Posts Tagged ‘September 11’

9/11: A Step Forward, a Step Backward

September 14, 2008

Seven years after the events in New York City, our nation is taking successful baby steps toward integrating a growing number of Muslim immigrants. On this September 11, Gold’n Plump announced a federally mediated settlement for its Cold Spring meat plant here in Minnesota. Gold’n Plump agreed to allow Muslim laborers an extra ten-minute break to accommodate their daily prayer rituals. Additionally, the chicken-processing plant has also agreed not to require workers to sign a statement agreeing to handle pork, a task that is considered immoral in the Islam faith. (Serres, Chris)

Mediated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this case sets a precedent for future rulings on a host of similar workplace environment complaints. Here in Minnesota, the large Somali population has been filling much of the manual labor openings in meat-packing plants and other factories. While a ten-minute break might not seem ground-breaking for most Mid-Westerners, for the thousands of Somalis and for the recent surge of Iraqi refugees this is a welcome long overdue. Earlier in the year several workers were dismissed from a Mission tortilla factory in New Brighton for refusing to adopt the dress code of pants and short-sleeve shirts for religious reasons. (Serres, Chris)

In a nation hyper-sensitive to national defense and homeland security, the Gold’n Plump settlement is significant progress towards integrating an entire people group that has so far existed only on the periphery of American culture. As has always been the case, immigrant groups contribute most to a culture and are most satisfied when they have a sense of belonging within their new land. Integration is the best Department of Homeland Security the United States has ever had. Hopefully this Gold’n Plump settlement signals an era when the United States will spend more on English-as-a-Second-Language classes than it does on military translators, a time when America invests more in its immigrant groups than in creating refugees in distant lands, a new beginning when integration trumps deportation or criminalization as our policy towards newcomers to the American dream.

Sadly, that day is not yet here. In another breaking news item this past week, a prostitution ring was broken up in Austin, MN. Keila Villanueva and Miguel Isep-Roman, both American citizens, ran a brothel and a prostitution ring in Austin and the Twin Cities (Ruzek, Tim).  As is so often the case, the prostitutes were illegal immigrants coerced into selling themselves for money and continued secrecy. While Somalis moved toward a fuller integration in American life this past week, extralegal workers are still living lives of secrecy, still susceptible to being manipulated by corporations trying to save a few dollars or people who see them as a means to an end. As long as public policy continues to hold out no hope for extralegal immigrants to work towards citizenship, we will still have millions of people living without basic human rights. They will work in our factories and our fields, in our brothels and night clubs, not because of lack of experience or potential but merely because they lack some papers. This should not be.

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Nativist Fears Subsiding: 9/11 and the LPGA

September 7, 2008

A week after announcing its proposed policy to require golfers to pass an oral English test, the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) officially rescinded this past Saturday, September 6. Since first proclaimed, the English-only requirement slated for 2009 drew criticism from many civil rights groups such as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and lawmakers like California State Senator Leeland Yee. Yee planned to explore legal options to oppose the policy, stating that it would have violated workplace discrimination laws. Yee also pointed out that the stipulation could also affect blind or hearing-impaired athletes.

This proposed nativist requirement follows a year which saw two of the 145 international players on the tour win this year’s Majors. Lorena Ochoa of Mexico and Yani Tseng of Taiwan both impressed the world of golf with their performance on the women’s circuit this year.

The LPGA justified its new proposal by stating that several sponsors had voiced concern because they could not communicate with golfers during and after the tournament. Although the Tour withdrew its proposal to suspend players who did not demonstrate proficiency in English, it still hopes to strongly encourage English fluency among its athletes through the use of tutors and computer software. (http://washingtontimes.com/news/2008/sep/06/lpga-scraps-its-english-policy/)

Also this week, extralegal immigrant families who lost a family member on 9/11 were granted temporary legal status by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday, Sept. 5. The wives, husbands and children of the victims had been able to receive payments from the Victim Compensation Fund, but they were fearful to invest or share their stories because of their immigration status.

Last year two Congressmen from New York, Peter King (Rep) and Carolyn Maloney (Dem) introduced a bill to expedite the process toward permanent residency for these family members. The immigrants themselves, however, were wary of providing personal information to public officials for fear of deportation or detention. Now that DHS has granted them one-year temporary visas, at least some of that fear is gone. (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/15/911-immigrant-survivors-move-toward-legal-status/)