from both sides of the aisle, have fairly sought to respond to a real problem of unredressed sexual harassment and assault on college campuses.  But the responses have not always been well tuned.  And mandatory reporting, however well intentioned, can put faculty in the impossible bind of having to betray student trust.  (Professor Julie Baker in Q&A aptly noted also that the consequences of ill-tuned reporting schemes for accused perpetrators are not always conducive to dispute resolution or justice.)  Dunlap talked about a system being implemented at the University of Oregon that contemplates a third class of potential “reporter”—rather than all or nothing, a “student-directed reporter.”

Recovery, Resiliency, and Equality in Economic Development
Panel 2—Moderated by Professor Justine Dunlap, UMass Law

Opening for Business: Tax-Haven Economy and the State of Exception in Puerto Rico, Jose Atiles, Department of Political Science, UMass Amherst.  Professor Atiles is working on Puerto Rico and U.S. development strategies.  He explained that there are two prevalent approaches to development policy concerning the island, one the “blank canvas” approach, which encourages recovery investment on the selling point that, more or less, my words: there’s nothing there at present; two the “PR is open for business” approach, which seeks to exploit the island’s legal status as a tax haven.  Both of these representations are animated by a “neoliberal-colonial rationality,” and that troubling mindset is reflected in the law that facilitates these strategies.

I’m reminded of the colonial terra nullius doctrine with respect to the blank canvas, and the local-policy-characteristic Everett casino debate with respect to “open for business.”  Puerto Rico and its people are not our offshore plaything.  In Q&A, I asked Atiles what it would take for us to start thinking about PR more like we do Missouri.  Statehood and independence each have advantages and drawbacks, which he explained summarily; what won’t save PR, he said, is the status quo.

A “Least Regrets” Framework for Coastal Climate Change Resiliency Through Economic Development, Chad McGuire and Michael Goodman, College of Arts and Sciences, UMass Dartmouth.  Professor McGuire continues his renowned work on environmental conservation and climate change, and now he’s brought public policy numbers wizard Professor Goodman (also president of the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Senate) onto the team to look at the economics.  They’re attacking the problem of aligning shorter-term economic incentives with the longer-term public interest in saving the human race from extinction.

I just saw Dan Gardner on The Daily Show talking to Roy Wood Jr. (video embedded below) (let me remind everyone that I shook Roy’s hand in East Providence) talking about how our “caveman” brains don’t well process the threat of climate change because it’s too abstract, that we need more urgent messaging.  McGuire and Goodman have it.  As I’m wearing a sweater in May, McGuire observed: “Spring has become less of a thing, and winter moving into summer is becoming more of a thing.”  We’ve lost 15-30 days of winter in New England, he shows with data, and seasonal transitions are becoming more abrupt.  Then he directs us toward the view of Boston from our huge glass windows here in the 32nd floor of One Beacon Street.  “Back Bay is called ‘Back Bay’ for a reason,” McGuire said.  Boston sits on filled-in bay.

At lunch, McGuire told me about rubber buffers that run through Boston streets to absorb shifts in the aqueous earth beneath.  And he told me about the latest alarming findings from the Ross Ice Shelf.  Our society has invested a great deal in developing low-lying land, and we’re going to have reconcile that policy with our climate game.



Human Rights Responses to Economic and Social Inequalities—A Book Proposal, Gillian MacNaughton, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, UMass Boston.  For my money—both figuratively and literally—Professor MacNaughton’s work is what we need to save humanity from catastrophe—after and assuming we figure out how to survive climate change.  MacNaughton takes what we know and bemoan about inequality of wealth and opportunity in the United States and runs writ large with the problem.  As she wrote in her abstract: “The Global Wealth Report 2017 reveals that the wealthiest 1% of the global population owns 50% of global assets, while the poorest 50% owns less than 1%.”  Building on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, she plans to propose putting some punch behind international treaty guarantees of social and economic equality, such as we might start to address this problem on the global level.  I’ve often lamented that our increasingly disparate economic stratification will be our undoing in the United States if we don’t address it.  It’s worth being reminded how much more desperate the situation already is worldwide.  See also Professor MacNaughton's recent co-edited book, Economic and Social Rights in a Neoliberal World (Cambridge University Press 2019).

Drug Use and Abuse, and the Criminal Justice System
Panel 3—Moderated by Professor Julie Baker, UMass Law

Is Marijuana the Gateway Drug? Maybe Not, But Its Legalization Could Be, Nikolay Anguelov, College of Arts and Science, UMass Dartmouth.  Professor Anguelov is known to many of my readers and former students as the author of the 2015 book, The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry: Fast Fashion and Its Negative Impact on Environment and Society (CRC Press) (Amazon).  I have heard him speak many times to awestruck and sometimes squirming audiences about the connection between their affordable clothing and Bangladesh waterways poisoned with dye and arsenic.  Anguelov is more recently author of From Criminalizing to Decriminalizing Marijuana: The Politics of Social Control (Lexington Books 2018) (Amazon).  Anguelov is now fine-tuning his formidable research into marijuana use.  His early data invite the conclusion that legalization—which I as a libertarian have favored—might be contributing to the opioid epidemic at least by “contributing to the cultural normalization of drug use and experimentation.”  Ruh-roh, Shaggy.  This is going to require further research, and I’m anticipatorily squirming in my H&Ms.

Recovery Coaches in Opioid Use Disorder Care, Matthew Maughan, UMass Medical.  When opioid addiction turns to recovery, attorney Matthew Maughan is the policy guru to turn to.  Informed by his multifaceted experience and research, he explained the role and peculiar success of the “recovery coach.”  It might be awkwardly unorthodox in terms of developing a large-scale model, but sometimes a block grant for an activity tailored to a person’s specific needs offers the best hope for recovery and might as well be cost effective.  Maughan recounted the story of a recovery accomplished through mental clarity achieved on the water on a kayak, under the guidance of a recovery coach.  That’s got to cost less than any bill I’ve ever gotten from a medical clinic.

Locating Cannabis Equity: Defining Areas Impacted by Drug Criminalization, Michael Johnson, Professor and Chair, McCormack Graduate School, UMass Boston, and Jeffrey Moyer, doctoral candidate in public policy, UMass Boston.  Moyer is working with Professor Johnson to study the intersection of enforcement and anti-discrimination.  Specifically, he asks whether the Massachusetts “Cannabis Control Commission’s use of a race-neutral variable is effective in selecting areas disproportionately impacted by criminalization.”  Part of the work has entailed mapping all drug arrests, which generates some compelling graphics when overlaid with demographic data.  I am reminded of being a journalism intern at WJZ-TV in Baltimore in the early 1990s, when we made an analog map—this was when we were still working on DOS-based computers—literally putting color pushpins in a map of Baltimore to look at the coincidence of murders with factual and demographic elements.  That was a time when we were first talking about the problem of race and policing “where the crime is.”  We also walked five miles to school, uphill both ways.

Moyer shows analysis of geographic data on police enforcement, obtained in part through a public record request.
To Plea or Not to Plea: A Virtual Simulation of Plea-Bargain Scenarios, Miko M. Wilford, Psychology Department, UMass Lowell; Annabelle Frazier, doctoral candidate in applied psychology, UMass Lowell; Kelly Sutherland, doctoral candidate in applied psychology and prevention science, UMass Lowell.  With doctoral candidates on a new applied psychology track at UMass Lowell, Professor Wilford is taking a behavioral look at plea bargaining, that irksome feature of the criminal justice system that we don’t like to talk about, even while we know it results in some guilty pleas calculated to avert draconian outcomes (my take).  Really they’re looking at the research of plea bargain research, trying to refine how we learn about people's decision-making processes in these high-stakes circumstances.  Perhaps no surprise once you think about it, it is difficult to simulate having so much at stake with volunteers in psychology-lab experiments.  The team is working on new, high-tech models using animations to engender empathy and generate better results.  See more at the project website, Pleajustice.org.

Personal Rights at the Borders
Panel 4—Moderator: Misty Peltz-Steele, UMass Law

Controlling Asylum: A Genealogical Analysis of Gender and Race Intersectionality, Phil Kretsedemas, College of Liberal Arts, UMass Boston.  Professor Kretsedemas is studying the status of domestic violence survivors and Latin American asylum seekers relative to Matter of A-B, an AG-Sessions opinion “that dramatically curtails asylum protections for survivors of domestic violence, and for many other people who have been persecuted by non-state actors.”  A U.S. District Court has lately pushed back on Sessions’s conclusions, Kretsedemas said, as he investigates the problem from critical dimensions of gender and racial equality.  Kretsedemas’s approach is further informed by comparative law, as he draws on parallel legal perspectives from foreign tribunals, including the U.K. House of Lords, and from parallel cultural perspectives, such as Guatemalan views on gender roles within families.  Present policies, focusing for example unduly on familial cohesion, have gravely injurious impact, for example failing to protect women from female genital mutilation.  Kretsedemas locates these policies in a context that includes family separation, though the latter issue has garnered greater public attention.

Troubling Bodies: The Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Unaccompanied Pregnant Teen, Shoshanna Ehrlich, College of Liberal Arts, UMass Boston.  Also examining a perhaps under-recognized issue within our vast immigration policy debate, Professor Ehrlich is studying the federal government’s “literal refusal to release [young women] from . . . custody so they may access abortion care,” plainly violating their civil rights, Ehrlich asserts.  Even the U.S. Government waived argument in the courts as to whether the teens involved here enjoy U.S. constitutional rights.  Yet in government memos discovered in ACLU litigation, Ehrlich shared in her presentation, Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), opined that abortions desired even by teens impregnated by rape are not in the young women’s best interests.  Lloyd was removed from his post and “transferred to HHS’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives,” Rolling Stone reported in November 2018.  He was later summoned to testify in Congress about family separations, Politico reported in February 2019.  Ehrlich told of interviewing parents the government separated from their children, and the trauma that resulted, wondering how the government could at the same time justify refusing abortions on the rationale that mothers should not be separated from their unborn children, despite their personal circumstances and decisions.