FeaturedLibrary of Congress to Cancel the Subject Heading “Illegal Aliens”

Reversing the practice of more than twenty years, the Library of Congress, after lengthy consultation, has decided to discard the label “illegal alien” for headings of Library materials. Typical of the pressures influencing this change was the 2014 announcement of the Associated Press that its style sheet would no longer attribute illegality to an individual. Here’s the result:

“In response to constituent requests, the Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress, which maintains Library of Congress Subject Headings, has investigated the possibility of cancelling or revising the heading Illegal aliens. PSD also explored the possibility of revising the broader term Aliens. It concluded that the meaning of Aliens is often misunderstood and should be revised to Noncitizens, and that the phrase illegal aliens has become pejorative. The heading Illegal aliens will therefore be cancelled and replaced by two headings, Noncitizens and Unauthorized immigration, which may be assigned together to describe resources about people who illegally reside in a country.”

Immigration on the Internet

If you are reading this, you must be curious about immigration. Perhaps it is just a casual interest, a desire to be a well-informed citizen on a debate that is roiling the country. Or maybe you have the passionate concern of the advocate, eager to learn enough to convince others of your perspective. In either case, there are lots of ways to satisfy your curiosity without leaving your computer.*

You can check out the newspapers and other general interest publications (no Breitbart, please; forget the fake news) or you can dig into the Migration Policy Institute and other professional research and policy sources. You can get serious about the numbers with the Pew Research Center—perhaps that organization’s Hispanic Center but also its Fact Tank, which will surprise you with such information as the percentage of federal arrests (50) made in 2014 just for immigration offenses.

And sometimes you can wade past the passionate stands, pro-immigration or anti-, to get solid, unbiased information from the groups that focus solely on that issue.

America’s Voice, for instance, is very frank about seeking to “harness the power of American voices and American values to enact policy change that guarantees full labor, civil and political rights for immigrants and their families.” It will plead with its readers (presumably sympathetic to its pro-immigrant message) to join its “Dreamer Dinners” campaign. But it will also tell them about the imaginative protests against a restrictive law proposed in Texas. (Hint: It involved beautiful dresses.)

Coming from the other side of the debate, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) will make a case for expanding the requirements for employers to ensure that they hire only people with legal authorization to work, but you will also find on its website useful information about state adoptions of the federal E-Verify program that checks the immigration status of new hires.

The vast resources of the Internet, however, offer readers information on immigration quite beyond general interest publications and special-interest sites. All it takes is a bit of imagination to take you in a direction you might not expect.

Are you wondering how immigrants fare in your home state of Alabama or North Carolina? Facing South will tell you what President Trump’s budget, if enacted, would mean for rural migrants in the Southern states. People who want to follow what’s going on at the state level as the controversy builds over national immigration and refugee policy can keep track of what the National Conference of State Legislatures is paying attention to: twice a year it issues a report on state bills and resolutions regarding immigration. In the first half of 2017 almost twice as many state laws (both beneficial and restrictive) passed as in the same period in 2016. If you are interested in how immigrants affect rural areas, check out The Daily Yonder, with articles about the shortage of agricultural workers and the need for immigrants to address it.

Finally, if you really do have to leave your computer, apps will step in while you are on the go. Try Immigo, sponsored by the National Council of La Raza and Pro Bono Net and available free on iTunes for iPhone and iPad. If you don’t want or need help with an immigration problem, you can skip those menus and get the latest immigration news. For Android users there’s Arrived, available in the App Store and aimed at new arrivals.

The diversity of information sources on the web reminds us that immigration issues today are all-encompassing. Immigration history is American history, it is said, and in 2017 that history is shaping a new American identity. Our keyboards are portals into what we need to know.

This article does not provide information for immigrants on how to adjust their status or where to get help.

Sources mentioned:

Pew Hispanic Center–http://www.pewhispanic.org

Pew Research Center Fact Tank–http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/.

Facing South–https://www.facingsouth.org.

National Council of State Legislatures report– http://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/report-on-2017-state-immigration-laws-january-june.aspx.

The Daily Yonder– http://www.dailyyonder.com.

Oscar De Los Santos

This talented young man–born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents–is headed for Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, one of 32 from all over the country. A political science major as an undergraduate, he will study public policy and Christian theology at Oxford. Since graduating from the University of Southern California with highest honors he has taught English and social studies to sixth-graders and is now manager of public policy for the Association of Arizona Food Banks. He is excited about this honor but wishes it had been extended to more Hispanic students. 




Publishers Weekly

Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America
Diana Gordon, author

The town of Greenport, N.Y., serves as a case study for immigration in America in this well-crafted study. “I do not pretend to be objective about the contributions that Latino immigrants have made to the revitalization of Greenport,” the author—and Greenport resident—cautions in the preface. In her opinion, for small, rural, and suburban towns declining across the United States, immigration may be the answer, not a problem. The book acknowledges that immigration brings challenges around schools, housing, health, employment, and the legal system; however, benefits abound, since immigrant communities boast lower crime rates and density that can revitalize neighborhoods. The schools depicted here welcome an influx of new students that may keep them from closing, and are committed to dealing with varying schooling experiences and language issues. Amid these broader trends, Gordon brings in the stories and voices of immigrants themselves, from a young Guatemalan who has found work as an unlicensed barber (he can’t be licensed because of his legal status) to middle-class Colombians who left professional careers in their economically stagnant home country and now work at menial jobs—while their children anticipate attending American colleges. In taking on one town’s immigration success story, Gordon has created a compelling framework for exploring a complex topic.

Easthampton Star

Light for the Shadows

By Hazel Kahan

February 25, 2016

Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America
Diana R. Gordon

Rutgers University Press, $27.95

One-third of the full-time residents of Greenport are Latino, the first of many facts to surprise me in this lively and valuable contribution to understanding the Village of Greenport today. In her book “Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America,” Diana R. Gordon, a
retired academic, has drawn a portrait of the village that is thorough but not pedantic, granular at times, sweeping at others, and, at its core, a personal story: Ms. Gordon lives in Greenport, it is her hometown, and she wants its Latinos to stay and prosper.

Between 1880 and 1910 more than 17 million foreigners arrived in the United States, admitted as immigrants and expecting to be employed as manual laborers. Its unique charms notwithstanding, Greenport exemplifies a nationwide pattern of immigrants settling into rural areas, seemingly indifferent to the pull of large coastal cities. Framing Greenport as “Absorbing Immigrants Since 1840,” as one section of the book is titled, Ms. Gordon recounts its history of immigration and settlement, tracing its rise and fall — “Boom, Bust, and Back Again” — until the present day.

The name “Greenport” was established in 1831; however, the hamlets of Southold Town and the Village of Greenport remained isolated until 1844, when the first train of the Long Island Rail Road arrived in Greenport from New York City. Through the centuries, the people of Greenport were robustly employed in whaling, shipbuilding, fishing, menhaden and oyster processing, and brickmaking; with the advent of the railroad came the summer people and, for them, the hotels and restaurants their lifestyles demanded. The good years were followed by the calamity of the 1938 Hurricane and a severe postwar downturn. The rich fled, leaving workers unemployed, vacant housing, and a heroin epidemic.

The picturesque “leafy calm” that Greenport offers its visitors in no way betrays its now-invisible history of economic and demographic collapse that began after World War II and continued into the 1950s and ’60s, ending when enlightened mayors and dedicated citizens began implementing a plan to clean up its deterioration and revive its downtown, with financial support from government and private funds.

Ms. Gordon aptly describes Greenport as “a magnet” — for retirees, second-home owners from New York City, tourists, and, starting in 1990, Latinos from Mexico, Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), and South America (Ecuador and Colombia), rapidly rising, as reported by the 2010 census, to one-third of the village’s full-time population.

Published at a propitious time, “Village of Immigrants” puts into stark and repulsive relief the cruel language in which the 2016 election debate is taking place in this country, in particular the unbridled bigotry with which presidential candidates characterize immigrants and promise immigration policies. In contrast, Ms. Gordon sets today’s Hispanic population, a term she uses interchangeably with Latinos, in a historical context of waves of immigration that have shaped Greenport.

Each chapter sets out one of the many challenges awaiting an immigrant individual or family, documented or undocumented: school, language, housing, health care (“Cobbled Care”), licenses and lawyers, work, feeling American. Augmented with detailed profiles of real (but disguised for confidentiality) individuals — Edgar, Sofia, Javier, Jorge, Ricardo, Patty, their travails and their triumphs — these chapters build a rich picture of immigrants that is both personal and individual, but through their layers the chapters are transformed into portraits of families and ethnic groups. (To watch a televised G.O.P. debate immediately after reading Ms. Gordon’s work is to wonder how the debaters’ combative promises and threats are experienced by those “living in the shadows.”)

The shortsighted emphasis on immigrants as “takers” obscures the lesson that Greenport is learning: Immigrants are also consumers who contribute to the gross domestic product of the village. Increasingly, they are homeowners and owners of small businesses, contributing to the village tax base. Although some complain that immigrant children are a tax burden on the schools, Greenport is beginning to see that without them its aging population could well leave the schools moribund.

Perhaps the generosity with which she shares the respect, admiration, and affection she feels for the people she writes about is Ms. Gordon’s most important contribution in “Village of Immigrants.” Their ambition and work ethic, she writes, “are good for Greenport and good for the country. That the immigration system doesn’t reward them is a national shame.”

She credits village residents and officials, including law enforcement, with special mention of former Mayor David Kapell and Sister Margaret Smyth, for making allowance for the “precarious” nature of immigrants’ lives and points out that most illegal immigrants start life in America having broken the law and in debt (to the coyotes who trafficked them over the border). Although the author cannot officially bring Greenport’s immigrants out of their shadows, she has taken us into their shadows, to experience what it means to live a life sin papeles.

Without its immigrant workers Greenport would not be the thriving small town it is today. Ms. Gordon fears that unless its environment becomes more hospitable for its lower-wage worker population, Greenport could enter a period of stasis, regressing into a two-level demographic of wealthy second-home owners and poorer permanent workers to service those homeowners. Such reduced heterogeneity would rob Greenport of its multicultural charm and, more significantly, prevent the emergence of a vibrant middle class.

Central to this undesirable outcome is an affordable housing market discussed in the chapter “Housing or Houses?” The high cost and insufficient availability of rental housing puts a roadblock on the path to fuller participation in the economy.

Greenport — and the Town of Southold — would do well to pay greater attention to the policy implications in Ms. Gordon’s book. An unapologetic champion of Greenport, she writes about the village’s provision of health care through HRHCare, an accountable care organization: “In its small way, Greenport has been ahead of the transformative care curve, at least for its immigrants and low-income residents.”

And then she goes further, asking in the last chapter if it is “A Small-Town Model?” Compared to other small towns (Perry, Iowa; Independence, Ore., among others), Greenport does offer multifamily houses for low-income tenants, its schools are not closing, its economy is based on small businesses, and blatant anti-immigrant hostility is unusual. “And how,” she asks, “can Greenport, initially successful at absorbing today’s immigrants, nourish that accomplishment in ways that foster true integration?”

To make policy or predictive claims is to go beyond Ms. Gordon’s intention; nevertheless, she urges her hometown’s politicians and planners to consider her observations and to delve further into the successes and failures of immigrant absorption experienced by other small towns in America. Without close strategic attention being paid to planning for economic development, housing, seasonal variations, and many other variables that affect both immigrant and native populations, she warns, future revitalization is anything but assured.

San Diego Book Review

Trying to make the American Dream happen

Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America

America is a society of immigrants, from the founding of this country to modern day. A time we are going to become a majority-minority society, one in which no ethnic group is the overwhelming majority. Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America looks at a particular town on Long Island, New York to explore how it has changed over the centuries as a place for immigrants to settle, a place for Hispanics to work and live in the latter half of the 20th Century into the 21st Century and their struggles, dreams hopes for the future. This book continues to the rise of local micro-histories. These are narratives that look at a particular and try to innerweave that community into the larger narrative, and in this case weave it into the immigration narrative.

Diana Gordon does a good job bringing these immigrants to life, giving them a voice. By showing that they struggle to learn language, get by in school, and find meaningful employment; they are trying to make the American dream happen. But as stories of immigrants there are those that do not want them around, and Mrs. Gordon does a good job showing that they exist as well.

Deportees Demonstrating

Standing at the US-Mexico border during the speech by Bernie Sanders on March 22 in San Diego, forty miles away, were deportees reminding onlookers that they are still actively protesting their treatment. Mundo Citizen, a blog written by Nancy Landa, a deportee in Mexico, helps keep their cause alive.

Farm workers desperate for affordable housing

More than half of crop workers in the U.S.–laborers and their supervisors–are Hispanic, and most of those workers are foreign-born. The U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) has also found that about half of crop workers are undocumented. So when you hear Donald Trump’s wild promise to deport immigrants without work authorization, think about what it would mean at your dinner table if, as President, he made good on it. No wonder that many–American citizens as well as immigrants–consider Trump’s boast to be more threat than promise. 

For most of the twentieth century a large proportion of farm workers were temporary migrants, following crops and returning home when fields were fallow. Even as late as the 1990s fewer than half of hired crop workers lived permanently near where they worked. But, partly because immigration policy has made it increasingly difficult to go back and forth across international borders for seasonal employment, farm workers are increasingly settling near their workplaces; the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that three-quarters now live within seventy-five miles of their farms. 

For these workers, finding decent, affordable housing, however, is almost impossible. The private market offers little beyond dilapidated trailers, few farmers are willing or able to construct housing for their workers, and grant money from the federal Farm Labor Housing program cannot begin to meet the need. Federal financing for farm worker housing projects amounted to more than $20 million in 2015, but tenants in rental housing supported by that program must be citizens or green card holders,a policy that excludes many of those with the greatest need. Read more about the problem here and get the perspective of Angel Castro, who has lived it and now advocates for solutions for others. 

Castro web

Diana Gordon
March 6, 2016

Immigrants should be embraced, not excluded

When I set out from Greenport [in December] for the National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn, I didn’t know what to expect.

It was a gathering of more than 1,000 immigration advocates, and I thought they might be pretty depressed. After all, President Obama’s plan to extend temporary relief from deportation for many unauthorized immigrants had been held up — perhaps beyond his tenure — in the courts. Perhaps the attendees would be angry at the demagoguery of Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, other Republican presidential candidates, playing upon public fears of immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Would the three days I had committed to this meeting be one big downer?

I needn’t have worried. What emerged in plenary sessions and smaller workshops was a fighting spirit and an abiding optimism about where the immigrant flood of the past 20 years will take the country in the next decade — even in the new year.

The Democratic candidates for president set the tone. The three frontrunners all spoke — Clinton and O’Malley in person, Sanders by video. They lauded the accomplishments of new arrivals over the centuries and invoked the hoary reminder that “we are all immigrants.” But they went further. They noted that most scholars now agree that immigration in the 21st century carries more economic benefits than burdens and that crime is lower among immigrants than among the native-born.

New York’s political leaders sounded similar notes, rejecting exclusionary rhetoric and embracing a very different future. “We take people from every different place and welcome them,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, promising to prioritize comprehensive immigration reform in the next Congress. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced increased legal support for immigrants threatened with deportation or victimized by wage theft.

It was flattering to the advocates that so many political stars showed up to support their cause; Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the most passionate speech of all. But celebrity appearances were just garnish on the main dish of the conference. Building on the theme of “New American Dreams,” panel presentations focused on such topics as new opportunities for learning English, employer involvement in workforce training, the promotion of entrepreneurship and preparation for naturalization. Welcoming America, an organization closely allied with the White House Task Force on New Americans, cited cities and counties across the country (63 at last count) that have committed themselves to immigrant-friendly plans and policies. An interplanetary visitor observing local efforts to bring immigrants into the American mainstream would be surprised to hear that an intense national conversation was taking place about their right to be in the country at all.

The conference spurred me to think about what North Fork residents (and Long Islanders in general) could do in light of the policy vacuum in Washington. Here are a couple of issues to address to ease the integration of “new Americans” in 2016.

New York is not one of the 10 states (plus the District of Columbia) that permit undocumented immigrants to obtain the special driver’s licenses permitted under the federal Real ID Act. But it should be. They drive anyway. Like everyone else in areas where daily commuting is the norm, they need to drive to work and to shop. Licensing drivers who can prove their identity and their local residence would ensure that their skills are adequate and that they are insured. It would protect all of us.

In recent years many cities and counties have issued municipal IDs. Anyone can apply for them (over 670,000 people in New York City) but they are particularly useful for people who otherwise cannot present official identification — homeless people, non-drivers and undocumented immigrants. A Suffolk County municipal ID would enable immigrants to more easily get the library cards and bank accounts that give evidence of a stable life in their new country.

A little local activism supporting these common-sense measures could reward both immigrants and their Long Island neighbors.

Diana GordonDiana Gordon is professor emerita of political science and criminal justice at the City University of New York. She is the author of several books, including “Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America,” which focuses on Greenport’s growing Hispanic population. 

This article appeared in The Suffolk Times, January 14, 2016.