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I applaud your March 5 cover featuring latino voters and the headline Yo Decido. I am not bothered by the fact that you include a non-latino on the top row. In fact, I’m glad about the way this faux pas is playing out: now we’re really breaking stereotypes. I, the Puertorrican who is sometimes Amerasian declare this experiment a success. Maybe you should reconsider what you’re apologizing for, and continue using the photographer you’re trying to blame.

So what’s the real apology here? How were you supposed to confirm that 151 people photographed in three days were all latinos? And were all the pictures taken in Ariz.? How were you supposed to ask people directly about their background in a state where there is so much hate and deportation going around? Oh, but what if you took a photo of an undocumented person? What if a mother got deported and separated from her young children because of your rush to make a deadline? Deportation happens every day in this country. Worse things could happen because of your actions than the mere mislabeling of a person.
As a chameleon-like latina who is asked frequently to explain her unlatina looks, I see all sorts of unintended consequences of your good intentions. However, I do thank you for creating the opportunity for nationwide conversation into what it means to be a latino, asian, norwegian, and all other constructs.

If you need another cover with an assortment of non-descript, multiracial, myth-busting humans, call me. I’ll bring a few friends. Some of them might surprise you. And maybe you should hire some of them for your editorial board so you can avoid repeating your mistake.

And by the way, I already knew that it’s Yo Decido in 2012 – that’s not news to me. Yo Decidí in 2008. But I appreciate the effort to let the rest of the world know this reality. To the rest of you, welcome to América.

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted “Exceptional people: How immigration shaped our world and will define our future” by Ian Goldin and Geoffrey Cameron from University of Oxford.

One important point they make is that the “native-born” workforce will actually shrink in developing countries. “Medical and public health advances mean that people are living longer, while persistently low fertility levels and the end of the post-World War Two baby-boom mean that the number of native-born workers in developed countries will fall in the coming years.” They also speculate on the positive economic impact of open borders.

The comments in reaction to the article are more revealing than the article itself. People who are not supportive of open borders write that immigrants will “destroy social cohesion” and drive home prices up.

I never cease to be amazed at how fear and paranoia are, unfortunately, driving the policies. One smart comment points out that we don’t treat all immigrants the same and that the immigrants who achieve Nobel Prize status are usually not from Africa. However, most comments are driven by readers’ fears. What has to happen for people to realize that we are all immigrants?

I’m just a non-immigrant with an immigrant mind. Read the article yourself and tell me what is it that makes immigration so intimidating. http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/07/17/five-reasons-why-we-should-embrace-migrants/

All photos by Susan Harbage Page. Essay by Inés Valdez.

The folks from Emory University, Southern Spaces e-Journal, have done it again. They consistently select multimedia works that illustrate the shifting boundaries of the U.S. South.

This time, “Residues of Border Control” collects photos of the U.S.-Mexico border area and the physical remnants of crossings. The photographer “offer[s] a critical account of the danger and potential violence involved in the border crossing and, through that critique, suggest[s] the need to come up with new imagined geographies of the border. The accompanying essay suggests “that the highlighting of these residues acts as a powerful sign of the unfinished status of even the most secured border, and by extension the possibility of changing the existing terms of the debate and ultimately the shape of the border and the options offered to migrants upon arrival.”

From Southern Spaces editors: “This essay offers an interpretation of the Border Project’s intervention on the immigration public debate. By photographing the border area and the physical remnants of crossings that are not sanctioned by the law, the photographer highlights the institutions of coercion that characterize border control. The photographs offer a critical account of the danger and potential violence involved in the border crossing and, through that critique, suggest the need to come up with new imagined geographies of the border. By concentrating on the border, the photographer illuminates dimensions of this space that are hardly ever considered in a conversation that revolves around fortification, fencing, and security. The objects depicted can be identified as residues of border coercion—evidence that even tightly fenced borders offer, on closer inspection, unrounded edges, gaps, and traces. I suggest that the highlighting of these residues acts as a powerful sign of the unfinished status of even the most secured border, and by extension the possibility of changing the existing terms of the debate and ultimately the shape of the border and the options offered to migrants upon arrival.”

I love it when academics turn a little edgy even through the academese. This is another great collection that deserves a wide audience. See for yourself.

This week’s State of the Union address, especially the brief mention of immigration reform, reminded me of iCarly. In one episode of the Nickelodeon show, Carly (protagonist and good girl) is coached by Samantha (aka Sam the bad girl, and every bit an antagonist and anti-hero) on how to win a teen beauty pageant. Carly gets some practical advice on important details like padding her bra, waving like a beauty queen and punctuating the answer to every question with “…for the children.” Sam says it doesn’t matter what the question is, the answer should always be something like “we must end world hunger…for the children.”

Well, President Obama went to the State of the Union pageant with a message of unification — something this country needs before we can move on. He supported every point with phrases like “work together” and “win the future.” When it came to the tough and divisive issue of immigration reform, he went with a safe “…for the children.” What’s more, it seemed like we need to fix immigration for the sake of the citizen’s children, not for the immigrants’children who are under threat of deportation as he pointed out. It behooves us to be competitive and keep young talent here, he said, rather than deporting people educated here so they can compete with us from their home countries. That should appeal to some people…like Tea Party followers?

It was good to hear Medicare/Medicaid and fixing the deficit in the same sentence. (I look forward to the President’s comments today at the Health Action Conference.) I also give the President a thumbs up for making a call for more teachers, and suggesting we consider teachers “nation builders” as they do in South Korea.

No one can fix the world in 61 minutes. (See Fraser Seitel’s review of the speech as far as PR effectiveness.) There really is a need for compromise and hard work ahead. But I heard so much compromise in a speech that relied heavily on old fashioned (meaning 19th century) manifest destiny of what a great nation we are because we outperformed everyone else. I don’t want to fix immigration in order to take advantage of young talent; I want to fix immigration because we’ve been taking advantage of talent (young and old) for two centuries and we haven’t recognized where we came from. Reforming immigration is about justice that begins at home, not global competition.

Am I the only person who gets the interconnectedness of the term glocal? I must not be alone if President Obama ended his speech with a great glocal example of a local Pennsylvania company that went global by helping the Chilean miners. Maybe this country is not ready for glocal, but the rest of the world might be. Instead of building a better border wall and worrying about who we’re taking to the State of the Union prom, let’s grow up, work together and really Race to the Top. Let’s not waste time in 19th century colonial competitions. It IS for the children – ALL the children.

I was impressed by all the stories, all 33 of them. But the one that made me stop in my tracks was the story of Carlos Mamani. He’s the bolivian miner. He has been in Chile about four years and married a Bolivian emigrant named Veronica, who was there waiting for him along with their 18-month-old daughter and his in-laws. He was the fourth rescued miner, based on his abilities as a worker and on his physical condition, rather than his tenure or citizenship.

Carlos had been on this particular job site for only five days. Then the mine collapsed and he was trapped for 69 days. When he saw the light of day again, his wife and more than 2,000 people were there to welcome him back to life. Cameras from around the world transmitted his image as he waited for the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, to greet him. While we all waited for the rescue, President Morales had given a heartfelt thank you to the people of Chile for rescuing “our bolivian brother,” and said he was hoping Carlos would return to Bolivia in the presidential plane. Housing and employment would be provided by the government of Bolivia, no questions asked.

Tempting as that sounds, Carlos and his family decided to…stay in their new home: Chile.

According to The New York Times, Carlos Mamani is the eighth of 10 children; the parents passed away. His family survived by cultivating potatoes and herding cattle and sheep in Bolivia. Like many impoverished indigenous compatriots, he moved to Chile in search of work. He worked in mining before he went to San Jose, where the mine collapsed. He was rescued. He sang the Chilean anthem with his fellow miners. He was greeted by the presidents of the two countries where he has divided his life.

How would a situation like this play out in the United States?

What if we had to rescue 33 workers out of the earth in the Arizona desert?

What if some of them were not Americans? Would we display the humanity and efficiency of our southamerican counterparts?

Would they send up a message saying, “we’re fine, all 33 of us”? How would we respond? Would we be able to convey solidarity and unyielding support? Would we rally to get them out as safely and efficiently as the Chilean government did? (Or as the Pennsylvania workers who built the drill bits for the rescue?)

To compound things, think about the fact that Chile was the aggressor country that took away coastal access from Bolivia. They have consuls in each others’ countries, not ambassadors, because the governments are not that friendly. Chile news crews described Carlos as “the bolivian” or “the immigrant” in their profiles of the trapped miners. Carlos’ in-laws reportedly came to Chile to pick grapes. They haven’t lived in the lap of luxury while working in Chile, and they probably won’t in the future. The presidential plane is waiting for them to take them home, yet they decide to stay. Bolivians woke up to this headline on 10/14/10: MAMANI SE QUEDA EN CHILE (Mamani stays in Chile). 

Choosing a place to live is a personal decision that should be respected. People from the United States make those decisions every day, mostly based on employment opportunities and quality of life. Yet, some seem to take those decisions for granted, and think nothing of denying that right to others who have invested sweat equity and money in their economy, and sometimes worked under deplorable conditions on behalf of priviledged citizens. Carlos Mamani is emblematic of the tough decisions emigrants all over the world must make. I commend him and his family for their courage in making a tough choice. I have no doubt they’re thinking about their future and the future of the little girl. Let’s hope San Lorenzo, patron saint of miners after whom the rescue operation was named, will continue to guide Carlos and the other miners who accepted him as one of their own.