Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Iraqi War...Can the U.S. Win?

During a business trip to Guadalajara, Mexico in February of 2005, I managed to watch a number Mexican television stations and observed their coverage of the War in Iraq. I was suprised at the amount of video footage covering the war, but was most suprised by the type of video footage being broadcast by the Mexican media. The footage shown has rarely been broadcast on U.S. television stations and a number of the vidoes were clearly critical of the U.S and showcased what Mexican newscasters catagorized as war crimes and atrocities committed by American forces in Iraq.

As video becomes increasingly popular and readily accessible on the Internet citizens accross the world are all too eager to upload video footage. Citizens upload video for a variety of reasons and many choose it as a means of openly sharing their views on global events. If you perform a search of "Iraq" on YouTube, Google Video and Truveo it will result in thousands of videos, but by far the most graphic results will be found YouTube. The video content on YouTube shows Iraqis being blown to bits by fire from Apache helicopters as well as footage of snipers deadly elimination of their targets in mountains of Afghanistan. The Google Video results all appear to be sanitized which comes as no suprise since Google has a strict policy of approving all video content and quickly removes videos they deem to contain "inappropriate" content. The Truveo "iraq" search resulted in seven thousand plus videos culled from various news sources. The Turveo videos provided the best overall content when rated on newsworthiness and editorial content, but none of the videos revealed any real graphic footage.

The most interesting question for me is how will the inclusion of Citizen Media affect the broader discussion and final outcome on the War in Iraq? What types of video footage and images will be uploaded by citizens from accross the world and how will such footage be perceived by American citizens in the United States? It remains to be seen whether our mainstream media feels any pressure to broadcast graphic Iraqi war video footage as it did to report the level of abuse at Abu Ghraib, in response to such video footage increasing availability on the Internet.

The growing participatory culture of citizens media with its interconnected blogs and vlogs have begun to bring closer attention and scrutiny to the War in Iraq from the American public. Will the increasing availability of citizen media and its resulting commentary and video draw attention to the fact that the War in Iraq unwinnable?

Is if possible that the Internet which was first to bring us the horrific images of Abu Ghraib and the explosion of social networks that are so efficient at the viral distribution of "non-mainstream media", be the catalyst that demonstrates how our American soldiers although engaged in their patriotic duty, sometimes behave in questionable manners and leave them with emotional scars that will live with them for the rest of their lives.

The American public and our military personnel have slowly begun to realize how futile and misguided our efforts are in Iraq. It is only a matter of time before the increasing skepticism of the American public and the voices across the blogosphere eventually have a similar effect regarding the War in Iraq as Walter Cronkites' editorial on the Tết Offensive had towards tipping 1960's public opinion towards opposition of the Vietnam War.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mexican Immigrant Remittances Reach $20 Billion in 2005

Migrant workers in the United States sent over $20 Billion Dollars to Mexico in 2005. The amount is second to oil exports ($28B) and double the $10B Mexico brings in from foreign tourism.

Mexico City has now climbed to second place nationwide in the amount of remittances it receives from the United States. The Mexican capital received US$479 million in wire transfers from migrants living in the U.S. The figure placed them behind Michoacán with 12.5 percent of the overall figure of $20B, while Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Jalisco also registered high rates of remittance money. The fact that Mexico City increased its ranking to second place highlights a growing shift in Mexico's emigration patterns which generally revealed heavy migrantion from rural areas. The shift demonstates that more Mexicans are leaving major cities and seeking better living and wage standards accross the northern border.

"CONAPO, which also used data provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, said Mexico now ranks second in the world among the countries that received remittances from abroad, surpassed only by India." (SourceMex).

CONAPO estimates that remittances over the past five years exceed US$74B.

2000-$6B, 2001-$8B, 2002-$10B, 2003-$13B, 2004-$17B, 2005-$20B

The steady increase in remittances has drawn the attention of many on both sides of the border. Mexican President Fox has publicly encouraged migrant workers to continue sending remittances to their families in Mexico. He cites the increased level of remittances as a source of national pride. President Fox has even gone as far as referring to Mexican migrants as "Mexico's angels in the exterior".

In the U.S. the increase in remittances have attracted both favorable and negative attention. The favorable attention comes from businesses and financial institutions that are eager to cash in on the money transfer fees remittances generate. The negative attention has come from prominent members of U.S latino organizations such as Hilda Marella Delgado, Communications Director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Ms. Delgado wrote a commentary to the Los Angeles Times newspaper and essentially called for Mexican migrant workers to spend their money in the towns they currently live and work. The argument made by Ms. Delgado is that the migrants could better use such funds in the communites the have lived in for the past 10, 15 or 20+ years. The fact is that over 2 million Mexican families now rely on these funds as a primary source of income and the number will likely continue to increase.

Critics also point out that remittances should be spent within our borders and to grow our economy. These critics have probably not seen the recent studies conducted by UC Davis and the UC San Diego which have released data that shows a large portion of these funds being spent on American made goods which further contributes to our economy.

While Mexican families increasingly rely on these remittance funds as an important source of income, because these dollars allow them to purchase basic goods such as food and clothing, whether Mexican or U.S. made, Mexico's government has quietly begun to use remittances to build its infrastructure. In a pilot program, the Mexican government has offered to match funds migrants send to their communites for community based projects, such as the building of schools, roads, plazas and medical clinics, with a 3 for 1. The program has relied on the participation of "Clubes de Oriundes" or Home Town Associations (HTA's). A description of some of the HTA goals are provided here:

  • HTA projects in communities of origin are intended to alleviate poverty and decades of neglect by local governments. HTAs depend entirely on voluntary contributions and efforts by members who support social development projects. This work has been characterized by efficacy, honesty, and transparency.

  • HTAs, along with other immigrant self-help groups, function as social networks and transmitters of culture and values to the American-born generation. One of their most important challenges is the incorporation of the second generation into HTA activities.
The immigration numbers clearly reveal that despite the stepped up efforts of the Immigration and Naturalizaion Service, now Department of Homeland Security, the enforcement, use of surveillance and night-vision cameras, an increased presesence of Border Patrol agents have failed to stem the flow of illegal immigration. (Source Mex, Latin America Data Base, Lat. Am. Institute, Vol. 11, No. 14, Ap. 12).

The remittances and their mounting contribution to the Mexican economy have caused all the leading presidential candidates in Mexico to schedule visits in heavily populated Mexican U.S. cities and communities. These candicates clearly understand the value in courting the vote of these immigrants who have recently begun to wield political influence over Mexico's politics from accross the border. The visits are also a result of the Mexican Congress consideration to allow Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. to cast absentee ballots in the upcoming presidential elections.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

America's Ineffective Immigration Policy

Our current immigration policy punishes the hard work of immigrants and fractures their families. It does so by perpetuating a system in which the labor of undocumented immigrants is essential to our economy and infrastructure, but in turn denies them any hope of achieving permanent residency or ever becoming citizens in this county.

It is common, if unspoken knowledge that without immigrant labor many industries such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing could simply not function. The inherent needs of our economy have long ago necessitated a steady influx of immigrant labor. The past 20 years have resulted in millions of illegal immigrants arriving to this country, establishing underground lives that force them into a cash economy full of individuals all to eager to take advantage. Yet despite over 300 yearly deaths suffered by immigrants attempting to cross our borders and confrontations from extreme groups who increasingly call for their mass round up and deportation. They continue to come a rate estimated to be over 700,000 per year.

Any real and effective immigration policy or reform will require a means and method for illegal immigrant families to remain united. It can be argued that any effort to break up these families will result in such families openly violating these laws in an effort to protect their loved ones. There are millions of illegal immigrants whose children are U.S. born citizens and the laws do afford these children an opportunity to sponsor such parents for legal residency once such child reaches the age of 18 years old, but the process can take years and is currently backlogged.

Recent legislative changes in various states such as California, New Mexico, Texas and Illinois further complicated matters. These states have passed laws which allow illegal immigrants to set up bank accounts by using their Matricula Consular as a valid form of identification. The state of Illinois has gone even further by creating programs that allow illegal immigrants to purchase homes by using a Tax identification Number (TIN) instead of a Social Security Number. A TIN can now be easily be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service with a proof of a Matricula Consular. The net effect is that the IRS cares little about the individuals legal residency status, but only that they pay their fair share of taxes.

Nevertheless the aforementioned changes have created business opportunities for entrepreneurial immigrants who suddenly have access to capital that was previously unavailable.

Unfortunately, our media fails to deliver a real understanding of the complex issues surrounding illegal immigration. Therefore the general public only sees the images and sound bites that our media creates in an effort of achieving certain ratings points. Our media has no real incentive to devote the necessary time and energy into a serious analysis of the problem.

It was encouraging to see a broad piece of immigration reform legislation being introduced by Sens. Ed Kennedy (D-Mass) and John McCain (R-Ariz) in 2005. The proposed legislation would expand green card quotas and eliminate the backlogs that have stymied longtime undocumented workers. The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Bill of 2005 has widespread support, but it remains to be seen whether Republicans can truly find common ground on this crucial piece of legislation. A small group within the Republican party continue to strongly oppose this piece of legislation. This group within the Republican party is calling for stricter enforcement of existing laws and it opposes creating any new paths towards naturalization.

Our legislators like the rest of our society have found it difficult to find common ground on the issue of illegal immigration. While our legislators continue to debate the fine points of immigration reform, countless immigrants go on with their daily lives. These immigrants live among us and in fact live lives much like we do, with the exception of the opportunities we probably take for granted. The vast majority of these immigrants simply want to work and provide for their families in the U.S. and abroad.

The 20+ years of ineffective immigration policies have allowed the influx 10+ million illegal immigrants into our country. Even if took steps to pass laws to deport these individual such move would be an impossible task because these immigrants have long ago established roots in this country with lives that include friends and families. Therefore no amount of anti-immigrant legislation will ever result in their voluntarily leaving the U.S. for their native countries.

The report we see on the nightly news, the reports of our broken borders, the reports of our rising crime rate associated with immigrants and the arguments that immigrants are taking over our jobs are just plain wrong. The fact is that new immigrants both legal and illegal don't contribute to te crime rate anymore than other segments fo the population. Furthermore, few of us can point to an illegal immigrant who has broken the law or is contributing to the rising crime rate of our town or city. As for those disappearing jobs, you can look at globalization as the major contributing factor.

As for the argument that immigrants take away jobs you and I are willing and able to perform, well I can only speak for myself, but I'm perfectly content with my cushy job behind a desk and all to willing to let some immigrant take that back breaking, dirty, underpaid and unappreciated labor intensive occupation any day of the week.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bush like Nixon is into Wiretaps

The Bush Administration remains adamant about using warrant less wiretaps on American citizens in the name of National Security. Historically former President Nixon felt much the same way. Nixon went on to order illegal wiretaps, wiretaps he felt he was fully authoritized to do so and the Watergate Scandal was born. Will history repeat itself for President Bush?

Only time will tell if President Bush will live to regret the ordering of warrant less wiretaps on American citizens. The Bush Administration has argued that these powers are granted to him byU.S. Constitution during a time of war and well within the the policies of National Security Agency.

The American public will one day know the truth and judge whether the wiretaps order by President Bush are in fact constitutional and within the presidential powers afforded tom him within our consititution.

At the moment President Bush and the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will keep on holding steadfastly to the position that these wiretaps are necessary to ensure our National Security. The also argue that our Constitution grants President Bush these types of powers during a time of war. History will eventually determine if they were right or whether the American public was once again being misled and misguided in the face of patriotism. The facts will eventually bear out and history will once again serve as a cold reminder about how much trust citizens place on our elected officials. The wiretaps ordered by President Bush and their contents will one day serve as a gauge on how effective this administration was on it's ability not only identify our enemies but also how to effectively combat terrorism.

Will this Administration demonstrate to us that these steps were necessary and in fact do not violate the rights of it's citizenry and an effective means of combating terrorism?

Your comments are welcomed.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 - Beta Preview

Microsoft just released a Beta Preview of Internet Explorer 7. I'm not a fan of IE having long ago switched to Firefox with it's tabbed browsing features and lately have begun to use Flock when writing postsfor my blogs.

Nevertheless, I was curious enough about IE7 that I downloaded the beta version and take it for a test run. If you are interested in checking it out you can get it here. When you go thru the process of downloading the software you will encounter Microsoft's usual user agreement language and validation processes that will result in their eventual "ownership of your soul", but what the heck, I'm feeling fiesty.

This new version of IE offers a spruced up cleaner and smoother looking interface, but aside from that and a nifty RSS toolbar feature, I could not find much else to be excited about this browser. It seems to me that IE and Firefox are starting this cycle of copying from one another, with tabbed browsing, extensions and plugins, but are not adding any significant technical features such as those being introduced by the "social browser" Flock.

Before moving onto Flock, I should note that the Beta Version of IE7, which I should always expect from MS, create problems for my MSWord and an assorted number errors when the download tried to validate my copy of Windows.

As mentioned I use Flock when creating content for my blogs and find their blog editor, shelf and topbar tools very useful. I'm looking forward to an updated version beyond their current offering of Developer Version 0.4.10. Reports are surfacing here and there that a new version is expected sometime the middle of is month.

As of now, I will continue to utilize Firefox mostly because all my extension and plugins are already there and the browser has worked well for me. After previewing the beta version of IE7, I don't see myself being enticed to change browsers, although my feeling is that may eventually change when Flock releases an updated version later this month.

Overall, my feeling is that the browser of the future is more likely to be Flock as opposed to IE7 or Firefox.

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