Let Them In

By Andy Urban, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty

The last two weeks, I was in the Washington, DC area, visiting my family for the Thanksgiving holiday and making trips to the downtown National Archives in order to do research. The immigration records I was interested in are housed in basement of the same building that showcases the United States constitution. Upstairs, where the constitution is on display, everything moves efficiently and tourists are herded through in an affable manner. The security guards even smile. Downstairs it is another story. The researcher must navigate a byzantine system of security checks, complete a complicated process in order to request records, and overcome other various barriers that can easily drive all but the most dedicated away.

You can tell a lot about a country’s priorities by looking at how it utilizes and mobilizes its bureaucratic resources. When it comes to “protecting? the US-Mexican border, the federal government had not hesitated to allocate money and soldiers to this cause. As a recent article in the Washington Post points out, however, if you happen to be an Iraqi working for private US contractors operating in Iraq – and you want to leave Iraq in order to live - things do not run as smoothly (‘Iraqi with Ties to US Cross Border into Despair’). Despite the fact that many Iraqis who work for US firms such as GE and MCI are targeted by both Shia and Sunni militias for death, they receive virtually no help in getting their refugee status expedited through the US government’s bureaucracy. According to the article, US contractors employ upwards of 100,000 Iraqis, but only a tiny percentage – those who work directly for the US government – are eligible to receive fast tracking on their immigration status. Overall, only 1,636 Iraqis were resettled in the US last year, out of a total of 2.2 million displaced by the invasion and war who are now living abroad. Some of the same prominent US companies that do contract work in Iraq recruit a global executive class from around the world. Corporations devote whole sections of their human resources departments to ensuring that these immigrants have relatively few hassles entering the US.

Part of the difficulty in resettling refugees from Iraq has been that the State Department and Department of Homeland Security have been squabbling over whether Iraqi immigrants pose a potential security threat. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune (‘No Fast Track for At-Risk Iraqi Refugees’), “terrorists? from Iraq might pose as refugees in order to slip into the United States. By comparison, the Canadian government has made reuniting Iraqis with relatives living in Canada a government priority (‘Canada to fast-track Iraqi immigrants').

To end with a bit of a digression, I own a dog. I love my dog. Here is a picture of her lounging on my couch:

Andy's Dog.jpg

Despite my love for my dog, and the canine species in general, I find the following story in the New York Times sickening.

While perhaps the article aims to shock, by setting the reader up to be astonished that certain residents of Princeton, New Jersey truly care more about a dog than a human being, it is not altogether unbelievable that this is the case. As numerous people pointed out over the last six months, Americans heaped far more abuse on Michael Vick than on other pro athletes who had been charged or convicted for crimes such as spousal abuse. But for real…poor Giovanni Rivera. No one should have to fear for their life when they show up for work. If this was some neighborhood white kid who got mauled, this discussion would not be taking place.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Ott published on December 3, 2007 2:56 PM.

Migration for Labor or Love? was the previous entry in this blog.

Foreign-born Parents; Citizen Children is the next entry in this blog.

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