Raise the Torch: The RBB Study of Undocumented Immigrants

Click to download full report.

Click to download full report.

Foreword

America is a nation of immigrants. We’ve heard that refrain time and again since our childhood. As a country we take pride in our history of welcoming newcomers from around the world, and putting them to work in building our great nation. Nothing can be more emblematic of this aspect of American culture than the Statue of Liberty, its torch held high to welcome immigrants onto our shores while also lighting the way to freedom and opportunity.

So what happened to that promise and ideal? Today, massive workplace raids root out undocumented immigrants. Technological advancements tighten the noose around them and the businesses that depend on their labor to survive and grow. Detained immigrants waste away in tent cities. Thousands of families are torn apart, American children kept from their undocumented immigrant parents. Border fences rise and the Border Patrol balloons as human beings seeking a better life die in deserts striving to elude them. And despite promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle, immigration reform remains a distant hope typically dangled before Latino voters only as elections near. How did we get to this point of policy failure and political intransigence so severe that it calls our own humanity and conscience as a nation into question? And how can we break the gridlock and forge a viable solution that upholds our ideals as a nation?

As Red Brown and Blue (RBB) pondered the problem and sought to contribute to that solution, we arrived at this hypothesis:

• Immigrants have always been – and continue to be – beneficial to America’s vitality and growth, but our immigration laws are outdated and must be reformed to legitimize the millions living here and contributing from the shadows. However, unfounded fears, misperceptions, and myths dominate public perception of undocumented immigrants and their impact on the American economy, culture, and society, forming daunting obstacles to immigration reform.

With this in mind, we devised Raise the Torch: the RBB Study of Undocumented Latino Immigrants. Our vision was to help light the way towards progress based on truths and facts, to inject new and accurate information into a dim and stagnant debate with the hope of:

• Helping to break the gridlock by illuminating new areas of shared understanding and potential consensus with regards to the intentions, attitudes, socioeconomic contributions, cultural characteristics, and longterm outlook of undocumented Latino immigrants

• Informing public policy with data-driven insights that might help policymakers craft legislative proposals which are not only palatable politically but are also highly feasible in implementation and compliance

• Empowering Americans to base their perceptions and opinions of undocumented immigrants, and their corresponding positions on immigration reform, on facts and improved understanding of this group, rather than on unfounded fears, myths, and misperceptions

The study illuminates a fascinating portrait of undocumented Latino immigrants in America. It captures the motivations, resilience, and hopes of a community in search of opportunity. The study depicts a population primed to blossom into patriotic and productive citizens if afforded the opportunity to contribute legitimately to our society and economy. At the same time, the findings cast a stark light on the harsh realities of immigrant life as well as the threats and challenges faced by this largely disenfranchised population vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, and hate crimes.

Opening our minds and evolving our positions in the face of new information is essential to our learning and growth both as human beings and as American citizens. A willingness to reevaluate complex issues based on a richer perspective is vital to constructive civil discourse. It is my belief that the information within this study can help voters, influencers, and policymakers more accurately understand undocumented Latino immigrants in order to craft well-informed, humane, just, and feasible bipartisan decisions on immigration reform.

In the end, should we not know a person or a group before we pass judgment upon them and determine their fate? At the very least, this study can help serve that purpose. And at its best, it might not only inform – but also inspire – Americans to prove that we can still raise the torch.

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter.

Rudy Ruiz has been hailed as a cultural visionary. A published author and multicultural advocate, Ruiz is an acclaimed multicultural communications entrepreneur. He founded Red Brown and Blue as well as Interlex, one of the nation’s leading advocacy marketing agencies ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top US Agencies across all disciplines. Prior to that, Ruiz earned his BA in Government at Harvard College and his Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.



Permanent Punishment for Past Transgressions

When a person in the United States is found guilty of a crime by a jury of his or her peers, that person receives a sentence meant to deliver a balance of justice for the crime committed, whether through financial renumeration to the plaintiff or through incarceration. Once the handed-down punishment is fulfilled, the scales of justice are assumed to be even, the offender assumed to have learned a hard lesson in social responsibility, and all parties can proceed with normal life. Unfortunately, our society has developed an insistence on hanging permanent punishments upon people for even minor infractions.

A recent example in the news found a long-time employee of Wells Fargo fired for a shoplifting conviction 40 years in the past. This woman, Yolanda Quesada, was tried and sentenced for a petty crime committed as a teenager, moved on, and lived a lawful life working for Wells Fargo for many years. Bygones should have remained bygones. But the bank’s reading of federal law, and the inflexibility of both the law and the company’s policy, caused them to dig around in her distant past and resulted in her unemployment.

Like Ms. Quesada, a growing number of people today find themselves on the wrong side of the hiring line because of a minor misstep from long ago. Work histories can haunt job-seekers who can’t get far enough away from a long-ago termination. Teenage boys are labeled life-long sex offenders because of camera phone images and text messages from teenage girlfriends. Drug convictions linger throughout adulthood for average kids who experiment with marijuana.

Criminal records, once primarily a tool for law enforcement officials, have crept into everyday life. There no longer exists much opportunity for someone to reform and put the past behind, as any previous transgression will arise whenever an individual applies for a job or a place to live. He or she is effectively sentenced forever, punished in perpetuity for a single offense. The ubiquitous availability of  all information, anytime, on anyone, in our electro-omniscient era has created a barrier to turning one’s life around that becomes increasingly difficult to overcome. While there is a minor benefit to screening some individuals out of a small pool of career fields, that benefit does not justify the intrusive examination of one’s life from birth to present day simply for consideration of employment.

 

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter. We also encourage you to drop us a line by writing to the Editorial Director at jake@redbrownandblue.com. 

Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.

 

 



Beliefs Are Not Facts

Everyone gets to be right these days. Shaping reality to one’s benefit occurs simply by selecting the audience most likely to accept one’s account of the “facts.” That chosen audience then attaches itself to those facts, becoming emotionally and intellectually beholden to them, and then vigorously defends that version of reality from anyone presenting evidence to the contrary.

Doesn’t that sound crazy? It does. But it happens now and has happened for all of history. History; the recorded account of past events, usually told from the perspective of a conflict’s winner. Control of the public by controlling public information is a tradition that runs from kings and churches through today’s media conglomerates and cable news flavors. But the modern technology of wireless constant connectivity leads each member of the public to believe their individual viewpoints possess unassailable power. At the same time, modern Americans have a soft understanding of their right to intellectual and religious freedom. Those two things together lead many to a misguided notion that their personal beliefs hold the same weight and validity as concrete facts.

Beliefs are not facts. Beliefs are formed by attempts at reasoning without complete information. Facts are demonstrable and repeatable. Facts are measured, beliefs are felt. Beliefs should not be the guiding force of public policy. News, which should be an accounting of and a seeking of factual information, should not come in targeted political varieties. We live in a world where information can be almost instantly verified, if we are only vigilant in protecting truth. But we seem to prefer a world where wee are lied to and manipulated, protecting our own fantasies.

 

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter. We also encourage you to drop us a line by writing to the Editorial Director at jake@redbrownandblue.com. 

Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.



Senators Fail America Again by Not Doing Their Jobs

The “Buffet Rule,” a proposal to ensure the wealthiest one percent of Americans pay federal taxes at a rate of at least thirty percent, failed to get the required votes needed to pass and thus died in the United States Senate.

You already heard about that, right?

Just one problem: the bill did get enough votes to pass. The Democratically-controlled Senate, given a piece of legislation that the Democratic president has featured in speeches for months, took it to vote and achieved a 51-45 victory. The Senate is able to pass legislation with a simple majority, meaning one half of the total Senate body (one hundred members) plus one. Fifty-one votes. Fifty-one votes and the law passes. The Buffet Rule received fifty-one votes. So, what the hell?

Sixty votes are required in the Senate to invoke cloture and end the debate on a bill after 30 hours. Without cloture, debate can continue indefinitely, with opposing senators filling up time in any way they wish (one prominent Senator just a few decades ago was known to read from the phone book). This process is known as the filibuster, and the filibuster has been the lurking boogie man of Congress since the Democrats took control in 2009.

Filibusters are not automatic. They require work and dedication by the party using them. A filibuster can backfire, causing tired, bored senators to switch over and vote in favor of cloture just so they can go home. If the opposition to a bill can’t fill the time on the floor 24 hours a day, every day, debate ends and the Senate votes. Fifty-one votes passes. The Buffet Rule had enough votes to pass.

So when you read or hear that the Buffet Rule didn’t pass, know that you’re being misled. The bill could have passed. The senators who are supposed to be aligned with President Obama, supposed to be aligned with the middle-class base of the Democratic Party, supposed to represent the interests of an American public that supports the Buffet Rule, well, those senators just didn’t feel like trying that hard. Your senators didn’t feel like doing their jobs.

Again.

 

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter. We also encourage you to drop us a line by writing to the Editorial Director at jake@redbrownandblue.com. 

Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.



Justice Comes Late, Victory Escapes

After 45 days of vacation, justice returned to work on April 11 when George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with murder for the gunshot death of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman’s arrest came far too late for anyone to look at this case as anything but a miscarriage of justice. A man killed a boy then received gentle and almost friendly handling from the police. Those police should have done their jobs in a far more professional manner. Those police should have recognized that the dead kid was the actual victim, not the living man with the deadly weapon. Though he still is entitled to a trial that will determine his ultimate culpability, some facts of the matter are undisputed. Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager. Nothing in that sentence is in question.

I confess to being pleased when the news of Zimmerman’s arrest broke. The chatter surrounding this story reinforced my awareness of the racist attitudes still subtly surviving in our nation, and bewildered me with the lackadaisical concern local law enforcement officials displayed in handling Trayvon’s death. Yesterday’s news felt like a victory, no matter how late-coming.

But then I saw Trayvon Martin’s parents on television.

They expressed gratitude and relief over the arrest. They held hope that justice would prevail in court, and that Trayvon’s legacy would lead to positive change. But as I watched them I was struck by the unchanged fact of their permanent loss. Their son is no more, and Zimmerman’s arrest doesn’t reverse that. Their boy is dead. Always. Forever.

There can be no victory with that realization.

 

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter. We also encourage you to drop us a line by writing to the Editorial Director at jake@redbrownandblue.com. 

Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.



The Silver Lining of the Supreme Court

With the Supreme Court reviewing President Obama’s Health Care law to determine whether the individual mandate to buy insurance is Constitutionally allowable, many progressives and liberals fear a defeat of the program. While a defeat would certainly be a major setback for Barack Obama and threaten his reelection campaign, the death of his plan would not be the worst thing for progressive proponents of health care reform in the United States.

Though they run and hide from any such suggestion now, the principle of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance originated with the Republican Party. They argued its merits vigorously during the mid-90s while President Clinton was in office and Hillary Clinton worked to achieve a national universal health care plan. Republicans insisted at the time that an individual mandate was the preferred alternative to the Clintons’ plan, which the GOP claimed would be too expensive and overly-bureaucratic. Always friends to big business, Republican lawmakers worked to deliver profits to insurance companies more than they worked in the interest of the citizenry.

If the Court finds Obama’s conciliatory appeasement of the insurance industry unconstitutional, Americans may be better positioned to someday achieve the universal health care other, more progressive leaders have worked to deliver. A single-payer health care system similar to those enjoyed by every other modernized nation on the planet could be made real by the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. The Supreme Court reviewed those systems already (fortunately, not the present Justices) and ruled them well within the powers available to our federal government.

Republicans got the health care mandate they always wanted, but their imbecilic insistence to tear down any victory Obama could claim could very well cost them a future case against single-payer.

 

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter. We also encourage you to drop us a line by writing to the Editorial Director at jake@redbrownandblue.com. 

Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.