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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

Rush to Judgment in America: The Issue of Gun Control

[An Ultra-Liberal Looks at Gun Control]

 

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

 

Number of Guns and Gun Owners in USA

 

Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million.

 

Facts about Gun Ownership in America

Pew Research Center Data

According to Rich Morin in an article reported in FACTANK (July 15, 2014) titled, “The Demographics and Politics of Gun-Owning Households:

“Guns among Americans with young children in their home are just as likely as other adults to have a gun in their household, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center.

“Overall, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including 34% of families with children younger than 12. That’s nearly identical to the share of childless adults or those with older children who have a firearm at home.

“The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

“To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.

“All respondents in the nationally representative panel had been interviewed in an earlier Pew Research poll and agreed to participate in future surveys. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for results based only on those in gun-owning households.

Survey Results

“The survey results also would appear to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun ownership is far more prevalent in the South. According to the survey, southerners are just about as likely as those living in the Midwest or the West to have a gun at home (38% vs. 35% and 34%, respectively). The regional exception: Households in the northeastern United States, where gun prevalence is significantly lower (27%) than in other parts of the country.

“But regional differences emerge when race is factored into the analysis. White southerners are significantly more likely to have a gun at home (47%) than whites in other regions. But because blacks disproportionately live in the South and are only half as likely to have a gun at home as whites the overall rate for the southern region falls to 38%.

“Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.

“Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.

“As a group, Americans who have a gun at home see themselves differently than do other adults. According to the survey, adults in gun-owning households are more likely to think of themselves as an “outdoor person” (68% vs. 51%) or “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%), and to say “honor and duty are my core values” (59% vs. 48%).

“About six-in-ten gun household members (64%) say they “often feel proud to be American.” In contrast, about half (51%) of other adults say this.

“Not surprisingly, members of gun-owning households are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as a “hunter, fisher or sportsman” (37% vs. 16%).

“But on other dimensions tested in the survey, those with a gun at home differ little from other Americans. For example, they are as focused on health and fitness as those in non-gun owning households and are about equally likely to say they think of themselves as compassionate or as a trusting person.”

Sociological Background for Understanding Gun Control

It is an inescapable fact of modern life that “normal” or “deviant behavior” is relative to the culture one lives in. Any sociologist worth his salt should tell you that deviance, legally defined, is as much the product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule breakers.”

The great American sociologist Howard S. Becker in his book Outsiders (1963) wrote the following:

“All social groups make rules and attempt, at some times and under some circumstances, to enforce them. Social rules define situations and the kinds of behavior appropriate to them, specifying some actions as “right” and forbidding others as “wrong.” When a rule is enforced, the person who is supposed to have broken it may be seen as a special kind of person, one who cannot be trusted to live by the rules agreed on by the group. He is regarded as an outsider.

But the person who is thus labeled an outsider may have a different view of the matter. He may not accept the rule by which he is being judged and may not regard those who judge him as either competent or legitimately entitled to do so. Hence, a second meaning of the term emerges: the rule-breaker may feel his judges are outsiders.

The above description of Labeling Theory is the social context today that underlies the highly emotional and explosive social issue known as gun control. And “value judgments” dominate the thinnest landscape of analysis among those on both sides of this issue.

 

While governments can create rules that create classes of deviants, very few individuals realize that some motivations of governmental actions are deviant acts themselves. By that I mean governments, from a sociological point of view, sometimes encourage deviance, particularly when it concerns money and a politician’s career.

 

If you don’t think government agencies aren’t creating or encouraging deviant acts just consider what local city governments and townships have done for decades.

Intentions really matter, especially with governments. For example, parking fines on the surface are intended to deter people from parking beyond a certain amount of time. This is supposed to deter people; the reality is government agencies want parking fines and thus inadvertently or otherwise, they want to add revenues to their coffers. If everyone stopped breaking the rules, local governments would be very unhappy because of a lost revenue flow. Deviance in this sense is encouraged as they want rule breakers to break the rules.

 

What makes this type of social phenomena even more suspicious and aggravating, is not just the questioning of moral relevance, or absence thereof, but the fact that many local city governments and townships actually encourage deviant behavior. They do this by creating more metered parking spots in more and more neighborhoods or outlying areas. When this happens, the “rule makers” are creating more deviant acts, not to stem them, but to increase them for purposes of extortion and increased cash flow. Notions of “right” or “wrong” disappear when the “rule makers” by their own actions create deviance through increasing the number of “rule breakers.”

 

The Growing Gun Control Issue    

Why is there so much dissension over the issue of gun control? In a nutshell it’s all about fear of what’s happening with terrorist attacks or mass-shootings here at home or abroad. Gun control existed prior to these events but current events around violence, particularly gun violence, have made gun control such a hotly debated issue.

One of the basic facts of translating such underlying fear into public policy is that there has been a “rush” to judgment to solve a social problem; that is, strategies to curtail gun ownership have not been well thought out or researched, and there seems to be both a lack of basic logic and a great deal of hypocrisy in the process.

Let’s assume for the moment that saving lives is the motivation behind gun control. If saving human life is the ultimate goal behind the issue of gun control, there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence that gun-free zones, restricting either types of firearms or types of ammo or reducing magazine capacity, has any relationship to preventing firearm deaths or future acts of violence involving a firearm.

Back in April, 2013 Mother Jones reported: “True security in our schools and other designated gun-free places may require more. Forbidding firearms alone clearly won’t keep violence away—not least because of how easily bad guys can get their hands on guns. Nearly 80 percent of the mass shooters we documented obtained their weapons legally.” They also went on to say that loading up gun free zones with more armed protection may not lessen the violence either.

If one assumes that 80 percent of mass shooters got their guns legally, it does suggest that tightening loopholes and requiring stringent background checks would help. However, even here it’s not foolproof since at times it’s been known that girlfriends with no prior criminal record can and do buy guns for their gang member boyfriends, and there are many other occasions where a gun is bought for another person. Plus, there may be illegal gun brokers operating in every city. In this regard law enforcement has their jobs cut out for them.

Simply restricting and being punitive toward gun ownership among honest, responsible gun owners is no answer at all. It also raises the question of civil rights violations by government agencies. It’s really not about the guns—it’s about the people who commit anti-social crimes, the mental state of mass shooters and the warped ideology of radicalized individuals. And religiously radicalized Muslims are only part of the problem as there are many right-wing fanatics who pose an equal danger to society. This includes hate groups such as the Ku Klux Clan, white nationalists and others of similar ilk.

Concealed-Carry Weapons Issue

There are many states that allow open-carry weapons. Some states allow open-carry and concealed weapons as legal in their state. Some states don’t allow open-carry but do allow concealed-carry weapons by permit.

Most states that do allow concealed-carry permits require safety training, and extensive training in use of a firearm as well as requiring an extensive background check before a permit is ever signed by the proper authorities, usually a county sheriff.

In my opinion any attempt to restrict or deny concealed-carry permits to gun owner citizens may in fact have the opposite effect of actually increasing deaths when the “bad guys” start shooting in a mall, nightclub, airport, or similar location where large groups of people amass, irrespective of whether an attack occurs in a gun free zone or not.

As we all know from news reports, police often show up after the carnage has occurred, not before. A fully vetted, background-checked citizen trained to use a handgun may find him/herself  in the right place at the right time to save lives by catching the “bad” guys unaware of their presence. This is different from arming school security guards or teachers as the media makes this known to the public as newsworthy information.

However, the “bad guys” read newspapers and watch TV like anyone else. They know in advance who is likely to be armed or not. Concealed-carry individuals aren’t so easy to identify. If these individuals, often better trained and better shots than police officers, numbered one out of every 10 or 20 citizens, it might result over time in reducing such carnage among mass shooters in shopping malls, airports, nightclubs or elsewhere. While it might be impossible to save every life, at least a good number might be saved. At the very least this is a viable hypothesis.

So far the idea of deputizing all CCW (Concealed-Carry Weapon) citizens nationwide to be a kind of “first responder” has not occurred. But this is the kind of research idea that could be tested experimentally. While SWAT teams are very important to law enforcement operations, like patrolmen they too show up after the carnage has been carried out, not before.

The idea of deputizing good citizens during a critical law enforcement emergency is not unknown in American history. However, gun control without research to support it is like putting the cart before the horse. That’s why I’ve characterized this issue of gun control as a “rush to judgment.” In addition, it appears to me that politicians want to give the appearance or impression they are doing something to address a very serious social problem. And they do this even if their ideas are untested and they violate the civil rights of millions upon millions of our citizens.

The Politics of Fear 

The irony of many social issues today is that, politically speaking, people on both sides of an issue (e.g., a strong military, terrorism, job creation, a balanced budget, and clean air and water) often agree on the goals of an issue, but nevertheless vehemently disagree regarding the method(s) to achieve such goals. Besides debate of this hot issue what underlies it is fear. And, because of this fear the anti-gun supporters are using it to play politics with a fearful public. While some of this fear is irrational, some of it is not.

One serious factor that has contributed more than any other to the gun control debate, has been the occurrences of savage attacks by either lone-wolf assailants in the United States who are troubled psychologically, impaired individuals (such as the offender at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Umpqua College in Oregon, or Dallas, Texas) or individuals inspired by radical jihadist ideology (like the type of offender at Fort Hood (13 dead and many injured), San Bernardino, California (14 dead and many injured), and Orlando, Florida in July, 2016 where (49 people were murdered and scores injured).

By implication, there is also fear creation among Americans even when there have been large numbers of Jihadist attacks overseas, The attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and Iraq have all contributed to the fear people here in the United States feel. Because of such fear, rational or otherwise, there seems to be a demand that action be taken immediately to stop or prevent such mass-shootings and terrorist attacks.

Gun laws, of course, vary from state to state. At the present time California is one of the most restrictive states for guns and ammunition. The rules however are selective. They generally apply to citizen gun owners (or the general public) but not the police or military personnel. People on the right complain that the Second Amendment is under attack; those people on the left say it is the fault of having too many guns in society and not enough is being done. People line up on either side of this issue claiming the other side is either incompetent or illegitimate. Because of this, many issues surrounding the 2nd Amendment end up in our court system whether it is within federal, state or local jurisdictions.

How to Assess the Gun Control Issue

There are really two ways to think about gun control: (1) the legal system which attempts to make decisions on the basis of case law and/or statutory law, and (2) a more sociological type of analysis that makes use of logic, reason, data, analysis, and finally, objective conclusions. Both ways of looking at gun control, it must be recognized, may be fraught with politics and the rendering of non-objective criteria based on individual and collective “value judgments.”

 

In addition, even correlational data can be misleading. What is needed is experimental research, where correlational data is still useful in at least generating hypotheses to be evaluated using the gold standard—experimental research.

But there is a caveat even with respect to the quality of experimental research (in fact, all scientific research or methods employed). Many lay people think that ultimately scientific explanations determine truth. However, whether one is discussing meta-physical or religious claims of truth, or the best science has to offer as an explanation, there is no absolute truth. What is truth? Truth is what we agree it is at a particular point in time, nothing more and nothing less. And often what is perceived as truth is masked by underlying assumptions, beliefs and biased “value judgments” long before scientific explanations are even offered.

 

Nevertheless, scientific research is still the closest one is ever going to get to a kind of “social truth” where data, reason and logic prevail. Consensus that fosters unanimity of agreement is the closest one will ever get to the imperfect notion of “truth”. I say this only to make one aware and cautious when taking a political stand on this or any other issue.

 

Let’s take the two approaches in order. Let’s start with the major legal decisions of the United States Supreme Court related to the 2nd Amendment. This will be followed by a more sociological way of looking at the issue of gun control.

 

Major Supreme Court Decisions

 

The following material was obtained online from The Law Library of Congress.

 

     “On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. It also ruled that two District of Columbia provisions, one that banned handguns and one that required lawful firearms in the home to be disassembled or trigger-locked, violate this right.

 

“The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of this sentence is not self-evident, and has given rise to much commentary but relatively few Supreme Court decisions.

 

“In cases in the 19th Century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does not bar state regulation of firearms.  For example, in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875), the Court stated that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government,” and in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886), the Court reiterated that the Second Amendment “is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” Although most of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated (PDF) into the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and thus cannot be impaired by state governments, the Second Amendment has never been so incorporated. [UPDATE: In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court addressed this issue, ruling that Second Amendment rights are applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment.]

 

“Prior to District of Columbia v. Heller, the last time the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment was in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).  In that case, Jack Miller and one other person were indicted for transporting an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.  Miller argued, among other things, that the section of the National Firearms Act regulating the interstate transport of certain firearms violated the Second Amendment.

 

“The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas agreed with Miller.  The case was appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which reversed the district court.  The Supreme Court read the Second Amendment in conjunction with the Militia Clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, and concluded that “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [sawed-off] shotgun . . . has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument, 307 U.S. at 178.”  The Court concluded that the district court erred in holding the National Firearms Act provisions unconstitutional.

 

“Since United States v. Miller, most federal court decisions considering the Second Amendment have interpreted it as preserving the authority of the states to maintain militias.  Several of the post-Miller lower court opinions are discussed here (PDF).

 

“The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Second Amendment this term was precipitated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in Parker v. District of Columbia (PDF), 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. App. 2007).  There, the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that three District of Columbia laws regarding private gun ownership – namely a ban on new registration of handguns, a ban on carrying a pistol without a license, and a requirement that firearms be kept unloaded and locked – violated the Second Amendment.  The court held that individuals have a right under the Second Amendment to own handguns for their own personal protection and keep them in their home without placing a trigger lock on them.  This is the first decision since the Supreme Court decided Miller in which a federal court overturned a law regulating firearms based on the Second Amendment.

 

“Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision not to rehear the case, the District of Columbia Government filed a petition for certiorari for review of the decision by the Supreme Court.  The documents before the Supreme Court at the petition for certiorari stage have been collected here.

 

“On November 20, 2007, the Supreme Court granted (PDF) the petition for certiorari.  The Court framed the question for which it granted review as follows: “Whether the following provisions – D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 – violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

 

“The briefs on the merits by the District of Columbia and respondent Dick Anthony Heller, as well as amicus briefs by some 67 “friends of the court,” have been collected here.

 

“In its June 26 decision, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the D.C. provisions banning handguns and requiring firearms in the home disassembled or locked violate this right.

 

“In the majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court first conducted a textual analysis of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Court found that this language guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons. The Court examined historical evidence that it found consistent with its textual analysis. The Court then considered the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause, “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and determined that while this clause announces a purpose for recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms, it does not limit the operative clause. The Court found that analogous contemporaneous provisions in state constitutions, the Second Amendment’s drafting history, and post-ratification interpretations were consistent with its interpretation of the amendment. The Court asserted that its prior precedent was not inconsistent with its interpretation.

 

“The Court stated that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to regulation, such as concealed weapons prohibitions, limits on the rights of felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in certain locations, laws imposing conditions on commercial sales, and prohibitions on the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. It stated that this was not an exhaustive list of the regulatory measures that would be presumptively permissible under the Second Amendment.

 

“The Court found that the D.C. ban on handgun possession violated the Second Amendment right because it prohibited an entire class of arms favored for the lawful purpose of self-defense in the home. It similarly found that the requirement that lawful firearms be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock made it impossible for citizens to effectively use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense, and therefore violated the Second Amendment right.      The Court said it was unnecessary to address the constitutionality of the D.C. licensing requirement.

 

“Four Justices dissented, each of which signed both of two dissenting opinions. One, by Justice Stevens, examined historical evidence on the meaning of the Second Amendment to conclude that the amendment protects militia-related interests. A second dissenting opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that even if the Second Amendment protects a separate interest in individual self-defense, the District of Columbia provisions at issue are permissible forms of regulation.

 

“The outcome of D.C. v. Heller left some issues unanswered, including whether the Second Amendment restricts state regulation of firearms, and the standard for evaluating the constitutionality of other laws and regulations that impact the Second Amendment right.

 

“These issues will be the subject of future litigation. [Update: As noted above, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller applies not only to the Federal Government, but also to states and municipalities.”

 

Despite all the court cases of relevance, legislators in California are leading the nation in the “rush to judgment” approach to solving a social problem.

 

California Gun-Related Laws Going into Effect in 2017

 

Despite the violation of the civil rights of millions of gun owners in California several laws are about to go into effect on January 1, 2017. They include:

 

GUN BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. JERRY BROWN

 

There is Senate Bill 1446, authored by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which bans possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

 

SB 1235, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires background checks for purchase of ammunition.

SB 880, authored by Senator Isidore Hall, D-South Bay, and Assembly Bill 1135, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, ban “bullet buttons,” which make it easy to detach magazines.

 

There is also Assembly Bill 1511, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, which limits the lending of guns to family members who have not completed background checks.

 

Another bill is AB 1695, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which blocks people who have knowingly make false reports on the loss or theft of a gun from possessing firearms for 10 years.

 

AB 857, authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, requires anyone who manufactures or assembles a homemade firearm to get a serial number from the state Department of Justice.

 

A Sociological Look at Gun Control

 

Gun Control: Logic, Reason, and Hypocrisy

In this section I will describe why I think there is a serious lack of logic and reason in today’s gun control issue. When looking at the supposed goal of limiting guns as a solution to savings lives, I find a tremendous amount of hypocrisy by both the general public and legislators (federal, state and local).

If one believes the goal of the anti-gun lobby is saving lives—think again! Hypocrisy, unfortunately, plays a major role in their thinking. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is defined as the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.  

I think controlling guns is really a smokescreen for failure to do what is really needed by society i.e., the ability to create programs and strategies to alter or deter the anti-social behavior of groups and individuals. And this failure applies regardless of whether the subject matter is general crime, mass-shootings or terrorist attacks.

Recently, it was reported in the national news that, “Chicago is on pace to see as many as 650 or 700 murders this year, more than any year since the early 2000s, and likely more than the total murders in New York and Los Angeles combined.”

This is very telling because, you see, the City of Chicago has some of the most draconian restrictions on guns. Restricting law-abiding citizens from having guns won’t get the job done. Back on May 29, 2013 an article appeared in the New York Times titled, “Strict Gun Laws in Chicago Can’t Stem Fatal Shots.” According to the article,

“CHICAGO — not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. ‘The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,’ said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite — a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.

Young black men in the inner city of Chicago are disproportionately more likely to commit acts of gun violence, but also disproportionately more likely to be the victim of gun violence. So despite highly restrictive gun laws, violence is at a peak this year in Chicago. It would seem logical to me that there needs to be in Chicago a program to tackle guns that are illegally obtained from those guns that are legal for self-defense.”

Self-defense is an absolute legal right under the 2nd Amendment as described earlier in this blog. There is no need to unwittingly deny guns to law-abiding individuals.

Hypocrisy about Guns

Disarming gun owners and making unwarranted attacks on the Second Amendment is not a viable solution to ending violence.  After all, guns don’t kill people with intent, people kill people with intent. Intent is motivation by individuals to commit acts. Guns are simply pieces of metal cleverly crafted; pieces of metal don’t possess intent. People do.

Logic would suggest that butcher knives we all have in our homes are a much greater threat to children or adults than an empty handgun that is locked away in a gun safe with a safety on and secured with a trigger lock, and ammunition for that gun that is stored elsewhere in a locked safe. This is what responsible gun owners do.  How many people who own butcher knives or other knives lock them away in a safe?

When our children were growing up, how many of us put locks on our medicine cabinets or made sure when our kids visited other homes with young children, that those homes did not have guns, knives, or medicine cabinets that were unlocked? When one looks at states with highly restrictive guns laws, why is it these states have higher overall violent crime rates (like California) than those states (like Arizona) that have more liberal policies on guns such as open- carry gun laws, concealed-carry permits, and no restrictions on types of guns or types of ammunition?

Could it be that states that are more liberal with respect to gun ownership make potential offenders think twice about committing a crime? Maybe the answer is yes, or maybe the answer is no. We do not know this definitively one way or the other, but it does suggest the possibility that states with highly restrictive gun laws are neither preventing terrorist acts, mass shootings nor crime in general.

Another aspect of government hypocrisy on gun control is the selectivity or target of these laws. If saving lives is the real goal of gun control, then why does society or government politicians take a “blind eye” to the fact that every year cops in America kill or murder more people than all the country’s terrorists or mass-shooters combined? Why not take away all guns from police officers around the country? But, as we all know, then only the “bad” guys would have guns, putting police officers at greater risk. Society does not want to put the police at undue risk, and neither do I. Police have a right to protect themselves from attack.

But if society wants to give protection to police officers by allowing them to carry weapons in public, why then are legislators in particular so unwilling to deny the average citizen the same right to carry weapons for their own protection as police do? Why are they so unwilling to help protect the average citizen and why are they so willing to violate the civil rights of gun owners?

Hypocrisy runs rampant and logic is nowhere to be found if saving lives should be the “real” goal underlying gun control.

In 2014, 32,675 individuals were fatalities in car crashes and accidents. Millions of people have been killed in car crashes and accidents since 1900. Because of this self-created misery, has taking away the automobile ever been proposed by a legislative body? The answer is no—saving lives has always taken a back seat to economic interests and greedy politicians (remember—we have the best politicians money can buy).

With respect to deaths involving drunk drivers consider these facts:

  • In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

There are some programs out there to help the problem of drinking among drunk drivers. But regardless of the harm they do, no one has suggested a new prohibition of alcohol or eliminating cars altogether. Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal but no one wants to consider totally outlawing marijuana anymore.

In the same vein, consider how many people die every year due to smoking. “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Yet, no legislative body ever recommends doing away with the cause—cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s the same reason, economics and greedy politicians. The phoniness and hypocrisy of political action is all too clear.

If millions upon millions of gun owners don’t comply with regulations to control guns, a new class of “deviant rule breakers” is created because of the implementation of arbitrary, capricious rules having no relationship at all to protecting the public from harm. Obviously, it isn’t based on wanting to save lives. It seems more to be based on the appearance of “solving a social problem.”  An underlying reason is that government can raise their revenues and rip-off gun owners by charging them “administrative” fees.

In California it is called D.R.O.S. (Dealer’s Record of Sale) in which a $25 fee is charged every time anyone buys a gun. When SB 1235 goes into effect in January, 2017 background checks will be required every time someone buys ammunition. And the state will require a fee to be paid by the gun owner as he (she) makes that purchase. Can anyone really blame the NRA when they get involved in politics? They are simply trying to protect the rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Granted, the United States Supreme Court does give the right to the states to regulate firearms. However, it went too far in the District of Columbia case, and was reversed in 2010 in the City of Chicago that had restricted all guns in the city.

Final Comments

While people often give lip service to their support for the U.S. Constitution in general, there is nonetheless no such unequivocal support when it comes to specifics. Everyone wants their own interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to apply to any issue. People want the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to follow their own judgmental notions, beliefs and values. And when it doesn’t people want to cry foul.

I am old enough to remember how contentious the battle was for civil rights across the nation during the 1950s and 60s. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was one of the most important statutory pieces of legislation since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan 1, 1863 (and later outlawed slavery by Congress on Jan 31, 1865).

Now in the 21st Century we have another civil rights issue affecting millions of Americans. That issue is about the civil rights issue over gun control. Such disagreement on specifics tends to create lack of unanimity on gun control. On the legal side, it is clear that a balancing act is occurring between the rights of the individual to bear arms and the rights of the states to regulate firearms.

 

An earlier blog of mine outlined the various approaches to legal analysis that Supreme Court justices go through in reaching a decision. I refer you back to that blog titled, “Principled Constitutionalism and Gay Marriage,” July 2015.

Whether one looks at the 1400 year history of the Muslim faith or growing up in a ghetto, barrio, or impoverished white communities, one thing they all have in common. It is the systemic problems of poverty; lack of a good education and resources, and often being early in life the victims of discrimination. Where discrimination was concerned, it was the repression of followers of Islam by their own Sharia Law, and in the United States it was the repression of citizens by police violence and racial discrimination, and a larger society that remained in a perpetual state of denial. Love your neighbor is a great concept (my value judgment), but the reality is few people want to expend the effort to really help others.

The lone mass shooter is a different problem all together. Mental health services may help lots of people but predicting who is going to commit mass murder is near-impossible to predict. And, in this country one doesn’t lock up people just because they score high on some form suggesting an anti-social personality.

One cannot charge or arrest someone for what they might do; they can only be charged or arrested for what they actually do. This results in one of the most difficult of societal problems.  And, once again, it is about making value judgments on a major level. That is, is it more important to protect the liberty of all our citizens, or is it more important to lock up sizeable numbers of citizens based on what they might do?  This type of decision defies an easy solution. Why? Two major reasons: (1) It violates the very U.S. Constitution we all value as the guiding light for a free country, and (2) there is no test that can be devised that won’t result in both false-positives and false-negatives. Society would lock up some people who have no real interest in committing a serious crime and such a test will miss people who really would commit a crime. This applies not only to paper and pencil tests, but also to psychologist or psychiatric opinion about clients or patients. No test or opinion is ever foolproof.        

     At a macro-level efforts to effectively deal with systemic problems like poverty, poor education, lack of resources, and lack of opportunity in the inner cities, and police racism and violence, have all gone by the wayside. Why? Because systemic causes of violence described above would take a real commitment of resources to solve or reverse them. People may argue this point but my suspicion as a social scientist is that with population growth everywhere, no government on earth has anywhere near the resources to deal effectively with such social problems, much less eliminate them.

We all want to solve social and economic problems, so it’s very hard to accept a “bitter pill” that the most caring country in the world—the United States—is unable to solve all systemic causes of violence. The bottom line: some social problems may be simply beyond our reach. It’s tough to accept, but it may be reality. If my assumption is wrong, then governments still have a moral and ethical responsibility to save lives and to tackle these problems with some insight.

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part IV

Child Kidnapping

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Introduction

As mentioned in Part I of this series, the journey children must make between infancy and adulthood may be their most difficult time of life. It is a journey fraught with many obstacles and dangers along the way.

While we all have to endure many inevitable difficulties growing up, no child growing up should ever be put unwittingly in serious danger of their health and well-being. While the nation comes to grips with the tragedy of Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there must be recognition that mass murder is only the tip of the iceberg where violence against children is concerned.

Below is a reminder of the many sources of violence children too often confront in their long journey of growing up. Like an old, “salty” U.S. Navy Chief Boson’s Mate I want to “square away” my cyberspace audience with knowledge as to what these many dangers children potentially might face.

As a Reminder: Sources of Violence toward Children

During their formative years children can be victimized in a variety of ways including:

gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect and starvation, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, child sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

 

Focus of Part IV

This is the last segment in my four-part series on Taking Aim at Violence against Children. In many ways this has been the most difficult to write in terms of generating new and innovative ways to deal with violence against children. Recommendations, policy directives and/or legislative proposals are needed that seriously address all of the subject matter mentioned or written about during this four-part series.

As a former researcher and criminologist, I wish I had all the answers and could give you original ideas for dealing with all the various aspects of violence against children. I don’t. But, I suggest that individuals or organizations concerned with these issues strongly consider a four-pronged strategic attack.

The four-prong strategic approach I recommend includes:

  • Encouragement (letter campaign) of political decision-makers to do their job and get involved with the issue one is concerned with
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Where applicable, development of powerful, hard hitting, no holds barred, legislation at  the federal, state and local levels

Change in society always takes courage and a tenacious attitude if anything is ever to get done. We are all drawn in so many different directions during our lives. Time can be our friend or our worst enemy; it’s always difficult to stay focused for any length of time. Once again everything comes down to values and the assumptions and decisions we make with scarce resources. It can all seem overwhelming at times—–but we must persevere.

What follows ahead after the segment on Kidnapping is an effort to bring, beyond generalizations, more specific recommendations, policy directives, and/or needed legislation to bear on many of the major categories of violence previously described.

Kidnapping

The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) have placed cases into five categories:

1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. There is coercion and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, and the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour.

3. Runaways – Children that have left home and stayed away overnight. These child runaways unquestionably expose themselves to harm at night in unfamiliar and therefore dangerous surroundings. These runaways also include those who have run away from a juvenile facility.

4. Throwaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

The child was told to leave the household.

The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.

The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.

The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

This category relates to children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.

Statistics

The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you’re dealing with. Here are some important, and potentially surprising, facts about child abductions in the United States:

  • Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.
  • The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the 840,279 people reported as missing or abducted in 2001 were children. The vast majority of these cases are resolved within hours.  This amounted to about 2,000 a day.
  • Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victim or “family kidnapping” (49 percent), kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victim or “acquaintance kidnapping” (27 percent), and kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or “stranger kidnapping” (24 percent).
  • Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, and  involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators (43 percent) than it does in other types of kidnapping offenses; It occurs more frequently to children under 6, equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes, and most often originates in the home.
  • Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
  • Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily at outdoor locations, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is associated with sexual assaults in the case of girl victims and robberies in the case of boy victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
  • Only about one child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
  • In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child’s home.
  • Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
  • About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
  • Acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
  • One in five children 10 to 17 years old receive online messages that involve un-wanted sexual solicitations.
  • In a 1998 study of parents’ worries by pediatricians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of parents said they feared their children might be abducted. One-third of parents said this was a frequent worry — a degree of fear greater than that held for any other concern, including car accidents, sports injuries, or drug addiction.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Crime Information Center; U.S. Justice Dept.; Vanished Children’s Alliance; Redbook, February 1998; State of Washington’s Office of the Attorney General; United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000

 

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Gun Violence

 

The President’s comprehensive plan for stemming gun violence was presented in Part I of this series. The only type of recommendation missing seemed to be connected with mass shootings in a business or governmental office by a recently fired or terminated employee. It must be pointed out that often times a former employee who returns to the work site with a gun may have already killed family members. This would suggest that mass murder involving job sites is more than about just losing a job.  Rather, it is based on a complex set of psychiatric factors that predisposes someone to go over the edge and commit murder, regardless of setting.

Someone who is under pressure and loses a job just as easily might carry out mass murder in a bank, shopping mall, or a Coney Island setting. There is simply no way to predict in advance (even with patients being treated by clinicians, psychologists and/or psychiatrists) such acts of violence.

This does not mean however that there aren’t steps of a preventive nature that can be taken that can help alleviate, in business and governmental settings, pressures people experience from losing a job, regardless of reason for the termination.

Recommendation # 1

The federal government should make available very low interest loans to businesses to develop and/or augment existing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). In all likelihood this would require legislation, primarily affecting the Small Business Administration. If a business is large enough, they should provide, upon termination of an employee, counseling and assistance to help them acquire unemployment compensation from their state’s Department of Employment. In addition, EAP programs in both the private and public sector need to start re-tooling.

Something new might include psychiatric services to all employees, and screening of new employees who might have family, psychiatric or mental health problems. A pro-active caring business just might develop loyalty that otherwise might not have ever developed. Businesses must tread lightly by protecting the confidentiality of every employee and offer such services on a voluntary basis. This will be fine for most employees. However, what does a business do with the “bad apples” among recalcitrant employees who appear to need such services, but whom refuse to take advantage of such services? For example, what does a manager do if an employee is bi-polar and can’t get along with anyone because of a brain that is not firing on all cylinders for sociability?  While only a small percentage of bi-polar individuals are ever given to violence, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, given enough personal stresses, violence could occur by this type of person.

My recommendation is for a business to incorporate psychological services at some point in the “disciplinary process.” At this point such services would not be voluntary but required to keep one’s employment. This assumes that the offending employee has not committed so egregious an offense as to require immediate termination. If an employee needs to be summarily fired on the stop, then it is up to that business whether to “beef up” security services following such termination. If threats are made by the employee law enforcement should immediately be contacted.

 

Recommendation # 2

Small businesses might simply combine or pool their resources to make available psychiatric services to all employees working in any of the small businesses. At the very least, small businesses might create, for all employees, a pamphlet of information on where to go for help during a personal medical or psychiatric emergency.

Child Abuse

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community. The following resources discuss the framework for child abuse and neglect prevention, provide information on what to do when children are at risk for abuse or neglect, and link to State, Federal, and national organizations that support prevention initiatives. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families has put forth the following recommendations relating to prevention of child maltreatment:

Framework to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Professionals working to prevent child abuse and neglect have incorporated ideas and information from other disciplines, including public health, education, and mental health, to influence and guide practice. However, public health has had the greatest influence in organizing a framework of prevention services. That framework consists of three levels of services: primary prevention programs, directed at the general population (universal) in an effort to prevent maltreatment before it occurs; secondary prevention programs, targeted to individuals or families in which maltreatment is more likely (high risk); and tertiary prevention programs, targeted toward families in which abuse has already occurred (indicated).

Distinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention do not necessarily reflect the way prevention-related services are actually organized and provided. Rather than sorting prevention initiatives into mutually exclusive categories, prevention is increasingly recognized as occurring along a continuum. A comprehensive system of care for improving outcomes for children and family needs to include strategies that coordinate resources across the entire continuum, from primary to secondary to tertiary prevention.

  • Primary prevention
  • Secondary prevention
  • Tertiary prevention

The following pages provide more information on both an ecological framework and a protective factors framework for prevention.

  • Ecological framework for prevention
  • Protective factors framework

Primary prevention

Primary prevention activities are directed at the general population and attempt to stop maltreatment before it occurs. All members of the community have access to and may benefit from these services. Primary prevention activities with a universal focus seek to raise the awareness of the general public, service providers, and decision-makers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment. Universal approaches to primary prevention might include:

  • Public service announcements that encourage positive parenting
  • Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development, age-appropriate expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
  • Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, and resources to support positive interactions among family members
  • Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention activities with a high-risk focus are offered to populations that have one or more risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities. Programs may target services for communities or neighborhoods that have a high incidence of any or all of these risk factors. Approaches to prevention programs that focus on high-risk populations might include:

  • Parent education programs located in high schools, focusing on teen parents, or those within substance abuse treatment programs for mothers and families with young children
  • Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
  • Home visiting programs that provide support and assistance to expecting and new mothers in their homes
  • Respite care for families that have children with special needs
  • Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods

Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence. These prevention programs may include services such as:

  • Intensive family preservation services with trained mental health counselors that are available to families 24 hours per day for a short period of time (e.g., 6 to 8 weeks)
  • Parent mentor programs with stable, non-abusive families acting as “role models” and providing support to families in crisis
  • Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
  • Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning

Child Sex Trafficking

Recommendations

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

1. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, and federal employees.

2. In the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7) to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity; or learn more by requesting training, technical assistance, or resources. Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at http://www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00am to 5:00pm (EST). Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3. Be a conscientious consumer. Discover your Slavery Footprint, and check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies, including your own, to take steps to investigate and eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant [example].

5. Join or start a grassroots anti-trafficking coalition.

6. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community, and ask what they are doing to address human trafficking in your area.

7. Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

8. Volunteer to do victim outreach or offer your professional services to a local anti-trafficking organization.

9. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.

10. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

11. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival.

12. Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

13. Set up a Google alert to receive current human trafficking news.

14. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

15. Start or sign a human trafficking petition.

16. Businesses: Provide internships, job skills training, and/or jobs to trafficking survivors. Consumers: Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls or Made by Survivors.

17. Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university or secondary school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Professors: Request that human trafficking be an issue included in university curriculum. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

18. Law Enforcement Officials: Join or start a local human trafficking task force.

19. Mental Health or Medical Providers: Extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims.

20. Attorneys: Look for signs of human trafficking among your clients. Offer pro-bono services to trafficking victims or anti-trafficking organizations. Learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the legal benefits for which they are eligible. Assist anti-trafficking NGOs with capacity building and legal work.

 

Bullying

Recommendations

Bullying can threaten student’s physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.

  • Getting Started

Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective and risk factors that bullying programs do.

Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.

It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents, and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement, and evaluate your school’s bullying prevention program.

Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules, and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.

Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.

Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school’s rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Recommendations

  • Enact federal legislation to end all federal monies to school districts that have established corporal punishment.
  • Provide additional federal monies to improve education in those school districts that ban corporal punishment in the schools.
  • The ACLU and Human Rights Watch (ACLU/HRW should bring a lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court for the disproportionate use of corporal punishment in 20 states based on race and disability status of students based on the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

.

  • In the law, the U.S. Congress should enact legislation to end inequality of assault and battery offenses based on age of the victim. The federal government should enact legislation to end state’s rights where corporal punishment is concerned based on discrimination and arbitrary use of it.
  • Federal legislation should be enacted to deny Social Security, retirement pensions, or any other benefits to all teachers and administrators who use corporal punishment.

 

Kidnapping

General Tips

Child abduction by a stranger usually ends badly.  Each year, approximately 58,000 missing children are abducted by non-family members. Typically, strangers who kidnap children commit their crimes with intent to harm their young victims. In nearly half of the non-family child abduction cases, the victim is sexually assaulted.

Every day, these offenders lure unsuspecting children into vehicles and homes. Most of these kids are not prepared for the reality of “stranger danger” and, therefore, tend to trust unknown adults.

Most abducted children are eventually recovered, but the majority of these children return home with visible or emotional scars. A small number of kidnapped children are never located. And, in rare instances, some abducted children are murdered by the stranger who betrayed their trust.

Despite the grim statistics, you have the ability to reduce the likelihood of child abduction. By joining other parents and collectively teaching your kids the importance of stranger danger, you can stop these appalling crimes before they happen.

     Get your child a passport. A passport is important for your child because it’s harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.

Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.

Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.

GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child’s name, the word “reward” and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.

If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you’ve taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.

  • Tell your children to always walk or play in groups. Predators search for isolated targets such as children who are walking alone or playing alone. Share this important lesson with other parents. If you see a friend or neighbor’s young child walking alone, make sure to include that particular neighbor in your stranger-danger strategy. For instance, you could suggest a buddy or carpool plan to get neighboring children to and from school.
  • You should always know where your kids are going, even if they leave the house with another trusted adult. If your children spend time at their friends’ homes, you should discuss a mutual child-watch plan with other parents. If your children are young, explain to these parents that you do not allow your children to play outside unsupervised. Promise to keep a similar close watch on their children when they play at your house. If your children walk or ride their bikes to other nearby houses, designate safe places for them to run if threatened by a stranger.
  • Keep a list of phone numbers of other nearby parents and offer your number to these parents. You can quickly check on the location of your children if needed.
  • Teach your kids about strangers. Tell them that a stranger is any adult they do not know. Introduce your children to other parents you trust. Meet the children of these parents, so you will become a familiar face to the kids. Ideally, these children will be able to pick out a few friendly adults in a crowd of strangers.
  • In addition to other parents, your kids should know which strangers are safe. Store clerks, police officers, teachers, people who are behind desks in office buildings, mail-carriers, and mothers with children are generally safe strangers. Explain to your children that they can trust these strangers if they ever need help and they cannot locate an adult they recognize. Teach your children that stores, schools, libraries, and restaurants are all safe public places where they can run if they are in jeopardy.
  • Practice a secret code word with your children. Choose a word that would not be easy for a stranger to guess. Use this code word when another adult is required to transport your child. Tell your kids they should never get into a car with someone who does not know the code word. Share the code word with your children and other adults you trust. Change the word as often as needed. Instruct other parents to develop their own family code words.
  • Teach your kids about the common lures used by abductors. Often, a kidnapper appeals to victims by asking for help in finding a lost animal. Sometimes, the stranger will ask a child for directions. Occasionally, abductors know the child’s name or the names of the child’s parents. Perpetrators attempt to use this knowledge to gain the child’s trust. You should tell your children that adults ask other adults for help when they are truly searching for lost pets or when they need any other type of assistance. Also, repeat to your children the importance of the family code word. If a stranger knows the child’s name, but does not mention the code word, that stranger is probably a threat.
  • Practice screaming with your children. If a stranger attempts to talk to or grab your children, your children should know to shout, “No!” or “Fire!” Try to recruit the help of other parents. The group of children can rehearse screaming at strangers by role-playing.

For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please see the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, please consider aiding law enforcement officials in finding missing children by signing up to receive AMBER Alerts.

 

 

The following tips come from Jaime A. Heidel, a Yahoo contributor on How to prevent kidnapping on “Seven Tips to Keep Your Child Safe [What You and Your Child Need to Know].”

Each year tens of thousands of children are kidnapped. Children disappear on their way home from school, during a trip to the grocery store and sometimes right out of their own backyards.

Tip 1 – Never Talk to Strangers

Children are naturally open and friendly and while it is an endearing characteristic, a child that is too trusting may fall into the hands of a smooth-talking stranger. Teach children never to speak to strangers and explain to them that if they are approached by a stranger to run away immediately and tell you or another known, trusted adult. It is also important to explain to children about “safe strangers” such as policemen, firemen and store clerks so they know whom to trust should they become lost or need help.

Tip 2 – Teach Awareness

With all the gizmos and gadgets around to distract children on a day-to-day basis, it is important to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. If your child walks home from the bus stop alone with an MP3 player on his or her ears, he or she will make an easy target. Let your children know how important it is to take note of a strange car or anybody following them on foot. Tell them in order to do this, they need to turn the music off and stay alert.

Tip 3 – Be Buddies

In a crowded store, you’ve always got one eye on your child. Reinforce this “buddy system” by teaching your child to watch out for you. Let him or her know that if he or she loses sight of you to call out. This is another way to be proactive and teach awareness.

Tip 4 – Self Defense

Your child doesn’t need to take a martial arts class to learn some basic self-defense. Though most children are reluctant to be rude to an adult, it is important to explain to your child that if a stranger grabs him or her that all bets are off. Teach your child to kick a stranger in sensitive areas like shins, knees and groin. Tell your child to scream, “You’re not my mommy or you’re not my daddy” as loud as they can and do everything in his or her power to draw attention to the scene and get away.

Tip 5 – Lock Your Doors

Sometimes children are kidnapped right out of their own homes. Though it’s tempting to leave doors open with just a screen on a warm summer day, your child at play on the living room floor can be an easy target, especially if the door opens to the backyard. Be sure to close and lock all doors if your child is playing alone.

Tip 6 – Safety in Numbers

Teach your child that there is safety in numbers. If your child is old enough to go to the park, playground or mall with friends, teach your child not to wander out of eyesight of the group. Kidnappers usually prefer to abduct children who are alone and will rarely target a child with two or three buddies around, especially in a crowded place.

Tip 7 – Internet Safety

These days, almost every child is online. Keep your child safe by explaining that everybody he or she does not know in real life is a stranger, even if he or she has spent time “chatting” with an online friend. Tell children never to give out any personal information over the Internet, including last name, telephone number, street address or school they attend. That thirteen-year-old boy from the next town over your daughter has made friends with could be an adult in disguise attempting to target children. Anybody can be whomever they wish to be online and it is important to explain this. No offline meetings should ever take place without an adult being present in a public setting.

It is important to reinforce what you’ve taught by using “role-play”. Practice how to respond if approached by a stranger. This will increase child confidence and encourage him or her to ask any questions he or she may have. These tips on how to prevent kidnapping should go a long way in keeping children safe.

 

Post Script

This concludes my four-part series on “Taking Aim at Violence against Children.” The events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 brought the nation to tears, anguish and despair. People on the streets were incredulous that a lone killer had the temerity to commit such heinous acts as the murder of 20 first graders and 6 adults. This event, and the President’s demand for action, produced a Title Wave of public sentiment—that now was the time for change. As the dust settled in the weeks following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the main issue around the country, and in the halls of Congress, became crystalized around the pressing issue of gun violence.

However, what has been largely overlooked by the public during this debate on gun violence, despite its current importance, is the larger contextual nature of violence directed toward children in this society. Gun violence is simply the “tip of the iceberg” where violence against children is concerned.

Cognitive Dissonance, as a psychological concept, often suggests, where human and social behavior is concerned, that there is a huge gap between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior. This is certainly the case where violence against children is concerned. People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief?

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

If one really believes or desires to protect children from harm shouldn’t one come to grips with the problem of all violence or harm against children? Addressing mass murder and gun violence is important, but it does not address the larger issue of violence against children. People believe that children should be protected from harm, yet fail to recognize or do anything about violence against children in various other social contexts. In order to eliminate or reduce cognitive dissonance one can either alter one’s beliefs, or change one’s behavior, in order to achieve consistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior.

If I’ve done anything constructive during this four-part series it has been to put the spotlight on many of the issues confronting children as they grow up. I am a social scientist, not normally concerned with advocacy. But I can clearly see my own inconsistency between wanting to become a child advocate and being a person who dwells in the comfortable, sometimes erudite and esoteric, house of social science. Perhaps the time has come for all of us to change our lives and get involved in helping those we really care about the most—our children and grandchildren.

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The Political, Social, and Economic Issues in 2012:

How Do the President and Mitt Romney Stack Up?

 

 

Introduction

There is perhaps no better way to clarify how you should vote in 2012 than to lay out the plan and beliefs of each candidate regarding the critical issues of our time. As we get closer to Election Day, I hope you keep these differences between the candidates in mind. Initially, I had planned to discuss the fine points and relative value of Supply Side Economics (Republican approach to the economy) versus Demand Side Economics (Democratic approach to the economy). Instead, I have decided to cover a broader set of issues.

Back in March 2012 I began writing a six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. There, in the broadest sense, I covered the basics of economics and I would encourage you to review them once again. We are told incessantly by the media and party leaders that the crucial issue in 2012 is the economy. However, many many other issues are important to various segments of the population, as well as important to the voting public as a whole.

Consequently, I have layed out how each candidate views a variety of social, political, and economic issues. In this way, the larger broader view of election year politics will be covered. With this broader view, coupled with the specifics of economic theory covered in the six part series, each reader should be adequately prepared with knowledge to vote for the candidate of his or her choice on November 6, 2012.

In a final Conclusions Section I will tell my cyberspace audience how I will vote this fall and my reasons for doing so.

 

Critical Issues of Our Time

 

 The following shows how Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues. This information comes mostly from the Associated Press but also from this Blogger.

 ABORTION & BIRTH CONTROL

OBAMA: Supports abortion rights Health care law that requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

ROMNEY: Opposes abortion rights. He previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

WAR

OBAMA: Ended the Iraq war. He increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. He approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. There are major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.

ROMNEY: Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. He would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.

TERRORISM

OBAMA: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden and set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush’s presidency. He largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

ROMNEY: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, Romney refused to rule out use of waterboarding torture to interrogate terrorist suspects. Despite the fact the war crimes tribunal executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding following the ending of WWII, Mitt Romney in 2011, said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture. The fact that the United States itself strongly supported all of the Geneva Convention laws prior to the Bush administration, Mitt Romney ignores the fact that the use of torture by the Bush administration dishonored and disgraced our country. Evidently, Mitt Romney would do the same by ignoring both national and international laws that forbid it.

IMMIGRATION

OBAMA: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. He took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

ROMNEY: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. He opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Establish an immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire non-citizens who do not prove their legal status. He would end immigration caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.

GUNS

OBAMA: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. He voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. He previously backed stronger gun controls.

ROMNEY: Opposes stricter gun control laws. He suggested after the shooting in a Colorado theater that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, he vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

FOREIGN POLICY

OBAMA: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition. Instead Obama seeks international pressure against the Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He signed into law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

ROMNEY: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. “Of course you take military action” if sanctions and internal opposition fail to dissuade Tehran from making a nuclear weapon, he has said. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but “the right course is not military” intervention by the U.S. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel and agreed with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the capital, disregarding the Palestinians’ claim to the eastern sector. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

DEBT

OBAMA: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. He won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. He calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama’s plan is to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.

ROMNEY: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, but opposed the auto bailout. He would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of his first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. He favors a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

ECONOMY

OBAMA: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and has created a sustained gradual recovery. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs.

ROMNEY: He advocates lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. He would replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. He proposes repeal of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and the law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals.

EDUCATION

OBAMA: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. “Race to the Top” competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports.

ROMNEY: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. He has said that student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

 OBAMA: He ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. He achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles.

He achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions.

ROMNEY: He supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska.

Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records. Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown.

GAY RIGHTS

 OBAMA: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. He opposed that recognition in his 2008 presidential campaign, and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. He achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. He has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. His administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

ROMNEY: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” He also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits —largely unspecified — as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

HEALTH CARE

 OBAMA: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.

Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.

ROMNEY: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured.

Proposes to guarantee that people who are “continuously covered” for a certain period be protected against losing insurance if they get sick, leave their job and need another policy. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

SOCIAL SECURITY

OBAMA: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s long-term financial problems. In 2011, he proposed a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

ROMNEY: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

TAXES

 OBAMA: He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. He supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all.

He wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, he built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

ROMNEY: He would keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest.

He would end Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

  

Conclusions

Mitt Romney as a Choice in 2012:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespear’s MacBeth

 

This fall I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama to a second term as our president. While Mitt Romney appears to be a good and decent man, he does not have the experience, attitudes, or mental acuity to convince me he is more qualified to be the President of the United States.

I don’t like President Obama’s 2011 measure to eliminate inflationary increases for Social Secuirty recipients, and I do like Mitt Romney’s plan to eliminate Capital Gains taxes on those making $200,000 or less. I also don’t think the President was aggressive enough on banning assault rifles, while Romney succeeded in getting assualt rifles banned in his state of Massachusetts.

That’s it folks. The President, on balance, is still the right choice this fall because of all his tremendous accomplishments while in office.

The Accomplishments of President Barack Obama

By some accounts (Florida Professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson of Lynn University) President Obama’s accomplishments now total 244 since he took office. Here are just a few of the significant accomplishments of the president during his first term in the White House.

  • Overhauled the food safety system;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter ”Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina;
  • Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under parent’s plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million more lower-income children;
  • Pushed through a $789 Billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure;
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it more consumer friendly;
  • Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of  GOP attempts to derail it;
  • Also outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
  • Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government;
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down of troops in Afghanistan;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act;
  • Signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded the scope of AmeriCorps;
  • Signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research;
  • Created greater transparency in government by creation of White House visitor logs, a ban on lobbyist gifts, or allowing lobbyists from serving on advisory boards, and restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists.
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals commandos to take out Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
  • President Barack Obama achieved, as of October 2012, the lowest unemployment rate (7.8%) since he took office. Remember folks, the unemployment rate during the recession, which the President inherited, reached a peak of (10.0%) on October, 2009. C’mon Man, give credit where credit is due! We’re now in an expansionary economic cycle. Guess what economic cycle comes after the expansinary one? That’s right genius—you guessed it—PROSPERITY!

At the value judgment level, I simply prefer the values of the democratic party than I do those of the Republican party. It seems to the objective observer that Republicans are always playing “catch-up” to the rest of society. Problem is “the Party of No” never really seems to catch-up. In addition,“Trickle Down (Supply Side Economics)” just doesn’t work because tax cuts for high income individuals, corporations, and large businesses don’t necessarily lead to economic expansion thereby creating jobs and lowering unemployment.

Why? Because there are other choices for using tax cut windfalls besides reinvestment in one’s business that might lead to job creation. One can simply save the money for a reserve or a rainy day. Or, one can invest their tax windfall in the stock market or other investments. Or, one can spend the tax windfall on hefty bonuses for executives, and salary increases for managers or staff, or one can actually plow the tax windfall back into the business.

Point is—there are many choices for what to do with a tax cut windfall. Current Republican rhetoric would have you believe that tax cuts always lead to job creation and lowering unemployment. It can, but what Republicans try to hide from the public and the voter is that, in reality, there are many other choices for spending a tax cut windfall, not just job creation.

For all these reasons around economics and taxes, as well as the President’ many other significant achievements while in office, I’m giving my support and vote in the coming election to the President of the United States—Barack Obama.

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     This is the final Blog on my Five Part Series dealing with the issue of immigration. The purpose of all of these articles is more than a simple recitation of the facts. Central to all of this is to provide a well-rounded comprehensive look at the issue. The goal has been to foster better public understanding of this complex, and at times, bewildering major public dilemma. What I have done is to look at immigration under the microscope. And initially, I discovered both push and pull factors as to why there is so much illegal immigration.

      As I twisted the eyepiece for visual clarity, I discovered that the issue of immigration currently creating a political stalemate between liberals and conservatives—has three major components: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The “Good” is a thriving Mexican economy the people of Mexico can be proud of (11th largest economy in the world; Annual GDP {1.085 Trillion}with a growth rate of 4.1% in 2010; National debt of only 272 billion; and an unemployment rate of only 6.2% ).

      The “Bad” is a high rate of poverty—13% of Mexico’s population is in poverty, particularly in rural areas; an underemployment rate of 21%; and droves of illegal immigrants who cross into the United States each year. Then there is the “Ugly” because of extensive human rights abuses, torture, murder, kidnappings, child abductions, violence and uncontrolled drug crime involving the many cartels in Mexico. In addition, Mexico suffers from widespread political corruption from the top of government all the way down to local levels involving political officials and even the Mexican police.

      I don’t mean to be unkind in my comments—but Mexico the last two decades appears to be a “Hellish Cauldron” of human rights abuses. If HELL itself has a training ground for “scum of the earth”— evidently it can be found in Mexico. The people of Mexico are a good and decent people and deserve much better than this. Latin American countries in general have had a terrible record of human rights abuses over the decades. It now seems Mexico wants to join them.

     What you are about to read is the true story of a country on the brink of a major social disaster of immense proportions. As I said in Part I of this series, it is hoped that the reader will come away with a more well-rounded perspective on the immigration issue, but also a more in-depth understanding of the violence and human rights abuses that are currently plaguing a troubled Mexico. I cannot measure the impact such later events as violence and human rights abuses are having on motivating people to cross the border into the United States from Mexico—but rest assured, such factors are motivating some individuals not to have second thoughts about leaving their native country.  Perhaps people lose pride in their native country when they’re sitting on a powder keg and someone is aiming a gun at their head.

Through a comprehensive look at this issue from all sides, perhaps now we can finally make sense of this.

 Connections

      Back in January 2010 I started looking around for another charity for which to contribute money. I was struck immediately with just how many good causes there are. I began however to limit my search to those that relate to my own life, namely cancer and diabetes. I had contributed to the American Diabetes Association for almost two decades. But, I wanted to find a charity or organization I was really passionate about, not just intellectually interested in.

     When I looked back at all the Blog articles I had written since May 2008 I realized that the one issue that really got my blood running hot was the issue of torture. I was angry at the Bush administration and the complicity of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for enacting procedures to torture prisoners of war. Their actions disgraced our country.

      I then remembered that Amnesty International is one of the most respected organizations dealing with the issue of torture and human rights abuses worldwide. Recently, through publications and reports by Amnesty International, the horrendous issues of human rights abuses, torture, murder, kidnapping, and intimidation and threats, in general has surfaced center stage in neighboring Mexico. Although most Americans are currently occupied with immigration issues, and only secondarily aware of the drug wars going on in Mexico, the issue of human rights abuses doesn’t seem to show up on many individual’s radar screen. This is unfortunate and needs to be rectified right here and now.

      The purpose of this Blog is to educate readers and help them understand the terrible tragedy of crime and human rights abuses occurring in Mexico. Part of that understanding is to first look at the backdrop of both Mexico’s culture and its economy. In this way one is getting the “wide angle view” of the human rights abuses being committed fostered by lawlessness, drug cartels, and ineffectual law enforcement, all of which is occurring nonetheless in a very prosperous economy and a fascinatingly diverse culture. 

 Some Cultural and Economic Facts on Mexico 

 Overview of population

     According to the latest official estimate, which reported a population of 111 million, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexican annual population growth has drastically decreased from a peak of 3.5% in 1965 to 0.99% in 2005. Life expectancy in 2006 was estimated to be at 75.4 years (72.6 male and 78.3 female). The states with the highest life expectancy are Baja California (75.9 years) and Nuevo León (75.6 years). The Federal District has a life expectancy of the same level as Baja California.

     The lowest levels are found in Chiapas (72.9), Oaxaca (73.2) and Guerrero (73.2 years). The mortality rate in 1970 was 9.7 per 1000 people; by 2001, the rate had dropped to 4.9 men per 1000 men and 3.8 women per 1000 women. The most common reasons for death in 2001 were heart problems (14.6% for men 17.6% for women) and cancer (11% for men and 15.8% for women).

     Mexican population is increasingly urban, with close to 75% living in cities. The five largest urban areas in Mexico are Greater Mexico City, Greater Guadalajara, Greater Monterey, Greater Puebla and Greater Toluca. These areas represent 30% of the country’s population.

     Migration patterns within the country show positive migration to north-western and south-eastern states, and a negative rate of migration to the Federal District. While the annual population growth is still positive, the national net migration rate is negative (-4.7/1000), attributable to the emigration phenomenon of people from rural communities to the United States.

     Mexico is ethnically diverse, and the constitution defines the country to be a multicultural nation. Mexican nationality is relatively young, stemming back only to 1821 when Mexico achieved independence from the Spanish Empire, and it consists of many, separate regional and ethnic groups such as the various indigenous peoples and European immigrants. The majority of Mexicans are Mestizos which makes up the core of the Mexican cultural identity.

     In 2004, the Mexican government founded the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN) which launched the Mexican Genome Diversity Project. In May 2009, the Institute issued a report on a major genomic study of the Mexican population. Among the findings, it was reported that of the 80% of the population that is mestizo, the proportions of European and indigenous ancestry are approximately even, with the indigenous component slightly predominating overall. The proportions of admixture were found to vary geographically from north to south, as previous pre-genomic studies had surmised, with the European contribution predominating in the north and the indigenous component greater in central and southern regions. One of the significant conclusions of the study as reported was that even while it is composed of diverse ancestral genetic groups, the Mexican population is genetically distinctive among the world’s populations. They include:

Mestizos

      Those of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry form the largest group, comprising up to 60-80% of the total population.

            Amerindians

     Descendants of the Native American peoples who inhabited Mesoamerica comprise around 15%-30% of the population. The CDI identifies 62 indigenous groups in Mexico, each with a unique language.

            Whites

     Around 9-16% of the population is of white European descent. Whites are mostly descendants of the first Spanish settlers; although there are Mexicans of French, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, German, Irish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, and British descents from contemporary migration.

            Others

      Approximately 1% of Mexico’s population is composed of other types of ethnic groups. These include Asian-Mexicans and Afro-Mexicans. They are descendants of slaves brought to Mexico. They live in the coastal areas of the states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Guerrero and are mostly of mixed ancestry.

 The Economy of Mexico 

      Although the Mexican Peso has historically been a relatively unstable currency, it has in recent years become a secure stable currency and has maintained a low inflation rate becoming increasingly prominent on the international level.

     The economy of Mexico is the 11th largest in the world. Since the 1994 crisis, administrations have improved the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals. Mexico was not significantly influenced by the recent 2002 South American crisis, and has maintained positive rates of growth after a brief period of stagnation in 2001. Moody’s  (in March 2000) and Fitch IBCA (in January 2002) issued investment-grade ratings for Mexico’s sovereign debt.

      In spite of its unprecedented macroeconomic stability, which has reduced inflation and interest rates to record lows and has increased per capita income, enormous gaps remain between the urban and the rural population, the northern, central, and southern states, and the rich and the poor although there has been a large growing middle class since the mid 1990’s. Some of the government’s challenges include the upgrade of infrastructure, the modernization of the tax system and labor laws, and the reduction of income inequality.

     The economy contains rapidly developing modern industrial and service sectors, with increasing private ownership. Recent administrations have expanded competition in ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution and airports, with the aim of upgrading infrastructure. As an export-oriented economy, more than 90% of Mexican trade is under free trade agreements (FTAs) with more than 40 countries, including the European Union, Japan, Israel, and much of Central and South America.

     The most influential FTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect in 1994, and was signed in 1992 by the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 2006, trade with Mexico’s two northern partners accounted for almost 50% of its exports and 45% of its imports. Recently, the Congress of the Union approved important tax, pension and judicial reforms, and reform to the oil industry is currently being debated. According to the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world’s largest companies in 2008, Mexico had 16 companies in the list.

     Mexico has a free market mixed economy, and is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. It is the 11th largest economy in the world as measured in gross domestic product in purchasing power parity. According to the latest information available from the International Monetary Fund, Mexico had the second-highest Gross National Income per capita in Latin America in nominal terms, at $9,716 in 2007, and the highest in purchasing power parity (PPP), at $14,119 in 2007.

     After the 1994 economic debacle, Mexico has made an impressive recovery, building a modern and diversified economy. Oil is Mexico’s largest source of foreign income. According to Goldman sachs, BRIMC review of emerging economies, by 2050 the largest economies in the world will be as follows: China, India, United States, Brazil and Mexico. Mexico is the largest North American auto producing nation, recently surpassing Canada and the United States.

     Mexico is the first and only Latin American country to be included in the World Government Bond Index or WGBI, which list the most important global economies that circulate government debt bonds.

     According to the director for Mexico at the World Bank, the population in poverty has decreased from 24.2% to 17.6% in the general population and from 42% to 27.9% in rural areas from 2000 to 2004. As of January 2009 4.6% of the population is impoverished if measured by food based poverty and 15% of the population is considered to be impoverished by asset based measurments (living on less than $10,000 per year).

     Nonetheless, income inequality remains a problem, and huge gaps remain not only between rich and poor but also between the north and the south, and between urban and rural areas. Sharp contrasts in income and Human Development are also a grave problem in Mexico. The 2004 United Nations Human Development Index report for Mexico states that Benito Juarez, a district of Mexico City, and San Pedro Garza, in the State of Nuevo Leon, would have a similar level of economic, educational and life expectancy development to Germany or New Zealand. In contrast, Metlatonoc, in the state of Guerrero, would have an HDI similar to that of Syria.

     Electronics now play an important role in the Mexican economy, with over 600 new electronics related companies formed since 2000.

     GDP annual average growth for the period of 1995–2002 was 5.1%. The economic downturn in the United States also caused a similar pattern in Mexico, from which it rapidly recovered to grow 4.1% in 2005. Inflation has reached a record low of 3.3% in 2005, and interest rates are low, which have spurred credit-consumption in the middle class. Mexico has experienced in the last decade monetary stability: the budget deficit was further reduced and foreign debt was decreased to less than 20% of GDP. Along with Chile, Mexico has the highest rating of long-term sovereign credit in Latin America.

     The remittances from Mexican citizens working in the United States account for only 0.2% of Mexico’s GDP which was equal to US$20 billion dollars per year in 2004 and is the tenth largest source of foreign income after oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. According to Mexico’s central bank, remittances fell 3.6% in 2008 to $25bn.

     Ongoing economic concerns include the commercial and financial dependence on the US, low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution (the top 32% of income earners account for 55% of income), and few advancement opportunities for the largely Mayan population in the southern states.

     Now that we have a view of a very prosperous Mexico, and understand Mexico’s very diverse culture, it’s time to look at the very ugly side of this country. 

 Human Rights Abuses in Mexico 

     All human rights abuses are criminal acts whether one is discussing kidnapping, murder, torture, unjust imprisonment, or simple intimidation and scare tactics. However, there is no perfect way to classify different human rights abuses. So, I’ve elected to classify and discuss this issue along the following victim-related dimensions and categories involving the Mexican people: (1) Human Rights Defenders and Workers, (2) Indigenous People and Migrant Workers, (3) Journalists, (4) Police and Corrections Staff, (5) Politicians, (6) Children, and (7) Women in general.

 Human Rights Defenders and Workers

      One of the most horrendous abuses of the last three years in Mexico was the wanton murder of Fernando Mayen. Mayen was shot in the head three times, and his body was found in his car on a highway. He was a lawyer from the San Luis Ayucan community in Mexico who was leading a campaign to suspend work on a local landfill project. Fernando’s neighbors were concerned that the toxic waste being illegally dumped into the landfill would leak poison into their water supply—and risk their health and lives. Soon after Fernando won a court order to suspend work on the landfill he began to receive death threats. Eight months later he was murdered. To date, no one has been charged with the crime and, according to relatives, few steps have been taken to investigate it.

Indigenous People and Migrant Workers

      Two leaders from the Organization for the Future of Mixtecos Indigenous Peoples in Guerrero State were abducted during a public event. The two leaders were Raul Lucas Lucia and Manuel Ponce Rosas. Some 30 minutes later, the wife of Raul Lucas Lucia received a phone call. The caller warned her: “Keep quiet or we’ll kill your husband. This is happening to you because you’re defending Indians.” She immediately filed a report about the abduction, but no investigation was opened and no one took steps to locate the two men. A week later, the bodies of both men were found in Tecoanapa, a 30-minute drive from where both were grabbed. Relatives who identified the bodies said that both bore injuries and their hands and feet were tied together behind their backs.

     One of the greatest social tragedies in Mexico today is the ongoing widespread abuse of migrants who transit the country. There is a bit of irony in what is happening. Mexican authorities are very vocal in criticizing the new strict immigration law in Arizona. Yet, they are disingenuous and relatively mute on the abuse of thousands of undocumented migrants who transit through Mexico, including women and children, who fall victim to beatings, abduction, rape and even murder. Criminal gangs are reportedly responsible for the majority of these crimes, but there are also reports of abuses by state officials. Evidently, migrants who suffer these abuses rarely file criminal complaints because they fear being deported. Most irregular migrants are from Central America and many start the perilous Mexican passage of their journey by crossing into the border states of Chiapas or Tobasco from Guatemala. 

     In August, 2010 72 migrants were summarily lined up—and then gunned down in cold blood. In all, 58 men and 14 women were murdered. Suspected in this massacre was the Zetas cartel, a group of former Mexican army special forces known to extort migrants who pass through its territory. This massacre occurred at a ranch in San Fernando, a town in the northern state of Tamaulipas about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas.

     The Zetas brutally control some parts of the Tamaulipas that even many Mexicans do not dare to travel on the highways in the state. Many residents in the state tell of loved ones who have disappeared from one town to the next. Many of these kidnappings are never reported for fear that police are in league with the criminals. Of the 72 migrants who were killed, 27 had been identified and their bodies returned to their home countries in Honduras and El Salvador.

     Later, in early September 2010, six of the gunmen responsible were identified. According to Alejandro Poire, a spokesman for Mexico’s president on security measures, all of the suspects are dead. Of these, three were killed in confrontation with the Mexican navy after the bodies were discovered, and three others were found dead inside a vehicle on the side of the highway.

 Journalists

 Lydia Cacho is a journalist and activist. She has been attacked, harassed, threatened and arbitrarily detained for highlighting the problems of child pornography and trafficking of women in Quintana Roo State. She received a death threat in which the one making the threat sent to her Blog said: “Dear lidia cacho [sic] get ready to have your throat cut, your lovely head will be left outside your apartment, let’s see how brave you are.” Despite promises of security measures, none have been implemented, no investigations initiated, and no one has been brought to justice. 

Police and Corrections Staff

      Following the mass murder of 72 migrant workers in Mexico, the lead investigator and a second investigator of these crimes disappeared. President Filipe Calderon said a body of one of the men had been found. Later he corrected himself and said the lead investigator was missing but that there was no information about his death. However, the Mexican media reported two bodies had been found and that one of them belonged to Roberto Jaimie Suarez Vasquez. The other investigator wasn’t named by the media but they said it was most likely that of a municipal police officer in San Fernando.

     In another incident the government-run Notimex agency reported that Luis Navarro Casteneda, director of the Atlacholoaya Prison in the Mexican state of Morelos, was abducted as he reported to work on a Saturday morning. Later his dismembered body was found in four locations in the city of Cuernavaca. There were written messages left with the body remains and Navarro’s abandoned Toyota truck was found near the prison. No arrests have been made in the case.

Politicians

      A former Mexican presidential candidate who has remained a power broker in the ruling party was missing amid signs of violence, according to the federal Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors said that the car of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos “Jefe Diego” was found near his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. It said some of his belongings were found inside the car as well as unspecified “signs of violence.” It is unconfirmed that traces of blood and two bullet impacts were found in his vehicle.

      The Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that federal sources said Fernandez de Cevallos had been kidnapped, but a federal prosecutor’ spokeswoman said she couldn’t confirm that.

     According to information revealed by Panista Manuel Espino through his Twitter account the body of former presidential candidate Diego Fernandez was found in a military camp in Queretaro. “They are telling me that he is in fact dead and his body was found in a military camp in Queretaro,” reads one of the posts in Espino’s social network. Minutes later, through the same medium, the Panista clarified that this is the information that he has but can not be confirmed. “The Public Ministry is the only one who can confirm this, but I share what I am being told by friends who have spoken with a family of DFC (sic).”Fernandez de Cevallos, 69, was the 1994 presidential candidate of the National Action Party that now governs Mexico and he has continued to be an influential figure, as well as one of Mexico’s most successful attorneys.

      The bearded, cigar-chomping candidate jumped out of obscurity during Mexico’s first televised debate by presidential candidates in 1994, striking a chord with the middle class with his calls to topple a party that had held power since 1929. He finished second to Ernesto Zedillo that year, but his party finally won the presidency six years later when Vicente Fox was elected.

      Fernandez de Cevallos served as a senator and congressman while also winning some of the country’s largest court judgments, often in suits against government agencies.

Kidnapping and Murder of Children

MEXICO
Children in the Line of Fire in Ciudad Juárez
By Daniela Pastrana
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico, May 10, 2010 (IPS) – In Ciudad Juárez, the most violent city in Latin America, Mexico’s war on drugs has left at least 110 children dead in the past three years, and over 10,000 have lost parents. Civil society organizations are urging the authorities elected in an upcoming ballot to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.

     An air of despair hangs over this border city. Deserted streets and empty houses — about 100,000 of them — testify to the defeat of a society that has gone through horror, indignation, rage and exhaustion in the past two decades.

     When night falls there is a kind of voluntary curfew, in contrast to the lively night life that used to animate the city centre. Few people walk the streets, even in daylight, and most people think twice before answering phone calls from numbers they do not recognize. One-third of the shops are closed in this northern Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

     Verito is seven years old. In December, her school teachers were forced to hand over their extra month’s salary, paid before Christmas, in “protection money” to an organized crime group so that the pupils would not be harmed.

“They say they threatened the head teacher with putting bombs in the school, and that’s why they cancelled classes,” she says.

She knows that there are people in her city who kidnap and kill children. And that “all” adults “pay their dues” to drug mafias: “They have to pay money,” she explains, before talking about her dream of a city “that is the same, but without violence, without the news.” Her account is part of “Un, dos, tres, por mí y por todos mis amigos” (One, two three, for me and all my friends), a project that includes a book and a DVD recording voices, drawings and photographs of Ciudad Juárez four-to-eight-year-olds, compiled between 2008 and 2010 by civil society organizations belonging to the “Infancia en Movimiento” (Childhood in Movement) initiative.

     The strategy against drug trafficking adopted by the Mexican government has in the last three years led to the deaths of at least 110 children who were caught in the crossfire between federal police, the armed forces and drug cartels in this city in the state of Chihuahua.

     Non-governmental organizations estimate that about 10,000 children have lost at least one parent in the war on drugs, on the basis that each of the 5,000 murder victims of reproductive age probably had two children, in line with demographic statistics. But there are no official figures.

     “It’s tragic that there isn’t even an official estimate of the number of children who have lost a parent to the violence,” Lourdes Almada, the technical secretary of the Children’s Board of the Citizens’ Council for Social Development, told IPS. “Children who have suffered violence in their families or close circles are not receiving assistance from anyone,” she added.

     Since 1993, when the ongoing wave of murders of factory women began in Ciudad Juárez, the city has earned a world reputation for gender violence, which has claimed over 1,000 women’s lives so far, and for the entrenchment of criminal organizations. “Ciudad Juárez is different from other places in the country because the drug traffickers here have overstepped all the boundaries. It’s very difficult to react to the violence against children,” Juárez filmmaker Ángel Estrada, who directed the documentary film “Escenarios de guerra” (Scenes of War) told IPS. The film, which premièred here Apr. 28, is about the impossibility of doing theatre in such a violent city.

     In 2005, Ciudad Juárez was in an uproar over the deaths of two girls: seven-year-old Airis Estrella Enríquez, whose body was found in a barrel filled with cement, and 10-year-old Anahí Orozco, whom a neighbour raped and killed before setting fire to her body, while her mother was working in a “maquiladora”, a factory that assembles goods for export.

     That same year, six other children were murdered, but still no funds were made available for protecting children. Now local newspapers are reporting news like the murder of a family while they were at a wake for a teenager killed in Parral, a city in southern Chihuahua.

     The murders of 16 young people at a party in the neighbourhood of Villas de Salvárcar in February brought a flurry of federal officials to the city where they spent many hours in meetings, but with no results.

     “Underneath all this there are decades of neglect and of a lack of efforts towards human and social development,” said Almada. “The explosion of violence in Juárez is the result of an economic model that does not take people into account.” Another form of violence in Ciudad Juárez is reflected by the fact that in the course of 2008 and 2009, 300,000 direct, indirect and temporary jobs were lost, among a population of just over 1.2 million.

     Lay-offs have been heavy at the maquiladoras, a mainstay in Ciudad Juárez, which employ mostly women. These factories, which enjoy tax breaks and other benefits, have shed 120,000 jobs, for each of which an estimated 1.5 jobs are lost in the informal economy.

     “What is happening in Ciudad Juárez is an expression of social exclusion,” Nashieli Ramírez, head of Ririki Intervención Social, a social organization, and coordinator of Infancia en Movimiento, told IPS. “It is going to happen all over the world, not just in Mexico, with this rush to urbanization that cannot be understood except from the marginalization and social exclusion that we will all experience.” And so we go on, “without any options for young people, with children who can’t play in the streets, isolated families and single mothers,” she added.

     It is an enormous challenge. Ciudad Juárez has one of the highest proportions of children in this country of over 107 million people, and yet it has the lowest indicators of care and protection. The infant mortality rate is over 25 per 1,000 live births, while the index for countries like Costa Rica or Cuba is below 10 per 1,000.

     The city holds the national record for women’s participation in the workforce, and one-quarter of working mothers leave their children alone for three or four hours a day.

     Children in Ciudad Juárez candidly say they have seen three, four or five people killed on the streets. Seven-year-old Alicia says she feels unsafe in public places, and eight-year-old Irving Leonardo draws a picture of himself “in a drug traffickers’ hotel with gold taps.”

     Faced with this situation, organizations devoted to children’s welfare are launching a campaign, Hazlo Por Juárez (Do It for Juárez), financed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, aimed at influencing the political platforms of candidates running for the Juárez mayor’s office and the Chihuahua state government in the upcoming Jul. 4 elections.

     “We are going to launch a social movement in Juárez, and we want it to have an impact across the country,” Ramírez said. “We cannot lose another generation. We have to open the door to a different future,” said Almada.

Mexico kidnap gang kills boy, 5, with acid

     Mexican gangsters who kidnapped a five-year-old boy killed him by injecting sulphuric acid into his heart after his mother publisized his abduction, police said last week.

     The brutal murder of Javier Morena, snatched from his family’s fruit stand in a working-class district of Mexico City, marks a horrific escalation in the terror tactics employed by kidnappers. They have increasingly switched their attention to the poor as the wealthy protect their families with squads of armed guards.

     Miguel Mancera, Mexico City’s attorney-general, displayed the syringe said to have been used by five gangsters under arrest over Javier’s death. They allegedly confessed that they had wanted to be known as the “Vitriol Gang”, after an alternative name for sulphuric acid, to distinguish themselves from dozens of others. The acid was siphoned off from old car batteries.

     The boy vanished two weeks ago while playing at the central market in Iztapalapa, a “barrio” or slum of more than 1m people. His mother, Laura Vega, who lives in a breeze-block house with a corrugated iron roof, feared he had been kidnapped but realized she would be unable to afford a ransom. After a frantic three-day search through the alleys and child brothels of Iztapalapa, she broke the barrio code of silence and reported Javier’s disappearance to the police. His picture was broadcast on television, prompting a taxi driver to say he had driven the tearful boy and a teenager claiming to be his brother to a house outside the city. Police raided the building but it was too late. Mancera said that the moment Javier’s picture had been shown, the kidnappers plunged the needle into the boy’s heart killing him instantly. They buried him on a hill outside the city. The police recovered his body hours later. Police said the gang had been preparing to demand a £12,000 ransom, but did not know where to send their demand as the boy was too terrified to speak.

     Last Monday Javier was reburied in a white coffin near his home. His mother told reporters she did not know why the gang had targeted her family, as they had little money. “He didn’t have to die like that, so far from his family,” she said. She added that the kidnappers should face the death penalty so that they would suffer “the way my son suffered”. However, capital punishment was abolished in Mexico three years ago.

     In 2003, when the British director Tony Scott came to Mexico City to film Man on Fire, in which Dakota Fanning plays a kidnapped child, the abduction rate was 20 victims a month, largely children. Police now put the rate at 65 a month. The Citizens’ Institute for Crime Studies says that this is an underestimate because few families call in the police. It puts the true figure at closer to 500 a month.

     Experts say the crime wave reflects increased violence in the drug trade, in which 4,000 have died in battles between cartels and the police this year.

     Although the rich may be protected, they are not immune. Javier Morena’s death recalled the recent kidnapping of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a sports equipment tycoon, who was snatched at a police checkpoint while being driven to school. It prompted a 100,000-strong protest march at the government’s inability to protect children.

     The family paid a £1m ransom but the boy’s decomposing body was found days later in the boot of a car. It now appears that the police uniforms worn by the gang were genuine: the plot is alleged to have been organized by a Mexico City police commander.

Women

     The phenomenon of the female homicides in Ciudad Juárez, called in Spanish the feminicidios (“femicides”) and las muertas de Juárez (“The dead women of Juárez”), involves the violent deaths of hundreds of women since 1993 in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, a border city across the Rio Grande from the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas. The estimated homicide toll is speculated by authorities to be about 400, but many local residents believe that the true count of los feminicidios stands at an estimated 5,000 victims. Most of the cases remained unsolved as of 2003, and are still unsolved today.

According to the Organization of American State’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

     The victims of these crimes have preponderantly been young women, between 12 and 22 years of age. Many were students, and most were maquiladora workers. A number were relative newcomers to Ciudad Juarez who had migrated from other areas of Mexico. The victims were generally reported missing by their families, with their bodies found days or months later abandoned in vacant lots, outlying areas or in the desert. In most of these cases there were signs of sexual violence, torment, torture or in some cases disfigurement. According to Amnesty International as of February 2005 more than 370 young women and girls had been murdered in the cities of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua.

     In November 2005 BBC News reported Mexico’s human rights ombudsman Jose Luis Soberances as saying that 28 women had been murdered so far in 2005. Despite past and current unsolved murders in August 2006 the federal government dropped its investigation, concluding that no federal laws had been violated.

     The most prominent suspects in the Juarez serial case were arrested, following the discovery of body clusters in the areas noted in parentheses.

1995 – Abdul Latif Sharif was arrested, charged, and convicted of the 1995 murder of Elizabeth Castro Garcia (Lote Bravo).

1996 – Several members of Los Rebeldes, a Juarez street gang, were arrested (Lote Bravo).

1999 – Los Choferes, bus drivers on routes between the maquiladoras and residential districts, were arrested (Lomas de Poleo).

2001 – García Uribe and González Meza were arrested for the murder of eight victims found in a cotton field near the Association of Maquila Workers in East Juarez (Cotton Field).

Protest by the families of some of the victims, demanded the punishment of the killers.

     A group of mothers, families, and friends of the victims, called Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa A.C. (“Civil Association for the Return Home of Our Daughters”) was formed to raise awareness about the situation and put pressure on the Mexican government to pay attention to these cases, some of which have gone unsolved for 13 years. Members of the group, including co-founder Norma Andrade, demand that proper investigations be carried out.

     Another family organization, Voces sin Eco (“voices without echo”) was founded in 1998. They painted pink crosses on black telephone poles to draw attention to the problem and align themselves with family values.

     Pink crosses and offerings for the murdered women of Juárez at Olvera Street,Los Angeles, on the Day of the Dead.

     In 1999, Stephen L. Rush founded a non-profit organization to establish a base for Human Rights in Mexico and to find a way to stop the sexual murders, for what would come to be known as the Save Juarez Project.

     In 1999, singer Tori Amos reacted to the accounts of the murders with her song “Juárez” on the album To Venus and Back.

     In 2000, El Paso post-hardcore band At the Drive-In released a music video for their song “Invalid Litter Dept. ” that details the deaths. The video features several photos of newspaper clippings and articles about the murders.

     In 2001, filmmaker Lourdes Portillo released one of the first documentaries dedicated to the victims of the murders, Senorita Extraviada.

     An informal group, which the press named Las Mujeres de Negro (“the women in black”), originated in November 2001 in the city of Chihuahua, following the discovery of eight corpses together. They attended the protest, which interrupted the celebration of the Mexican Revolution, wearing black tunics (as a sign of mourning) and pink hats. Since then, they have marched across the desert from Chihuahua to Juárez and planted crosses (sometimes with plastic limbs attached) in prominent places.

     In 2001 Gabriella “Azul Luna” Parra founded Las ViejasKandalosas, a collective of artists with a mission to denounce the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico through art. She organized various multimedia shows, the first being EsesKandalo in 2001 at Self-Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles. In February 2002 she and Lorena Mendez-Quiroga led a caravan (from Los Angeles to Ciudad Juarez) to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) Museum in Ciudad Juarez for a ViejasKandalosas three-day protest event that included a bi-national exhibit, a press conference with Diana Washington Valdez, and a candlelight procession through the streets with community and visiting artists.

     In 2002, Mexican journalist, novelist and essayist Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez published Huesos en el Desierto, (“Bones in the Desert”) one of the most comprehensive researchs on these murders and its social and political causes in book form. Sergio González Rodríguez claims that, during the course of his research for the book, which discovered links between organized crime, local entrepreneurs and local and federal authorities, he suffered death threats, and was kidnapped and tortured.

     In 2002, U.S. border journalist Diana Washington Valdez published an investigative newspaper series in the El Paso Times about the murders titled “Death Stalks the Border.”

     In 2002, as part of the art activists from Los Angeles that caravanned to Ciudad Juarez for the INBA protest exhibit, Rigo Maldonado and Victoria Delgadillo, co-curated the first internationally acknowledged exhibit on these femicides at the Social & Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice, California. The exhibit was called Hijas de Juarez, and included 45 major artists from the Los Angeles area. In 2002, details and images of victims were not readily available via the internet or libraries prompting both curators, the SPARC gallery coordinator Jennifer Araujo, artist/filmmaker Patricia Valencia and her friend/writer Max Blumenthal to regroup in Ciudad Juarez to collect data and interview victim families. In 2003, Victoria Delgadillo & Rigo Maldonado’s written account on the curatory process for this exhibit was published in Aztlán an Academic Chicano Journal, through the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) press.

     The article was entitled “Journey to the Land of the Dead: A Conversation with the Curators of the Hijas de Juárez Exhibit” [Volume 28, Number 2 / Fall 2003]. For their work on the Hijas de Juarez exhibit and for creating public awareness through art, Rigo Maldonado and Victoria Delgadillo received awards from the Instituto Cultural de León, Guanajuato (Mexico) in 2003, La Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (Mexico) in 2003, and the Los Angeles City Council (United States) in 2002.

     In the same year Polish journalists Eliza Kowalewska and Grzegorz Madej released a TV series about crimes in Juárez. Journalists cooperated with crime experts Robert Ressler and Candace Skrapec. This series was shown on Polish television TVN in 2003.

     In 2003, journalist Max Blumenthal won the Online News Association independent feature award for his investigative article in Salon.com, “Day of the Dead”, which examined the murders and the connection between them and the policies of the corporations with factories in the border city.

     In November 2003, UCLA Chicano Studies Professors Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Chon Noriega organize a conference called “The Maquiladora Murders, or who is Killing the Women of Juárez?” at the University of California, Los Angeles, bringing victim families, and other notable guest speakers to present to students and community members.

     In 2003, Eve Ensler demanded justice from the Special Prosector and vowed to return with support from around the world, and established a V-Day march in February 2004 with over 7,000 participants including actresses Sally Field and Jane Fonda.

     In 2004, Roberto Bolario’s’s novel 2666 (transl. to English 2008) centered around the horrible murders in a fictitious town called Santa Teresa, widely acknowledged as an alias for Ciudad Juarez.

     In 2004, Mexican norterio group Los Tigres del Norte released a song called “Las Mujeres de Juárez” (The Women of Juárez) on their Pacto de Sangre album. Juarez mayor Hector Murguia denounced the song, saying that it painted a false picture about the “real face of Juárez.”

     In 2004, Greek documentary team Exandas, released a production titled “Juárez, City of the Dead, women” featuring interviews with several relatives, maquiladora workers and owners and showcasing police corruption, evidence tampering practices and collaboration with one of the Mexican drug cartels, whose members emerge as the most likely culprits.

     In 2004, USA musician Bugs Salcido released a concept album titled “The Juarez Murders” featuring David Lowery, David Immergluck, Martin Pradler, Jeff Trott, & Alan Weatherhead. Proceeds from sales of the album and from his live concerts have gone to aid the families of the victims and the rape crisis center in Juarez. “. . .I do hope that ultimately, people are left with a feeling of hope after hearing this music,” says Salcido.

     In 2005, native of the El Paso/Juárez border, Alicia Gaspar de Alba author of various works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and artist in Las Hijas de Juarez exhibit publishes her novel “Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders”, which she had been researching since 1998.

     In 2005, Diana Washington Valdez published “Cosecha de Mujeres: Safari en el desierto Mexicano” [Oceano/Mexico/Spain], an investigative book in Spanish exposing the murders. It was a finalist for the Ulysses Lettre Award for international reportage.

     To protest the lack of progress in the cases, a huge free concert was held by famous Latin artists such as Alejandro Sanj, Alex Ubago, Manu Chao, Lila Downs and others on September 18, 2005 in Mexico’s City’s central Zocalo square.

     On May 30, 2005, President Vicente Fox told reporters that the majority of the Juárez killings had been resolved and the perpetrators placed behind bars. He went on to criticize the media for “rehashing” the same 300 or 400 murders, and said matters needed to be seen in their “proper dimension”.

     In 2006, Diana Washington Valdez published The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women [Peace at the Border/California/First Ed.], an investigative book in English about the Juárez women’s murders, drug cartels and government corruption in Mexico. The ebook version was titled Harvest of Women: Safari in Mexico.

     In 2006, Los Angeles filmmaker Lorena Mendez produced Border Echoes, a documentary about the Juárez women’s murders based on nearly 10 years of investigation. She collaborated with Diana Washington Valdez for the film. Azul Luna co-produced.

     In 2006, Gregory Nava directed a movie called Bordertown with Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas. As a blogger I saw this movie and highly recommend it to others. Basically, A journalist investigates a series of murders near American-owned factories on the border of Juarez and El Paso.  Lauren, an impassioned American reporter for the Chicago Sentinel heads to Juarez, a Mexican border town, in order to investigate a series of mysterious slayings involving young factory women from all over Mexico. As she discovers hundreds of victims, she gains the trust of local factory workers but falls into danger. Written by Jlo-fan

     In 2006, a book of poems on the Juárez women’s murders was published by White Pine Press: Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosin

     In 2007 The Daughters of Juárez by 11-time Emmy award-winning journalist Teresa Rodriguez was published, the most recent book on the murders. Teresa Rodriguez is a reporter for Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the United States. There, she co-anchors the critically acclaimed and award winning news magazine Aqui y Ahora. She has been investigating and reporting on the Juárez murders for over 13 years.

     In 2007, Toronto filmmakers Alex Flores and Lorena Vassolo released Juarez, a documentary film about the murders.

     In 2008, the artist Swoon displayed a paper-cutout memorial of victim Silvia Elena in the Chelsea art gallery Honeyspace. She displayed another version of the piece on a wall in San Francisco’s Mission District.

     In 2009, Backyard (El traspatio) was released in Mexico. Directed by Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro) and screenwritten by Sabina Berman. This film was part of the 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival, where an extra screening had to be scheduled because of the interest it generated.

     In 2010, a book of poems on the Juárez women’s murders was published by University of Arizona Press: Each and Her by Valerie Martinez.

     In the Juarez newspaper NORTE, for the date of January 4, 2010, a special report/section was included “Informe Anual Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua ” by the government, with a subsection at page 2 on “Murders of Women” from 10-2004 through 11-2008, during which period there were 53 victims, with 36 cases resolved with convictions or detention, or order of arrest. Most of these murders were by persons with a connection to the victim. This represents the results of enhanced investigation and prosecution since the 1990s.

Unfortunately many websites and publications, including the book Daughters of Juarez, deal (when they deal with facts and not merely rumours) with the earlier years. Of course, meanwhile, Juarez is suffering from other murders. The same newspaper, on the same date, reported 2660 murders during 2009, mostly drug war related. Norte, on page 3, for January 5, 2010, reports already 37 murders for the first four days alone of 2010.

Summary

     This Five-Part Series started out to look at the problem of illegal immigration and all its complexity. It is my hope that the reader will come away, after reading this series, with an honest and  comprehensive understanding of this troubling issue. Covered were topics like the policy debate, the causes and impact of illegal immigration, the new Arizona law SB 1070, and this article on human rights abuses in Mexico.

     I do not know how the carnage going on in Mexico with kidnappings, murders, and other human rights abuses has influenced millions of people to flee their country, and to seek employment and safe refuge away from all the violence in Mexico. Most of the violence occurring in Mexico is due to the Mexican drug cartels. The corruption of some mexican officials in both high and low social positions has made it an almost impossible situation to rectify.

     I am reminded of a drastic solution that was fictiously carried out in the 1994 Movie, A Clear and Present Danger. The cartels in that movie were the Columbian drug cartels. In a nutshell a Black-ops team is assembled to start taking down the drug cartels, their equipment, and drugs. Missiles were used to destroy a family estate where many members from different cartels and their families had assembled. There is much collateral damage due to this covert secret operation ordered by the President of the United States and his administrative types.

     I’ll leave it to you movie watchers to see what else happens, but the movie does raise an interesting question. If the Mexican government can’t deal with the intimidation, threats and violence perpetrated by the drug cartels could the United States government today successfully work out a secret agreement with the Mexican government to take down the Mexican Drug Cartels? I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have many other related questions.

For example, if  assassination squads and Black ops were coupled along with strategic pinpoint missile attacks by the United States, would the threat of drug cartels diminish? Could the CIA assist the U.S. military by providing intelligence information as to the location or whereabouts of those involved in the drug trade? Would Mexico instituting martial law help? Would high six figure bounties placed on the heads of these cartel leaders help bring them down? The Mexican government has invited the FBI into their country before when special investigative help was needed. The American DEA has worked in joint drug operations with Mexican police and Mexico’s equivalent of their DEA on many an occasion.

     However, the Mexican government does not want American troops on Mexican soil under any circumstances. They respect their own country’s soverignty. Problem is they don’t seem to respect ours. We can help the Mexican government and its people only if they really care enough to seriously address their own problems. It seems every other week I hear of a Mexican mayor in some city or community that was assassinated. Let that happen in this country and our police would be on top of the situation in no time. Extra resources would be allocated because media and political pressure would be brought to bear on local law enforcement.   

     Perhaps the greatest contribution the Mexican government can make in stemming the outflow of illegal immigrants to the United States is to seriously address its underemployment problem which affects 21% of their population. Their entire educational system in Mexico needs to be radically overhauled. Enough said on Mexico’s inadequacies. What can the United States do to prevent the impact of Mexico’s Drug Cartels and what can the U.S. do to end illegal immigration to this country? The demand side of drug abuse must be addressed at some point even if it’s treated as a long term priority. But a primary top priority now must be to secure our own borders, no matter what it takes. Any effort to do less is pure “stupidity”.

     The soverignty of the United States is our most important priority. The American people are telling our government through surveys, time and time again, that this is really important. It’s time for the U.S. government to start listening to the American people, and then take effective action. America may have the best politicians money can buy. But it’s long overdue for politicians to do their job. It is only then that the problem of illegal immigration will finally disappear from the American conscience.        

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     In Part III I will attempt to evaluate the impact of immigration, specifically illegal immigration. It is perhaps linguistically amusing to note the definition and how such a word as “Impact” is defined, and how it fits so well into this discussion of illegal immigration.  Impact is defined as the collision of one body against another; collision; or the  force of a collision, or to press closely or pack in. And indeed, there is a kind of social collision going on all across the nation right now as the issue of illegal immigration is debated.

      No where is there a better way to measure such a social collision and impact than to evaluate the differing attitudes and beliefs regarding this issue. Like many social issues, “attitudes and beliefs” (for better or worse) seem to trump facts, logic and reason. This is not surprising given that all facts are valued in a different way or evaluated always within a social context. Writers like myself can impart facts but public opinion is usually all about “feelings.” So if feelings are the measure of impact—what is the impact?

      I have chosen to communicate such impact through a social science research methodology known as public opinion polls. They have their strengths and weaknesses and sampling errors, but I think that collectively (A kind of Meta-Evaluation Assessment) they can give the reader direction of opinion that is both reliable and valid.

     There are literally hundreds of polls that have been conducted at national, state, and local levels on the complex issue of illegal immigration. In terms of a sociological analysis, the issue divides people by all the relevant social and demographic variables sociologists and political analysts use: political party, age, race, gender, and  geographical area.

     I had to make some choices here to report. I chose to use American National polls, California polls, and a Zogby International Poll of people from Mexico to evaluate the perceived impact of illegal immigration. The results follow.

 AMERICAN NATIONAL POLLS

   The general public overwhelmingly favors immigration reform. Poll after poll shows that Americans want well-enforced, sensible, and sustainable immigration laws.

  • 89% of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a problem (30% “extremely serious,” 33% “very serious,” and 26% “somewhat serious.” (Time Magazine, Jan. 2006)
  • 82% think that not enough is being done along the borders to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. (New York Times/CBS, May 2007)
  • 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”. (Polling Company, Sept. 2006)
  • 62% oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens of America. (Quinnipiac Univ., Feb  2006)

     These are only a few examples of the many statistics demonstrating that Americans want lower immigration, greater enforcement, and more commitment to making immigration work in the best interests of the nation.

Categorical Issues found in National Polls

     A Rasmussen Report Poll conducted November 5, 2008 of 1,000 likely voters asked: “Is the government doing enough to secure the border?”

  • 79% responded “no,”—” it is not doing enough”.
  • 10% responded “yes.”
  •      It also asked, “Which is more important: securing the border or legalizing undocumented workers?”
  • 65% responded that gaining control of the border is more important.
  • 26% responded that legalization is more important.
  • Rasmussen Report Poll conducted from October 24-25th of 800 likely voters found that:
  • 51% opposed the DREAM Act (a form of amnesty for former and present illegal alien students) concept.
  • 68% believe the passage of the bill would encourage more illegal immigration in the future.
  • 71% believe that illegal immigrants should not qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.
  • 77 % oppose making drivers’ licenses available to illegal immigrants.

 Legal Immigration

  • 47% want to decrease immigration. (Gallup, June 2003)
  • Only 12% support increases in immigration. (Zogby Intl. and Hamilton College, Feb. 2003)
  • 20% believe immigration should be stopped immediately, and 52% believe that “Some immigration is okay, but it should be limited and people immigrating illegally should be vigorously prosecuted.” (Zogby Intl., Feb. 2000)
  • 72% completely or mostly agree that “We should restrict and control people coming into our country to live more than we do now.” (Pew Research Center, Oct. 1999)
  • 73% think that the U.S. should strictly limit immigration. (Time/CNN, Sept. 1993)

 Immigration and Terrorism

  • 58% think that immigration should be decreased. (USA Today/CNN/Gallup, Oct. 2001)
  • 83% think that it is too easy for people from other countries to enter the U.S. (CBS News/New York Times, Sept. 2001 and Dec. 2001)
  • 77% think not enough is being done to control the border and to screen people allowed into the country. (Zogby Intl., Sept. 2001)

 Labor Issues

  • 72% said the U.S shouldn’t allow more immigrants into the country because they take American jobs. (Wall Street Journal/NBC News, Dec. 1998)
  • 86% agree that “allowing companies to hire additional temporary foreign professionals reduces employment opportunities for U.S. technical workers.” (IEEE-USA/Harris Interactive, Sept. 1998)
  • 62% agree that immigrants take the jobs of U.S. workers. (Newsweek, July 1993)

 Illegal Immigration and Amnesty

  • 55% consider illegal immigration a “very serious problem.” (Roper ASW for Negative Population Growth, March 2003)
  • 65% disagree with granting amnesty to illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. (Zogby Intl., May 2002)
  • 55% think that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants is a bad idea. (Zogby Intl., Sept. 2001)
  • 65% believe that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants would encourage further illegal immigration, and that for this reason amnesty should not be granted. (Harris Interactive for FAIR, August 2001)
  • 67% think the U.S. should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens. (Gallup, August 2001)

 CALIFORNIA POLL DATA

     A Field Poll by the Field Research Corporation of 570 registered California voters taken from March 20-31, 2007 found that:

  • 83% support the legalization of illegal immigrants who are employed and have resided in the United States for “a number of years,” and a lower share (67%) agree to a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants.
  • 77% believe that illegal immigration is either a “very serious problem” (48%) or a “somewhat serious problem” (28%).
  • 71% agree with strengthening border patrols.
  • 63% support stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • 53% favor deporting illegal immigrants.

     A Field Poll released March 4, 2005 with a +/- 4.1% age point margin of error found:

 “A new bill currently in the U.S. Congress would effectively block states like California from providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, by requiring all states to verify that applicants for driver’s licenses are American citizens or living in the country legally.” The results were that 59% favored this action (vs. 38% opposed). Republicans supported by 78%-19%, Non-partisans by 57%-42%, and Democrats by 53%-41%. Latinos opposed by 53%-45%.

     A question also probed the issue of California adopting a measure to allow driver’s licenses for “undocumented immigrants.” The similar results were opposition by 62%-35%. However opinions were nearly equal on whether the state should issue a different non-ID license to the illegal aliens.

  • 65% said that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for services and benefits provided by state and local governments, except for emergency services.  53% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes granting government benefits and services to illegal immigrants.  73% said that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for in-state tuition at state universities, and 68% opposed granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. (Luntz Research, October 2003)

     A Zogby International Poll of 802 registered California voters in Feb.-Mar. 2002 for Diversity Alliance probed attitudes towards immigration. The organization reported the following findings:

Q. State legislators have proposed a law allowing illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. Knowing that in California, driver’s licenses can be used as one form of identifcation to apply for welfare benefits, do you support or oppose a law granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants?
A. Oppose = 67%, Support = 29%, Not Sure = 4%.
Immigrants were stronger opponents than U.S.-born respondents (71% to 67%).

Q. The state legislature proposed a law giving illegal immigrants reduced tuition to state colleges and universities. Do you support or oppose such a law?
A. Oppose = 72%, Support = 25%, Not Sure = 3%.

Q. Do you agree or disagree that employers should be required to certify that there are no American workers available for a job before an employer imports workers from overseas?

A. Agree = 68%, Disagree = 27%, Not Sure = 5%.
Immigrants were stronger supporters of a certification requirement than native-born respondents (83% to 68%).

Q. Do you think a three-year moratorium on legal immigration would be beneficial or harmful to Californians?
A. Beneficial = 43%, Harmful = 40%, Not Sure = 16%.
Immigrants viewed a moratorium as more harmful than did U.S.-born respondents (46% to 40%).

  • 62% of citizens and 71% of immigrants oppose a law that would grant driver’s licenses to illegal residents. (Zogby Intl., March 2001)
  • 82% believe that population growth over the next two decades will make the state a less desirable place to live. (Public Policy Institute of California, May 2001)

     A statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California released in December 1999 found immigration as the second most important issue facing California (after education).

     Eight percent of respondents identified immigration as their greatest concern compared with 28 percent for education and seven percent for crime, the third most frequently volunteered response. Other results offer a mixed picture. While most respondents see the state headed in the right direction (62% – 31%), more respondents indicated that they think the state will be a worse place to live in 2020 than a better place (43% – 25%). Some of the reasons for concern may be the growing wealth gap in the state and concern about the environment. By 72% to 23%, respondents said they expect to gap to continue to grow. By a margin of 60% to 37% respondents said they expect the quality of the natural environment to get worse rather than get better. Interestingly, 22 percent of the respondents did not want to hazzard a guess about the state’s population size, and among those who did guess, only 13% chose the correct answer (30-35 million) while 46% underestimated the population and only 19% overestimated it.

 Californians are ambivalent as to whether “the increasing diversity that immigrants bring” improves or threatens American culture. About the same number think immigrants “improve” – 39% and “threaten” – 38%. (The comparable national public opinion is “improve” – 30% and “threaten” – 42%). And they are ambivalent about whether “legal immigration is a problem.” They divide 47% to 48% saying it “is” or “is not” a problem. However, most Californians (86%) say “illegal immigrants are a problem.” A majority of Californians (54%) favor changing the law so children of illegal immigrants born here are not automatically U.S. citizens — 40% are opposed. But, most Californians (53%) would not bar illegal immigrants from attending public schools — 41% would bar them.
(Source: Los Angeles Times, Nov.2, 1997)

 THE MEXICAN PEOPLE SPEAK

 Mexicans also Feel Mexican-Americans Should Be Loyal to Mexico 

     A new survey by Zogby International finds that people in Mexico think that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. As the top immigrant-sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants, views on immigration in Mexico can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty, as well as other questions related to immigration.

     The results are available online at the Center for Immigration Studies’ website. Among the findings:

* A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally. The rest were unsure or thought it would make no difference.

* Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.

* Two-thirds of Mexicans know someone living in the United States; one-third said an immediate member of their household was living in the United States.

* Interest in going to the United States remains strong even in the current recession, with 36 percent of Mexicans (39 million people) saying they would move to the United States if they could. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research Center poll which found that about one-third of Mexicans would go to the United States if they could. At present, 12 to 13 million Mexico-born people live in the United States.

* An overwhelming majority (69 percent) thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) should be to Mexico. Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States. The rest were unsure.

* Also, 69 percent of people in Mexico felt that the Mexican government should represent the interests of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) in the United States.

* A plurality, 39 percent, of Mexicans thought that in the last year fewer people they know had gone to the United States as illegal immigrants compared to previous years. Only 27 percent thought more had gone. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure.

* A plurality, 40 percent, also thought that in the last year more of the illegal immigrants they know had returned to Mexico compared to previous years. Only 25 percent thought the number returning had fallen. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure.

* Both the bad economy and increased immigration enforcement were cited as reasons fewer people were going to America as illegal immigrants and more were coming back to Mexico.

     The following discussion wasn’t written by me. It came at the end of the survey and I thought it articulated very well the assessment of the data by the author and his opinion on the issue of illegal immigration and immigration policy.

Discusssion:

     As the nation begins debates the issue of immigration, the perspective of people in Mexico is important because Mexico is the top sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants. In 2008 one of six new legal immigrants was from Mexico and, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 6 out of 10 illegal immigrants come from that country. Asking people in Mexico their views on immigration can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty for illegal immigrants and other questions related to immigration.

     This survey is the first to ask people in Mexico if they thought legalizing illegal immigrants in the United States would encourage more illegal immigration. The survey was conducted in August and September of 2009 and consisted of 1,004 in-person interviews of adults throughout Mexico. The findings show that a majority of people in Mexico think that an amnesty would make it more likely that people in Mexico would come to the United States illegally. This is especially true for people who have a member of their households living in the United States. It is important to note that respondents were asked specifically about whether an amnesty would make illegal immigration more likely, not just immigration generally. Other questions in the survey explore attitudes about migration to United States generally, recent trends in migration, and loyalty to the United States.

     The results may give pause to those lawmakers who think that an amnesty/legalization for illegals immigrants would reduce illegal immigration in the future. The findings of this survey indicate that an amnesty would encourage more illegal immigration, at least from Mexico.

Methodology:

     The in-person survey done in Mexico for the Center for Immigration Studies by Zogby International was of 1,004 persons 18 years of age and older. The sampling framework was the most recent (2009) electoral sections defined by the Federal Electoral Institute. A multi-stage sampling procedure was employed that first randomly selected 100 electoral sections proportional to size. Second, two house blocks were randomly selected from each section. Within each block five households were selected using a systematic random procedure. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 3.1% for a 95% confidence level. Margins of error are larger for sub-groups.

The above is a press release dated October 14 from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: center@cis.org http://www.cis.org

SUMMARY AND AN OPINION

Summary

     The data make it clear that the vast majority of Americans want immigration reform. The data also makes it clear that the majority of Americans  oppose illegal immigration (and a good percentage want no immigration at all) and do not favor giving amnesty to illegal aliens.

     These are the highlights that I surmise constitutes the best summary of the data you’ve just read:

American National Polls

89% of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a problem. 

 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”.

 73% think that the U.S. should strictly limit immigration. 

 71% believe that illegal immigrants should not qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.

77 % oppose making drivers’ licenses available to illegal immigrants.

California Polls

      83% support the legalization of illegal immigrants who are employed and have resided in the United States for “a number of years,” and a lower share (67%) agree to a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants.

     Even in California however :

 71% agree with strengthening border patrols.

63% support stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

53% favor deporting illegal immigrants.

Poll Conducted in Mexico 

 Mexicans also Feel Mexican-Americans Should Be Loyal to Mexico 

     A new survey conducted in 2009 by Zogby International finds that people in Mexico think that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. As the top immigrant-sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants, views on immigration in Mexico can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty, as well as other questions related to immigration.

     The results are available online at the Center for Immigration Studies’ website. Among the findings:

* A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally. The rest were unsure or thought it would make no difference.

* Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.

* Two-thirds of Mexicans know someone living in the United States; one-third said an immediate member of their household was living in the United States.

Opinion

      Up until this point I have shyed away from giving an opinion in deference to a complete, objective presentation of facts. Before I undertook to write a five-part series on the topic of immigration (specifically illegal immigration) I honestly had a complete open mind (or no opinion at all) as to the immigration debate. Subsequently however, by learning many facts on this complex issue, I have begun to form an opinion about immigration and what is going on. It’s led to the observation that there exist a major disconnect between what the American people want on immigration and the political establishment in Washington and California. I like to think that my opinion is well-reasoned based on only the facts; however, you be the judge of that assumption.

    What does all this mean? How can one make sense of the impact of illegal immigration on the American people? When a citizen breaks the law and is on the run, most people don’t question whether law enforcement has the right to apprehend the offender and make an arrest for some offense. If law enforcement has the legal right, if not moral obligation, to bring offenders to justice, why then does it matter whether the offender is a citizen or an illegal alien? This is more than an opinion—it is the law.

     This is not the view of just some off-beat moronic right-wing conservative group, it is the opinion of a wide and diverse group of Americans who support our laws once a soverign democratic nation has spoken.

     Right now, we have a U.S. president who is doing a really fine good job on many issues like healthcare, financial reform and the economy. However, he appears to have some “CHINKS IN HIS ARMOR” or weaknesses in his moral compass on some very important issues.

     He has failed to bring to justice war criminals who committed crimes against humanity. The offenders ran the entire gamut of CIA lackeys, military personnel, and members of the Bush administration. He also dragged his feet on promises he made during his election campaign to the Gay and Lesbian citizenry, and now he wants to ignore the vast majority of Americans who want no amnesty for illegals, and who want our borders protected.  We also have a California governor who is “illegal alien-friendly” and doesn’t understand that illegals are law-breakers and are violating the soverign territory of the United States. To use the colloquial language of the street—“ illegal aliens are dissin’ us (i.e., disrespecting the American people).

     As a writer with a very pro-liberal outlook on civil rights in general, it is nevertheless appallingly clear that there is a major “disconnect” between what Americans want and the politicians who we elect to serve us. Just like Meg Whitman running for Governor of California this fall, it is clear—“we have the best politicians money can buy.” 

    And, it isn’t only politicians who are dragging their feet on supporting a viable, legal, and social policy on illegal immigration. American business is also dragging its feet. Why? Because cheap labor has been their major incentive. Consequently, the nation has been “importing” poverty for decades since data shows that 70% of all illegals have no high school diploma,  and virtually no skills.

     Right now the vast majority of Americans are against illegal immigration, in favor of protecting our borders, and opposed to amnesty. Nevertheless this majority are being vilified in the media and scapegoated by a sizeable minority of pro-illegal immigration folks. But you have to ask yourself this question. How do other countries (whether developed or undeveloped) deal with their own illegal immigration problem? Last year and in 2008, my wife and I visited Mexico as part of a Princess Cruise and the excursions the ship provided. Both times we were asked to whip out our passports upon entry into Mexico. I suspect that Mexico (just like the United States), despite its current political rhetoric castagating the new Arizona law, actually respects the soverign nature of its own country and borders as well. In my humble opinion the Mexican people are a good and decent people. We Americans are very lucky to have such good people living south of the border. For this reason, I think the opinion of the Mexican people is very important in order to have a comprehensive view of this issue. I found the survey data from Mexico itself very telling. The survey of Mexican citizens shows that Mexicans want all their citizens (including illegals) to be loyal to Mexico, and the majority feel that if the U.S. grants amnesty to illegals it will only further increase illegal immigration.

     If there is some sort of compromise reached by the U.S. Congress on the many issues of immigration, it will need to be looked at very closely. Like many other political issues compromise is mostly welcome, but not always welcome. I think immigration is one issue where the soverign nature of the United States needs to be protected and respected with no compromises at all. We’ve had enough “feet-dragging” by the U.S. Congress already. Too much compromise will also weaken our resolve to eliminate future illegal immigration.

     Where border protection is concerned modern technology needs to be employed. If border protection is deemed really important (and the American people seem to think so) then it is imcumbent upon the U.S. government to make the resources available to do the job. And, I want a four-star general to be put in charge (and responsible for) the securing of our borders. It makes no sense to me to allocate our “brightest and our best” field commanders to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq when we can’t even secure our own borders at home.

 

 


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INTRODUCTION

     This is the second of a five-part series on the complex issue of Immigration. The purpose of Part II will be to describe the many causes of  illegal immigration and its definition. In Part I a cursory look at what illegal immigration is was described. In Part II more detail is provided. The independent variables presented as causal factors are not exhaustive or part of some controlled laboratory experiment; they represent instead current assumptions or hypotheses about “What” causes illegal immigration from a sociological point of view. In my research I discovered quite a number of assumptions and some data to support them. What follows are the results of my research.

     It is important to define our dependent variable of interest. Only in this instance the dependent variable is a legal status that had been codified into law. As every sociologist who has ever studied deviant behavior knows, “deviance legally defined” is as much as the product of the rule-makers as it is the rule-breakers. One must study the creation process of rule-making as well as the behavior of those who break those rules once created.

     Before proceeding to the causes (independent variables for all you social scientists) one needs a firm grip on understanding the deviant status of the behavior one calls illegal immigration. So what is illegal immigration?

WHAT QUALIFIES A PERSON AS AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT?

     People become illegal immigrants in one of three ways: by entering without authorization or inspection, by staying beyond the authorized period after legal entry, or by violating the terms of legal entry. Their mode of violation breaks down as follows: If the suspect entered legally without inspection, then the suspect would be classified as either a “Non-Immigrant Visa Overstayer” (4 to 5.5 million) or a “Border Crossing Card Violator” (250,000 to 500,000). If the suspect entered illegally without inspection, then the suspect would be classified as having “evaded the Immigration Inspectors and Border Patrol” (6 to 7 million).

     Many people are charged with illegally re-entering the United States after being previously deported. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines prescribe up to a 16-level offense level increase, potentially causing more than a quadrupling of one’s sentence, for illegal re-entry of certain felons into the U.S. The PROTECT Act instructed the U.S. Sentencing Commission to authorize four-level “fast-track” downward departures in illegal-reentry immigration cases upon motion of the prosecutor.

Illegal entry

     There are an estimated half million illegal entries into the United States each year.

     A common means of border crossing is to hire professionals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border for pay. Those operating on the US-Mexico border are known informally as “coyotes”.

Visa overstay

     A tourist or traveler is considered a “visa overstay” once he or she remains in the United States after the time of admission has expired. The time of admission varies greatly from traveler to traveler depending on what visa class into which they were admitted. Visa overstays tend to be somewhat more educated and better off financially than those who entered the country illegally.

     To help track visa overstayers the US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program collects and retains biographic, travel, and biometric information, such as photographs and fingerprints, of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States. It also requires electronic readable passports containing this information.

     Visa overstayers mostly enter with tourist or business visas. In 1994, more than half of illegal immigrants were Visa overstayers whereas in 2006, about 45% of illegal immigrants were Visa overstayers.

Visa fraud

     A common method of illegal immigration is visa fraud: obtaining a visa on false pretenses. The most common form is a so-called “green card marriage”, whereby a foreign national marries for purposes of avoiding immigration law, a crime in the United States, rather than to build a life together. These marriages offer the opportunity of a person who might otherwise not obtain a visa to obtain permanent residency, and potentially citizenship, by virtue of laws allowing spouses of citizens and permanent residents to obtain visas.

     According to a 2008 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, there were a number of different types of green card marriages. Among others:

  • mail-order bride arrangements;
  • phony arranged marriages (as opposed to legitimate arranged marriages in cultures that practice them);
  • arrangements in which the American resident is paid;
  • human trafficking or other exploitation of the new immigrant by the American partner; and
  • “heartbreaker” partners who trick American spouses into believing a marriage is genuine, when their true intention is to obtain a green card.

 

CAUSES

Economics and Labor Markets

     A Neo-Classical Economic Model

     The net flow of illegal immigration pattern is almost entirely from countries of lower socioeconomic levels to countries of higher socioeconomic levels, and particularly from developing countries to developed countries. While there are other causes associated with poorer countries, the most common motivation for illegal immigrants is the pursuit of greater economic opportunities and quality of life in the destination state.

    Many believe there is a basic cost/benefit argument for illegal immigration. That is,  potential migrants believe the probability and benefits of successfully migrating to the destination country are greater than the costs. These costs may include restrictions living as an illegal immigrant in the destination country, leaving family and ways of life behind, and the probability of being caught and resulting sanctions. Proposed economic models, based on a cost/benefit framework, have varying considerations and degrees of complexity. For example, the neoclassical economic model looks only at the probability of success in immigrating and finding employment, and the increase in real income an illegal immigrant can expect. This explanation would account for the economies of the two states, including how much of a “pull” the destination country has in terms of better-paying jobs and improvements in quality of life. It also describes a “push” that comes from negative conditions in the home country like lack of employment or economic mobility.

     Neoclassical theory also accounts for the probability of successful illegal emigration. Factors that affect this include: geographic proximity, border enforcement, probability and consequences of arrest, ease of illegal employment, and chances of future legalization. This model concludes that in the destination country, illegal workers tend to add to and compete with the pool of unskilled laborers.

     Illegal workers in this model are successful in finding employment by being willing to be paid lower wages than native-born workers are, sometimes below the minimum wage. Economist George Borjas supports aspects of this model, calculating that real wages of US workers without a high school degree declined by 9% from 1980-2000 due to competition from illegal immigrant workers. If these assumptions are true it implies that illegal immigrants harm some lower-income Americans (presumably a younger population of citizens just starting out in life) by taking their jobs and under-cutting the wages of such workers. However, this theory may be contradicted in the section below on Structural Demand in Developed States.

     Large scale economic evidence supports neoclassical theory, as may be seen in the long-term correlation of relative wages/unemployment and illegal immigration from Mexico to the US. However, immigration scholars such as Gordon Hanson and Douglas Massey have criticized the model for being oversimplified and not accounting for contradictory evidence, such as low net illegal immigration from Mexico to the US before the 1980s despite significant economic disparity.

Trade Liberalization

     In recent years, developing states are pursuing the benefits of globalization by joining agreements to liberalize trade. But rapid opening of domestic markets may lead to displacement of large numbers of agricultural or unskilled workers, who are more likely to seek employment and a higher quality of life by illegal emigration. This is a frequently cited argument to explain how the North American Free Trade Association may have impoverished Mexican farmers who were unable to compete with the higher productivity of US agriculture, especially for corn. NAFTA may have also unexpectedly raised educational requirements for industrial jobs in Mexico, since the new maquiladoras produced export products requiring skills and education that many unskilled workers did not have.

 Structural Demand in Developed States

     Douglas Massey argues that a bifurcating labor market in developed nations creates a structural demand for unskilled immigrant labor to fill undesirable jobs that native-born citizens do not take, regardless of wages. This theory states that postindustrial economies have a widening gap between well-paying, white-collar jobs that require ever higher levels of education and “human capital”, which native-born citizens and legal immigrants can qualify to take, and bottom-tier jobs that are stigmatized and require no education. These “underclass” jobs include harvesting crops, unskilled labor in landscaping and construction, house-cleaning, and maid and busboy work in hotels and restaurants, all of which have a disproportionate number of illegal workers.

     Since the decline of middle-class blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and industry, younger native-born generations have chosen to acquire higher degrees now that there are no longer “respectable” blue-collar careers that a worker with no formal education can find. The majority of new blue-collar jobs are the “underclass” work mentioned above, which suffer from unreliability (i.e. temporary jobs versus a career in a factory), subservient roles, and, critically, a lack of potential for advancement. At the same time, entry-level white-collar and service jobs are much more appealing. These they offer advancement opportunities for native-born workers to enter the dominant educated class, even if they currently pay the same or less than manual labor does.

     Hence, this theory holds that in a developed country like the US, where now only 12% of the labor force has less than a high school education, there is a lack of native-born workers who have no choice but to take undesirable manual labor jobs. Illegal immigrants, on the other hand, have much lower levels of education (about 70% of illegal workers in the US from Mexico lack a high school degree). They are still willing to take “underclass” jobs due to their much higher relative wages than those in their home country. Since illegal immigrants often anticipate working only temporarily in the destination country, the lack of opportunity for advancement is less of a problem. Evidence for this can be seen in one Pew Hispanic Center poll of over 3,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico in the US, which found that 79% would voluntarily join a temporary worker program that allowed them to work legally for several years but then required them to leave.

     The structural demand theory posits that simple willingness to work undesirable jobs, rather than for unusually low wages, is what gives illegal immigrants their employment.

     Structural demand theory argues that cases like this show that there is no direct competition between unskilled illegal immigrants and native-born workers. This is the concept that illegal immigrants “take jobs that no one else wants”. Massey argues that this has certain implications for policy, as it may refute claims that illegal immigrants are “lowering wages” or stealing jobs from native-born workers.

 Poverty

     While economic models do look at relative wealth and income between home and destination countries, they do not necessarily imply that illegal migrants are always impoverished by standards of the home country. The poorest classes in a developing country may lack the resources needed to mount an attempt to cross illegally, or the connections to friends or family already in the destination country. Studies from the Pew Hispanic Center have shown that the education and wage levels of illegal Mexican immigrants in the US are around the median for Mexico, and that having family who have emigrated or being from a community with many emigrants is a much better predictor of one’s choice to emigrate.

     Other examples do show that increases in poverty, especially when associated with immediate crises, can increase the likelihood of illegal migration. The 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, subsequent to the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was associated with widespread poverty and a lower valuation for the peso relative to the dollar. It also marked the start of a massive swell in Mexican emigration, in which net illegal migration to the US increased every year from the mid-1990s until the mid 2000s.

     There are also examples where natural disasters and overpopulation can amplify poverty-driven migration flows.

Overpopulation

     Population growth which exceeds the carrying capacity of an area or environment results in overpopulation. Spikes in human population can cause problems such as pollution, water crisis, and poverty.  World population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to an estimated 6.7 billion today. In Mexico alone, population has grown from 13.6 million in 1900 to 107 million in 2007.

     In 2000, the United Nations estimated that the world’s population was growing at the rate of 1.14% (or about 75 million people) per year. According to data from the CIA’s 2005–2006 World Factbooks, the world human population currently increases by 203,800 every day. The United States Census Bureau issued a revised forecast for world population that increased its projection for the year 2050 to above 9.4 billion people, up from 9.1 billion people. We are adding a billion more every 12 years. Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions.

Family reunification

     Some illegal immigrants seek to live with loved ones, such as a spouse or other family members. Family reunification visas may be applied for by legal residents or naturalized citizens to bring their family members into a destination state legally, but these visas may be limited in number and subject to yearly quotas. This may force their family members to enter illegally to reunify. From studying Mexican migration patterns, Douglas Massey finds that the likelihood of a Mexican national to emigrate illegally to the US increases dramatically if they have one or more family members already residing in the United States, legally or illegally.

     Due to inability to marry, same-sex couples in which one member has an expiring visa may face an “unpalatable choice between leaving and living with the person they love in violation of U.S. immigration laws”. Also, it is possible that binational same sex couples granted a legal marriage in one spouse’s state may face difficulty and even higher likelihood of deportation if they try to move to the other spouse’s home country and that state does not recognize the marriage. This may be the case if a Canadian marries an American of the same gender and tries to have the marriage recognized after moving to the US.

Wars and asylum

     Illegal immigration may be prompted by the desire to escape civil war or repression in the country of origin. Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, and genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows – to escape dictatorship for instance.

     It is important to note that the status of “illegal immigrant” may coincide with or be replaced by the status of “asylum seeker” for emigrants who have escaped a war or repression and have illegally crossed into another state. If they are recognized as “legitimate” asylees by the destination state, they will then gain legal status. However, there may be numerous potential asylees in a destination state who are unwilling to apply or have been denied asylum status, and hence are categorized as “illegal immigrants” and may be subject to punishment or deportation. There are numerous cases of mass emigration from poor or war-stricken states. These include examples from Africa, Colombia, and El Salvador.

     After decades of armed conflict, roughly one of every 10 Colombians now lives abroad. For example, Colombians emigrating to Spain have “grown exponentially, from a little over 7,000 in 1993 to more than 80,000 in 2002 and 244,000 in 2003.” This is equivalent to 124,000 Colombian immigrants in year 2003 into Spain alone. Also, figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate that Colombia is the fourth-leading source country of unauthorized immigration to the United States. According to its estimates, the number of unauthorized Colombian residents in the United States almost tripled from 51,000 in 1990 to 141,000 in 2000. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of authorized Colombian immigrants in the United States in 2000 was 801,363. Census data are important because, as the Department of Homeland Security states, [U.S.] “census data are more complete and reliable [than INS’s data] because of the national scope of the data collection, the vastly larger data sample, and the extensive preparation and follow-up activities involved in conducting the decennial census.”

     El Salvador is another country which experienced substantial emigration as a result of civil war and repression. The largest per-capita source of immigrants to the United States comes from El Salvador. Up to a third of the world’s Salvadoran-born population lives outside the country, mostly in the United States. According to the Santa Clara County, California, Office of Human Relations.

Despite the fact that the U.S. government’s role in the Salvadoran conflict was unique in sustaining the prolongation of the civil conflict, the government and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) extended little sympathy to the people affected by the war. In the 1980s, the INS granted only 2% of political asylum applications, claiming that democracy existed in El Salvador and that reports of U.S. and government-sponsored “death squads” were overblown. As a response to what they considered a failure of the U.S. government to address the situation of Salvadoran refugees in the country, American activists established a loose network to aid refugees. Operating in clear violation of U.S. immigration laws, these activists took refugees into their houses, aided their travel, hid them and helped them find work. This became known as the “sanctuary movement”.

     The continuing practice of hiring unauthorized workers has been referred to as “the magnet for illegal immigration.” As a significant percentage of employers are willing to hire illegal immigrants for higher pay than they would typically receive in their former country, illegal immigrants have prime motivation to cross borders.

     In 2003, then-President of Mexico, Vicente Fox stated that remittances “are our biggest source of foreign income, bigger than oil, tourism or foreign investment” and that “the money transfers grew after Mexican consulates started giving identity cards to their citizens in the United States.” He stated that money sent from Mexican workers in the United States to their families back home reached a record $12 billion. Two years later, in 2005, the World Bank stated that Mexico was receiving $18.1 billion in remittances and that it ranked third (behind only India and China) among the countries receiving the greatest amount of remittances.

Chain immigration

     According to demographer Jeffery Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center, the flow of Mexicans to the U. S. has produced a “network effect” – furthering immigration as Mexicans moved to join relatives already in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center describes that the recent dramatic increase in the population of illegal immigrants has sparked more illegal immigrants to cross borders. Once the extended families of illegal immigrants cross national borders, they create a “network effect” by building large communities.

Other Contributing Causal Factors to Illegal Immigration

     Analysts believe that costs, delays, and inefficiencies in processing visa applications and work permits contribute to the number of immigrants who immigrate without authorization. As of 2007 there was a backlog of 1.1 million green card applications, and the typical waiting time was three years.

Trade agreements and government failures

     The Rockridge Institute argues that globalization and trade agreement affected international migration, as laborers moved to where they could find jobs. Raising the standard of living around the world, a promise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, would reduce the economic incentive for illegal immigration. However, governments have not followed through on all of these programs.

     The Mexican government failed to make promised investments of billions of dollars in roads, schooling, sanitation, housing, and other infrastructure to accommodate the new maquiladoras (border factories) envisioned under NAFTA. As a result few were built, and China surpassed Mexico in goods produced for the United States market. Instead of the anticipated increase, the number of manufacturing jobs in Mexico dropped from 4.1 million in 2000 to 3.5 million in 2004. The 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, which occurred the year NAFTA went into effect, resulted in a devaluation of the Mexican peso, decreasing the wages of Mexican workers relative to those in the United States. Meanwhile, more efficient agricultural operations in the United States and the elimination of tariffs under NAFTA caused the price of corn to fall 70% in Mexico between 1994 and 2001, and the number of farm jobs to decrease from 8.1 million in 1993 to 6.8 million in 2002.

     Corruption hurts the economy of Mexico, which in turn leads to migration to the United States. Mexico was perceived as the 72nd least corrupt state out of 179 according to Transparency International’s 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, a survey of international business (for comparison, the United States ranked as the 20th least corrupt). Global Integrity estimates that in 2006 corruption cost the Mexican economy $60 billion per year. A survey by the Mexican research firm, Centro de Estudios Económicos del Sector Privado, found that 79 percent of companies in Mexico believe that “illegal transactions” are a serious obstacle to business development.

Mexican federal and state government assistance

     The US Department of Homeland Security and some advocacy groups have criticized a program of the government of the state of Yucatan and that of a federal Mexican agency directed to Mexicans migrating to and residing in the United States. They claim that the assistance includes advice on how to get across the U.S. border illegally, where to find healthcare, enroll their children in public schools, and send money to Mexico. The Mexican federal government also issues identity cards to Mexicans living outside of Mexico.

  • In 2005 the government of Yucatan produced a handbook and DVD about the risks and implications of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The guide told immigrants where to find health care, how to get their kids into U.S. schools, and how to send money home. Officials in Yucatan said the guide is a necessity to save lives but some American groups accused the government of encouraging illegal immigration.
  • In 2005 the Mexican government was criticized for distributing a comic book which offers tips to illegal aliens emigrating to the United States. That comic book recommends to illegal immigrants, once they have safely crossed the border, “Don’t call attention to yourself…. Avoid loud parties…. Don’t become involved in fights.” The Mexican government defends the guide as an attempt to save lives. “It’s kind of like illegal immigration for dummies,” said the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, Mark Krikorian. “Promoting safe illegal immigration is not the same as arguing against it.” The comic book does state on its last page that the Mexican Government does not promote illegal crossing at all and only encourages visits to the U.S. with all required documentation.

     Groups in favor of strict immigration enforcement oppose Matrícula Consular (“Consular Registration”), an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulate offices. The purpose of the card is to demonstrate that the bearer is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico. Similar consular identification cards are the Guatemalan CID card and the Argentinian CID card as well as a number of other CID cards issued to citizens of Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras. The document is accepted at financial institutions in many states and, in conjunction with an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number, allows illegal immigrants to open checking and saving accounts. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Bill Clinton promote the use of foreign government CID cards in U.S. financial institutions. In December 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger launched Bank on California which calls on California mayors to specifically encourage the use of the Mexican CID and Guatemalan CID card by banks and credit unions as a primary identification when opening an account.

SUMMARY

     The causes presented above cover the entire gamut of political, social, and economic reasons there is illegal immigration to the United States. Both “push” and “pull” factors operate in all three areas of reasons or causes. In this (Part II) the definition and causes of illegal immigration have simply been presented. What hasn’t been described is the push factor of drug violence and human rights abuses (including kidnapping and murder) currently going on extensively in Mexico. This factor will be covered by itself in (Part V) of this five-part series. In the next article (Part III) the impact of these causes will be evaluated. While not knowing the actual goals and objectives of an American policy on immigration right now, I will nonetheless endeavor to present its impact in a sociological opinion format. Accordingly, I will present, based on survey research, public opinion on the issue of illegal immigration. In that way the reader of my blog can better form his or her own opinion on this complex and, at times, troubling issue. This issue of illegal immigration is one where the U.S. Congress ought to follow the lead of the American public rather than the other way around.

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Special Tribute

 A Great Gay Rights Champion

Harvey Milk

      One of the greatest pioneers of the civil rights movement during the 20th Century was Gay San Francisco Supervisor and political activist, the late Harvey Milk. When the history books are written about the social and political history of the United States, the name Harvey Milk will be remembered as a champion against hate and bigotry and was a pioneer of leadership to San Francisco’s gay community. But his influence extended way beyond San Francisco and the bay area. In 2009, Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on behalf of his uncle.    

         People need to be reminded of the importance of gay rights for GLBT people throughout this country and the world. It is a key aspect of the long standing historical fight for civil rights in general. People also need to be reminded that America is a constant work-in-progress, and democracy needs encouragement and nudging all the time. The underlying driving force of social change in a democracy has always been sheer determination and cultural attitudes. Doing what is inclusive and right toward other people always takes courage, and a vision of things not yet realized by the majority of the citizenry.   

 Connections

      When I grew up in Marin County in the 1940s and 50s it was very common to hear all sorts of derogatory comments about a person’s race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, and where one was born. Nevertheless, Marin County back then was still light years ahead of most counties in California.  And being a Californian meant people of the state were usually way ahead of the curve where social change was concerned compared to the rest of the country.   

      But when I left in 1968 to seek employment in Sacramento, Marin County had socially changed a lot. Many of the old ethnic enclaves were now fully assimilated into second-and-third generation communities, and many of the old bigots were deceased. The culture of Marin County was changing. Many in the Beatnik generation and hippies from the 1960s brought forth a new language and a new outlook on life. Old conservative ways of seeing the world hadn’t disappeared but they were losing favor to a younger generation. Vietnam veterans, like myself, were a new breed of cat, and highly independent thinkers. Notions of what was right or wrong were being re-defined. Although there wasn’t always unanimity among counter-culture advocates, their influence was beginning to have an impact on the country. As Bob Dillion said, “The times they were a-changing.” And out of this re-evaluation of who we were as a people, the gay movement was born in New York City with the famous Stonewall riots of 1969. From these riots and protests, the Gay Liberation movement was born. Although I was a devout heterosexual, I began to get angry at the discrimination being perpetrated against gays and lesbians. It reminded me of how angry I felt in 1961 when James Meredith (a black U.S. Air Force military veteran) was initially barred from admission to the University of Mississippi. President Kennedy at that time had to send in federal troops and U.S. Marshals to quell riots in Oxford, Mississippi. 

       As one who wore his peace symbol and visited the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in 1967 during the “summer of love,” my attitudes were impacted by all that was going on. I was beginning to discard some of my conservative views on life.  Nevertheless, I walked a tightrope between valuing education, family and career and wanting to change the world. Although a Vietnam navy veteran, I began to oppose further escalation of the war in Vietnam.

      As a strong advocate of human rights, civil rights and personal freedoms I began to become at 23—an ultra liberal. But I still valued getting ahead in life in conventional ways. I soon realized there was no contradiction between conventional career pursuits and my newly-acquired ultra-liberal values. I didn’t have to “tune in and drop out” to effect social change. And I admit it—my personal need to succeed in a career was sometimes much stronger than my need to change the world, the latter need of which sometimes felt so overwhelming.

      It was a strange combination of being totally patriotic as an American, yet beginning to question everything from religion to politics. As an ex-navy combat veteran—I was too conservative to change all my values overnight. But my social and political philosophy did change. While I identified with liberals and with working within the system for social change, I did not identify with radicals. Coming out of the service I felt many in the radical movement were emotionally immature, lacked insight, and at times, were not the brightest of people. But I could see radicalism did serve a useful purpose. Radicals actually achieved moderate liberal goals because conservatives would appease liberals out of fear of radical social change. Moderates could achieve their goals because radicals frightened the conservatives in deference to less radical, yet equally important, social change.   

      At the time Harvey Milk was murdered in 1978, I was living in northern California. When the news hit the airways that Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk were killed I was really only familiar with the career of Mayor Moscone. Mayor Moscone was a good and decent man, who had his heart set on creating a more inclusive society, and most certainly, a more inclusive society in San Francisco.

      Just like Marin County, San Francisco was a city light years ahead of its time. Harvey Milk, we all came to realize, was a true visionary. The 1970s were a time of great social change. With courage and determination Harvey Milk took a leadership role in the gay liberation movement. Many people don’t know this but Harvey Milk was, in the 1960s, a U.S. Navy officer (Ltjg). And like all good ex-navy personnel, leadership just comes naturally to them. He knew the meaning underlying the navy lingo, “you have the deck and the con.”  It means you’re not only in charge of the ship while officer of the deck on the Bridge, but also responsible for the ship’s course. Harvey knew he was leadership material but he also knew how to set a course for the gay community in San Francisco, while maintaining a future vision for gay rights worldwide. 

 Early life

      Harvey Milk was born at the beginning of the Depression on May 22, 1930 in Woodmere, New York. He was the younger son of Lithuanian Jewish parents and the grandson of Morris Milk, who owned a department store. As a young boy Harvey was teased for his protruding ears, big nose, and oversized feet, and tended to grab attention as a school clown. He played football in school and developed a passion for opera; in his teens he acknowledged his homosexuality but kept it a guarded secret. In 1951 Harvey graduated from New York State College for teachers (Now known as State University of New York at Albany). Harvey majored in mathematics and had written for the college newspaper, earning a reputation for being gregarious, and friendly. After graduation, he joined the United States Navy during the Korean War. He served aboard the submarine rescue ship U.S.S. Kittiwake (ASR-13) as a diving officer. He later was transferred to San Diego where he served as a diving instructor. He was discharged in 1955 at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade (Ltjg).

     Between 1962 and 1969 Milk remained mostly in New York, where he had a few gay relationships. But in 1969 Milk came to California with his lover, Jack Galen McKinley, who was connected as stage manager with the Broadway touring company of Hair. When McKinley was offered a job to do Jesus Christ Superstar in New York, they broke up. Harvey preferred to stay in San Francisco.    

 Growing Awareness of Problems Facing the Gay Community

      Because of police brutality and targeting the gay community, San Francisco became a place of alienation like many other cities and townships in the United States. But, by 1969, San Francisco had more gay people per capita than anywhere else in the country. Soon politicians, recognizing the growing clout of the gay community in San Francisco began to court their vote.

     Organizations sprang up to counter the criminal behavior of the city’s police department, and because of the widespread anger of the gay community. They responded by supporting politicians favorable to the civil rights of gays and lesbians (People like Congressman Philip Burton, Assemblyman Willie Brown, Diane Feinstein, and Sheriff Richard Hongisto who worked tirelessly to change the anti-gay culture of the San Francisco Police Department).

       Milk, who owned Castro Camera, had his own troubles with a state sales tax bureaucrat. He was concerned when he learned that school equipment in local schools was woefully lacking, and he became frustrated with the “I don’t recall” replies during the Watergate hearings. Based on these concerns and the changing social climate in the Castro District, Harvey Milk made a decision to run for city supervisor.

      Although he wasn’t liked by “establishment gays” because he was an upstart, he soon curried support from some gay bar owners who were mad as hell with police harassment and unhappy with what they perceived as too timid a response by the Alice Club, a group known formally as the Alice B.Toklas Memorial Democratic Club. They decided to endorse Harvey Milk.

 Political Career

       The 1973 election was very telling. Milk garnered 16,900 votes sweeping the Castro District and other liberal neighborhoods. He came in 10th out of a field of 32 political candidates. It was reported that if the elections had been organized to allow districts to elect their own supervisors, he would have won.

      Milk became known as the Mayor of Castro Street, and had a natural ability to build coalitions. He helped the Teamsters organize a strike against the Coors beer distributors in exchange with the hiring of more gay drivers. He also became president of the Castro Village Association that organized gay business owners and he organized the Castro Street Fair of which 5,000 people were in attendance.

      He ran again for supervisor in 1975 with the support of the Teamsters, firefighters, and construction unions. This time he came in 7th place. He later ran in 1976 for State Assembly but was defeated by 4,000 votes. Harvey soon co-founded the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club. By 1976, the New York Times ran a story on the veritable invasion of gay people into San Francisco, estimating that the city’s gay population at between 100,000 and 200,000 out of a total of 750,000.

      The Castro Valley Association had grown to 90 businesses and the observation was made that the broader national historical forces going on with gay rights was fueling Harvey Milk’s campaign to become supervisor. Harvey Milk was not a one-issue candidate. He also was promoting larger and less expensive child care facilities, free public transportation, and the development of a board of civilians to oversee the police. As it turned out Milk won election as supervisor by 30% against a field of sixteen other candidates. At Milk’s swearing in ceremony (which made national headlines) he became the first openly gay non-incumbent man in the United States to win an election for public office.

      Since his race for California State Assembly, Milk had been receiving increasingly violent death threats. His demise would soon come about—but in a way that no one could have ever predicted.

 Harvey’s National Fight against Bigotry and Hatred

       Harvey Milk would continue to fight bigotry and hatred when religion raised its ugly face opposing gay rights. Christian fundamentalist Anita Bryant became the spokesperson in a campaign in 1977 to overturn a gay-sponsored civil-rights ordinance that made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in Dade County, Florida. But voters bought into the nonsense of Bryant’s Save-Our-Children campaign and voted 70% to repeal the law.

      In response, over 3,000 Castro residents formed a protest the night of the Dade County ordinance vote. Milk led marchers that night on a five-mile course. Unfortunately, during 1977 and into 1978 other civil rights ordinances were overturned in places like Saint Paul, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas and Eugene, Oregon. California wasn’t able to escape the hatred and bigotry either. This occurred when California State Senator John Briggs capitalized on Anita Bryant’s success by introducing Proposition 6 known as the Briggs Amendment. The proposed law would have made firing gay teachers—and any school employees who supported gay rights—mandatory. Harvey Milk and John Briggs subsequently debated the Proposition 6 issue up and down the state of California.

        It is perhaps ironic looking back now but opponents of gay rights like evangelical Anita Bryant and John Briggs were responsible for the most unexpected unintended consequence of their public campaigns and anti-gay messages. During this time in the summer of 1978 attendance at Gay Pride marches began to swell in Los Angeles and San Francisco. An estimated 250,000 to 375,000 attended the San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade. That consequence was to enlighten and educate the public, and bring national attention to the issue of gay rights as an important civil rights issue in America. Ronald Reagan, a staunch conservative but a strong believer in individual rights, came out against Proposition 6, as did Governor Jerry Brown and President Jimmy Carter. On November 7, 1978 Proposition 6 lost by more than a million votes, astounding gay activists on election night. In San Francisco, 75 percent voted against it.   

The Supreme Sacrifice

       Ten months after being sworn in Supervisor Dan White resigned his position complaining that his salary as a supervisor wasn’t enough to support his family. Within days White requested Mayor Moscone to re-appoint him to the position, which he initially agreed to do. However, other supervisors talked Moscone out of reappointing White.       

       Days later on November 27th Mayor Moscone was going to publicly announce Dan White’s replacement at a press conference. Dan White entered through a basement window to avoid metal detectors and made his way to Moscone’s office. After some shouting Dan White murdered the mayor by pumping two bullets into his shoulder and chest. With the mayor lying on his office floor, Dan White then fired two additional shots into Moscone’s head.  White then went to his office where he re-loaded his police-issue revolver with hollow-point bullets. He soon intercepted Harvey Milk. White asked Milk to come into his office where he shot Harvey five times. Of the five shots, two were fired at close range into the head of Harvey Milk. Dan White, at his wife’s urging, later turned himself in. Milk was 48 years old and Moscone 49 years old at the time of their murders.

 A Legacy of Tributes, Awards and Honors

      In 2009, Gay rights advocate Harvey Milk was inducted to The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame. Governor Schwarzenegger also designated May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day in California. As mentioned earlier, Harvey also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009. Milk was named by Time Magazine in their list of 100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century.

      Local honors have also been bestowed on Harvey Milk as well. The City of San Francisco paid tribute to Milk by naming several locations after him including where Castro and Market streets intersect. An enormous Gay Pride flag flies in Harvey Milk Plaza. And, The San Francisco Gay Democratic Club changed its name to the Harvey Milk Memorial Democratic Club in 1978. It is now known as the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club.

      Perhaps the greatest legacy a person can have is to have demonstrated during his life what he stood for. Harvey Milk was a caring individual who stood for making government responsive to the individual, gay liberation, and the importance of neighborhoods in the city.

 [Most of the facts on Harvey Milk presented in this Blog were obtained from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.]

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