North Carolina House Meeting on Immigration Reform: Making Room for Change

A special House meeting was held on Wednesday January 25th, 2012 on how to deal with the ‘immigration problem’ in North Carolina. Discussions hovered around how to get to the heart of the problem which seemed to be illegal employment. It seems the problem is how to go about enforcing immigration reforms which won’t hurt the North Carolina Economy as is the case with the Arizona reforms.

Illegal Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mex...

Latino Protesters

Immigration reforms trigger ‘immigrant flight’.   Distribution of immigrants across North Carolina is somewhat blurred but it is obvious that Hispanic Immigrants (the largest immigrant population) favor rural areas. Immigration reforms will most certainly impact the agricultural sector.  Prompted by economic opportunities and policy mandates, ‘Immigrant flight’ has not to do with choice but more to do with survival. As more stringent immigration policies are considered and passed, immigrants will be forced to move to friendlier territories where they can enjoy economic opportunities.

After the meeting, a group of people held a rally outside the Legislative building protesting the immigration reforms being considered. It will be interesting to see how North Carolina approaches the immigrant question. Sweeping reforms could lead to a mass exodus of immigrants the impact of which might be severe on the North Carolina economy. For now it seems, North Carolina is carefully watching what happens in Arizona before jumping in and adopting similar reforms.

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What 2012 has to offer to the American Immigrant

Statue of Liberty, New York

Do Not Give me your Tired nor your Poor

…..”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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus- A sonnet by Emma Lazarus inside the Statue of Liberty

 

It seems that the golden doors  of America are fast closing on the Immigrant. No longer are the tired, poor or homeless welcome to the land of the free and home of the braves. Set to take effect in 2012 and some already being enforced are the most punitive restrictive immigration laws yet. In 2012 the illegal American Immigrant can look forward to the following:

  1. In Alabama,  13 New Immigration laws took effect in 2012 among them requiring policemen to conduct verification of immigration status during legal stops. Also in effect is the requirement of all employers conducting business any government body to use the E-Verification system.
  2. In Georgia, any company with 500 or more employees is to use the E-Verification system to check their employees’ immigration status.  The hope is that in June of 2013, employers with over 10 workers are to also do the same.
  3. Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina also joined in and passed similar E-Verification laws.

There is hope yet for the immigrant because California has passed the Dream Act allowing children who may be illegal to receive in state tuition rates as well as some scholarships.  California also went ahead and allowed new US citizens to register and vote on Election Day.  The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Obama administration was going to make it easier for an illegal immigrant related to a US citizen to seek legal status. The administration hopes to create a path to legal status for the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

So where does that leave the American Immigrant?  Members of the Diaspora either knowingly or unknowingly interact with illegal immigrants. Not only that, but as anti immigrant sentiments continue to rise, the uncomfortable question of immigration status may become a driving wedge forcing groups to feel unwelcome in a country that has in the past been unified by its differences rather than its similarities.

The immigration reform waters are murky  but one thing is for sure, the illegal immigration issue is not going to be an overnight solution. At best, it will lead to finally bringing the question to the public debate and perhaps become a central issue that gets addressed in the coming elections after unemployment. At worst, it will mean that states will continue to pass laws that will impact their tax payers and displace immigrant families.

 

A Diaspora’s Christmas

Taken on University and Elm, Toronto @ Novembe...

Santa is here...what now!

Christmas is here and it’s once again time to be cheerful. This year the Christmas lights seem grander and flashier in an attempt to outdo the previous year.  Last weekend was the Cary parade and it did not disappoint. It had more than 200 entrants. I counted 4 matching bands and several Santas on floats.  Even Elvis was there shimmying and pointing in his tight alabaster get-up.   Feet started hurting as the  50th group that went by. By the time the 60th group was coming, I had lost all my goodwill and pretty much decided I would be better off resting than waiting for the grand finale.  The erratic behavior of my son and his friends confirmed that perhaps this was as good a show as we could take. They had ceased all real and fake interest in watching the parade. The awe they had originally expressed with each passing float gave way to a chorus of repeated inquiries as to when we would leave. Then, resigned to their fate of having to enjoy the parade, they took to running in circles around a tree. I gave up after the 70th and rounded up my relieved passé.  We headed home glad to be embraced by the welcoming embrace of the soft couch in the living room.

Once home, my husband and I reminisced on long ago Christmases from another world.  A Diaspora world where the lights and show came from the glow of the fire as it slowly crisped the barbecue meat that we would all enjoy.  My husband and I laughed as we recalled our shared experiences of having a goat or chicken brought home as the family gift that would be enjoyed by all. I tried to picture my son’s face if I told him that instead of the latest gizmo he was currently fantasizing about getting, he would get to enjoy food with us on that day. Or that we would be getting him a new outfit that he could wear to school or special occasions.

For the Diaspora, Christmas takes on new meaning as the commercialized aspect of the holiday demands funds be sent  to their country of origin for  families to have a taste of the Western interpretation of the holiday. Gone are the days when simply traveling to spend the holiday break with relatives was enough. Gone are the pragmatic days when it was enough to get a new outfit or a pair of shoes that would be used in the coming year.

Capitalization of Christmas ultimately means that even this holiday designed to get families together to celebrate; a class system is bound to emerge complete with its own one percent of people giving and receiving lavish gifts and those who do not receive anything during this holiday. It’s no longer going to be ‘who did you spend your holiday with’ but rather, ‘what did you get for the Christmas?’

I can’t help but wonder what the impact of commercialization of Christmas is going to be on the Diaspora as they struggle to meet the rising demand for gifts during the holiday. Not only do they have to shoulder the responsibility of celebrating the holiday as it’s done in the west, but they have to meet the demands from their relatives back home.

Diaspora Banter Part 1:Dog Talk

Trying to assimilate into a new culture can be tricky for a member of the Diaspora.  Subtle cultural nuances such as mastering the skill to conduct random banter can be more challenging than the more obvious cultural shifts one must make when trying to mingle with their new neighbors.  In America for example, conducting meaningless small talk is an integral part of getting to know each other and is a skill that must be cultivated and natured if a Diaspora has any hope of interacting ad becoming Americanized.

There is hope however, for those who find it difficult to engage in the activity of small talk in order to appear more open and accessible to others.  To conduct small talk, one must find a topic that is safe to for the participants to engage in. At this point it is important that I mention that any topic that might involve actually knowing the details of one’s life is off-limits. Steer away from any references towards physical appearances; these attract lawsuits because of the real emotions they evoke. All personal details must  be volunteered without any prompting.

My dog Poligraf Poligrafovich

Dog Talk for Diaspora

In the process of enculturation, a Diaspora must get comfortable with filling every silent space with information whether it’s relevant or not. This is called being outgoing. Years of engaging in small talk have yielded one topic that is a sure-fire way to create a connection and possible camaraderie. A Diaspora must squelch the need to create meaningful friendships as this is rare but can happen if you continue to engage in meaningless small talk. It’s in the form of Dog Talk.

Vast numbers of Americans own dogs. . Lovingly cared for, the lucky canines receive undivided attention, affection and are coddled sometimes even more than humans.  Some studies have even shown that companionship from dogs has the effect of reducing stress levels among Americans.

So it is no surprise then that striking up Dog Talk can be responsible for creating the kind of small talk that is necessary to get to know your neighbors. To perfect the skill, it is perhaps best to try it out on Random strangers walking dogs. This is important because you must communicate genuine interest in a topic that you might have absolutely no knowledge or interest in. Later, once you have learned to appear interested, you can try it out on your coworkers and neighbors.

Most Americans don’t mind carrying out conversations about their dogs to perfect strangers because they love their dogs so much and can’t wait to display this to any and everyone.  Asking specific questions about dogs is a great way to create lengthy conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a ‘shetland sheepdog’  is. Most dog owners don’t care whether you know the difference. They just feel the need to tell you so that you too can celebrate the existence of their most beloved companion.

It is important however, not to be intimated by the vast amounts of information you may receive about dogs when you are getting to know your new neighbors. Sprinkling affirmatives is imperative because otherwise you risk losing an enthusiastic participant. Other questions you might want to ask are: how old the dog is, whether it’s male or female, and even if it’s been neutered.

If you are a Diaspora and are a neighbor to someone owning a dog, you must ask to pet the dog. This was difficult for me in the beginning because of a latent fear I had developed from unsavory experiences with wild dogs in Africa. American dogs are trained to be nice.  Some may  nip at you, some may be  too boisterous with their play but owners will generally tell you if you can pet them. This way they can continue to display how knowledgeable they are about their pets.

If you are a Diaspora who works with someone who has pictures of their dog on their desk, they want you to comment on the picture. It will yield more conversation than if you attempt to just ask them to tell you about themselves. Because most dogs reside inside the house with their owners, and are therefore

taken out on walks every morning or evening. Taking a walk during these times, will make you accessible to your neighbors so that you can engage in more conversations that will endear you to them.

In a culture beleaguered with small talk, a Diaspora must learn to engage in it no matter how uncomfortable the experience may be for them. I must say that as resistant as I was in the beginning, I found myself engaging in meaningless banter almost on a daily basis and has made people refer to me with adjectives such as friendly, outgoing, and even open despite the absolute lack of really knowing who I am and where I am from.  Without learning this most important skill, a member of the Diaspora has absolutely no hope of successful integration into American society.

10 Super Cheap Things to do In the Triangle

Super Cheap- Super EasyTHINGS TO DO WHEN RETIRED TO STAY ALERT AND AC...

Living in the Triangle has its moments. Proximity to Raleigh, Durham and Cary means that there are choices galore of things to do.  The choices however are easily narrowed down when one factor’s in cost. Cost is prohibitive, if like me money or lack thereof plays a role in determining your family entertainment.  Since I am determined to get out with my family, I have been working hard to find free family entertainment that is not cost prohibitive.  This week’s list of 10 things is based on all free activities that I found to attend with family and friends. Well, almost free but which is as close as one can get  in our great Capitalist society.

  1. Occupy Raleigh or Occupy Durham– We wanted to attend this free event, but stopped short when we realized that we didn’t really relish the idea of getting arrested and then having to ante up precious $$ to get out. So in the spirit of free speech and down with Corporate greed , I say “ Go Occupiers! Go Occupiers! If I wasn’t a jobless immigrant scared of getting arrested, I’d be out there with you!”  Watch this video as arrests are made in Raleigh http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d44nW5yQhaw
  2. State Fair– I am glad we went to this almost free event. I refuse to feel guilty about what I ate there. The funnel cakes were amazing…and that was only desert.  We lumbered down the maze of paths stopping frequently for an endless variety of entertainment. Great job NC State fair!
  3. Diwali Festival– We decided to be Indian for a day and went to the local Diwali Festival. The Indian culture was vibrant in this absolutely free festival that celebrated Indian New Year. Festivities included an Indian Dancing Group from Russia (huh?) who performed in authentic Indian costumes and kept the crowd enthralled with their fancy footwork and constant twirls.  I wonder……would anyone notice if I bought one of those outfits and wore them in the street? The event culminate with an amazing firework display.
  4. Halloween Festival in Cary– Cary did not disappoint. Friends and family came out for the Cary fest at the Herb Young Community Center. As with any free event of this magnitude, we (the parents) spent majority of our time lining up and administering veiled threats to keep kids in place. At least we were rewarded with a hayride through down town Cary.
  5. Trick or Treating at the Cary Town Mall– Greatest idea ever! All in one place. One stop shop. Although a wee bit too crowded, this was a wonderful idea considering it had been raining outside.  Some of the stores like ‘The Children’s Place’ managed to stay true to the economic times by tricking the kids and treating the parents. In true corporate fashion, they didn’t buy candy but opted for the lame discount coupons that they handed out with a sticker stapled on the back of it. I will never forget the  dismayed expression of my son who somehow managed  a hollow “thank you” and scuttled for other hopeful prospects.
  6. The trails in Apex- Apex Community Park has a gorgeous 50 acre lake surrounded with trails. All free for family entertainment.  Running in these trails puts you in a peaceful state of mind that sets the tone for your day. I highly recommend this free activity. Next stop fishing.
  7. Great for Picnicking Walnut Street ParkRecently upgraded the playground offers padded surfaces for little tykes to tumble safely and approximately 1 mile of mulched trail. It looks nice and new. Great for Picnicking while taking in the fall colors.
  8. MeetUp– Its getting colder and a great way to get of the house is to figure out what it is you are interested in and go meet others like you who have the same interest. The Triangle has a lot of meetup groups. It has so many in fact, that I have to find time to sort through the sheer volumes of spam that I now get as a result of joining them.  It looks like there are hundreds of people in the Triangle, wanting to meet and not go broke doing so.
  9. A Good Book never led you astray– The libraries in Wake County have been proving to be full of surprises. With lots of workshops, seminars and guest talks, we have found plenty to keep us busy on the odd evening when we just want to get out for an hour or so without too much prep work involved. I have my favorites but for different reasons. The Eva Perry Library is grand and gives that  libary’ish feel, the Cary Library is great for my son because all the kids books are in one area that is easily accessible and Cameron Village Library serves a dual purpose for when I should be working but want to buy coffee and people watch at the same time.
  10. Volunteering– I can’t say enough on this topic. I volunteer quite a bit and feel that the best way to be a critic of anything is to actually get involved in the process of changing the ‘thing’ that you want to see change in the first place. So get out and volunteer If you can. Make your mark in the world.

There is plenty of inexpensive things to do.  I know that members of the Diaspora have tremendous challenges to face while trying to adjust in the society they have found themselves and I hope  that will list of 10 Super Cheap Things to do, you too can find a way to get out into the community and be part of it without feeling like there is a financial barrier.

Doing Good for Others by Doing Good for Yourself

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mahatma Gandhi led India towards receiving Independence from Britain through peaceful protests

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

I moved to North Carolina in the summer. Once settled,  my mission was to  get involved in the community. I had done some volunteer work in Minneapolis and experienced the intrinsic value of getting up and being involved (albeit in a small way) in affecting change in the community. Once in North Carolina, I pulled up a list of non-profits in the area. A deliberate investigation into the philosophies of each of the non-profits educated me in the needs of the community and re-affirmed causes that I would like to get involved in.

Restorative Justice, Reentry efforts  are two such topics. Topics that address the needs of the Diaspora (and hence the birth of this blog). Women’s advocacy issues are also of interest to me. So many great causes, and little  o’l me. I knew I had to pick one and so I did.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi

 

I picked Restorative Justice. Crime has a way of indiscriminately affecting not just the individual but the family (women included) and the community at large. This is how I ended up at the doorstep of Community Success Initiative in Raleigh. It was not normal for someone to call out of the blue to volunteer because when I first called, the receptionist said they didn’t think there was anything they had for me to do there. I insisted that I be put through to the President of the organization and was not a little  surprised when I was. A short time later I found myself starting the journey towards volunteering.

Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” Mahatma Gandhi

Someone once said that, most of us want to do good but we have no clear  idea how to get started. Getting started begins with just going somewhere and actually doing good. Thinking about doing good eats up the time you could actually be out there doing it.

In the Spirit of Doing Good, I have included a brochure to an event that I intend to go to and possibly blog about later. Proceeds from this event will be used by organizations in Raleigh to continue to help the community such as the youth.  See you there.

 

Do Good by Doing Some Good for Yourself

Draconian Immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia receive mute reaction

Immigrant.March.WDC.7sep06

Latina Immigrants demonstrating in March

The word ‘Mute’ has been redefined by the GOP lately.  Each one of the candidates skittering around a host of issues except the huge elephant in the room that is currently affecting desperate families; Immigration Reform Laws.

GOP candidates ranted on about various economic packages claiming to hold the solution  to the current unemployment crisis; I waited in vain to hear what if anything any of the candidates would say about the ongoing drama unfolding in Alabama and Georgia. Mute!  Complete and utter avoidance of anything in regard to the current immigration laws being enforced in Alabama and Georgia.  2000 kids did not show up to school in Monday morning. Nothing was addressed about that. Families preparing for the worst and asking neighbors to take care of their loved ones should they suddenly be arrested and again, Nothing. Nary a word on this was mentioned last night in the GOP debate. Not even a hint or insinuation in reference to this topic.

Is this a reflection of times to come? Have we perfected the art of ignoring that which does not directly affect us. Staying mute on matters that might be too complicated for our short attention spans.  Saying nothing. Doing nothing. It is becoming an all too familiar phenomenon. There are signs however that there are those among us who are noticing this and are simply fed up. These are the men and women demonstrating in a fashion reminiscent of the civil right movement outside Wall Street.

Perhaps it’s time we shamed our leadership into doing the jobs they are elected to do. The main problem is that most are thinking that a lot of responsible people are somewhere trying to resolve their problems. Gandhi said it best, ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’ If you want change, if you see something wrong, you should get up and be the change.

The GOP candidates conspicuously avoided the immigration question and it is no surprise then that very little of what is going on in Alabama and Georgia is being highlighted.

The Newtonian principal, every action has an equal and opposite reaction definitely rings true here. For every action taken to displace families the reaction will definitely be experienced in the communities.  Food prices will be affected due to lack of laborers. Families will be separated due to arrests and deportation. What will happen to the children once the families are separated? Tax payers-You-will realize you have to house all those immigrants you have arrested and then you will complain. Small businesses will be affected due to loss of customer base, which in turn will contribute to the rise in unemployment.

Why is insistence on the myopic perspective in regard to Immigration?