Category Archives: 3rd Centavo

3rd Centavo: Horatio Alger: The Myth of Public Higher Education

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory  blinding Americans to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.

These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.

Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.

The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.

The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman. The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.

Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class.

In this context, Los Angeles has been called La La Land because Angelinos were said to be in their own world. However, this self-absorbed frame of mind is true of all Americans; they are not a benevolent, kind or generous people.

In 1960 Democratic Governor Pat Brown and University of California President Clark Kerr helped develop the California Master Plan for Higher Education. It neatly defined the roles of the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges systems (CCC).

The master plan was the perfect pyramid: the UC was at the top, the state colleges in the middle and the junior colleges were at the bottom. The two-year college perpetuated the illusion that Californians were living the American Dream. Despite this wrongheaded logic, the college systems were important because they were tuition-free essentially guaranteeing free higher education to everyone.

But, the world was changing. American captains of industry had in the 1950s committed itself to deindustrialization and the globalization of its capital, lessening the need for an educated workforce. Just as the U.S. had imported German rocket scientists, the ruling elites’ worldview became more global; they felt they could import brainpower without paying for the education of the children of factory workers

In 1966 the illusion of equal opportunity suffered a fatal blow with the election of Governor Ronald Reagan who led the assault on the University of California. Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley” that, according to him, was led by “outside agitators” and left-wing subversives. Reagan laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model. The goal was to eliminate taxes and privatize public institutions.

Moneyed interests nationwide set out to destroy public two-year schools, which served almost one-half of the nation’s first-year college students. By the 21st century, as tuition soared at the four year universities, students were pushed down to the community colleges.

The Great Recession of 2008 ended all illusions of public education. By 2011, the UC officially switched from a system of fees to an explicitly tuition-centric model. Moreover, since 2007, the UC has promoted the admission out-of-state and foreign students as a way of raising revenues. Incentives were built into the admission process to admit fewer California students.

California has stopped building new colleges and universities; new buildings are built in great part from student funds. Programs such as the UNAM/CSUN accord are vested in student funds. According to many critics the process is irreversible.

From 2005 to 2010, over 75 percent of newly accredited colleges and universities were for-profits funded in global capital markets. For-profits now make up over 25 percent of all post-secondary institutions in the United States. Without saying so, they are more expensive than the former public universities. The outcome is that students leave college with higher student debts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is projected to make $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families. These loans are packaged and sold to financial institutions and hedge funds. The truth be told, grants to low income students subsidize the growing for profit and so-called non-profit universities.

In a 2010 exposé Peter Byrne reported that the UC’s $53 billion portfolio invested in two for-profits institutions completing Ronald Reagan vision of destroying “the creeping communism of master-planned and state-funded public education.”

In 2011, California public colleges and universities received 13 percent less in state funding; this was not by accident. By this this time “nearly half of all graduates of public and private four-year schools in California were saddled with an average debt load of $18,000”; the national average was $26,682.

It is also not an accident that funding for community colleges remained static although demand had increased. Reduced class offerings, fewer sections of the classes, and the laying off of faculty and staff forced many students into for profit schools. These overbooked classes took the two year colleges to the breaking point.

One proposed solution was to charge students an added fee to get priority registration for impacted classes. In 2010, because of a student uproar, a contract was cancelled with the for-profit Kaplan University to offer discounted online classes to community college students for community college credit.

Globally, education is important. When asked what was the key challenge facing Latin America over the next decade, the top answer among students was education. Students saw it as the key to jobs. However, increasingly through the intervention of American institutions such as the International Monetary Fund its leaders are adopting the American neo-liberal model, and for-profit colleges are flourishing in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Reading this material only makes the silence of the lambs more deafening.

The Daily Caller published an article titled “Why are the Clintons hawking a seedy, Soros-backed for-profit college corporation?” George Soros supposedly one of the good billionaires hired Bill Clinton as a pitchman for Laureate Education Inc., a for-profit higher education powerhouse. Laureate owns 75 schools in 30 countries. And it boasts of 800,000 students worldwide. Also promoting this venture is Henry Cisneros and other Clinton stalwarts.

How different are we today from the Gilded Age when railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock before a vote on railroad subsidies? This is not the Land of Oz, and if we are being had, we should at least be aware of it, and not adopt failed neo-liberal policies. What is happening to American public education should serve as a warning to Mexico and the rest of the world that “Made in America” does not mean quality.

I was just talking to one of my grandsons who boasted that he had just bought an annual pass to Disneyland for $359. According to him, it was a deal. I shrugged my shoulders, but really how different is this than believing in Horatio Alger and the American Dream?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

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3rd Centavo: Why Latinos Don’t Vote in the Eyes of a New Generation

(Editor’s Note:  I met Ivan a couple of years ago while visiting UH-Downtown and he was in the middle of a race for student body president. A hard worker and always willing to learn, he has given some thought to one of the biggest questions in politics and presents those thoughts here. He currently works in the public service sector and is a local community activist.)

by Ivan Sanchez

ivanIn Houston, Hispanics make up about 44% of the population, but we comprise only about 8% of the business and political leadership combined. Most people would assume that voter participation would increase over time, however that has not been the case with Hispanics over time. Less than a decade ago, we had 5 Hispanic City elected officials, Today we only have two. So why it is that Houston is the most diverse city in the world except when it comes to voting?

Like most 1st generation Hispanics, my family and I immigrated to the United States for a better life. I am a recent Political Science graduate that humbly wants to share what I have learned as a 26 year old political activist. This is an attempt to inform and educate Hispanics and other members of our society about the obstructions Hispanics have in the path to political participation. Though this article is not concentrated on a solution, like when breaking a habit, we must 1st acknowledge the problem and analyze the cause.

All Numbers but no walk:

Today, Hispanics are almost half of Houston’s population. It’s calculated that by 2018, Hispanics in Houston will be 60% or more of the population. However, my friend and colleague Mario Salinas, explains that “Numbers mean nothing without the capacity to translate those numbers into meaningful action”. Yes, we are so many, yet, we are so politically immobilized. For a City the nation portrays itself in 15 years, the future is at stake.

More than science:

Political Science predicts voting probability by calculating a person or group’s Social Economic Status, also known as SES. Though Hispanic SES is a major factor on why we don’t vote, it can additionally be generational differences, how we spend our free time, fear, and the different countries that we come from. So let’s break down SES.

SES, Social Economic Status:

SES is based on 3 key factors: age, income, and education. The more the age, income and education, the higher the probability that a person votes. It also works the other way around, as the younger, the less income and education, the less one is likely to vote. Unfortunately for us, Hispanics are among the lowest ranking ethnicities on the SES scale.

SES, Age:

The Hispanic ethnicity in general is the youngest group in the United states. Our age median numbers are incredibly young at a national median compared to other Ethnicities. According to the 2010 census, the median age of Hispanics is 27 years old – An age where immediate compensation is an instinct, and the future seems far away. An age where the trendy thing to do is work for immediate gratification instead of the long term educational future. With that statistic, we must make education easier to access, not harder – making it interesting would serve as icing on the cake.

SES, Education:

According to the 2010 Census, only 16% of Hispanics that graduate high school decide to attend college. Out of these few that attend college, only 51% of Latinos that start college complete their bachelor’s degree. Hence, in Houston, Hispanics have an educated work force of roughly 8%. With no education, this leads our community to have a big blue collar work force, and the lower the available skills, consequently, the lower the income.

SES, Income:

In the US, approximately 10 million out of 58 million Hispanics do not have full “legal” permission to contribute to the community we vouched and risked our live to come to. That’s approximately 20% of our Hispanic brothers and sisters that are undocumented Americans, living in the shadows and are exploited with extremely low wages, or worse, wage theft. Though education is the major barrier to income, an additional obstruction to income exists by language barriers. Documented Americans know how hard it can be to find a Job at times, but the reality of obtaining a good paying job while not knowing  prefect English and/or the lack of a degree is slim to none in this century.

Education cycle:

As Hispanics tend to have lower incomes due to our limited education, we compensate the loss of low income by having two jobs and by working long shifts on the weekends. Naturally, Hispanic families are very family oriented, and as good of intentions we mean to each other, families further compensate the loss of income by utilizing the younger generations in order to make ends meet. As a new century-academic graduate, I witnessed hundreds of Hispanic friends that didn’t graduate high school and college because they decided to support their parents, siblings and households. With millions of Hispanic families ending their opportunity to an educational career, the consequence to our political participation is catastrophic.

Fear:

The majority of Hispanic [immigrants] come from different countries with corrupt and ruthless governmental systems. This fear is so credible and embedded in our psyche that it affects our SES to the core. Even when we finally end up in the high portion of the SES scale (older, high income and educated), we tend to break off the “proven” SES guidelines as they misunderstand this new government and try to avoid it at all cost. This drives our few “powerful” and educated Hispanics in the workforce to not pay attention to the new democracy they are living in.

Self-Hispanic Wound:

In 2014, Hispanics:  Mexicans, Colombians, Cubans, Ecuadoreans, Argentineans, Bolivians, Salvadorians, Peruvians, and every other Latino country and descendancy – make up the 44% of Houston’s population. However, the countries we come from divide our united voice as each Latino of a corresponding country separates themselves into multiple segregated groups, therefore forming smaller separate percentages. Our cultures, soccer fanaticism, pride and other variables are separating and diminishing our united voice in the United States. Hispanics need to realize that no matter where we come from, here in the US, we all pledge to one flag. There is nothing wrong with preserving the culture, but we need to understand that we as individuals are nothing without each other. And as Houston is a melting pot of all ethnicities, I only hope all Hispanics melt together as well. My family already did.

Demoralization:

When rarely involved, Hispanics usually vote for candidates that carry Hispanic sounding names. Texas now has their 1st “Hispanic” US Senator. That Senator, like most Hispanics, also came to the US for a better life. Ironically, that Senator wants to deport Hispanics and does not even support a fair Immigration Reform that has a path to Citizenship. As Hispanics are generally politically inactive, they see and hear these high powered elected officials do this to their families and neighbors, only furthering the mistrust of government and demoralizing our potential.

I often hear, “Win the Latino vote, win the political landscape. All we have to do is get Latinos to vote!”

Well Geez! If it were that easy, you would think it would be done by now, no? However, before the system tries to win our vote, they must win our hearts and minds. Information translates to empowerment, and when the system empowers us, they might just earn our vote. However, the ball is in our court as we cannot wait for the system to help us.

The answer to political participation is inside the mind of all who cannot afford education. We need to educate and organize ourselves to ensure the blossoming economic future of Houston and this Country by uniting within ourselves and our allies. We need to get out of our comfort zone, and become constant active participants on the field. Though this is an informative article and not a solution concentrated piece, you can start by empowering others and sharing this article. Let’s create a laser sharp focus on engaging and educating the youth, their schools and our churches. Education is the only true equalizer of this century, and we need to massively advertise and educate that elections matter – their family’s lives may depend on it one day.

3rd Centavo~ Acuña: The Tyranny of Words

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

People keep telling me about the need for an ideology as if it alone will correct the imperfections of society. But what they don’t understand is that disparate ideologies often confuse the problem of communications. The lowest common denominator in communication is the word. With ideology different meanings for the same word create a tower of babble where people speak the same words but they have different meanings.

When thinking about words, I think about Stuart Chase’s The Tyranny of Words (1938). It is one of those books that never lose its message. Stuart was a semanticist. His book is full of gems like “Language is apparently a sword which cuts both ways. With its help man can conquer the unknown; with it he can grievously wound himself.”

Growing up the meaning of words were important. In my case, it was probably because I did not learn English until I was six. Because I did not know many words, I was classified as mentally retarded.

Armed with a chip on my shoulder, I was very conscious that the sword “cuts both ways”, so I sought to learn how to wield the sword most effectively. I could hear Chase whisper, “I find it difficult to believe that words have no meaning in themselves, hard as I try. Habits of a lifetime are not lightly thrown aside.”

This reliance on words can be very dangerous especially in the world of economists who seem obsessed with the currency of their theory. I keep going back to Chase’s reasoning: “Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or your rejection of the natural laws.”

Words mean something different to different folks. I am old school and words matter. I am more attuned with epistemology than pretentions of “the science of knowledge.” I am a skeptic and I am concerned with what kinds of things are known, how that knowledge is acquired and what the attitude of speaker is.

Words have meaning – what they mean and why they are said is essential. To repeat a cliché “the devil is in the detail” — words are distorted.

Take the words that are presently in currency: reform, privatization, globalization, and marketization. They are intentionally comingled to bring about controlled consent. Unless the words are deconstructed and contextualized their false definitions overtime become the accepted truth.

The word reform has been corrupted to fit the occasion. It once meant the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory. A reformer was to the right of the radical and the far left of a conservative. It was taken for granted that reformers wanted to improve the system. As of late, the word has been appropriated by the right.

For example, in today’s mainstream media the tea partyers are reformers. As of late those trying to change the Mexican Constitution and get rid of constitutional guarantees are not greedy capitalists but reformers who are trying to improve the economy. This change has not so subtly changed the outcome.

The right has adroitly changed the conversation. They have associated corruption with government and reform with interests of the ruling elite. Without context words induce a historical amnesia that absolves capitalists of being corrupt. Like Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed is good.”

What is left is what Americans call common sense. Chase opined is that “Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.” Following this thread” government has to be reformed because it is basically corrupt whereas corporate crime is a “boys will be boys” lapse.

The fad is the word privatization. Its meaning has been so corrupted and so overused that it is difficult to know its meaning. When I first got the sense of the word was during the 1950s. The rage then was urban renewal which was supposed to be good because government confiscated property for public use. Rarely discussed was the huge profits made by the contractors and suppliers who benefited from it all. But at least we knew that it was basically wrong to take one person’s property to profit another.

It became outrageous when property was taken for the public good. Here government took one person’s property to give it to private individuals so they could make a killing. It was known as reform.

At a more advanced level this is happening today. Developers in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Tucson have reaped trillions of dollars by buying city and county properties through “inside trading” that is good in this instance but is supposed to be bad on the stock market. Both are falsely labeled good business.

It was reform that shifted the cost of higher education from the ruling elite to the student. The logic was that the student was getting the benefits of education, and if government taxed business then the economy would falter.

In public higher education privatization is a mixed bag. The privatization of public higher ed follows a different path than the privatization of other state-controlled enterprises, but the logic is the same.

In higher education they use words like marketization that refers “to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.” Again, it is not that the educators are privatizing education; the devil makes them do it.

The privatizers say that to understand these diverse strategies that have driven privatization of higher education, you have to place the strategies into a global context. It is merely the logic of the market. It is the invisible hand of Adam Smith, “the father of modern economics”.

The marketization of higher education “refers to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.”

Like one administrator explained his illogical actions, they resulted from previous bad policies. In other words, the reconfiguration of the higher education to privilege the private sector is due to human errors not bad intentions.

This process has accelerated from 1970 to the present day. The world view is okay because it is happening globally, and in order to compete business and higher education must change (reform). The error of this logic is not that the product has to be improved, just that it has to become more like the private sector (which after all is not corrupt).

The invisible hand pops up once more in the logic: higher education is only meeting the increased demand for enrollment that was unmet by the public sector. Like in corporations this transformation is driven by a growing top heavy bureaucracy whose healthy salaries are paid by the consumer.

Higher education is not unique. I marvel at how the consolidation and bureaucracy has grown in the college book publishing sector. The logic is more profit so they outsource the editing and all phases of production so they can afford to hire more bureaucrats that drive up the price of textbooks allowing them to gobble up other publishers.

I could go on redefining the tyranny of words. For example, I get angry when I hear the words standards and quality. They are mostly used by the privatizers to turn education into a gas meter.

Epistemology is fundamental to how we think. In order to understand this we have to know the meaning words and why and how they are used. A basic question is who drives privatization. In the case of Mexico and other second and third world countries it is the World Bank. Domestically in the United States it is driven by the ruling elite and organizations such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Words are distorted and their meaning changed for a reason.

Like Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good.”

Rodolfo F. Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

 

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña – The Illusion That Education is a Stairway to Whiteness

Waiting for the Next Sputnik Moment

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

From the beginning, there has been the illusion that America was exceptional; it was not like Europe — America was the land of opportunity. Generally, the right to read was limited to the exceptional that were taught to read by their parents or a minister or later in private schools.

Access to education was limited to a chosen few who deserved the right to read the bible. Africans, Indians and poor women were considered unfit to study it.

It was not until the 1840s that an organized system came about through the leadership of education reformers such as Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, who operated in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively. They helped create statewide common-school systems accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. These reformers believed that all children had the right to learn. They argued that education would improve society and prevent crime and poverty.

These progressives met resistance. The landowners and many of the elite and the wannabes did not want to pay for educating other people’s children especially if undeserving.

The flame of universal accessibility flickered until it was almost suffocated by the arrival of waves of new immigrants. Industrialists did not want thinkers but human robots. Moreover, child labor was an important pool of labor.

Nevertheless, reformers took up the cause of compulsory school attendance for the children of the new immigrants. The concept of compulsory education dates back to Plato in western civilization, and it was common to most early civilizations including Mesoamerica.

The motives varied, ranging from humanitarian and communitarian, to those who wanted to evangelize and Americanize the new immigrants who they correctly surmised were not going away.

The battle for compulsory school attendance lasted into the 1920s; however, urban and rural employers avoided compliance. Child labor was an important source of cheap labor, and it cost too much to educate children with lower intelligence.

Even so, the myth that everyone in the United States had an equal opportunity persisted – it was part of the myth of American exceptionalism.

By the 1920s, African Americans lived in an apartheid society, and the immigrants contained in ethnic ghettoes. During the decade, Congress passed strict immigration laws based on a policy of National origins that gave preference to Northern Europeans and drastically limited immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Through this form of genetic engineering over time Nordic and Germanic types would overwhelm the swarthy newcomers. The Mexican was considered a temporary nuisance while Puerto Ricans were citizens and thus endured.

During the 1930s, organized labor fought back and gained concessions. However, for the most part minorities were cheated. More opportunities opened for them during World War II, but at a price; many Mexican Americans and the poor paid with their lives. Mexicans numbered about a million and a half, and some say that close to a third served in the armed forces.

The war also brought the realization that Americans were under educated, and that if America was to remain a world power, it had to have a better educated work force. The median years of school completed for Americans, 25 years old and over, had only risen from 8.1 to 8.6 years from 1910 to 1940. By the forties, a bare 24 percent of Americans had completed high school. Because of federal aid to education, by 1970 53 percent had a high school diploma (by 2012, 86 percent).

What brought about this transformation was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights. It was controversial and many legislators objected that paying veterans to go to school lessened their incentive to look for work while others believed that only for the privileged deserved a higher education.

The GI Bill proved a boon to education, and in the end it subsidized corporate America, supplying an educated workforce. By 1947, veterans were 49 percent of college admissions, and when the WW II GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had attended school or training program.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, “More than half of the young adults of the 1940s and 1950s completed high school, and the median educational attainment of 25- to 29-years-olds rose to 12 years.” Then as now a high school diploma was the gateway to a higher education.

There is no denying that the GI Bill helped some Mexican Americans; however, the overwhelming number in 1960 did not meet college entrance requirements. In the Southwest where Mexican Americans were concentrated, the median years completed by whites was 11.2 in 1950, ten years later it was 12.1 years. For Mexican Americans, it was 5.4 in 1950 and 7.1 in 1960. In Texas the median for Mexican Americans was 3.5 and 4.8 years.

It must be noted that success in college depends on the family pocketbook, and the quality of K-12 schools. As a general rule Mexican American schools were markedly inferior to white schools. Moreover, the quality of the high school determined admittance to Tier 1 universities.

The next boon to higher education was the so-called Sputnik crisis of 1957. Educators had already been mobilized in 1955 by Russian detonation of the hydrogen bomb that shook feelings of American exceptionalism. In 1958 a reform minded Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding for education at all levels. This included low-interest student loans to college students. It focused on scientific and technical education. The NDEA poured billions into the U.S. education system.

California got into the act and passed The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960, which was supposed to reform California public higher education, coordinating the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges system (CCC). It was supposed to make higher education “available to all regardless of their economic means.”

To set the record straight educational reform for Mexican Americans did not take place in earnest until they took to the streets. In California and Texas as elsewhere the Sputnik moment came with school walkouts and campus turmoil of the late 1960. However, as in the case of the GI Bill and federal aid to education, the boom years of reform were over, and there were dark clouds in the horizon.

The ruling elite by the 1960s as in the case of the 1920s came back with renewed vigor.

Americans were getting older, more conservative electing mouthpieces such as California Governor Ronald Reagan, who launched a campaign to dismantle educational reform, privatizing the cost of higher education, increasing tuition, and lowering taxes for the elite. The public good was replaced with the corporate good.

By the 1980s, the stairway to the American middle-class heaven was dismantled, and the illusion of equality was dead for all but the dreamers.

Coasting light on this is a recent article in Mother Jones Magazine. From 2000-2012, Public spending on public education has dropped 30 percent even as enrollment at public colleges increased 34 percent. “[The] Consumer Price Index increased 33 percent; the median household income (adjusted for inflation) dropped 9 percent; the average four-year college tuition increased 44 percent…; [and] public college tuition increased 71 percent.”*

My reading of history tells me that American exceptionalism does not respond to reason; it does not respond to facts or appeals to the common good. So I am resigned to wait for the next Sputnik or for an implosion.

*Not a direct but configured quote.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Guerra ~ S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part II

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part II in a several part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers. The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.” Here in Part II, another onerous trigger is discussed.

THE E-VERIFY TRIGGER

The bill states that the DHS Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens until “the Secretary has implemented the mandatory employment verification system…for use by all employers to prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining employment in the United States.”

The point of E-Verify is to prevent unauthorized workers from gaining employment by requiring that permission be sought from the federal government when starting a job. It is currently being used in 16 states across the country. S.744 basically turbocharges e-verify, making it federal law, requiring every state and every business, anybody hiring anybody anywhere, to implement it.

The negatives of E-Verify have been outlined and discussed for a while now. One of the major issues that I see is that the government is woefully not ready for the program.

When government program errors prevent anybody from making a living, that’s kind of a big deal. When government program errors prevent hundreds of thousands of people from making a living, well, that program needs to be done away with. Rampant false positives already exist. Here are some stats:

  • The US Government Accountability Office estimates that if E-Verify is made mandatory nationwide, 164,000 people would be held up from being hired just because of issues with name changes [1].
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services reports that in 2012, ~1 out of every 400 cases submitted to E-Verify resulted in false positives [2]. In a nation where there are 154 million workers, that would be 400,000 deprived of the right to work.

Oh, and resolving errors isn’t easy. A report by the National Immigration Law Center highlights examples that are typical of people experiencing false positives. Here’s a good one [3]:

  • A US citizen and former captain in the US Navy with 34 years of service and a history of having maintained high security clearance was flagged by E-Verify as not eligible for employment. It took him and his wife, an attorney, two months to resolve the discrepancy.

In addition to the false positives, the AARP is extremely concerned about the strain a nationwide E-Verify would put on the Social Security Administration’s ability to delivery services to its beneficiaries.

There’s more. History and recent data suggest that E-Verify will lead to widespread discrimination and racial profiling. A 1990 study by the GAO found that when the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 required employers to verify identities, 20% of employers engaged in widespread discrimination against foreign-looking AMERICAN workers [4]. You almost can’t blame them. Businesses may avoid interviewing workers just to avoid dealing with the potential hassle (this is racial profiling).

The Huffington Post has a nice short article highlighting the discriminatory issues with E-Verify. For a more in depth study on the negatives with E-Verify, check out the ACLU’s 10 Big Problems with E-Verify.

[1] www.gao.gov/new.items/d11146.pdf
[2] USCIS
[3] www.nilc.org/document.html?id=337
[4] archive.gao.gov/d24t8/140974.pdf
 

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

3rd Centavo: Guerra ~ S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation

by Dr. Rey Guerra

The national mainstream media has been bringing a lot of attention to the United States Senate’s version of a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). Here locally, a delegation of 5 congresspersons held a townhall meeting that I’m not sure adequately characterized the content of the bill or Houstonians’ attitude toward the bill. Although it’s refreshing to see CIR being covered in the mainstream media and by our local leaders, there’s a whole lot that’s not being discussed…like what’s actually in the bill.

What’s missing from the mainstream coverage is an analytical breakdown of the bill’s content. I say ‘mainstream’ because the analytical breakdown very much exists, it’s just not being discussed and/or being used as a basis for supporting or not supporting the bill.

From a moral, humane, or civil rights perspective, it’s an easy case to make that the bill will put everybody, including current US citizens, in a worse position.

From a political perspective, I’m not sure that there is reason for Republicans or Democrats to support the bill, or, I don’t see there being a sound analytical reason for either party to support it; not if each is basing their support on true party principles.

The following is my take on why the bill is so damaging. I downloaded a .pdf version of the bill that is 1198 pages long. Reading the entire bill is kind of daunting, and the painful badness of the bill is replete, so I’m breaking the piece up into several part in hope that light can be brought onto its darkness.

Part I: The Border Trigger

Although many estimates are higher, it seems the general consensus is that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. When all is said and done, “triggers” associated with the bill could result in as little as 2 million undocumented immigrants and as many as 6 million qualifying to become legal US residents (2 million under DREAM and AgJobs provisions). According to analysis from Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, of the remaining 9 million, as many as half would be left in limbo–either deported, pushed back into hiding, and most certainly in a worst socioeconomic state than they are in now. Schey later describes a grim scenario, that the triggers are set up in such a way that 20 years from now, it is very plausible that nobody will have benefited from the bill.

Of all of the onerous triggers, the one that is the most ambiguous, and the easiest to deny all that apply, is the border security trigger. The bill states that the DHS Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens until

  • a comprehensive border security strategy has been submitted to Congress and is substantially deployed and substantially operational. Substantially in this case is 90% effective. Note that the bill does not allow the border security strategy to even be defined by a commission any SOONER than 5 years after the enactment of the bill.
  • a southern border fencing strategy has been submitted to Congress, implemented, and is substantially completed. Substantially in this case is at least 700 miles of fencing, but may be more, at the discretion of Secretary.

Again, an issue here is that a commission to recommend a border security strategy can’t even issue recommendations on how to secure the border until 5 years after the bill is enacted.

Also, even after the report is issued, it is quite possible that a 90% effectiveness may not be achieved for 10 or 20 years or EVER…and remember, under this bill, no immigrant can achieve legal status until 90% effectiveness is achieved.

The ‘‘effectiveness rate’’ is the percentage calculated by dividing the number of apprehensions and turn backs during a fiscal year by the total number of illegal entries during such fiscal year. Analysis done by professors at UC San Diego suggest that the DHS does not currently collect the data to measure effectiveness, nor does it know how in the way that the bill requires. They also suggest that the difficulties involved in meeting the 90% border enforcement may be so formidable that the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.

With respect to the fence, no empirical evidence exists, anywhere, that suggests that building a fence slows, let alone stops, immigration rates. Immigrants are leaving a country and family that they love just as much as you and I love our family. If your wife and your children’s survival depends on your getting on the other side of a fence, I imagine that you will find a way to get over that fence.

The Border Trigger is bad, very bad, but it’s only one of many mechanisms in S.744 that will, by design, keep the vast majority of undocumented immigrants from achieving legal status and create a large sub-class; a sub-class of families and workers that can’t vote, are exploited for their labor, are discriminated against because of their being in a ‘legal’ pergatory, and can’t leave for fear of becoming ineligible to one-day, perhaps in several decades, become ‘legal.’

In Part II, I’ll get into the remaining triggers.

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

Tuiteo of the Day: Grow Up!

 

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Sometimes You Have to Shout

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Why should Latinos support Justice for Trayvon Martin? It is not the first time that I have been asked that question about another group. Take care of the family first.

Through the years, people have questioned why I was against capital punishment and supported cases such as that of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist originally sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

I got involved in the case through my friend attorney Elliot Grossman who enlisted me during his appeal of the conviction of Manuel Salazar, a young Chicano artist on death row in Illinois, who had been sentenced for the 1984 murder of a white Joliet police officer. Salazar was freed after Republican Governor of Illinois George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in January 2000. Ryan’s action led to the exoneration of 13 death-row inmates — the most prominent was Rolando Cruz, whom the state freed after 12 years on the Illinois death row for the 1983 murder and rape of a 10-year-old girl. A repeated sex offender and murderer named Brian Dugan confessed to the crime. It was collaborated by DNA testing that linked Dugan to the crime. Elliot for a time was Mumia’s attorney.

When people asked me why we were supporting a black instead of concentrating on Chicanas/os, my first reaction was flippant (porque me da la chingada gana) but after thinking my response changed and ir was similar to that that I have toward the Trayvan Martin case: “It is not only Trayvon Martin who was wronged, it was society. The law is bad and encourages this behavior toward people who look different. Look at the attacks and murders of undocumented immigrants.” In supporting Mumia or Trayvon Martin, we are insuring that this injustice will not spread.

I also reject the argument that George Zimmerman should be supported because he is Latino. Incidentally, he never identified as a Latino, and he obviously identified as white. The Huffington Post’s Gene Demby dug into his past and came up with an old MySpace page belonging to Zimmerman. In it, he made disparaging comments about Mexicans, and he bragged about a 2005 criminal case against him.

The prosecution was so afraid of the issue of race that to my knowledge it was not brought up.

In Myspace Zimmerman discussed his hatred toward Mexicans, saying why he did not miss his former home in Manassas, Virginia:

I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!”

In that same year, he was arrested and charged after an altercation with a police officer and his fiancé at the time got a restraining order against him.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Mexicans and other Latinos are also profiled by police agencies. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” gun laws encourage rampant racial profiling. The postings take on many levels. Even so Zimmerman’s supporters try portray him as the victim and a peace loving citizen who was trying to protect his neighborhood, forgetting that Trayvon’s father was also a neighbor.

I feel almost certain if Trayvon did not look difference he would be alive today.

Now the jurors will write their books and Zimmerman will turn whiter, and appear as a guest of honor at right wing functions. His claim to fame is that he murdered a 17-year old kid who looked different.

The facts say that Zimmerman was a racist before he killed and when he killed Trayvon Martin.

So why are people taking to the streets? It is too hot to be walking around in the sun. The simple answer is “Sometimes You Have to Shout To be Heard!”

Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience and Other Essays wrote:

Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?

Because of civil disobedience injustice such as slavery was kept in the public view and consciousness.

Just in my lifetime I have seen countless examples of inter-racial solidarity and the effectiveness of civil disobedience: the civil rights movement, the anti-war movements, stopping the U.S. from the use of nuclear weapons, the movements for Chicana/o studies, the middle-eastern wars, the LBGT movements just to name a few. People were not quiet in those instances and we are a better society because people shouted.

Unfortunately, I think many of us are forgetting history. Nothing comes without struggle. As Henry Thoreau wrote:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year old kid who is no more because Zimmerman saw him as different.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Peanuts and Oranges: Support Scholarship Fund

For those who have an extra $5 a month for scholarship, the For Chicana/o Studies Foundation was started with money awarded to Rudy Acuña as a result of his successful lawsuit against the University of California at Santa Barbara. The Foundation has given over $60,000 to plaintiffs filing discrimination suits against other universities. However, in the last half dozen years it has shifted its focus, and it has awarded 7-10 scholarships for $750 per award on an annual basis to Chicana/o and Latina/o students at California State University-Northridge (CSUN). The For Chicana/o Studies Foundation is a 501(c) (3) Foundation and all donations are deductible.

Although many of its board members are associated with Chicana/o Studies, it is not part of the department. All monies generated go to fund these scholarships.We know that times are hard. Lump sum donations can be sent to For Chicana Chicano Studies Foundation, 11222 Canby Ave., Northridge, Ca. 91326 or through PayPal below. You can reach us at forchs@earthlink.net. Click and make a donation. You may also elect to send $5.00, $10.00 or $25.00 monthly. For your convenience and privacy you may donate via PayPal. The important thing is not the donation, but your continued involvement.

Online Survey: College Students Socially Liberal, Worried About Future

Just got this bit of data from Trinity College in which over 1,700 college students were polled on various issues. I’ll just provide you the entire text for you to read, but if this is a response to recent Republican obstruction and practices, well, the Republicans may not only need to worry about Latinos and Women and Blacks and Gays, etc.

Those were among the findings of the American Religion Identification Survey (ARIS) 2013 College Student Survey conducted by Trinity College in April and May, and partly funded by The Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY. The principal investigators were Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, public policy research professors and the authors of the renowned ARIS survey series since 1990.

The surveyed students, ages 18 to 29, attend 38 colleges and universities from across the U.S., including so-called Red and Blue States. Twelve of the institutions are located in the South, 12 in the Northeast, eight in the West and six in the Midwest. Fourteen of the colleges and universities are private; 24 are public. A random sample of emails was taken from each school’s list. The sample is fairly representative of today’s four-year college students. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents were women and 28 percent were members of minority groups, including African Americans, Latinos, Asians and some who described themselves as “other.”

Asked their political party affiliation, 42 percent said they are Democrats, 26 percent said independent and 19 percent said Republican. Thirteen percent said other or don’t know. However, when asked their ideological philosophy, 32 percent identified themselves as liberal, 17 percent said conservative and an identical 17 percent said moderate. Twelve percent said progressive, 6 percent said libertarian and 15 percent said other or don’t know.

The responses to several public policy questions, in particular, demonstrate that the current cohort of college students is very concerned about their economic future and job prospects, and don’t see the picture brightening. They also see a country where the per-capita debt has risen, and an aging population whose Social Security and Medicare bills will be largely borne by younger Americans. A large majority, 85 percent, consider a “balanced federal budget” to be an important issue, while 13 percent do not.

“Having lived through a steep economic downturn and facing a rocky recovery that is not producing the high-paying, good-benefit jobs that previous generations benefitted from,” said Kosmin, “it’s not surprising that college students see difficult times ahead for themselves, particularly since many have gone deeply into debt to pay for their education. So they question whether they’ll ever be able to achieve the quality of life that their parents have enjoyed.”

Indeed, asked whether young people’s changes of establishing themselves economically and professionally in the U.S. will be better, worse or the same in comparison with their parents’ generation, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the respondents said worse, 19 percent said better and 13 percent don’t know. The more pessimistic students tended to be male, white and Latino, attend private college and major in the arts or humanities. Women, African Americans, students studying at public universities and those majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – fields that typically pay higher salaries and have plentiful jobs – are among the more optimistic about economic advancement.

Moreover, 56 percent agree with the statement that, “people with no college degree have little chance of succeeding in life in the U.S. today,” although 42 percent disagree. And 85 percent of those who turned in the survey said “economic inequality is a major issue in the U.S. today.” Even more women (88 percent) agreed with the statement than men (81 percent). Only 14 percent of the respondents think economic inequality is not a major issue.

Three-quarters of the students said a higher minimum wage is important, compared to 23 percent who said it’s unimportant and 7 percent who don’t know. Yet, 69 percent of the respondents said immigrants don’t threaten American jobs, whereas 25 percent said they do and 6 percent don’t know.

In terms of non-economic issues, a whopping 91 percent of the students endorse the Constitution’s First Amendment right that people should be guaranteed freedom of expression regardless of their views. Six percent disagreed and only 3 percent were unsure.

“This finding implies criticism of the speech codes imposed by many colleges,” said Kosmin.

Regarding the Second Amendment, when asked whether the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns, 70 percent said yes, 24 percent said no and 6 percent didn’t know.

The survey demonstrated that college students are more open-minded than older Americans on many controversial and divisive issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Asked whether women’s reproductive rights must be defended, 84 percent of women agreed, as did 74 percent of men. Ten percent of the female students disagreed, as did 15 percent of male students. As for same-sex marriage, which has been in the news of late given the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, three-quarters of the students (76 percent) said gay marriage should be legalized nationally, while 17 percent disagreed. Seven percent said maybe.

Another issue that was recently dealt with by the Supreme Court was affirmative action. Asked whether affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished, 42 percent said it should be, 35 percent said it shouldn’t be and 23 percent were unsure.

“The finding on affirmative issue showed a more culturally conservative side to the students than the answers to other questions,” said Keysar. “It could be because it’s an issue that directly affects students and their ability to gain admission to the college of their choice.”

The above could also be a response to enrollment growth among minority group members at colleges and universities, as well as budget cuts which affect college enrollment growth, financial aid, etc. The competition is getting stiffer at major universities. Still, all one has to look at are the numbers which state minority groups are still vastly outnumbered by Anglos at colleges and universities.

When it comes to religion, 32 percent of the students described themselves as religious, 32 percent said they are spiritual but not religious, and 28 percent said they are secular but not religious. Eight percent offered no answer.

Students were divided on whether religion is the root cause of conflicts around the globe. Asked whether religion brings more conflict than peace, 47 percent said yes, 41 percent said no and 12 percent were unsure. As for religious liberty in this country, 57 percent said they didn’t believe it is being threatened, 35 percent said it is threatened and 8 percent were unsure.

Regarding their views of the ethics and integrity of people in various professions, the students had relatively low opinions of most, except for scientists who led the way at about 65 percent, followed by clergy at roughly 40 percent. They were followed in descending order by university administrators and police officers (38 percent); bankers and journalists (17 percent); and professional athletes and corporate executives (less than 10 percent).

Similarly, asked whose opinion the students trust concerning social and political issues, the answers they gave in descending order were: themselves, family members and academics, professors and academics, friends, the president of the U.S., religious leaders, local political representatives, national political representatives, political commentators, and political bloggers/Internet forums.

Among other findings:

•       Eighty-three percent of the students agree that they have “a personal responsibility to help those worse off than myself.” Thirteen percent disagreed.
•       About half (51 percent) said unionized workers have a right to collectively bargain. Eighteen percent disagreed. Nearly one-third (31 percent) didn’t know.
•       Forty-seven percent said assisted suicide for the terminally ill should be legalized, 20 percent said it shouldn’t and 30 percent said maybe.
•       Forty-five percent believe in the efficacy of prayer, compared with 20 percent who don’t and 35 percent who said maybe.
•       Exactly half said they believe in miracles, 26 percent said they don’t and 24 percent said maybe.

The Rick Perry Record

Thanks to our friends at One Texas PAC, we have a 2-minute vid that sums up the Rick Perry record in Texas. And if the mantle of leadership is passed on to Greg Abbott, well, it will be more of the same, if not worse.