Turns out that it's been a disaster for Alabama farmers. They can't get enough people to harvest crops. The people they can get to work quit after a day or can't move fast enough to make any money. And farmers who had been organic are switching back to machines.
Yes, it is almost as if Stephen Colbert was psychic last year when he testified that farm work is hot and the dirt is at ground level and he, like most Americans, didn't want to do it.
The only thing that remains to be seen is what happens to a state when its agriculture collapses.
We can only hope that lawmakers in Tennessee are smart enough to give it a year to see how this plays out before moving to undercut our farmers.
Although Nashville is approximately 1,200 miles from the Mexican border, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was within stray-bullet-striking distance of Juarez, given the bevy of local immigration-related goings-on.
Firstly, lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild are backing local immigration attorney Elliott Ozment in filing a motion to "end the 287(g) immigration agreement between Nashville and federal authorities," according to a press release issued today.
Per the language of the 287(g) agreement, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement are supposed to work with the city's "primary law enforcement agency," which is defined under Nashville's Metro charter as the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department — except for the fact that MNPD isn't the fed's designated 287(g) point man: The Davidson County Sheriff's Office is. D'oh!
The Scene has already chronicled how well the results of that supra-legal civil rights-trampling agreement are working out. (Hint: Not so much.)
According to NIPNLG attorney Trina Realmuto:
"Nashville’s 287(g) agreement conflicts with decades-old precedent from the Tennessee Supreme Court, in which the court rejected a similar attempt by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to usurp the enforcement functions belonging to the Nashville Police Department. Through this lawsuit, we are asking the district court to enforce both state and federal law by striking down the 287(g) agreement."
Secondly, Mayor Karl Dean is facing criticism from a prominent supporter over comments he made regarding the damages trial for Juana Villegas, the Mexican immigrant who went into labor while shackled under DCSO's authority following a minor traffic offense in July 2008.
After less than an hour of deliberations, a seven-person jury returned a stiff penalty in the damages trial of Juana Villegas, the undocumented Mexican mother of four detained by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office following an arrest for a minor traffic offense in 2008, who subsequently went into labor while shackled in chains.
A jury of seven awarded $200,000 in compensation to Villegas for her suffering, which the city's attorney Allison Bussell managed to knock down from $1.2 million by downplaying Villegas' post-traumatic stress syndrome and attacking the credibility of expert witnesses.
Read all about it at The City Paper.
On a related note, Obama Administration officials announced earlier today the adoption of new guidelines for immigration and deportation practices. These could very well have prevented Villegas' detainment in the first place, even if they will probably do little to appease the "They tuck r jebz" set.
"What happened when the ambulance arrived?"
The question posed by her attorney, Bill Harbison, caused Juana Villegas to cry forcibly and without warning in court Wednesday afternoon. Federal District Court Judge William Joseph Haynes Jr. immediately called for a recess, and Villegas, sobbing, left the witness stand.
To be sure, emotions ran high as the damages trial for Villegas witnessed its most compelling testimony. When the court reconvened, the Mexican immigrant and mother of four provided more details of her experience at the hands of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, whose deputies detained Villegas after she was arrested on traffic charges in 2008, and in whose custody she went into labor while shackled in metal chains — which plaintiff's attorneys showed to the jury Wednesday.
"I feared for my child," she said via an interpreter. "I didn't know if I would even be able to open my legs [wide enough]."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security — whose greatest hits include turning shampoo ownership into a liability, harnessing the awesome powers of science to expose the genitals of hapless air travel passengers and, most famously, evoking an outpouring of national sympathy for Mike Myers — carved another notch in its Freedom Belt last week, when the umbrella agency rescinded its memorandum of agreements with states participating in its controversial (and formerly voluntary) Secure Communities program (aka "S-Comm).
This means states can no longer opt out of the initiative, which critics contend mutated from a Bush-era attempt to address illegal immigration into a full-fledged deportation machine for any non-white unfortunate enough to be caught driving without a license. By the time DHS' policy change takes effect in 2013, the result will be a de facto nationwide adoption of Secure Communities in all its breathing-while-brown glory.
The program's abysmal public (and professional) reception serves as the backdrop for ongoing litigation between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which has been fighting the government for the past year and a half for the release of potentially embarrassing documents that would shine a brighter light on the agency's murky tactics and policies.
Last week, we told you about the city's attempts to keep from answering some devastating claims in a lawsuit brought by a U.S. citizen, Daniel Renteria-Villegas, who was detained for an extended period of time under the 287(g) program.
That's about to change.
U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp on Tuesday denied the city's request to send the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That leaves the city with a few weeks to finally answer the claims made in the suit.
"Allowing Metro an interlocutory appeal will get the parties no closer to a decision on the merits, and, in the Court’s opinion, will not materially advance the resolution of this case..." Sharp wrote in the ruling.
In other words, get on with it.
The suit, built on a clever legal strategy that is unique to Metro Nashville, has the potential to curb 287(g), a program in which local officers are trained to interact with — and on behalf of — federal immigration officials. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall has been the chief proponent and operator of the controversial program since its adoption in 2007.
Though the suit has been tied up for more than six months with a variety of crafty procedural maneuvers and other such delay tactics offered by Metro attorneys, we'll now finally be able to hear Metro respond to claims of illegal detention that might invalidate deportation proceedings for some 585 people.
Attorney Elliott Ozment filed a fiery response Thursday afternoon in the case that could end the 287(g) immigration program in Nashville. Along with about 15 pages of legalese, Ozment refers to the program, run by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, as "an ethnic cleansing machine that has focused on minor offenders committing infractions such as 'driving without a license'" while failing to meet federal priorities that call for a focus on dangerous criminals.
As for the legalese, the filing asks U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp to allow the slow-moving case to advance. Metro attorneys have spent the past six months using increasingly more arcane procedural maneuvers to delay the case. We covered the whole thing pretty extensively in this week's dead-tree issue.
Here's a choice cut from Ozment's filing, summarizing what's at stake here:
Aside from this, if the plaintiffs’ legal arguments are correct regarding the lack of the sheriff’s authority to engage in any law enforcement activities (immigration or otherwise) under the Metro Charter, thousands of persons have been falsely imprisoned, thousands of U.S. Citizen spouses and children have had their families illegally destroyed and cast into abject poverty, millions of dollars of Metro tax money (not federal dollars) have been wasted to subsidize this illegal operation (including 287(g) staff payrolls and incarceration per diem costs), and the integrity of the Metro Charter has been assaulted every day for over four (4) years. All of this has been the price paid by Metro to defend what plaintiffs contend is an illegal power-grab by a politically ambitious Sheriff, and Metro evidently has no problem watching this price tag rise even more as it attempts an interlocutory appeal.
Ten years ago, the July 5, 2001 issue of the Nashville Scene was emblazoned with the all-caps text, "NATION OF IMMIGRANTS, CITY OF IMMIGRANTS."
It was a fitting way to celebrate Independence Day, and it's interesting to take a look back at that issue. Pedro Garcia was just coming to town as Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools (the Scene joked that he picked Nashville because "with a name like Garcia, it’ll be especially easy to get a new Tennessee driver’s license"), and the late Tennessean columnist Tim Chavez was being admonished by Henry Walker for an appearance at a GOP function.
I've posted some excerpts and thoughts about the issue over at HispanicNashville.com
Happy Independence Day.
John Lamb is the editor of HispanicNashville.com
But lest you suspect the story has somehow been diluted, rest easy in the knowledge that the General Assembly's nativist tendencies remain unchecked. There is still a slate of pandering proposed legislation sure to draw the conservative vote and the condemnation of the civilized world in the name of common decency.
In this week's City Limits, we spend extra time examining the GA's grand coup de grâce (which gets 0 points for originality) — Rep. Joe Carr's and Sen. Bill Ketron's Arizona copycat bill — and the damning opinions of the federal district court and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the court's temporary injunction, effectively halting Arizona's enactment of an almost identical bill.
It's a familiar refrain: Undocumented immigrants come to the United States, contribute nothing and benefit handsomely from the Nanny State. And it's dead wrong.
In fact, according to estimates by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy and the Immigration Policy Center, households headed by undocumented immigrants paid more than $157 million in sales and property taxes here in Tennessee in 2010. Nationwide, they paid an estimated $11 billion in state and local taxes.
A 2005 Economic Report to the President points out that half of all undocumented immigrants are "believed to be working on the books," meaning they contribute to the tax rolls but remain ineligible for nearly every federal public assistance program. Even if their employer withholds Social Security taxes, they'll never benefit from a system they pay into.
Tennessee lawmakers are proposing legislation this session that would seek to make every facet of life in the state even more inhospitable for undocumented immigrants (see Thursday's Scene). But they might consider the numbers, especially this one: Tennessee ranks 14th on the list of 50 for most taxes paid by those with no legal right to be here.
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