The gravel road, oh the gravel road! In the stinging sun, my skin burned red like a stop sign, but I kept trucking through. The rocks we stepped on were mountains on the soles of my feet. Twenty one miles to Oxford, Mississippi and it ripped much out of me physically and mentally.
Next to the highway, I travel next to three friends but can not help to feel alone. Where is our movement at? Why is it where it is at? These are the questions I asked myself. If our communities in Memphis, Mississippi, the Texas crew, and a few others are helping and creating so much growth with few resources then imagine how much we as a movement could do with other organizations and people who have many more resources at hand? If we actually want to create a change only unity among us all can get us there, but I cannot help but remember the following saying I saw somewhere: May the Bridges I burn light the way for others! I cannot help to feel desperate and sad that those that I believed to back me up are doing so when the Walk Against Fear brings about the truth, what we all want to scream. We all wish to shout, “Because of the Racism that lies here in the United States I have had no chance at life! I am demanding my rights, now, and taking them as I speak!”
I do want to express that to take our rights as human beings it is not enough to give the Walkers a shout out on facebook and then go to “El Dia del Nino” event or go to dance right after. We need your help in other ways. We are not going on a stroll across the park; we are walking two hundred and fifty miles for our community to awaken and rise up. Please do not wait until one of the Walkers is shot or has a heat stroke to get involved. The racism is creaping and by the end of this sentence it is knocking at your door.
Con mucho Amor,
Walk Against Fear 2012
These guys arrived on campus last night. Let me just point out that “on campus” means the University of Mississippi. These amazing young people were recreating the march by James Meredith that helped desegregate today’s South. I met then and fewer than two dozen supporters at the James Meredith monument on campus. Let me underscore that the person they are memorializing with their march is the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi.
After a brief conversation with a few people, the small group walked over to the front of the Lyceum. In 1962, after winning his argument in court, Meredith arrived at the University of Mississippi. He was escorted by 127 US Marshals who protected him. In front of the Lyceum, an armed confrontation erupted, leading to two deaths, including a French journalist covering the event. I used to teach this history in my LIBA 102 class, using this online museum exhibit about James Meredith integrating Ole Miss. We stood in front of the Lyceum, looked at the remaining bullet holes from that confrontation, and moved on.
As you read the post by Patricio above, notice the hint of sadness. These young, idealistic people are walking from Memphis to Jackson. They went out of their way to stop by the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). They told me they were averaging about 30 miles per day. So coming here from the otherwise direct route added two additional days of pilgrimage. And less than two dozen people showed up to greet them.
I’ll be honest. I felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed for what it looked like. No media coverage, not even the school paper (the Daily Mississippian did publish a picture, but no story—and the picture did not make the student newspaper’s website). No university administrators came out to greet them on behalf of the institution. As far as I could tell, I was the only member of the university faculty there.
Sometime this morning, they started walking and are on the way back to Batesville, where they took the detour towards Oxford the day before. I hope they weren’t too disappointed with our campus—the flagship higher learning institution of the state.
Earlier today, a Reuters reporter emailed me asking for my comments to the Mississippi anti-immigration bill (HB-488) that just passed the state lower house late last night, and is now on its way to the state senate. Here is the full text of my reply:
I haven’t had a chance to see the final text of the bill as it passed in the state lower house. But in general, the kind of bill that essentially transforms every state employee into an immigration official is extremely counter-productive. I’ll get to the moral issues last, but first let’s focus on the bad policy implications:
1) Such a law creates a massive layer of bureaucracy. If every time I want to renew my license, apply for transcripts from my public university or community college, or apply for a marriage license I have to first demonstrate my citizenship or residency, it will require an additional hurdle that will, in aggregate, slow down the productivity of state bureaucrats.
2) Because the law must be applied equally (in order to comply with federal equal protection statutes), local officials will have to request citizenship or residency papers from all citizens. To do so otherwise opens the state up to lawsuits based on discrimination.
3) Because of the above, most citizens will suddenly find themselves in violation of the law if they do not permanently carry their birth certificates around with them. As most non-citizen residents can tell you, a driver’s license, student or military ID, or Social Security card is not accepted as proof of citizenship or residency status. The only such documents are a passport (which most American citizens do not possess) or a birth certificate. Thus, native-born Mississippi residents will find themselves barred from most public services until they can produce a birth certificate (a document many citizens do not have in their immediate possession).
4) Both the bureaucratic red tape and subsequent inconvenient (as well as potential for harassment) will discourage not only foreign investment (as it has in Alabama, where many foreign investment projects have been suspended or cancelled) but will also discourage US citizens and legal residents from other states from moving to or doing business in the state. This will make it even more difficult for Mississippi businesses to recruit top candidates from other states, as well as in efforts to recruit from the global talent pool. The local or “native” Mississippi pool of engineers, doctors, nurses, and other professionals is not enough to meet demand, and certainly not enough to generate the necessary economic growth to help lift the state out of poverty.
5) The policy will particularly affect police forces, which are already stretched too thin. In Alabama, the requirement that police officers spend precious time checking on the citizenship or residency status of simple traffic stops has led to a dramatic increase in crime, as police officers are unavailable to respond to serious crimes in Alabama’s cities. Do Mississippi lawmakers want to help increase crime statistics in Mississippi? I hope not.
6) The policy may have the intended effect of “self-deporting” many local undocumented workers. But this will also have negative consequences for the state. Undocumented workers make up less than 0.3 percent of state residents, but contribute an estimated 11 percent of total state tax revenue. Why? Because most undocumented workers are deducted their income taxes from payroll deductions but, unlike citizens and legal residents, cannot file income tax returns. More than half of US citizens end up paying nothing in income taxes, because they are simply too poor (that figure is much higher in Mississippi). Thus, contrary to popular belief, undocumented workers actually subsidize state programs to a greater proportion than local residents. In addition, undocumented workers pay sales taxes and property taxes, just like all other residents. Also contrary to popular beliefs, with the exception of public schools, undocumented immigrants receive no state or federal welfare benefits, since these can only go to legal residents and citizens. Thus, the “self-deportation” of undocumented workers could cost the state as much as $52 million in tax revenue. Not to mention the adverse effect such a loss of migrant labor would have on a number of business, particularly those in the agricultural and constructor sector.
Finally, the law would set Mississippi back nearly a century in civil rights legislation. Because the law clearly targets Hispanics, the law gives local citizens a green light to harass anyone who looks “Mexican” or “foreign” (other ethnic minorities). That kind of atmosphere will not only drive away undocumented migrants, but also legal residents and even citizens who are perceived as “foreigners.” It will contribute to a decline in the state’s competitiveness to attract the best and brightest workers (and students, at premier institutions like the University of Mississippi, where I work) to the state.
In short, the law will be an economic disaster for the state.
So, why is this law—and others like it—being pursued now? Because it’s an election year. And the most conservative base in the GOP has decided to use immigration (the newest form of race-baiting) and contraception (the newest form of attacks on women’s rights) as a way to generate enthusiasm for the 2012 presidential election. They will probably not succeed, and their effort may likely give the Democratic party its widest margin of victory since Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in 1964. But even if they succeed, passing such laws will leave a wake of economic devastation across the South that would make General Sherman proud.
I invite you to please sign this petition, which I hope to mail to the state’s legislators before it’s too late. Thank you!
Don’t forget to contact your Mississippi state representatives. HB-488 is an anti-immigration bill almost identical to the one recently passed in Alabama (which has had disastrous economic consequences for that state).
Here is the link to the status of HB-488 from the Mississippi state legislature’s website. And here is the text of HB-488. The bill has already been passed to the Judiciary B and Education subcommittees.
If you want to hear about how the bill has fared in Alabama, I recommend this now-classic This American Life episode: Reap What You Sow. In Alabama, farmers have lost crops, crime rates have gone up (as police forces spend time checking on individual residency/citizenship status), construction crews are short, and schools are losing funding (since their student population dropped and people have left, losing them property tax revenue). You don’t want this to happen in Mississippi, do you?
Contrary to what you may believe, “illegal” immigrants pay taxes. A lot of taxes. Don’t believe me? Here’s a chart that shows how much they pay in each state. In Mississippi alone, “illegal” immigrants pay more than $52 million in taxes. That accounts for more than 11% of the total state budget. Why? Because unlike most Americans, “illegal” immigrants can’t file for income tax refunds, so they pay the highest possible rates in payroll taxes (in contrast, about half of American qualify for full tax refunds—so they pay nothing in income taxes). Driving out “illegal” immigrants would not only cripple Mississippi’s agricultural and construction sector (as it has in Alabama), it would also mean a significant shortfall in tax revenue, which would require massive public spending cuts.
I’ve taken a few swipes at the so-called pro-life crowd over the past couple of weeks, mostly as a result of statements by the candidates and the behavior of audience members at the two most recent GOP debates. My argument has been, I think, fairly straightforward: If you say that you hold human life to be sacred, for whatever reason, then you can’t also cheer about people’s deaths — even if they’re people you don’t like or with whom you don’t identify, like criminals or the uninsured.
Now, from Mississippi, we have a stark contrast:
The family of an African-American man who died after allegedly being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck is asking state and federal officials not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Relatives of James Craig Anderson, who died shortly after receiving his injuries on June 26, sent a letter with their request to the prosecutor in the case, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” the letter states; the letter is signed by Barbara Anderson Young, James Craig Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, his estate.
The letter states that the family is opposed to the death penalty partly for religious convictions.
“Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” the letter states. But the family goes on to explain that there is another reason for their opposition, one that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.
“We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites,” the letter states. “Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.”
This family is pro-life.
They argue that the death penalty violates the core tenets of their religion and they argue that it is bound up with societal injustices that have deep roots in our history. Public and non-public reasons are being employed here, and you can take your pick as to which you find to be compelling. But even if you aren’t convinced by either one of the arguments they make, you have to agree that this is what a pro-life position looks like.
Now … what do you suppose the prosecutor will do?